Testing Antivirus Software

The solution to keeping your information safe, and safeguarding sensitive data of any other related parties, is the use of antivirus software. But with so many of them out there, not all of which are reliable or efficient, it is very important to thoroughly assess all software you are considering before you select and purchase one.

If you are an advanced user, we have outlined and described in quite detail how you can determine an antivirus software’s capabilities and features, using various online testing tools and websites.

We will consider a few of the leading software testing and certification agencies, and demonstrate how you can access and interpret their test results regarding various antivirus applications and decide on one that best suits your needs.


AV Test

AV-Test is one of the leading independent testing agencies that provide computer security services and analyse the latest security solutions and test them for vulnerabilities.

We have listed a step-by-step procedure for determining the ideal antivirus software for your needs:

When you visit the website, you will be greeted by blue еest results according to area of application tab. Here you can select the relevant option depending on whether you are looking for a security solution for your mobile devices, home computer, or if you are looking for professional security solutions for your firm. For the purposes of this guide, we will assume that we are a home user looking for an antivirus software for our Windows OS, and select the Home User-Windows option.

This will take you to a results page, with an option to filter results based on your Operating System on the top, and results period filter on the right from where you can choose the month and year you want to see the results for. Once you’ve filtered the results according to your requirements, it’s time to have a look at the software listed.

The list will be extensive with a whole host of different security suites, and three columns right in front of them, rating the programs on their Protection, Performance, and Usability. Each circle represents a point and there is a maximum of 6 points a product can get under each criteria.

For the purposes of this guide, we’ll choose AVG Internet Security 2015 & 2016, and clicking on it will lead us to the product page.

After a brief description of the tests carried out, the page lists the three testing criteria in detail, elaborating why the software got the score it got. The Protection criterion assesses the software’s performance when protecting against malware infections. The Performance criterion analyses how running the program affects system operations and the computer’s speed. And Usability determines how the antivirus impacts the usability of the whole computer.

To the right of each criterion will be the software’s test percentage and an Industry Average tab, comparing which will give you a better idea of why the software got the score it got in the criterion you are viewing.

To allow yourself an overview of how the security suites compare against each other, you can return to the results page and click on each criterion column to arrange the results based on lowest-to-highest or highest-to-lowest scores.

AV Comparatives


AV Comparatives

Operating out of Austria, AV Comparatives tests antivirus and security suites, analyses their performance, and presents the results in the form of charts and reports on their website.

Hovering your mouse over the Reviews/Reports drop-down menu on the homepage will reveal a list of all the tests that an antivirus software goes through as part of the assessment. These include Real-World Protection, Behaviour, File Detection, Performance, False Alarm, Anti-Phishing Tests, and a few others.

The menu also includes Test Overviews and summaries, which will give you an outline of the tests results without having to go through each test one at a time. All tests are worth having a look at if you want to determine the best of the best and why it is so, but having a look at the Performance and Real World Protection tests before others will give you a good idea of how security software hold up when put to work.

Below we’re going to touch on what a few of the tests mean and what they are for.

Real-World Protection Test

Real-World Protection Test

The reason you’re getting an antivirus is to secure your computer and data against online threats, so this Protection Test is probably among a most important to consider. It will show you the protection rate of antiviruses from which you can determine if the software you are considering is worth purchasing.

You’ll do that by comparing all the software put to the test to get a better idea of how they hold up against each other. Since the ability to provide protection on a daily basis is the most important feature of an antivirus software, only programs with over a 99% score should be considered.

Performance Test

Performance Test

Another important factor to consider is how resource heavy the antivirus is and how the system performs when you run the antivirus software on it. Since each system configuration is different, the results of this test may vary and it is always a good idea to test all antiviruses you’re considering on your own system one by one as most come with a trial period.

During this test, the antivirus software is run on a system and the following elements are considered: hard-drive performance and file copying speed, archiving and unarchiving efficiency, the time it takes to install and uninstall applications, wait period before an application launches, and download speed and accuracy.

In addition to individual testing, the industry recognized PC Mark 8 Professional Testing Suite was also employed to test system performance.

Although the test details and description of how the software held up during each test module is worth looking at, if you can’t be bothered, simply skipping to the last two pages of the test will give you a concise summary of the results. The second last page will hold the results of the individual tests, and any product in the green zone will not reduce your system performance. The last page, displays results from the PC Mark 8 test, and the scores a software has achieved on it.

As mentioned earlier, looking at these two tests for any given software should give you everything you need to select one for your use, and you don’t necessarily need to go through all the tests available on the website. But, if you still haven’t made up your mind, there are two additional tests which you can consider to help you do so.

File Detection Test

File Detection Test

An another important feature of an antivirus is its ability to effectively detect malware already on the system, and how capable a security software is of detecting and dealing with such a threat is what this test determines.

Once again, if you can’t be bothered to go through it all, skip forward to the last two pages to get a results summary. These pages display the efficiency percentage of the software being considered and the number of False Positives (files that aren’t malware, but are detected as such). Consider antiviruses with an efficiency of 99% or more, and those with the least number of FPs.

Behavior Test

Behavioral Test

In today’s time, the internet is continuously being introduced to new threats and new kinds of malware. Therefore, another important capability of an antivirus software is its ability to detect new malware based on their generic signatures and making use of its heuristic technology, and the efficiency with which it recognizes an actual threat rather than a false positive.

As with all the other tests, you could go through it in detail or skip to the last page to see if the test results are in the green, which if they are, means the software solution is sufficiently able to detect new threats and protect your system against them.

Anti-Phishing Test

Anti-Phishing Test

Phishing is when a target individual is tricked into thinking an email or website they’ve come across is legitimate but in fact is a fake copy of the original designed to make unsuspecting individuals reveal their financial information or passwords. This test assesses how capable a security suite is of recognizing, and blocking such websites before a user accesses them.

The last page of the test results will display the percentage of phishing websites the software was able to recognize and block. The higher the percentage, the better the antivirus performed its task.

Looking at all the tests above should give you a fairly clear idea of which antivirus solutions are better than others and help you select one for personal use. To validate your choice, you could go through the others tests available on the website and confirm the antivirus you’ve chosen holds its ground in all of them.

Virus Bulletin

Virus Bulletin

Another popular website that regularly reviews and evaluates new or popular antivirus solutions in the market and their features, Virus Bulletin considers performance figures to reveal a software’s efficiency.

The initial look and feel of the website, when you land on the homepage, is quite technical and thus quite intimidating, but it isn’t as complicated as it looks and we’ll guide you to the comparative tests section.

Right in the middle of the homepage, under the Testing section, you’ll find the VB100 tab clicking on which will take you to VB100 Comparative Testing homepage. To the right of this page, is a list of available options to browse, and what you need is the Latest Comparative Test Report right at the very top of the list.

There are two things you can do on the page you land on. If you’re really interested, you can click on the Read the full review option right at the top of the list to go through the details of the testing procedure, or you can scroll down to have a look at all the antiviruses tested and their relative test scores. These include the software’s detection scores, false positives rate, stability rating, and an indication whether the software passed or failed the test.

Dennis Technology Labs

Dennis Labs

One of the leading independent product testing and evaluation firm in the field of IT, DT Labs tests and reviews both consumer and business products and software.

Since there’s no easy way to find the complete antivirus reports menu on their website, well put the link right here. The list is divided into three sections based on Enterprise, Small-business and Home Antivirus analysis. Clicking on the latest test under the Home Antivirus section will open a pdf document detailing the test conducted and displaying scores for each antivirus solution.

Again, if you can’t be bothered to read all of the 20 pages the pdf holds, you can have a look at the Summary of the results on the first page. Any products in green cleared the tests with considerable efficiency are good to be considered for your use.

Looking at the bottom of the second page will answer the question on your mind and tell you which products emerged highest in the tests.

You can skim through the rest of the report and stop at sections that seems interesting to get more information on the testing process and other details.

Deciding which antivirus software is the best for you is a difficult process, especially when the market is streaming with them. We hope the testing websites we have listed will make your job a bit easier.

If you’ve gone through all the testing websites we mentioned, you would’ve noticed that some antivirus solutions are at the top of every list, and the difference in their test scores is marginal. These manufacturers have been providing security solutions for a number of years, and selecting a security suite from anyone should be more than sufficient to cover all your computer and internet security needs.

Selecting one the leading antivirus solutions in the market will ensure that all loopholes and vulnerabilities are covered, and that your system and your information is protected against the ever increasing malware threats on the internet.

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