Best Free Security Applications – An 18 Month Review

imageWithout a doubt, the most popular question that comes my way, in one form or another is – which antivirus application(s) would you recommend?

The question comes up so often, I’ve chosen to post the answer every six months, or so. Here’s round 3 – regular readers will notice I’ve stuck with the “tried and true” applications – applications which continue to maintain a strong presence in their specific class.

My response:

Let me answer this by telling you what I run on my principal home machine. But, before I do, let’s talk a bit about Host Intrusion Prevention Systems (HIPS) since, as you’ll see, more and more security applications are including HIPS – or a combination of HIPS, and behavior based blocking components.

There’s not much point in reinventing the wheel, so I’ll go with this description of HIPS/behavior blocking, from

A host intrusion prevention system (HIPS) monitors each activity a program attempts and (depending on configuration) prompts the user for action or responds based on predefined criteria. Conversely, behavior blockers monitor and profile whole program behavior. When a collection of behaviors tips the scale, the behavior blocker will (depending on configuration) alert the user or take action against the entire program based on predefined criteria.

Though they sound similar, HIPS is application-level control (i.e. this program is allowed to do X but not Y), whereas behavior blocking is more cut and dry – the entire application is either good (allowed) or it is not.

Fortunately, many of these types of products combine both.

Got that? Good.   Smile

Despite the fact that I’m provided with a free license for all the security applications I test, I have chosen to run with the following applications.

Microsoft Security Essentials (free) – an all-in-one antimalware application.

Immunet FREE Antivirus – a free Cloud based companion antimalware application.

ThreatFire (free) – this application is built around a Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS), and behavior based blocking combination.

WinPatrol (free) – another HIPS application with considerable additional functionality. WinPatrol is the elder statesman of this application class and, it just keeps on getting better. A must have application.

PC Tools Firewall Plus (free) – PC Tools Firewall Plus is advanced Firewall technology designed for typical users, not just experts.  The “plus” refers to a HIPS component. Generally, if the ThreatFire HIPS component is triggered on my machine, PC Tools Firewall Plus is triggered as well.

Commercial application:

Zemana AntiLogger – In my view simply the best keylogger defense available.  AntiLogger includes a System Defense module that works similarly to HIPS – to protect the whole system.

Each of these applications has been reviewed (some several times), on my site. You can follow the links below to specific review articles.

Microsoft Security Essentials

Immunet Protect



PC Tools Firewall Plus

Zemana AntiLogger

Finally, additional Browser protection is a critical ingredient in overall system protection. I recommend that you read the following article here – Updated: An IT Professional’s Must Have Firefox and Chrome Add-ons.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Browser add-ons, downloads, Free Security Programs, HIPS, Windows Tips and Tools

13 responses to “Best Free Security Applications – An 18 Month Review

  1. I must say, Bill, when I used windows I ran most of those programs on my machine. However, since I’ve been on Linux I only use one security application, ClamTK antivirus. I only use that to check anything I send to someone else.

    I know people will shout that Linux CAN get viruses. I’m not naive enough to believe it can’t. It’s just that hardly anyone bothers to target it, as it doesn’t have much of the PC market, so it’s not worth bothering with.

    Criminals are opportunists. They go where they know they can make money. If the pool hasn’t any fish, the sharks don’t bother trying to swim in it.

    Happy New Year,


    • Hey Paul,

      You and I are on the same bus on this one. I wouldn’t consider accessing my online banking for example, in Windows.

      As you say – “If the pool hasn’t any fish, the sharks don’t bother trying to swim in it.” I like that!! 🙂



  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    Timely reminder on what’s true and tested. That’s all I will say on that, because we have covered it many times before.

  3. Shared on our Facebook block. Great as usual.


  4. Cappydawg

    Once again great info Bill. I use all of these programs myself per your advice.

  5. Hi Bill ~ PC Tools Firewall Plus [called PCTF below] on win7 Home Premium 64-bit

    I’ve used PCTF happily for a year, but today it has refused to behave after I updated it. It began to conflict with the windows firewall which was turned off prior to the update. I couldn’t get windows firewall to stay turned off. I read the PC Tools forum & decided to Revo uninstall PCTF + reboot + reinstall to get the windows firewall to stay turned off. I’ve uninstalled PCTF & rebooted & everything is fine running on the windows firewall alone

    However I no longer download ANYTHING from CNET because:
    1] They aren’t good at keeping track of current versions ~ v is Sep ’09
    2] Their nosey little installer is a major annoyance & I don’t trust it on my system
    So I went to PC Tools for the latest version in their products section & it doesn’t exist by name. However I did find a link to a current version in this page:

    I am thinking perhaps PC Tools is driving users towards buying the firewall as part of the expensive “PC Tools™ Internet Security” product. There are mumblings at the forum about this, but not many so I’m unsure if it’s forum idiots. The moderators are not giving clear answers there.

    Anyway ~ on with my download 🙂

  6. PCTF install went fine. Conflict gone. Minor heart attack while I waited 5 minutes [!!!!] for PCTF to finish installing ~ much grinding of my normally super-quiet HDD & Cooler. Hope the above post is of use to you.

    • Hi Michael,

      Yes, I went through the same circuitous route in choosing a download site. It may be that PC Tools are considering moving the Firewall into the “ya gotta pay” stream. Funny though – I downloaded directly from the main site less than 3 weeks ago.

      I hear ya – the install is a loooong one and, the long wait does tend to induce a pitter-patter heart rhythm 🙂

      Nice job in working through the fluff!



  7. Mark

    Hi Bill,
    Great list although like Michael I have had issues with Threatfire, it occasionally would refuse to launch Firefox, I forget the code. Basically it would think it was malware for some reason.
    Happy New Year!

    • Hi Mark,

      Best wishes for the coming year. 🙂

      While I haven’t had an issue with ThreatFire, I’m aware that it may not be smooth sailing for all users.