Do you know how effective your antivirus programs is? A variety of organizations regularly compare antivirus programs, throwing a large amount of malware samples at them, seeing how they perform, and ranking them in comparison to each other.

It would be very time-consuming to test 30 different antivirus programs in virtual machines with a large amount of malware samples yourself, which is why these test results are so useful.

West Coast Labs

West Coast Labs provides “real-time” test results for popular free antivirus products: Microsoft Security Essentials, Avira, Avast, AVG, and PC Tools. These antivirus programs are tested against a stream of newly-collected malware samples gathered 24/7. The real-time nature of the results is unique. Other organizations put together new test results monthly — or even less often.

Virus Bulletin

Virus Bulletin magazine regularly tests antivirus products. Products that detect all virus samples with no false positives receive the VB100 award. To see how an antivirus program is doing, you can look at a variety of reports, including a chart that averages performance over the last four tests and a summary of the last five tests. The products at the top of the chart are doing fairly well, while you’re probably better off avoiding the products that are consistently at the bottom.


AV-Comparatives regularly performs a variety of tests, including real-world protection tests, file detection tests, and malware removal tests. The results of these tests are published on their website. For a quick look at how different antivirus programs are doing, you can view a chart of real-world test results or read the annual summary report. This report is published in December of each year and summarizes how the security products performed in tests over the previous year.

AV Test

AV Test performs regular tests of antivirus programs, ranking their ability to protect a computer, how well they repair infections, and their usability (which includes how much they slow down your computer). The test results are display how well an antivirus performed on different versions of Windows, although no Windows 8 test results are available yet.

You don’t necessarily have to switch antivirus products if your program isn’t at the very top of the charts — these results change from month to month, anyway — but these test results can give you an idea of how well your antivirus is performing. If you’re using one of the products that’s consistently at the bottom of the charts, you’ll probably want to switch. While these tests may not be perfect, they’re the best thing we have for evaluating how effective antivirus programs actually are.

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Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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