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POLL: Paid Internet Security Suite Vs. Free Suite

by victor-bailey / March 31, 2010 6:52 AM PDT

Hi Guys. I read a lot of reviews on the subject of internet security (Antivirus, firewall, anti malware etc.). But there is one area that I have never seen a head to head review in, and that is in the all in one security suite area (paid vs. free). The reason for this is simply because there is no free all in one security suites. But all the elements to create a free security suite are available. You have several free antivirus programs, as well as many free firewall programs. There are free antimalware (spyware, adware etc.) programs. Free antispam programs. As well as many others. So I was thinking. If I took the top free security software in all the main categories and put together a security suite, how would that free suite fare in a head to head test against the top paid suites like Norton Internet Security, McAfee Internet Security or Kaspersky Internet Security?

Below is the suite I put together. What I would like is for all of you to estimate what you you think the percentage of effectiveness this suite would be in preventing my system from being infected and whether you think it would be as good, worse or better then a leading paid suite.

Free Internet Security Suite

1. Avast Antivirus. I chose Avast because it has consistently been in the top three rated free antivirus programs for many years.

2. Zone Alarm Firewall. Zone Alarm has also been a consistent contender for the best free firewall for many years. yes it is a little annoying with so many pop ups, but that might be why it is so good.

3. Windows Defender. Although there are many free antimalware programs out there, very few of them provide active protection. Of the ones that provide active protection, I think Windows Defender is one of the best.

4. ThreatFire. Threatfire is not a stand alone antivirus scanner. It is more of an add on to fill the holes of your main antivirus. Test show that it has one of the best, if not the best, heuristic behavioral scanning engines available.

So what do you think? How do you think this suite would fare against the leading paid security suites on the market? Do you think it would be as good, worse or better?

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What I think is.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / March 31, 2010 6:58 AM PDT

That the user or owner makes all the difference. No title made today will protect a machine from a less than diligent owner.

All the titles fail when the owner takes chances.

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I agree, but that issue aside
by victor-bailey / March 31, 2010 1:04 PM PDT
In reply to: What I think is.

how do you think it would fare?

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I Wouldn't Have Threatfire For
by tobeach / March 31, 2010 4:53 PM PDT

several reasons. The least of which, is that it's un-necessary since Avast A/V already has heuristic components. I'm assuming you're not using Avast included firewall if using ZA (firewall only).
I note that your components (several) are not compatible w/ OS's earlier
than XP SP2 & WIN 2000 SP4. JMO. Happy

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Since all fail when the owner is feelling entitled.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 1, 2010 12:59 AM PDT

There is a new type of user out there. They expect these suites to protect them regardless of what the user does.

Since no suite, paid or free protects the usual Windows machine under such a condition we can easily answer your question now.

All such software has failed to meet these new user's expectation of protection.

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AV free VS paid
by Phil Crase / April 1, 2010 12:13 AM PDT

Both prior posters made good sense, usage is one issue, compatibilities can be another. So many times have we seen conflicts between some of the free use AV/Spyware downloads when individuals do a bunch of mixing and matching. Many times more problems are created than resolved. From what I have seen there is really no such thing as a "PANACEA" to all issues that might arise, that is where caution comes in to play, avoid certain sites (even browsers) like the plague.

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Both you and the previous poster
by victor-bailey / April 1, 2010 12:53 AM PDT
In reply to: AV free VS paid

seem to be missing the point. The question was not, "let's try to find out every possible reason why this suite won't fit everybody in every situation." The question was, "How to you think this free suite would do against a paid suite". All of the problems you mentioned are just as likely to happen with a paid suite. OS compatibility, application conflict and all the rest, can all occur at anytime with free or paid programs. The fact is that I currently have this suite install on three computers running Win XP Pro SP3, with zero conflicts and less system bog down then any leading paid suite. I have used all of the top paid suites and they all bog a system down horribly. Even though every year they claim that they have improved the program to use less system resources. Like every other greedy company, they know what the problem is and they use that knowledge to keep people coming back by promising to fix it, but always missing the mark.

All I ask was, how you thought this suite would do against a paid suite, as far as security issues are concerned. As of yet, you have not tried to answer the question. Let's try to keep our focus here. Please!

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Paid vs Free Internet Security
by jrap30 / April 4, 2010 10:54 AM PDT

Everybody on CNET has their own opinions and sometimes yeah they will advoid a question.....but in this case for good reasons.

You want a definate, but subjective answer..what is your opinion?? Really a meaningless question to ask a bunch of Computer Programmers, IT Professional, Engineers or anybody else with a scientific background.....because as an engineer or DO NOT care about opinioins..but only facts and your question would have to be put through a series of real world TEST...which PC Computing, PC Magazine, Consumers reports and Matousec website have done.

My opinion.....paid is always better than free, yeah just a prejudice....yes you will get more features but you may NOT need those features. You have a GOOD suite excerpt you have NOT done your homework.....because Zone Alarm is no longer rated highly.....Commdo and PC Tools are two that are rated better. And as someone stated..maybe the negative of integrated suites is, they are usually a memory hog and you can make a more "RAM efficient" suite made up of free utilities yourself.

So do not knock anyone for not answering the question because it is meaningless and just not fair. This is not a gossip column or social networking site.

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It seems that instead of answering
by victor-bailey / April 1, 2010 2:16 AM PDT

my simple questions, most posters up this point want to focus on the one area that no software can cover and that is human weakness. If I had asked the question "How well do you think this suite would protect you from human weakness?" I could understand this obsessive focus on this area by the posters so far. Since that was not the question I asked, I am a bit befuddled by their responses. But since these poster don't seem to be able to comprehend what the question is, I will clarify it. According to an article in the PCWorld magazine, an unprotected PC will become infected in less then 14 minutes of being connected to the internet without the user doing anything. So yes, no program can protect you against human weakness, but there are many threats that are not dependent on human weakness and these are the threats I am talking about. So please, try to understand the question and answer appropriately. Thanks

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The article is dated.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 1, 2010 5:02 AM PDT

Microsoft's latest patched up Windows does not do this in 15 minutes.

In fact I can take old Windows 98 and with just one patch from Microsoft it never was compromised by a simple connection to the internet.

You have put too much faith in that article.

If you want to ask about a FRESH INSTALL OF WINDOWS XP without it's later service packs that's one thing but you didn't reveal that is what you want to protect.

The article has mislead you.

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My take...
by cammbyjr / April 4, 2010 5:27 AM PDT

Some people on these boards obviously failed reading comprehension in elementary school and just never caught up. They like to go off on their own tangents to puff out their chests.

I use Norton which is currently provided "free" by Comcast. They just made a change from McAfee, which I had used for many years and liked. Still up in the air as far as which of those normally paid services I like better. Prior to Comcast's providing of these apps, I've always paid for McAfee because it was normally rated pretty well, despite hogging resources at times. The main reason that I chose it though was the comfort factor. I just felt safer with the pay services. I know it's just psychological since if you pay, you expect to get better protection and updates, but like I said, it's not necessarily true.

My personal take on it is this: if you're not sure, try the free services first and test them out to see if you like the options they provide. If you don't like them or don't feel comfortable with them, plus have the bucks to shell out, then try a paid security suite.

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Sorry! After Re-Reading question...
by tobeach / April 1, 2010 5:27 PM PDT

I think that set up will protect you as well as any paid suite IMHO. Many of us here run only "Free" protection" and I haven't noticed any general overbalancing to the detriment of the free users excepting lack of tech support in most cases (forums being the norm for free).

None will protect you from everything you might encounter on the net but for "just turn it on, leave connected to the net for a week & see what happens", a properly set up firewall (fully stealthed & passworded) should suffice.

I have preference for hardware firewall (wired router) plus software firewall combined. I also (due to older machine) prefer lightest load
consistent w/ good protection & disable those entry points I never use (messenger/chat/several remote accesses for help,printer,remote desktop, NetBios etc.) For this reason I don't need ALL that Avira offers & use Avira w/ heuristcs A/V for real time. I can't remember the last time I posted here for help w/ an infection (knock on wood!). For what it's worth! Happy

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Correction: "I Don't Need...
by tobeach / April 2, 2010 2:51 PM PDT

...all that AVAST offers"! My Bad! Grin

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I think there are two questions here
by Zouch / April 2, 2010 10:41 PM PDT

The two issues are 1. Is an integrated Suite better or worse than a mix and match collection? And if you choose to mix and match, are the paid versions better than the free ones?

I've done both and providing you select your individual components carefully (yours are good, though I might supplement Windows Defender with another ad hoc spyware scanner run occasionally) you can achieve as good or better protection than an integrated suite. Popular wisdom (though not with everybody) is that the integrated suites usually make a compromise on one or more of the components (there are some dire suites around) while mixing and matching, you can choose the best component in each category. There is a good case to be made that one component that does one job well is always better than an integrated compromise (Master of one, rather than Jack of all trades). There are a number of sources for advice on which components are better in each category. Besides CNET, Windows Secrets (sign up for free or donation-ware for even more help) have a recommended security benchmark and PC World magazine have regular reviews.

Paid or free? Usually, the paid versions have more features and options or are more user friendly to install. But basically they do the same job. Most of the vendors that offer both paid and free versions, ZoneAlarm for instance, have feature comparison tables on their websites so you can see what extra you get by paying for the product and decide whether you actually need those additional features.

I said I've done both. On my current batch of machines (all XP) on my two primary machines that I use for business, I have Kaspersky Security Suite 2009. Updates definitions every hour and since I've been using it, I've had no malware problems. It doesn't have as many pop-ups as ZoneAlarm, once it's through its learning phase.

I also have a couple of "family machines" that have Norton Antivirus (paid, though a while ago!), ZoneAlarm Firewall (free) and Ad-Aware and Spybot, both free. Given their usage, you might expect them to be a bit more prone to malware but in the last 4 years, they, too, have been clean.

I had also a test partition for Windows 7 RC and I used Avast Antivirus on that (the free version was one of very few at the time to support 7 RC) and I've had no problems with that system, either.

I guess my advice would be, if you know what you are doing (and it sounds like you do from your question) go for the mix and match approach; compare features on the pay/free decision. If you are less skilled, then probably an integrated suite (and I think they are all paid but I'm open to correction) will probably provide an easy route to all round protection.

But remember, no security system is foolproof.

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Paid Internet Security Suite Vs. Free Suite
by davecon1 / April 3, 2010 7:39 AM PDT

I have used numerous paid for "suites" over the years. They were not worth it, slowed down system alot. I did what you did. I use Avast antivirus, Comodo firewall, Windows defender. I also use Spybot & Malwarebytes anti-spyware. I run SuperAntiSpyware & Lavasoft occasionally. I tried Spyware Doctor, which was a bloated resource hogging program. I have not had any issues or problems with this set-up. I have yet to try Windows Security Essentials yet.

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I would go with the free

Presently I am using avast, comodo firewall and malwarebyte's antimalware which is quite similar to your free Internet Security suite.
I can proudly say that I haven't got any infections for quite some time.
As others have said, humans are the weakest links in security. Thus if you are vigilant enough this free suite is more than enough.

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