Free Antivirus: Real Time Anti-Malware Detection Rates

For many people, paying for an Internet Security Suite is either not an option or not a choice they’d like to make, depending on how you look at things. Luckily there are more than a few free software solutions on offer. For the testing of these we worked with West Coast Labs (WCL).

Thanks to West Coast Labs, PC & Tech Authority is providing its readers with real time access to the testing data from free security suites. This means you’ll be able to see the prevention rates as a percentage across the three vectors, as well as the average prevention rate for each service.
You can also read our full reviews of all the products in the May 2011 issue of PC & Tech Authority magazine.

What's on this page
The real time performance data you see below is from West Coast Labs (WCL). WCL is part of the Haymarket Media Group, the same organisation that publishes PC & Tech Authority. WCL specialises in product testing and certification. It has access to an international network of honeypots – including one in our own Sydney-based office – with which to capture a wide variety of viruses “in the wild” for testing purposes.

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of free antivirus solutions, West Coast Labs has been running ongoing performance capability tests against a large number of samples from their ‘Real Time Project’, which leverages a geographically dispersed honeypot network to capture and provide a set of streaming samples 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 


When Security Essentials launched, many pundits heralded it as the end of paid security software. Not unsurprisingly, this doom and gloom was a little off the mark, but Security Essentials proved to be a very adept program.In fact, in the entire testing period, Security Essentials missed only four unique files, putting it ahead of even AVG’s offering.

We also looked at other aspects of the new Security Essentials offering. The latest version of the software monitors the Windows firewall, and when we installed it on our test system it applied settings that prevented our attacking PC from connecting or extracting any information.

To read the full review get the May 2011 issue of PC & Tech Authority on sale from April 6. 



We’ve always been in two minds about Avira’s free AntiVir package. Previous versions have achieved consistently excellent detection rates, with pleasingly frugal resource usage. Unfortunately, it’s also proved a highly intrusive program, sticking a big advertising window in your face every time it updates – every day, by default.In version 10 the annoying adverts are still here, but performance has dropped off mildly.

In our group test, AntiVir missed 10 unique files, putting it in fourth place on that rating. Of course, this is only 10 files out of the just over 4000 that comprised the testing across FTP, HTTP and P2P, so it’s certainly not scoring home goals or anything so disastrous.

To read the full review get the May 2011 issue of PC & Tech Authority on sale from April 6. 



The last version of Avast sported a new interface that vastly modernised the application’s overall look and feel. Version 6.0 looks almost identical, but builds even further on the functionality with some nice improvements. We should note that Avast automatically updated itself to version 6.0 during the testing period.

The interface, as mentioned, is well designed and easy to follow, although we’re just a little puzzled by the dedicated “like Avast” social networking button. It’s not a problem, but we weren’t feeling overly compelled to click it. 

To read the full review get the May 2011 issue of PC & Tech Authority on sale from April 6. 



AVG’s free antivirus package has long been our recommended free security package, thanks to its impressive malware detection and generous feature set. This year’s upgrade, however, doesn’t add any interesting features to speak of. 

Peruse the front-end and you’ll spot a new PC Analyzer module, but it’s disabled in this free edition. There’s also a gadget for Windows 7 and Vista, but this merely replicates the job of the System Tray icon and is much more obtrusive.

To read the full review get the May 2011 issue of PC & Tech Authority on sale from April 6.


PC Tools

PC Tools’ security suite has impressed us in the past. The 2010 edition of the paid full suite was near the top of the class in previous tests and the free version has usually been a solid alternative to paid suites.

This month, however, PC Tools fell behind. More than once the software allowed current malicious executables to install and run on our test system without raising the alarm, missing an rather large 25 unique files.

To read the full review get the May 2011 issue of PC & Tech Authority on sale from April 6.