PC Tools Antivirus Free Edition is free AV that distinguishes between antispyware and antivirus.
Unlike the excellent Threatfire, PC Tools Antivirus Free Edition, which neglects to detect spyware, allows far too many pieces of malware through for it to realistically protect any PC.
PC Tools Antivirus Free Edition does a remarkably poor job of keeping a PC safe, largely because it holds to a now-archaic distinction between spyware and other forms of malware.
In an age when a single baddie might spread like a worm, steal passwords like spyware, and allow backdoor-style remote control of an infected PC, most security vendors recognise that labels such as "Trojan horse" or "spyware" are secondary to the idea of keeping everything bad off PCs. Hence today's use of malware as a catch-all term for attack software.
However, PC Tools says that its free program will not detect what it deems spyware. And that limitation may account for its awful detection and blocking results. PC Tools Antivirus Free Edition left the door wide open for about half of the malware in our tests.
See also: PC Tools Threatfire 4.5 review
And while PC Tools Antivirus Free Edition purports to protect against Trojan horses, a common malware type, it detected only 46 percent of such software in AV-Test.org tests. It did better in detecting worms, but its catch rate of 83 percent for the self-spreading malware still didn't compare with the detection results we saw from Avira Antivir Personal, the overall leader among the free antivirus software we tested.
Unsurprisingly, the poor performance carried over to AV-Test.org's heuristic tests, which use two- and four-week-old signature databases to simulate how an app will handle new and unknown malware. PC Tools Antivirus came in last, with respective results of 33 percent and 36 percent (in contrast, Avira, the best app we tested, scored 52 percent and 45 percent, respectively). It was decent in detecting and removing existing infections, missing only one out of ten - but most of the tested antivirus apps got them all.
While PC Tools Antivirus Free Edition installs smoothly and looks relatively good, it doesn't schedule a scan by default, nor does it automatically update. The software will notify you once a day (by default) if an update is available, but to make it do the updating by itself, you will need to turn on the Smart Update feature.
NEXT: our expert verdict >>
PC Tools Antivirus Free Edition: Specs
- Windows 2000/XP/Vista
- Windows 2000/XP/Vista
In short, there's no reason to choose PC Tools Antivirus when other free apps can truly keep your PC safe. Fortunately, the behaviour-based PC Tools Threatfire 4.5 supplemental utility is excellent - as good as Antivirus Free Edition is bad.