September 09, 2015 | Antivirus for Windows
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21 Internet security suites put to the test under Windows 8.1

The market offers many good Internet security suites – some even for free. But do the freeware guardians perform as well as those costing money? AV-TEST tested 22 applications and comes to the conclusion: the freeware solutions are good, and for the best solutions, users only have to invest a small amount of money.

Internet security suites for Windows 8.1

AV-TEST examines 22 system watchdogs and can recommend many of them (AV-TEST, last amended in August 2015).


The number of threats to Windows PCs increases by roughly 4 malware specimens per second. For the year 2015 alone, the AV-TEST institute has already stored over 100 million viruses and more in its database. That is why an Internet security suite for Windows is absolutely essential! Anyone surfing without protection runs the risk of malware infection in no time flat. Even casually cruising a website is already sufficient. Via drive-by download, trojans quickly infect a Windows system.

The lab experts at AV-TEST have tested 21 Internet security suites for their protection, performance, and usability. Four of the 21 solutions are even available as freeware. Included in the test were products from AhnLab, Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, BullGuard, Check Point, Comodo, ESET, F-Secure, G Data, K7 Computing, Kaspersky Lab, McAfee, Microworld, Norman, Panda Security, Quick Heal, Symantec, ThreatTrack and Trend Micro. For comparison, Windows Defender, the protection provided by the Microsoft Windows 8.1 operating system, was also tested as the 22nd product.

Scan rates under Windows 8.1

Most products demonstrate excellent recognition rates in the test against malware threats (AV-TEST, last amended in August 2015).

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Avira Anivirus Pro

Top scores in protection, performance, and usability.

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Kaspersky Internet Security

This suite once again achieved top results.

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Bitdefender Internet Security

As already in previous tests in 2015, this suite once again earned the maximum point score.

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Scan rates under Windows 8.1


Avira Anivirus Pro


Kaspersky Internet Security


Bitdefender Internet Security

Avira, Bitdefender & Kaspersky achieve perfect scores

The testers assign a maximum of six points in each of the three test categories of protection, performance, and usability. The perfect score is thus 18 points. In this test, only the commercial solutions from Avira, Bitdefender and Kaspersky achieved this target score. An additional 7 products earned between 17 and 17.5 points. These also included the freeware security suite from Panda.

In the particularly grueling test phase of protection performance, 11 products achieved the maximum of 6 points, and an additional 6 solutions still attained a strong 5.5 points. Overall, that is an excellent test result. After all, in terms of protection performance, the real-world test required the packages to recognize over 330 new, still unknown threats. In the second phase, the objective was to recognize and defend against just under 45,000 known malware threats from the AV-TEST reference sets.

One result of the test: The plain vanilla Windows "Defender" system protection is not to be recommended. The testers were able to award only 0.5 points for its scan rates of 87 and 92 percent in both test phases – too low for effective protection.

Partially heavy system load

To measure the performance in terms of system load, web pages were launched, downloads performed, applications installed and data copied on a reference system. The time required for this was clocked. Afterwards, the entire procedure was repeated with an installed security solution, and the times were compared. While most products do in fact offer good protection performance, some only achieve this with a high system load. An example was G Data, whose security solution was awarded 6 points for protection, but only 4 for the performance. Similar results were observed with Ahnlab, Norman, Quickheal and ESET. For the last two in particular, the system load was so high that they only received 3 out of 6 points.

Also interesting is the performance of Windows Defender. It significantly slows down surfing, downloading and copying. That is why the testers were only able to award 3 out of 6 possible points.

Almost no false positives

From the user's perspective, a security suite is supposed to provide automatic protection and not ask any cryptic questions. In case of a false positive, the user is doubly annoyed and flustered: usually a file is blocked that the user still needs, and simultaneously the user has to make a decision as to what to do with the file.

In order to simulate everyday use on a PC, over 500 completely innocuous websites were visited with each security package, and dozens of legal applications were installed and launched. In addition, each system watchdog was required to scan 1.2 million malware-free files and programs.

The results speak for themselves: 15 solutions caused between 0 and 2 false alarms, which was worth 6 points. An additional 3 products received 5.5 points, and 4 guardians still received 5 points.

Lots of protection and little stress

Apart from Windows Defender, none of the products tested delivered abysmal results. 10 of the 21 tested solutions earned between 17 and 18 points. An additional 9 received between 14 and 16 points.

Top results with a maximum of 18 points were attained by Avira, Bitdefender and Kaspersky. With 17.5 points, the security solutions from McAfee, Symantec, and Trend Micro followed close behind.

The best freeware solution is offered by Panda. That security suite stood out, achieving a good 17 points in the test. The other freeware products from Avast and Comodo follow with 16 and 14.5 points. By comparison, Windows Defender, also provided for free, only reached a reference score of 9.5 points in the overall result.

Tips for more self-protection

Andreas Marx, CEO AV-TEST GmbH
Andreas Marx, CEO AV-TEST GmbH

There's the old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". That also holds true when it comes to greater PC security. Those who observe a few minor tips can greatly reduce the risk of malware infection or data loss.

1. Keep Windows and applications up to date: The configuration on Windows updates should always be set to "automatic", because only then can important updates be performed immediately. But not only the operating system requires constant updates. Applications such as Chrome, Firefox, Flash Player and the Adobe Reader are known gateways for malware threats. In case you have difficulty keeping track of all the updates and applications, the Secunia PSI freeware solution may help. It uses a database to check whether your applications are current, and assists with updates.

2. Always be suspicious: You should never trust strange e-mails or links. Don't click on every link. It often helps to simply hover the mouse pointer over it, and the entire link is displayed in a pop-up window. This quickly reveals fake links, such as "" – the actual domain name is at the end of the link.

3. Make backup copies: Make regular backups of all your important files – from your photos to your tax documents. These can be stored "in the cloud" or on an external hard drive. After all, a virus attack can lead not only to the loss of data but to total failure of a hard drive or your PC.

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