Why pay for antivirus? Windows 8 tops security software tests

by , Senior Technology Researcher Technology 21 January 2013
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You don’t have to spend a fortune to keep your PC free from viruses. In fact, could the results of our latest security software test spell the end for standalone security programs?

Man with Windows 8 laptop

How many of you keep your computer safe by using security software? And how many of you, once the Norton trial period has elapsed, just leave it to chance? I have to admit that I fell into the latter category with my first laptop. And let’s just say it didn’t end well for the laptop.

I actually have some good news for both camps. Not only does Microsoft’s Windows 8 come with free inbuilt security software, it topped our security software table this year.

Check out our Best Buy antivirus software table and the Windows 8 security software review specifically.

Stay safe and save money

This means that lazy people like me don’t have to worry about installing extra antivirus programs. And if you’re already good at keeping your computer safe, you no longer need to turn to pricey third party software. Yes, Windows 8 beat out all the paid-for software as well. If you don’t want to upgrade to Windows 8, Microsoft Security Essentials is a good bet and happens to be free too.

The security software built into Windows 8 has the right mix of keeping your computer safe from digital attacks, while also being very easy to use. It comes with lots of other handy features, such as parental controls to keep innocent eyes from seeing sites they shouldn’t. You can even manage the time your kids spend online to ensure the computer isn’t used after lights out.

It has great protection against malware, even blocking the download of malware in a zipped file. Many other packages don’t even look into zip files. Other standout features include being integrated with Outlook 2013 and auto-scanning when you  insert a USB stick. It also has a strong two-way firewall that lets you set different levels of security for different scenarios, eg in a café vs at home. All of this is packaged together as part of the Windows 8 operating system.

What’s the future for security software?

In the early days it seemed Microsoft didn’t pay much attention to security, leaving the door open for security companies to build their business around Windows. Now the tables have turned, with Microsoft launching Windows 8 and its outstanding inbuilt security software.

Will this mean a decline in traditional security software sales? What will familiar names like Norton do in the future?

My guess is that, since the threat of viruses is ever developing, there will still be a place for security software companies. They may also turn their attention to newer technologies like tablets and smartphones – both of which face potential security threats. As for PCs – would you trust security software built into your computer’s operating system?

46 comments

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wavechange

I’m sure that many of us would like to know why the security software in Windows 8 is so much better than in previous versions. Is it just good security software or is W8 inherently more secure?

Hi Wavechange,

Thanks for the comment.

With regards to security, Windows 8 is better built than previous Windows operating systems. It has a tighter system meaning that you are less likely to become the victim of an attack. The app store is also vetted in a similar way to the Apple store – meaning you can only download apps that have been checked by Microsoft.

In addition to this – it’s the first Windows system to come with the security software built-in. You don’t have to download extra software, as with Microsoft Security Essentials, making it easy to use.

I hope that helps!

Jessica.

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wavechange

Thanks for that Jessica. Although I am a confirmed Mac user, friends often ask me for advice, information and practical help with their PCs. After personal experience with Vista I thought that Microsoft had really lost the plot, but I’m impressed by Windows 8 and so are friends who have finally switched from XP.

Hopefully Windows security remains good because dealing with malware has wasted time and money for many users in the past. Let’s hope that people don’t become complacent about malware, like many Mac users are.

I am not sorry that vendors of security software will lose out, since commercial software was sometimes no better than what was available free-of-charge.

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Stephen

I have used AVAST free and AVG free and McAfee and Trend Micro and Norton. I have found the best ones to be McAfee and Trend Micro. I found the AVAST and AVG free both missed viruses which were picked up when I used ones that you pay for. I know I had a virus as my machine was not working correctly. I still think the ones you pay for will be more effective than the ones that are free like the one in WIndows 8 or in Microsoft Security essentials.

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Julian

Interesting. This months PC Pro magazine leads on the poor quality of Windows 8 security. It points out that it updates its virus definitions infrequently, so is not aware of the latest threats. I think I will continue to install a security suite.

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Creoulo

Remember some banks give free internet security to costumers.

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wavechange

One example is Rapport, offered by NatWest. I doubt that this affords comprehensive protection and I have seen various criticisms.

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Julian

Indeed. Barclays customers can get Kaspersky Internet Security suite for free. This is the security suite that I’m currently using.

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Snowdin10

Could I point out that Rapport is not an anti-virus programme? If you choose to protect a website with Rapport it protects the connection to that website from the effects of malware on your system. Some sponsored sites are protected automatically and you can, when I last checked, add up to 100 “my sensitive websites.” So if you are on your bank’s website, it will block screen capture, keylogging, cookie access and re-direction to an unexpected IP address etc. It will not stop viruses landing on your computer and gathering up all your personal data for transportation elsewhere, or the use of your computer for a botnet. I have found their tech support really helpful.
Tescobank provides the similar Trust Defender, an Australian programme, which really does lock down your connection to the bank to the extend that you can’t use any other window to connect elsewhere on the internet while contacting the bank. This programme can also check that all software running is known to be authentic. If you just loaded the latest Adobe update it won’t accept it for a couple of days. It also checks for rootkits. When you connect with the bank it tells you if the connection is secure. If there is anything running on your computer it doesn’t like it goes into a special mode to doubly secure the connection. It only works for the sponsoring bank, you have to buy a “Pro Gold” version at £16.47 annually to add extra websites.

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wavechange

Thanks Snowdin10 for this useful information. I had appreciated that Rapport does not provide comprehensive protection. Companies offering this and similar products should make this clear in case customers assume that they are being given full malware protection free of charge.

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Cribs

Hey Jessica, you said that Security Essentials topped an antivirus test, but I guess you forgot to mention the name of the test. Because I’ve heard that SE actually failed to receive certification in the latest AV-Test session…

Hi Cribs,

Good point! Microsoft Windows 8 topped the Which? anti-virus test. We put the biggest names in security software through a rigourous set of tests to see how they handle threats and how easy they are to use.

More info on our security software test can be found here: http://www.which.co.uk/technology/software/guides/how-we-test-security-software/

Thanks,

Jess.

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Ippo

This misinformation arrived just in time to cover microsoft’s failure to deliver an effective antimalware solution.. Try to be more informed nexttime ;)

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BHunter

MSE is in fact the worst antivirus. You should check the test result of AV-TEST:
http://www.winmatrix.com/forums/index.php?/topic/35886-bitdefender-is-the-best-antivirus-mse-the-worst-according-to-av-test/

Thanks for the post!

AV-TEST did indeed test MSE 4.1 – in Windows 7.

Our tests at Which? looked at the new, integrated version included with Windows 8.

Our tests did find that MSE did not perform as well under Windows 7, but does seem to have undergone a significant overhaul in Windows 8. That likely explains the difference between our results – we tested Windows 8, AV-TEST used Windows 7.

Hope that helps!

Matt

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RWC

So now you have established beyond any doubt that the best security software is free, when will Which expose the practice of salespeople in the big chains scaring PC innocents into buying Norton that is totally unnecessary.
It has become the extended warranty of 2013…

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John Duncan

Having recently bought a new computer running Windows 8 I find that I cannot even access Windows Defender – when I open the app it simply says ‘Windows Defender is turned off and isn’t monitoring your computer.’ No suggestion as to why that is, which I presume because the pre-installed Norton 60-day trial has blocked access to it. So my assumption is that once my 60 day trial is up I can remove Norton and then will be able to access WD. I figured it out, but it’s not exactly intuitive.

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clint kirk

It’s all very well saying how good the built-in security is on Windows 8 and that you don’t need anything else, but in reality this security is all too often replaced by third-party security software which, after expiry of its trial period, if you don’t pay it leaves your PC with no protection (unless you are an experienced computer user who knows how to fix this issue.) The third party vendors pay the PC manufacturers to have their software on new PCs and the consumer has no say over their inclusion. I remember some time ago Which? did publish a complaint about ‘bloatware’ appearing on new PCs, and this trend continues. This time it’s not just bloatware, it’s a potential security risk for those who are not confident with operating system administration.

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BK2beingME

even tho ur post is very informative,u forget to mention HOW to rmeove that vloatware and even more important,the registry-remnants…
answer is easy,google “Revo Uninstaller”
not only does it uninstall the app,it also stops any related services that might still b running,
as well as a thorough scan AFTER the uninstall to remove EVRYTHING related to the program uve uninstalled…
after uninstall,best to do a registry defrag,and tadaaa,ur all set
now u CAN restart ur built in defender…. which i strongly advise AGAINST…knowing MSE trackrecord….
personally i favour ESET,their 6th gen can either be used as AV only,OR u can install the entire suite which gives u antitheft options,a better firewall,as well as the antivirus

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Rob

My Windows 8 doesn’t appear to have any built in security. (If it’s hidden somewhere, how do I turn it on?) My new laptop came with a 2 month subscription to McAfee, which is about to expire. I was going to renew the McAfee. Are you sure I don’t need to?

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Rob

Ah, I have found Defender (by using Search rather than looking for it in the list of installed programmes)! Have tried switching off McAfee firewall but even with that done, I can not switch on Windows Firewall. I guess it is necessary to let McAfee expire, remove it and then switch on Defender?

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Rob

Have deleted McAfee, apparently without any problems. During the deletion process Windows Defender “popped up” and appeared to switch itself on.

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DavidL

Another episode in the Which/Microsoft lovefest. Before accepting this endorsement seek out an independent review.

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PeterD

Unfortunately, most other “independent review” websites not only review AV software but also receive kickbacks from the manufactures for promoting it – including for free versions that then nag you into l upgrading to a paid for version. Which? do not receive revenue from AV manufacturers which probably explains why their view may not coincide with websites that do.

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steddyeddy

I have found Avast positively brilliant. Not as clunky as AVG, which itself is OK. Don’t know what more you can expect for free!

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Peter

The best security move I ever made was to switch to Linux. I’ve never been so secure on line.

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christhompson

I used to have McAfee on a PC and found it very difficult to remove. To be fair to McAfee, they do allow one to download a program which totally removes the program and allow other applications to be used. I have always used Norton and find it very good. It is updated several times a day, or so it seems, and I always manually update to ensure I get all of the updates and not just the ones for anti-virus. I cannot really see Windows 8 being better than Norton in terms of security as I would think that being a specialist company in this field Norton/symantec must have a much bigger global team working around the clock to protect its customers from attacks. I do think, however, that the Internet is much better policed than it was in the early days of dial up connections and the risk of picking up a virus have been greatly reduced. The main concern now seems to be Internet fraud.
I am running Windows 7 at the moment and don’t normally upgrade until the first service pack is released as this normally means that most of the problems have been ironed out and that most drivers and apps are available and run correctly.

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Peter

Windows 8 Defender IS Microsoft Security Essentials as used on Windows 7, just rebranded.
“In Windows 8 and Windows RT, Windows Defender provides the same level of protection against malware as Microsoft Security Essentials. You can’t use Microsoft Security Essentials with Windows 8 or Windows RT, but you don’t need to—Windows Defender is already included and ready to go.”
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-GB/windows-8/windows-defender#1TC=t1

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Jurgen Watson

I’m happy using the AVG paid for security for my PC & Laptap, & now my wife wants to get an Ipod which can also be covered. It’s not expensive, but gives added peace of mind.

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Redhead

Good luck on trying to uninstall Norton Antivirus
It should be renamed Klingon as it is extremely difficult to get rid of.
I bought a PC, new, six years ago, with Vista installed along with Norton on a 60 day trial.
I did not enable Norton as I was using Avast Free, but every time I switched on the PC, Norton came up insisting I must turn it on as my PC is unprotected, I think it refused to accept Avast already being installed
Eventually I was told of a programme which will clear out Norton and finally I was free.
I am still using Avast and, so far, I haven’t had any problems with bugs etc.

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Gerard Phelan

You must uninstall an existing anti-virus / security system such as Norton or McAfee before installing another such as Microsoft Security Essentials, AVG or Avast. It is NOT good enough just to turn it off using any built-in facilities. As others have written this can be hard to do and may require more computer skills than the average user may have available.I have struggled in the past even though I have worked as a problem resolver for my companies PC support teams.

The benefit of the paid for systems is that they bring together many different security tools and in theory if not always in practice are easier to setup and use. In fact Which? regularly writes reports describing and analysing these facilities!

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dennis

steddyeddy likes his Avast,as do I,but it drives me wild with frequent pop-ups e.g telling me every time
it has blocked a Trojan.The duration of such messages can be minimised,but there is no obvious way
to remove them completely.I may be driven to change my A-V provider!

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moaner

i used to use norton 360 and was reasonably happy with it until the year was up and they tried to con me in to downloading next years update for £60+ when it was available on amazon for less than half that amount. i ordered from amazon and the package never arrived so after that i gave up and settled for microsoft’s free protection and haven’t paid for anti virus or firewall protection since. no complaints so far.

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ShayKaPow

I have to say when I used Windows 7, I always used Microsoft Security Essentials which was great. Windows 8 has the built in Defender which is Microsoft Security Essentials and it’s still one of the best antivirus app. Lightweight and simple to use and does the job better than other security vendor products.

For example the FREE version of antivirus app from other security vendors have advertisements which I can understand but then again even with paid versions you still get advertisements to upgrade and get add-ons which I think should be removed from paid versions. Microsoft security products don’t have any sort of advertisements.

Security vendors know that Microsoft Security Essentials is a huge threat to them and now that Windows 8 has it built in many customers won’t even bother looking at paid antivirus. Paid Antivirus apps are overpriced and full of advertisements these days.

[This comment has been edited to remove an advertising link. Thanks, mods.]

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John Sneddon

I have only recently downloaded and use Microsoft Security Essentials, alongside my Norton 360, Security Essentials is picking up High and Medium threats that Norton has not picked up, like today Essentials picked up Adware;win32/open candy a medium threat and removed it, I will be contacting Norton to give me some answer as to why they have not detected this threat, and make my decision to keep or stop 360 by the answer they give.

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suman roy

does any anivirus require for nokia lumia 520 windows 8 phone? plzzzzzzzzzzz rplyyy

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Sandeepan

Thanks for helping in understanding the problem once again.
I was using AVG since 2006 and since 2011 Avast (Both Free Versions) Antiviruses.
With the coming of Windows 8, bundled with its inbuilt security I really never felt like using any other for the trouble till date.
I use to be online a lot and download too, but may be I now am experience to find the right websites and files. And I am sure any test with any online gaming and dating site will reveal a lot. Just remember days from 1998 till 2004, there was like at least a virus in any given PC during any part of the month. Then came along the Security Suites and thus I personally feel its lot safer now.
And Windows 8 features are amazing! After XP professional SP2 its the best versatile OS for sure.
Any new thing is a trouble in the beginning but once we understand it, then we love it like none!

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Ron

Hi Jessica,

it is good to know window 8 has built-in security software, I just bought a new PC with window 8, how do I get to window defender?

Many thanks,

Ron

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ShayKaPow

Move your cursor all the way to the bottom right corner, the bar on the right side will appear.

1. Click on Search
2. Type Defender
3. Run Windows Defender

Enjoy!

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Ron

Many thanks for your instruction step by step. However, it shows” Window defender has been turned off and is not monitoring your computer”. I am wondering maybe my laptop has 3rd party security software installed at moment as McAfee security software is on and will be expired in July 13.

I just bought the laptop with window 8 recently, I am not quite sure what I need to do next to turn on window defender when McAfee is expired?

Many thanks for your advices.

Kindest Regards,

Ron

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ShayKaPow

Best thing to do is, uninstall McAfee.
Search for Control Panel > Uninstall A Program
Remove McAfee and all related McAfee products and then restart laptop.

Defender should automatically turn on if it doesn’t you need to click the white flag on the bottom right task bar and follow instructions on how to enable.

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Ron

Many thanks for your prompt response, what happened if I wait till McAfee expire in July 13?
Do I still need to unstall McAfee first before turn on defender?

Many thanks,

Ron

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ShayKaPow

You can wait until expiry date. You need uninstall McAfee in order to enable Windows Defender.

However McAfee is bloatware. Uinstall McAfee and just use Windows Defender :)

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Ron

Several questions circled around built-in security software for Window 8.

I uninstalled McAfee today in order to enable Window Defender. When I re-started PC and tried to run Window Defender, it is not turned on automatically, then I clicked white flag on the bottom right task bar to enable window defender.

Window defender has 4 tabs: Home, update, history and setting.

1. In the “Home” tab, which option do I need to choose? full scan or quick scan?
2. In the “Update” tab, how often do I need to manually update?
3. In the “History” tab, currently “quarantined items” are ticked from the past scan, what about the option of “All detected items”?
4. In generally, how often do I need to run window defender to ensure my PC is best protected from virus?

Many thanks for your guidance.

Kindest Regards,

Ron

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DURGA

hi, i am having Nokia Lumia 520. Whether i have to install anti virus software..?

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Chris

This is the kind of thing Which? is really good for Thanks team!). As a user of AV software, you can tell if it seems to be using a lot of resources, or bothering you with lots of messages and tasks. But you can’t tell much about how effectively it is actually protecting you from threats: as a general user you shouldn’t be nuts enough to try to infect your computer deliberately, as Which? can do. As a general user you’re hopefully left having had no malware problems, which could be your excellent AV software, or just luck!

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