Computer viruses are no joke, and thanks to the Internet, they can spread through computers around the world in a matter of minutes. That means that if you go on the Internet from a home computer, you need antivirus protection. But there are dozens of different programs to choose from, and it’s not always easy to choose the right one for you.

The best antivirus software for you will depend on the system you have and the way you use it. While most systems already have some antivirus software pre-installed from the factory, that software may not meet your needs and will quickly become obsolete. To choose the best antivirus for you, consider your needs, do some research, and then test out a few top picks to find the one you like the best.


Consider What You Need From an Antivirus

Of course, you need what everyone needs from an antivirus program — protection from computer viruses. It seems like a no-brainer. But there are some other factors you need to consider.

How old is your system? If you’re using an older computer, you’ll need an antivirus that doesn’t heavily impact system performance and supports an older operating system. Do you play a lot of games? You’ll need an antivirus that nixes non-essential activities while you’re in the midst of play, so your system doesn’t crash just as you’re about to finally level up.

Remember, many popular antivirus programs offer a lot of bells and whistles that sound cool but aren’t really necessary, and may slow down your system. You probably don’t need firewall protection, parental controls, phishing filters, or other additional features offered in many antivirus programs. Web browsers, email clients, and the Windows operating system itself typically have these features built in. That said, if you or another user on the computer isn’t great with computers and you want more user-friendliness from features like a firewall or parental controls, you may want to go ahead and choose a program with more of these features. It’s up to you.

Do Your Research

When it comes to choosing an antivirus program, you don’t have to pick one blindly and hope for the best. There are independent antivirus testing agencies that publish performance reports on all the major antivirus scanners. Check test scores from independent testing agencies like AV Comparatives, ICSA Labs, or AV-Test. Reputable antivirus software programs will appear in reports issued by one, if not all, of these independent testing agencies. If an antivirus program you’re considering hasn’t been tested by any independent agencies, beware; it may not be an antivirus program at all, but instead could be a malicious program masquerading as an antivirus program.

Once you’ve checked performance stats from some independent testing agencies, you’ll probably want to check out some consumer reviews for top software like Reviews posted to sites like these give you a chance to see how the various popular programs fare in the hands of ordinary users. In addition to professional reviews and star ratings from ordinary users, you can also get answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about antivirus software.


Test-Drive a Few Options

Choosing an antivirus program is a lot like buying a car, in that you don’t want to finalize the deal until you’ve had a chance to try out the product. Most popular antivirus programs offer users a free trial period. Narrow down your choices to a few favorites and then systematically test each one. This way you’ll get to see firsthand how well each program works for you. That way, if a program unexpectedly slows down your system or doesn’t seem very user friendly or simply annoys you with too many alerts and notifications, you’ll have a heads-up before you drop $20 or $30 on the purchase.

Just remember that after you’ve finished testing an antivirus product, you’ll have to uninstall it before you can download and install the next product. Once you’ve made your final choice, uninstall any other antivirus programs you’ve tested and reinstall your final pick.

If you hope to spend any time at all on the Internet without contracting a computer virus, you’re going to need antivirus protection. Don’t let the sheer number of antivirus products on the market overwhelm you. Once you know what you need from an antivirus product, it’s only a matter of choosing a reputable program that works well with your system. Take your time to choose an effective program that you like, and you can enjoy years of safe Internet browsing.

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