Last month I described an experience removing malware from a horribly infected Windows XP machine. Perhaps the most interesting point was that after running three other antivirus programs, Avira's AntiVir still found a handful of malicious files to remove. This doesn't really prove anything, as it's possible that AntiVir too would have missed some of the malware that the other products detected. Still, it speaks well of AntiVir.
AntiVir has been my favorite of the free anti-virus programs for quite a while. I'm not a laboratory, I don't do double-blind tests of malware removal, but good ratings of the product's effectiveness are what got me to try it in the first place. The user interface is simple enough for non-techies and the big ads it pops up for itself seem a fair price for the free software.
Two recent articles illustrate the effectiveness of AntiVir.
A few days ago, Larry Seltzer, who writes for eWeek, blogged about the malicious PDF file that their site had offered up through a third party advertising network. He ran the PDF through VirusTotal which scans files with 36 different antivirus products. Only 6 of the 36 scanners detected the PDF file as malicious. AntiVir was one of the six.
On February 24th, Brian Krebs blogged about the Tigger Trojan which he called a "relatively unknown data-stealing Trojan horse program that has claimed more than a quarter-million victims in the span of a few months ..." In describing how it was initially detected he said:
When analysts at ... iDefense first spotted the trojan they call "Tigger.A" in November 2008, none of the 37 anti-virus products they tested it against recognized it. A month later, only one - AntiVir - detected it."
In December, Maximum PC did a review of Antivirus software which considered effectiveness and usability. For effectiveness they used both their own collection of malware along with ratings from Virus Bulletin.
On the commercial side, they raved about Norton Internet Security 2009 and ESET Smart Security. But, when it came to free software, their choice was AntiVir. As they put it "Move over AVG, we have a new favorite freebie."
Whether software is easy to use is subjective, but I'm not alone in prefering the usability of AntiVir. In February, Rob Pegoraro, writing for the Washington Post, tested three free antivirus programs judging them solely as an end user, rather than on their effectiveness. He preferred AntiVir.
Taken as a whole, this paints a pretty good picture for AntiVir.
Update May 4, 2009: The June issue of Consumer Reports, which just hit the newstand, includes a review of anti-malware software. According to the magazine, "Of the seven free programs Consumer Reports tested this year, the top three no-cost performers from last year performed the best again..." One of them was Avira AntiVir Antivirus Personal.