1. Computing

Choose the Right Antivirus Software for Your PC

Learn how to select the right virus protection for your unique needs

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You know you need antivirus, but with so many from which to choose, how do you know which antivirus software is best?

The first step is obvious: narrow your options based on the operating system you use. If you're planning to upgrade in the near future (or downgrade), take that into consideration as well

Second, assess how you use your computer. Are you a heavy Web surfer? A gamer? Have an older computer? How you use your computer will dictate the level of protection you need. For example, a gamer will appreciate antivirus software that recognizes when games or media are being played and suppresses any non-essential alerts or activities. Someone with an older computer will likely need to be concerned with system impact and performance, as well as facing the added challenge of finding antivirus that supports the older operating system.

Third, once you've narrowed the list to those that meet your operating system and usage needs, check the major certification and testing agencies to see how the antivirus scanners fare. Agencies include VB100%, Checkmark, ICSA Labs, AV-Test, AV-Comparatives, and NSS Labs. Any antivirus scanner worth consideration should be listed by most of these antivirus testing agencies.

Fourth: detection, detection, detection. While you're checking for certification, be sure to check out the test scores. Pick the antivirus software that consistently delivers the highest detection and proactive protection scores. After all, this is the only reason you're getting antivirus software - to prevent and detect viruses.

Fifth: last but not least, evaluate. Narrow the selection down to 2 or maybe 3 antivirus scanners, then proceed to test each one. This may seem tedious, but it can save you a lot of anxiety (and hard-earned cash) if you take the time to try it first. No matter how well the antivirus software vendors try, every computer system is unique and some antivirus scanners may just not play nice on your computer. It's important to find this out before you make the purchase.

Want to avoid the hassle? Here are our picks for antivirus software in various categories:

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