Too many reviews and all of them different
May 31, 2014 6:00 PM   Subscribe

So cornfuzed! What are the best free firewall and virus checker out there?

We're having to cut back on expenses, and while I hate to do it, our subscriptions to both the firewall and virus checker are getting axed.

What is the best setup to use with an older computer running XP?

The last free firewall questions were in '05-'06--practically the Middle Ages of computers. Have things changed since then?

Piggyback question, how do I get rid of MS Essentials?
posted by BlueHorse to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked at the oft-mentioned profiles for fellow MeFites deezil and samsara?
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:05 PM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

With support for XP at an end and the impending end of MS Essentials support on that platform, I have suggested to people to switch to Avira, and am using it on my own Windows 8 machine as proof of support and in case people have questions. MS Essentials is still good for Windows 7 and comes pre-installed in 8, but Avira is getting high marks, and after some of my own testing, I agree that it deserves some spotlight.

To get rid of MS Essentials, go to Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs, select it from the list, and click on Change/Remove.
posted by deezil at 6:17 PM on May 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

My brothers and I all use Avast. Looks like they're supporting XP.
posted by kathrynm at 7:47 PM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Firewall software doesn't go out of date, so just keep using the Microsoft one for that, it's perfectly fine. As for anti-virus, be aware that even the fancy Symantec security suite doesn't even catch half of all malware. So your own prudence is the more important factor.
posted by wnissen at 7:25 AM on June 1, 2014

I switched to Avast from Security Essentials recently after seeing a report about it having better coverage, and I regret it immensely. It kept pestering me to register an account, and is constantly trying to upsell me on useless features like "browser optimization" and "grime removal." And by default there is an incredibly annoying voice that tells you "virus definitions have been updated" on a near-daily basis.
posted by Sibrax at 10:33 AM on June 1, 2014

Sorry to say it, but if you're concerned about keeping your computer secure, you absolutely must stop using Windows XP or at least disconnect it from the network. It no longer receives security patches, and therefore it is extremely vulnerable to external penetration without your knowledge. You don't have to get a virus for someone to get into your computer and damage or steal your data. Just visiting a site hosting a malicious ad could be enough to become compromised.

Think of antivirus software as a bottle of cockroach spray. It will kill the roaches you see, but it won't kill those you don't see, and meanwhile without security patches, you have left the front door of your house open so that ants, mice, and birds can get in. Even Symantec isn't so hot on anti-virus software any more.

I know it's not always financially feasible, but for anyone still running XP, please strongly consider disconnecting the computer from the internet. It's really only a matter of time before the computer is covertly hijacked to join a botnet used to perform denial of service attacks against other websites, distribute malware, become an unwitting spam server, etc. Depending on your software needs, you might be able to switch your computer to a free Linux distribution that is significantly more secure, has an interface very similar to Windows, and runs many of the programs people enjoy using in Windows.
posted by wondercow at 10:55 AM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

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