Stand-alone antivirus software programs -- once the standard of the industry -- are becoming less common as threats emerge from multiple sources including computer files, USB drives, email attachments and websites. Antivirus software makers have responded to the new challenges by producing beefed-up products that can pack on the features and defenses. In addition to fighting malware, many antivirus programs offer anti-spyware and email and instant messaging scans. While not as powerful (or expensive) as Internet security programs or software security suites, antivirus software packs a punch against malware, Trojans, spyware, rootkits and other threats.
Although there are dozens of antivirus programs on the market, several companies get broad, consistent support year after year. Bitdefender is one of the newer names in this category, but many professional testers say its 2013 antivirus software is the best stand-alone antivirus program.Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2013 (*Est. $40 and up) wins a host of awards for detecting and eliminating viruses, Trojans and other threats. It's competitively priced and includes a plethora of features rarely found in stand-alone antivirus software, including critical financial protection. Features include security against identity theft, secure browsing for online transactions, anti-phishing against malicious websites and protections on social media networks. Bitdefender also has a feature that protects against malware spread via USB devices.
Bitdefender's competitors are also excellent choices but simply do not have as many awards or glowing reviews as Bitdefender.
Kaspersky Antivirus 2013 (*Est. $40 and up) is a serious challenger in this category, offering easy installation, anti-phishing (so that criminals won't steal your financial information online) and outstanding malware removal. Symantec, the parent company of Norton, dominated reviews in previous years and remains a contender. Norton AntiVirus (2013) (*Est. $50 and up) is lightweight and does a great job at cleaning up malware, but no longer participates in some lab tests. The software includes a new password manager that can be downloaded for free and a tool called Safe Web that rates the security levels of websites and blocks threats.
Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus (*Est. $40 and up) is incredibly quick (typical complaints about scans slowing down a computer isn't an issue with this software) because it operates through the cloud and requires an Internet connection. Webroot Antivirus has a basic firewall tool (highly unusual for an antivirus product), a password management feature and an Identity Shield that provides additional protection for web-based financial transactions. Webroot is also one of the few antivirus software programs to work with both Macs and PCs.
It should be noted that for PC users, Microsoft Security Essentials comes with the tech giant's operating system and provides basic antivirus security. If you buy a separate antivirus program, you'll have to disable Microsoft's tool before installing it to prevent performance issues.