Best software guide

It's vital to choose the right software application for your needs. While paid-for applications often provide premium features more tailored to the professional, there are an increasing number of freeware apps for those that don’t want to shell out. Windows picks out a selection of software packages to suit your budget and needs.

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By  Derek Francis Published  September 8, 2008

It's vital to choose the right software application for your needs. While paid-for applications often provide premium features more tailored to the professional, there are an increasing number of freeware apps for those that don’t want to shell out. Windows picks out a selection of software packages to suit your budget and needs.

Paid-for (Security)

ESET NOD32 Antivirus

Cheaper than its two big rivals, ESET has carved a name for itself by offering virus protection that's second to none. NOD32 now boasts a much sleeker interface than previous versions and is less demanding on the system, while being effortlessly easy-to-use. It has consistently been rated highly by independent testers, thanks to its thorough virus lists and updates.

The down side? It stands accused of often failing to remove the threats as it detects them. But at $39.99, it's one of the cheaper paid-for antivirus packages - pity then, it doesn't feature other security features like parental control, site blockers or what-not. For that, you'll have to fork out $59.99 for ESET Smart Security.

McAfee Internet Security Suite 2008

Another huge name in security and protection, this McAfee suite is a 10-in-1 bundle with a huge reputation and great user interface. A PC health feature allows users to monitor and improve their PC performance by removing unwanted files, while McAfee's SiteAdvisor will help you avoid dangerous websites and make use of parental controls.

It's most definitely a winner, but there are some question marks around the strength of its firewall. And like other paid-for security apps, it is also considered a system hog. But for those after a wealth of features, this has it all.

Norton 360 Version 2.0

Norton is definitely one of the best known names in the world of PC security, with an award-winning suite of applications, including Norton Antivirus. As the name suggests, Norton 360 Version 2.0 is a rounded package, with comprehensive antivirus and anti-spyware protection.

Compared to other applications, this can be a bit of a drag on your system's memory - but it provides such a strong level of protection against all types of threats, from viruses, spyware, phishing scams and more.

Free

Consistently thought of as the best anti-virus program available for free, AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition does not slow your system down while providing the essentials in PC security. A real-time shield gives you anti-virus and anti-malware protection.

Elsewhere, Avast Home Edition is equally suitable for the average home user, with a skinnable interface that looks more like a media player than a virus blocker.

This protects from a range of e-mail clients, instant messaging apps, and offers P2P protection, a web shield and much more. Novice users will also like PC Tools AntiVirus Free Edition, which is a freeware version of its paid-for tool, and features an intuitive interface with all the usual bells and whistles.

For a different approach to virus protection, check out ThreatFire AntiVirus Free Edition, which offers real-time protection by identifying threats as they happen, so-called ‘zero-day' events. It doesn't offer an on-demand scan for viruses already on your system, but it is quick to sound out any suspicious activity on the spot.

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