As someone who is not in a position to currently purchase an antivirus suite, I would like to know if having a free Avira or Avast or similar program is worth the overall system performance drop (I don't have a high-end desktop, so having an antivirus running in the background does slow thing down a bit). How secure am I if I stick to using only Windows defender? Note that I am not a fan of browser flash games, and don't tend to download suspicious content without some sort of review, so that sort of threat is minimal.


From the reviews I've seen of Windows 8 defender (which includes what was security essentials in Windows 7 and earlier), it's a pretty solid middle of the road A-V suite with some anti-spyware features.

I don't think that it's as fully featured as the paid for security suites, but then it is free.

From a personal perspective I use it as it seems fairly unobtrusive in general running and doesn't cause too many problems but does catch viruses that hit the system.

  • Thanks for the reply! Could you post some relevant links? I don't know which sources are trustworthy. – programstinator Nov 23 '12 at 15:29
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    Asks a security profesional for advice -> requests links. You know there is a site called google where you can get these links. – Lucas Kauffman Nov 23 '12 at 15:54
  • Well said. I guess that concludes it. – programstinator Nov 23 '12 at 16:50
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    It scored ~90% on reactive detection and ~75% on proactive detection on Virus Bulletin Chart which places it somewhere in the middle, and a gold award for the lowest false positives 2012 at AV Comparatives (PDF) which is nice to hear when paired with fairly good detection capabilities, so we can say that it's a reasonable choice and still steadily improving with time. – TildalWave Mar 27 '13 at 2:16

Windows 8 Defender is quite good.

Tom's hardware has a good comparison of free antivirus. Microsoft Security Essentials only ranked second to the free version of Avast (on average). For defensive capability is was beaten by Comodo, Avira and Avast. Performance wise MSE scored the highest, which is what you might be looking for.

Common sense and MSE will serve you well

Free Anti-Virus Software Showdown: The Best of 2012

  • Common sense will serve you better than any antivirus, just saying. – Ross Aiken Mar 4 '14 at 16:06

Here's the site I have found most helpful... for free stuff in many categories. They have an especially heavy user base of security and Anti-Virus geeks. Lots of opinion to chew on. TechSupportAlert.com

I have not come to any conclusion personally up to now. FWIW, Currently I use Win 8 Defender, which incidentally wholly replaces Security Essentials. My past experiences I have made use of Comodo Internet Security (paid), Norton ¿¿still has no free product?? (Paid), AVG(Free), Avast(Free), MS Security Essentials on Win 7 (Free), Ad-Aware(Free), SpyBot S&D(Free), Kaspersky 2012 (Paid)... too be completely honest... I have had issues with every single program in some fashion and paying did not make it any less annoyingly frustrating. Mind you I experienced nothing catastrophic and I do some relatively heavy surfing, but the problems were enough to prompt me to move on. I should say that another way... most of the software I paid for would likely be well matched by it's free counterpart/competitor. Open source is something I seek too. I was gonna provide links that to point you in a direction toward free versions currently out as of most recently, but I guess I have to have >10 points in the forum here... so go with my first link and see what you find!

Interesting Anti-Virus comparison here as well...

Hopefully this 5 month late reply will help... someone... good luck!


It is worth posting a 2014 update to this question. We have seen Windows Defender for Win 7/8/8.1 freefall in it's effectiveness. In the last 9 months we have had email and web exploits install Trojans onto client machines, and have therefore replaced it with a commercial paid for solution (un-named here, this is not an advertisement for another product).

We now review our recommendations to clients based on ranking sites such as av-test.org and www.av-comparatives.org on a bi-annual basis.

This answer is marked as a community wiki so that people can update it in the future as the effectiveness of Win Defender changes.

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