The Best Antivirus for 2012 The year 2012 has arrived, as have most of the 2012 antivirus tools. Which ones are best? Contents The Best Antivirus for 2012 Free Antivirus Tools New model-year security products used to come out in the fall, like new model-year cars. In 2011, though, the first 2012 antivirus (G Data AntiVirus 2012 ($29.95 direct, 3.5 stars) turned up way back in May. So far PCMag has reviewed over a dozen antivirus tools explicitly identified as 2012 models, along with a number of others released during the same period. New model-year security products used to come out in the fall, like new model-year cars. In 2011, though, the first 2012 antivirus (G Data AntiVirus 2012 ($29.95 direct, 3.5 stars) turned up way back in May. So far PCMag has reviewed over a dozen antivirus tools explicitly identified as 2012 models, along with a number of others released during the same period. New model-year security products used to come out in the fall, like new model-year cars. In 2011, though, the first 2012 antivirus (G Data AntiVirus 2012 ($29.95 direct, 3.5 stars) turned up way back in May. So far PCMag has reviewed over a dozen antivirus tools explicitly identified as 2012 models, along with a number of others released during the same period. Antivirus Comparison Chart Webroot Secure Norton AntiVirus Bitdefender Kaspersky Anti- Anywhere 2012 Antivirus Plus Virus 2012 Antivirus Read Review > 2012 Read Review > Read Review > Read Review > $39.95 $39.99 $49.95 $39.95 Price Ratings Business, Personal, Business, Personal, Business, Personal, Type Personal Professional Professional Professional Windows Vista, Windows Vista, Windows Vista, Windows Vista, OS Windows XP, Windows XP, Windows XP, Windows XP, Compatibility Windows 7 Windows 7 Windows 7 Windows 7 Malware 4.5 4.5 3.5 3.0 Removal Malware 5.0 4.5 3.0 3.5 Blocking Independent Fair Good Excellent Good Lab Results Testing the Tools To evaluate antivirus utilities I rely on hands-on, real-world testing. The malware removal test involves installing each product on a dozen malware-infested virtual machines and challenging it to clean them up. This article explains how I get from those tests to the figures in the chart that follows: How We Test Malware Removal. Best Antivirus for 2012 malware removal chart For the malware blocking test I attempt to install the same collection of threats on a clean system protected by the product being tested. The article How We Test Malware Blocking explains how I analyze and score the results. Best Antivirus for 2012 malware blocking chart I also refer to reports from major independent antivirus testing labs. The labs have vastly more resources than I do, so they can perform large-scale tests that would take more time than I have available. The chart below specifically lists results for the companies whose 2012 products are rounded up here. For full details on how I interpret these lab results see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests. Best Antivirus for 2012 lab tests chart Webroot isn't included in this chart because the current Webroot antivirus is a completely different product from what the labs have used in most of their tests. Cleanup-Only Tools Three of these recent products are specifically designed to clean up malware infestations, with no real-time protection component. Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware Free 1.51 (Free, 4 stars) was the most effective of these. Its detection rate wasn't high, but effective removal gave it 6.4 points overall. The commercial Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware PRO 1.51 ($24.95 direct, 3 stars) does add real-time protection, but it was the least effective of the entire group. Norman Malware Cleaner 2.1 (Free, 3.5 stars) wasn't as effective as Malwarebytes. Its rootkit removal score is especially low because most of the rootkits it detected were still running after its alleged removal. While not free like the other two, avast! Rescue Disc ($10/once direct, 3.5 stars) is inexpensive. Rootkits and other malware types that subvert Windows itself should yield to this bootable tool. However, in testing one rootkit remained running even after alleged removal. Free Antivirus Tools As noted, Malwarebytes and Norman Malware Cleaner are free antivirus utilities that focus on cleaning up existing threats. A few other free entries handle both cleanup and real-time protection. Panda Cloud Anti-Virus 1.5 Free Edition (Free, 3.5 stars) doesn't have 2012 in the name, but it's contemporary with the 2012 products. It had the highest detection rate in my malware removal test, but incomplete cleanup brought its removal score down. AVG Anti-Virus Free 2012 (Free, 4 stars) turned in a star performance for malware cleanup, taking the highest or second highest score of all free products in every category. It also scored well in malware blocking, and the independent labs give it good marks. AVG is our current Editors' Choice for free antivirus. The more recently-updated Avira Free Antivirus 2012 (Free, 4 stars) also fared well in my testing and in independent lab testing. In the rootkit removal test it missed some samples and didn't completely remove some it detected, putting it a tad behind AVG overall. Mixed Ratings Some of the 2012 products offered uneven protection. Outpost Antivirus Pro 7.5 ($29.95 direct for three licenses, 3 stars) did well in malware blocking tests but quite poorly in malware removal. Panda Antivirus Pro 2012 ($49.99/year direct for three licenses, 3 stars) skewed the other way, scoring noticeably better at malware cleanup. G Data AntiVirus 2012 ($29.95 direct, 3.5 stars) had the highest detection rate in the malware blocking test and the second highest overall blocking score, but in the removal test its performance was just average. ESET NOD32 Antivirus 5 ($39.99 direct, 3 stars) did a decent job of malware cleanup but wasn't nearly as effective at blocking new malware attacks, especially rootkits. In a similar vein, BullGuard Antivirus 12 turned in some of the lowest scores in my malware removal test, but in the blocking test it squeezed in just behind G Data. McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2012 scored a bit better than BullGuard for malware removal, but its malware blocking skills were just average. TrustPort Antivirus 2012 ($39.95 direct, 3.5 stars) achieved good scores in both sets of tests. However, it crashed several test systems, and its behavior-based detection doesn't distinguish good programs from bad. Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus+ 2012 ($39.95 direct, 2.5 stars) detected most threats in the malware blocking test, but didn't thoroughly block the threats it detected. Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2012 ($59.95 direct for three licenses, 3.5 stars) gets rave reviews from the independent labs. However, it scored poorly in our own tests and needed help from tech support to clean up one threat. Norman Antivirus 9 definitely left a bad impression. Even with help from tech support, it never could install on two test systems, which accounts in part for its very low malware removal score. Two other late-year arrivals, F-Secure Anti-Virus 2012 and GFI VIPRE Antivirus 2012, got the same overall score for malware removal, but VIPRE did a poor job of cleaning up rootkits. Their scores for malware blocking were also close, with F-Secure just a bit ahead. More Than Antivirus ZoneAlarm Antivirus + Firewall 2012 ($59.95 direct for three licenses, 3 stars) has added an advanced disinfection component that did a good job cleaning up detected malware, but its detection rate was low. It does include significant bonuses, adding firewall, phishing protection, credit monitoring, and backup. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2012 ($39.95 direct for three licenses, 4 stars) achieved good scores in PCMag's testing. It includes identity theft monitoring, private data protection, Facebook protection, and a powerful antiphishing component. The independent labs rate it very highly, and its new AutoPilot mode means it won't get in your face. That brings us to Norton AntiVirus 2012 ($39.99 direct, 4.5 stars), an Editors' Choice for standalone antivirus protection. The labs give it good ratings and it scored very well in our own tests. It includes exploit protection that's better than what you get in suites from other vendors. The totally new Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus ($39.95 direct, 4.5 stars) is also an Editor's Choice. It turned in a perfect score for malware blocking and came in second only to Norton for malware removal. Because its "brains" are in the cloud the local client is unbelievably tiny.