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How to buy security software

Security software buying advice

What to look for when choosing antivirus and internet security suites.

Every connected PC should have at least anti-virus software, anti-spyware software and a firewall, and it's crucially important that each is kept up to date. Although some users may prefer to mix and max products to produce their perfect blend, it often makes sense to install an internet security suite that contains all of these elements. Installing multiple security products from different vendors is usually a bad idea, however.

To help you decide which of each type of product to install, we work with world-renowned independent security testing lab AV-Test.org to evaluate the effectiveness of security software. No security software is foolproof, but be sure to check independent test results to make sure that your chosen product is of the required standard. Here are PC Advisor's security software reviews.

While many internet security suites of antivirus products offer similar results in terms of malware detection and disinfection, other factors such as their ease of setup, scan speeds, interface design and ability to deal with brand-new threats set them apart.

The best products will offer features that go beyond the traditional antivirus, antispyware, antispam and firewall concoction of internet security suites – you might see parental controls, 'cloud' protection, anti-phishing, anti-rootkit, virtual web browsers and keyboards, link and file scanners, gaming modes, online backup and more included. As malware develops more quickly than ever before these days, signature-based virus detection is no longer enough, and we suggest that any package worth its salt should have at least behavioural protection.

With many households now owning more than one computer, the best value is usually offered by a one-year, and at least a three-user licence. However, you can save some cash with a single-user licence if you have only one computer. If you are happy with your product and prepared to take a punt on its future performance, you could save money by signing up for two or even five years.

There are good free antivirus products, and even the odd internet security suite. But all of the above advice counts, and possibly more so. In security software, as in life, you get what you pay for!

See also: Group test: what's the best security software?

Visit: Security Advisor

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