Frequently Asked Questions about Antivirus Software

  1. What's the difference between antivirus software and an Internet security suite?
  2. Can I replace the antivirus software that came with my PC?
  3. Do you test with real viruses? How do you get them?
  4. How can I test my antivirus software to make sure it's working?
  5. Why don't you review all antivirus software on the market?
  6. I'm having problems with my purchase / download / installation. What do I do?
  7. What's the difference between enterprise / business antivirus and "consumer" antivirus?

What's the difference between
antivirus software and an Internet security suite?

While every product is a little different, there are some important differences between most Internet Security Suites and their standard antivirus software siblings. Most Internet Security versions include:

1. software firewall

A couple of products that we review (specifically Panda Antivirus and McAfee Virus Scan) come with built-in firewall software; however, that's the exception and not the rule.

For the most part, you'll need to opt for the Internet Security Software of most antivirus software to get security software with a built-in firewall.

Generally speaking, the price difference between the entry level software and the Internet Security Suite is small, between $10 and $20.

Given that that's the yearly price difference, for most people it's well worth the $10 or so since a software firewall can help prevent threats from ever getting to your PC to begin with.

2. antiphishing / URL filtering

As hard as the bad guys are trying to get to your personal data, having added protection from your Internet security software against these threats is a good idea.

Often the upgrade to the "Premium" antivirus software includes additional protection against suspicious URLs and will warn you if you're going to a site that looks legit but is far from it.

It's extremely easy to make a web site look and feel just like your bank; the antiphishing filters can help ensure that your personal information stays private and that you don't get duped.

3. spam filtering

A very common benefit you'll find in Internet security software is the inclusion of spam filters.

As with everything in our reviews, we rate the performance of the antivirus programs at handling spam; while some are hard to use and/or barely make a dent on spam others are excellent add-ons and can really help cut down on the spam in your inbox.

4. parental controls

While it's not something every PC needs, parental controls can be very handy.

If you've got youngsters in your house, there's no substitute for dedicated parental control software, but the family filters we're seeing in the latest batch of antivirus software are better than ever, so it might be worth considering.

Can I replace my default antivirus software?

The antivirus software that's installed with most new computers is usually just there because Dell, HP, Lenovo, or whomever has a deal with that antivirus company to distribute their software.

That doesn't mean it's the best. That doesn't mean it's right for you.

These companies usually pick something their customers have heard of, but make no mistake it's there also because the PC maker gets a cut of the purchase price when you purchase and renew that software.

The thing is, everyone has their own needs when it comes to PC security so one size doesn't fit all.

So, if you're unhappy with the antivirus software that came with your computer, uninstalling it is easy.

And, so is picking new Antivirus Program or a new Internet Security Suite.

The bottom line: you're not stuck with it just because it's on your PC now.

Do you really test with real viruses?
How do you get them to test with?


Our virus database has well over 500,000 viruses, trojans, rootkits, bootkits, worms, keyloggers, spyware, adware, and every other form of malware imaginable.

Each year, unfortunately, the collection grows.

These viruses come (mostly) from two places:
  1. A variety of trusted sources.
  2. "Honeypots" we have setup around the Internet to collect brand new, "zero-day" threats plus phishing and other malicious websites.
Oh, and sorry, we don't share our samples with the general public.

Which leads us to the next question:

How can I test my antivirus software
to make sure it's working?

One word: EICAR.

The site describes it as a "legitimate DOS program, and produces sensible results when run (it prints the message "EICAR-STANDARD-ANTIVIRUS-TEST-FILE!")."

The program is completely harmless and is designed to help people test their antivirus software.

The EICAR site says,
"...requests come from exactly the people you might think would be least likely to want viruses 'users of anti-virus software'.

"They want some way of checking that they have deployed their software correctly, or of deliberately generating a 'virus incident in order to test their corporate procedures, or of showing others in the organisation what they would see if they were hit by a virus'."
If you fall into this category and want to test your antivirus software, EICAR is the "right" way to do it.

If you look closely at some of the screenshots of the antivirus software we're testing, we use EICAR ourselves when we're showing what a virus detection looks like.

Why not use a real virus in the screenshots?

We've decided it's safer to show EICAR in the screenshots rather than some of the real viruses we work with to make it harder for extremely inquisitive visitors to find and use real viruses on their own PCs.

Why don't you review all
antivirus software on the market?

There are hundreds of antivirus programs available today. We focus on the best-known, top-performing antivirus software and the software we get the most requests to review.

We also regularly test—and filter out—many antivirus programs that aren't up to par with our standards for a full review. (Put another way, why should we spend our time writing reviews of terrible software?)

If you know of good antivirus software that should be added to our tests, please let us know.

I'm having problems with my
purchase / download / installation.

What do I do?

First try to contact the makers of the software you purchased.

They'll be able to help you the fastest and most directly.

Technical Support and
Customer Service Contact Information
If you still can't resolve your problem after contacting them, please contact us and we'll do everything we can to resolve your issue.

We have great relationships with each of the companies and believe everyone deserves satisfactory service.

What's the difference between
enterprise / business antivirus and
"consumer" antivirus?

There are three primary differences:

1. central management

True enterprise antivirus software always has a central management interface.

This interface means one person can sit at their desk and manage the antivirus software on all PCs in their organization.

In contrast, consumer-grade antivirus (with very few exceptions) has to be managed at each PC.

2. technical support

When businesses purchase antivirus software, as with many things, they purchase large quantities. Large quantities mean businesses are more lucrative customers than individual users.

As a result, many antivirus makers give different tech support levels than consumers get. Sometimes it means 24x7x365 support; other times its a different extension; and others still it means technical support requests are handled more quickly.

3. price

Pricing for businesses with enterprise antivirus software is typically slightly higher for small companies (i.e. those with fewer than 10 PCs that need software), and for larger companies (i.e. those with 25 or more PCs), the pricing can actually be less than the consumer-grade software.

Regardless of price differences, the central management and technical support offerings make enterprise antivirus software a very smart choice for businesses.

If you're interested in getting a quote on enterprise antivirus software, please contact us. We'll help you figure out which software is best for your company, school, or non-profit organization and help you get a great price, too.