Ask dotTechies: What security software (anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall, etc.) do you protect your computer with?

As I am sure most dotTechies already noticed, I have started a new Ask dotTechies series in which I pose weekly questions to dotTechies. These polls are just “for fun” and informative purposes so everyone can get to know the dotTech family better. I also hope to facilitate discussion on the topics at hand.

That being said, security software is always a hot topic for computer users. I have even written an article (Prevention, detection, and cure: 9 programs that will provide the best all-around security for you and your computer – for free) to help guide users in selecting the best security software without having to pay a dime. So, this weeks Ask dotTechie is on security software: What security software (anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall, etc.) do you protect your computer with?

Before I present the polls, let me clarify one thing. While there is no fine line separating the two, generally speaking, there are two different types of  anti-malware security software: “mainstream” and “sidekick”. “Mainstream” security software are ones that act as the main anti-malware protection for a user; software like this are Avira, Norton, Kaspersky, NOD32, McAfee, BitDefender, etc. Then there are “sidekick” security software that act as supplements to the “mainstream”  security software; software like this are Malwarebytes, IObit Internet Security 360, Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware, SUPERAntiSpyware, Spyware Terminator, etc.

Users never, ever want to run two “mainstream” security software on the same computer at the same time. However users can run some “mainstream” and “sidekick” security software on the same computer at the same time because the developers of “sidekick” security software recognize the fact that they need to make it so their software play well with “mainstream” security software. If the “mainstream” and “sidekick” security software will work well together totally depends on how the developers of each programmed their software; some may, some may not. Generally speaking, most “sidekick” security software work well with “mainstream” security software. Now “work well” does not mean that using both software will be exactly equivalent to only using one software in terms of computer resource usage and speed; “work well” means that the extra computer resource usage and speed decrease caused by running both software will be negligible and unnoticeable.

Therefore, because of the fact there are multiple different types of security software and many people run more than one, I have created three polls for this article instead of one: one for “mainstream” security software, one for “sidekick” security software, and one for firewalls. Feel free to only answer one or two but I do encourage answering all three.

***Note: Some of the software mentioned below have free and paid versions. The selection for the security software encompasses free and paid. In other words, regardless of if you use the free or paid version select that software brand. Also, some people may run internet security packages from one company that has all security components included. Regardless of if you run just the anti-virus/anti-spyware version of a security software or if you use their internet security package, select that software brand. Feel free to clarify in the comments below if you run free or paid versions, and if you use internet security packages or not.

[poll id=”4″] [poll id=”5″] [poll id=”6″]

Have any comments on the topic of security software? Let us know below in the comments! (Linux users feel free to brag about how Linux (currently) gets little to no malware as compared to Windows.)

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  • Tom

    Hey Everyone,
    I use PC Tools Suite for main program
    and my sidekicks are SuperAntiSpyware and
    Avir task manager
    Use These on both computers,XP Pro SP3
    and Vista Ultimate 32Bit.So far so good.

  • calebstein

    Where is Microsoft Security Essentials, the best antivirus? And Why can’t I select 2 sidekicks, IObit Security 360 (which is a lot better than malwarebytes), and ThreatFire?

  • Adder

    I agree with a previous poster that you should have allowed multiple selections in each category, the reason being that even though I, and probably/apparently, many others use one main piece of software in each category, we also use one or more on demand for verification since no one anti-virus/malware/spyware works well nor is 100% accurate in all categories of detection (Wow. That was a mouthful. o.O)

    Personally, over the past fifteen years, I have used most of those on the lists in addition to many that aren’t listed (such as BlackIce when it actually was worth using). Some I have used longer than others (Norton, ZoneAlarm Pro), but switched as some get better, some get worse, some specialize, some take on everything, some become easy targets for hackers to circumvent (such as ZoneAlarm, Norton/Symantec), and some disappear all together (like a program that was called Invirsable, created by the Israelis if I remember correctly, that was, in it’s day, the best there was, hands-down).

    Currently, I am using ESET NOD32 as my main with Kaspersky on-demand, ThreatFire as my sidekick, and Windows Firewall in tandem with a hardware firewall installed in my router/DSLmodem. In addition, I also use AnVir Task Manager, Process Explorer, CPorts, and CCleaner for various other duties as well as some of the FireFox plugins when I am using that browser.

    Oops. Forgot to add Sandboxie which I only use when installing a piece of software that I’m not sure about or is a beta product.

  • kire612002


  • Hi,

    I use spybot s&d. I have superanti-spyware but it hasn’t been getting rid of one of the problems I have (I inherited my current pc & haven’t gotten around to reformating yet). I run a network with unsavy users & it’s free through cox so I use mcafee security suite on them all

  • Where would Zonealarm fall under? As of now Zonealarm have the antivirus and antispyware integrated?

  • I use ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite. I believe that it is one of the best out there. I have seen it rated #1 over Norton’s (PC Mag PC World).

    I think that a category for Suite should be listed.

  • john

    You are missing some important security software. For example, I too use Returnil as many above already pointed out.

  • TheWebmaster

    I love Ad-Aware. It does the job perfect on it’s own.

  • Aesar

    I had an opportunity to try Avira Premium; liked it so much I actually paid for it. The same applies to Outpost Firewall Pro. I absolutely love these apps!

    Like Karen, I don’t keep “sidekick” software running all the time. I tried IObit 360, but it kept popping up with “update available”, but kept trying to link to some non-existent, or non-available site (every time), so I dumped it. Tried A-Squared, but its learning curve was soooo slow: I kept getting bogged down with pop ups, and there is no quick way to undo an accidental Enter key mistake. So I stick with the tried and true MalwareBytes, and run it occasionally just to make sure everything else is still working.

  • OldElmerFudd

    These are standard on every box in my network as well as the machines of my best friend.
    Eset NOD32 (commercial only)
    Malwarebytes Pro and Online Armor Pro (both commercial)

    I use additional tools against/when there’s a problem, but they get pulled out very seldom, not daily.

  • kimotherapy

    I run Avast Free, Asquared, Spyware Blaster and Windows Firewall… I have recently tried the Outpost Free firewall, and Online Armor firewall with Avast and Asquared… I found that lags were introduced into my system especially when browsing with Firefox… Perhaps Online Armor’s real time shields were fighting with the Avast ones… The lag problem persisted even after I disabled the shields (not the firewall) of Online Armor…

    I have returned to an my base Image of just Avast, Asquared and Windows Vista Firewall and my system runs fine again… I’ve never had any virus or malware infection with this setup… Oh! But I use Returnil sometimes when I want to visit unknown websites.. Anyone knows of a way for me to gain some outbound control with my Windows Vista Firewall?

  • Johnny

    I use:

    Zone Alarm Pro
    Key Scrambler

    Also use Firefox with no script and ABP.
    Roboform for passwords.

    Of course, imaging and roll back software also.

  • Josh

    Whatever you do, the virus writers will always be a step ahead. Let’s hunt them down physically and kill them!

  • Sebastian

    I´m using eset nod32 for more than 3 years now and I´m quite happy with it. Before that I used Bitdefender and Kaspersky (and sometimes Antivir free) but NOD32 is the most satisfying antivir solution I´ve ever had. It´s clean, fast and needs only very little RAM. That´s all I need. And it´s detection rate it´s very reliable, not that much false positives.

  • Samer

    I used to use AVG free then switched to Avira free and finally settled on Avast :P

    for sidekick I used to use spyware terminator but then switched to a-squared which I now have full license too :D

    for firewall I used to use Comodo I had problem updating it so switched to Outpost

    In addition i use Prev.x free which has a real time detector what’s unique about is that it never downloads virus signatures it compares them with the online virus signature thus always stays updated :)

    + Spyware Blaster

    + Comodo Memory Firewall the only thing I found that detected buffer overflows correctly

    + Malwarebytes anti-malware and SUPERantispyware as
    additional scanners if everything else fails :P

  • PTLdom

    Oh, just forgot to add to my XP Pro old machine: Spybot search and destroy with the real time Tea something-

    On both vista and xp machines, I use anonymisers and free vpn’s, not only for security reasons but also to breach time or download restrictions imposed on IPs.

  • Fred Smith

    Now I’m confused. I was running AVG but read (at techsupport I think) that Microsoft Security Essentials was getting better results. So I removed AVG & installed MSE thinking it was mainly an ‘anti-virus’ program. I was lead to understand that I should not have more then one anti-virus program installed at the one time.

    Could someone clarify the situation for me please.

  • PTLdom

    Ahsraff, this should be a more than one multichoice inquiry.

    On my vista machine:

    1- Norton security suite (came pre-installed), and includes the firewall plus internet security plus antivirus.
    2- Iobit 360
    3- Windows Security Essentials
    4- Sandboxie (you forgot many of us are using some sort of sandboxing or system virtualization) and, if things to be accessed are really mean, I usually opt for a virtual box with the W7Enterprise90days trial.

    On my Old XP Pro machine (Dell something 400):

    1- Windows firewall and windows defender (I had windows live onecare, which was discontinued)
    2- Iobit360
    3- Windows Security Essentials
    4- Returnil, for the nasty things

    And in your inquiry, I picked Norton.

  • Joleca

    You’ve only listed “Spyware Dr” as a “sidekick” product, but it should be under “mainstream”.. It includes anti-virus and since I’ve been running on all 3 computers (since around 2005 or so), have NEVER had any kind of virus or spyware issues..

    DID have problems with BOTH Norton and McAfee..

    FYI, PC Tools (the maker of Spyware Dr) now has a full “Internet Security” package which also includes a firewall as well as all of the other protections.

  • RoseD1st

    I use Bitdefender security suite and Spyware Dr as a backup

  • Dr Nitin

    Dear Ashraf
    I am using QuickHeal as antivirus and antimalware and as a Firewall(paid)since last 4 yars
    Quite happy about it
    Dr NItin

  • Please note, that a-squared Anti-Malware can no longer be considered as “Sidekick”, but as a full antivirus solution since version 4.0 with the dual-scanengine.

    However, a-squared Free, with scanner only is “Sidekick”.

  • Shi

    MM I am using Bullguard Internet security not sure whether it mainstream?. I got one year free license thru Gizmo site. Previous was using Panda Internet Security. Am adjusting to Bullguard. Found Panda easy to use. I find Bullguard slows down my computer and Internet, i find it user friendly. Prefer both of these programs to Kas. Also use Asquared anti malware.

    The options only allow one choice. I do use

  • Jyo

    hey, what about Spyware Blaster as a sidekick?

  • karen

    I use Avira Premium. I don’t keep “sidekick” software running all the time. I run MalwareBytes and Spybot occasionally on demand, but they usually only find tracking cookies. And I just use the built-in Windows Firewall (with Vista). Never really had an infection but I’m careful about email attachments and clicking on links.

    Now only if I could convince my parents and my in-laws to be as careful. Even with primary and sidekick software running, they still seem to get infected. I’ve had to clean their computers several times.

  • embee

    I use Sunbelt Vipre. The product works extremely well and the company’s free, toll-free tech support is extraordinary.

    I rely mainly on Vipre for real time protection and a weekly deep scan.

    I use two sidekick programs: Spyware Blaster and Spybot Search and Destroy (which I run manually with Vipre’s “active protection” disabled).

  • jeff9000

    I use AVG installed on the D drive and Returnil with Virus Guard to protect the C Drive. I just turn off Returnil when I choose to install something.
    So how about another category for programs like returnil and sandboxie?

  • J. L.

    I’ve voted for Avira and Comodo. That’s not everything I use though.

    Network Protection
    Router with SP1 firewall and Comodo Secure DNS.

    Real-time Protection
    Comodo Internet Security (Firewall+HIPS)
    Avira Free
    WinPatrol Free

    Passive Protection
    Windows 7 UAC (no prompts, thanks to UAC Tweak)
    Disallowed-by-default Software Restriction Policy
    Spybot Immunize

    On-demand Scanning
    A-squared Free
    Comodo AV
    Malwarebytes’ Anti-malware
    Prevx CSI
    Returnil Virus Guard
    Sophos Anti-Rootkit
    Spybot – Search & Destroy

    Firefox Add-ons
    Adblock Plus

    HiJackThis (+

    Software Updates
    RSS Feeds:, Freeware Guide,, Softpedia
    KC Softwares SUMo
    Secunia PSI
    Update Notifier

    System Virtualization
    Returnil Home Free

    System Backup
    Windows 7 System Image

  • Ashraf

    @youngatheart1946: A Sunbelt fan I see =).

    @Samuel: True. I was thinking about the AVG/MSE overlap when I posted that but I couldn’t think of a proper way to word it so I said f it… I hope he doesn’t catch on =P.

    @Tony: DefenseWall rings a bell somewhere. I think I may have found it while research GesWall.

    @Richard and @Sandeep: Yes a-squared can be considered “mainstream”. There is no real fine line between “mainstream” and “sidekick” so there is bound to be overlap.

    I only listed a-squared as a “sidekick” because that is what it has been traditionally used for

    @Sandeep: If you don’t like that many pop ups, try Outpost or Windows Firewall (Windows Firewall on Vista or Win7 only).

    @Emrys: At least you are protected… I hope =).

    @leland: I can’t believe I forgot to add Sunbelt to the list. I updated the poll now to include it.

    @Locutus: It may be a anti-virus but I still consider it a sidekick although I can see why you want to call it mainstream; a matter of perception I guess.

    @cuemark: Updated to include Sunbelt =).

    @Quro@75: o_O. Well if it works for you who am I to object.

  • Here is my securities configuration:
    1) Avira(free) – mainstream
    2) AVG(free) – for my POP email + USB (resident shield turned off)
    3) a-Squared Pro – sidekick
    4) Comodo – firewall only

    So, what do you think. Heavy computer resources? Not at all. Run very well & fast on my old AMD Turion X2, 2GB ram with WinXP SP2.

  • cuemark


    I am using Sunbelt’s Vipre, along with MalwareBytes. I’m surprised that Vipre was not included in any of the selections !!

  • MSSE is an antiirus, not a sidekick.

  • Sunbelt VIPRE Anti-virus; it’s a new kid on the block but it does a nice job. On some machines I use Online Armor ++ which includes a-squared/Ikarus which in most reviews is getting as good of rates of finding malware as Avira. I tend to stick with Online Armor for firewall protection but have tested PCTools Firewall Plus and agree it is very nice but missing many of the pieces that OA has to keep malware from ever getting onto your machine.

    One sidekick I use on every 32-bit machine I have is Sandboxie to sandbox my browsers or any program I am unsure of. This adds a great layer of security to internet facing programs that will keep any junk out of your main computer if it does something bad. Everyone should consider using it to test unknown software.

  • Emrys

    Between my two laptops, I use a horrible mish-mash of software; mostly from GAOTD or from offers I have been alerted to here. Some other stuff I found on My machines are a deplorable mess of my own creation that I have only myself to blame for. (Insert maniacal laughter).

  • Sandeep

    Hi Ashraf,

    I recently installed A-squared Anti-malware pro (from the promotion) and it works as “Mainstream” as well as “sidekick” software (correct me if i am wrong) with PC tools firewall. But now i am sick of PC tools firewall as it keeps on giving the “Alerts” near the taskbar. I tried a lot so that i can stop those alerts but unsuccessful. Is there any firewall which doesn’t pop-up with those many alerts????? I have now voted for “Avira”- Mainstream, “A-squared”-Sidekick & “PC tools”-firewall.

    Before A-squared i was using for many years:
    1) Avira – as MainStream
    2) IOBIT Security 360 – as sidekick
    3) Windows Firewall.


  • Richard

    I may be mis-informed, but I thought that my a-squared anti-malware 4.5 was both a mainsteam and sidekick software. Am I not protected like I think I am?

  • Tony

    Avira premium is my av protection.
    and for the moment Online armor is my firewall.

    DefenseWall is my sidekick security product.
    It is shortly to have a Firewall added to it and is my favourite security product bar none.

  • @Ashraf: Your point about ThretFire is true but techinically MSE and AVG overlap.

    You may have been but my systems still clean!

  • youngatheart1946

    G’day Ashraf,
    for my MAINSTREAM security I use Sunbelt VIPRE Anti-virus/Anti-malware and for my MAINSTREAM firewall once again I use a Sunbelt product – Sunbelt Personal Firewall. I do not use any sidekick security programs as I feel extremely safe with the Sunbelt Software programs I use…IMHO the 2 programs mentioned are some of the best if not THE BEST available.
    Yours Sincerely
    Youngatheart 1946

  • Ashraf

    @Samuel: True, true; also Threatfire is a behavior blocker -it provides *extra* functionality not found in AVG and MSE so it is not like you are overlapping programs unnecessarily.

    BTW I was just teasing =).

  • @Ashraf: My main stream was AVG Free and SpySweper but with SpySweepers problems on 7 I only use AVG Free now. Maybe, but don’t forget that since MSE replaces Defender, I didn’t really add an extra program. And Overkillish, maybe, but you’re posting with a man who has never had a virus with his “overkill” stratagy.

  • Ashraf

    @Samuel: If you run Threatfire and MSE is it safe to assume you don’t use any “mainstream” software then? Because if you do use a “mainstream” software + Threatfire + MSE, that is fairly overkill imo… what type of websites do you visit? :P :P :P

  • I only voted as using ThreatFire but I also use MSE.
    At one point I used Webroot AntiSpyware, but it has some problems with 7 so I’m not using it right now.