Those of you still stuck on the no-longer-supported Windows XP should at least make sure you're running a reliable antivirus product. A new report from independent test lab AV-Test offers several suggestions.
In April, Microsoft cut off official support for Windows XP, meaning no more security patches or bug fixes to protect the core operating system. If an overall vulnerability in Windows is discovered, Windows 7 and Windows 8 will get patched, but XP will have to fare on its own. Windows XP still accounted for more than 25 percent of global desktop OS traffic in June, according to Web tracker Net Applications.
Your safest bet is to upgrade from XP to a more modern OS. In the meantime, though, several antivirus products can help you battle your average piece of malware.
Spotted by CNET sister site ZDNet, AV-Test analyzed 23 antivirus products for individual consumers and 9 for corporate customers that all work with XP. Each product received a certain grade based on protection, performance, and usability, with scores represented visually by a series of circles numbering up to six.
The consumer products that scored the highest grades in all three categories included BitDefender Internet Security 2014, Kaspersky Lab Internet Security 2014, and Panda Security Cloud Antivirus Free 3.0, earning grades of 18 across the board. Used as a baseline to measure the other programs, Microsoft's own Security Essentials fared poorly, receiving just half a circle for protection and three for performance.
No corporate product got a perfect grade, but Kaspersky Endpoint Security 10.2, McAfee VirusScan Enterprise with EPO 8.8, and Trend Micro Office Scan 11.0 were the top contenders.
To evaluate each program, AV-Test looked at protection against malware infections (such as viruses, worms or Trojan horses), the effects of the product on computer speed in daily use, and the impact of the software on the usability of the computer as a whole. Both paid and free products were part of the roundup, so XP users have a range of choices.
As an independent test lab, AV-Test is a good source for evaluating and rating antivirus products. But XP users beware. This may be the last time the lab offers advice on AV software that supports XP. In a tweet posted last week, AV-Test said: "Windows XP is dead, long live Windows XP! Next week, we will publish the probably last AV-Test on Windows XP."
That doesn't mean antivirus software will suddenly stop working on XP. But it does mean XP users will have to find another independent source to seek out advice on the most effective products.