Everyone needs antivirus, but do you really need to drop 5 Hamilton's on a top-tier vendor?
Free anti-virus has been available for awhile now, but I haven't been really impressed with any of the current offerings. AVG, Avira, Avast, and the others all fall far short of their subscription-based retail big brothers like McAfee, Trend and the like. Some people have had decent luck with AVG, but personally I see about as many infected AVG protected computers in here as computers with no antivirus at all, and to me that says a lot.
Microsoft's been hinting at releasing free antivirus software for Windows for quite some time, and it makes sense because they're so often called out for their security flaws and having fingers pointed at them for being buggy or crash prone, when in reality they're targeted by virus makers because they're so popular, not because they're so easy to hack. Add to that the millions of unprotected computers in the wild and you've got a recipe for rampant infection. So, since Microsoft can't trust you to go out and buy antivirus on your own, they're now giving it away for free.
I finally got around to checking out what you get in the free Microsoft Security Essentials package, and shockingly it's pretty damn good. It's not a huge surpise being as how they poached their AV development team from some of the best virus researchers at McAfee and Symantec - a few of whom I knew personally from my days as an antivirus guy. It's fast, has a high detection rate and is mind-bogglingly simple to setup.
To summarize - I still recommend top-tier AV such as the corporate McAfee or Symantec products, but if you're too "budget conscious" to get the good stuff the free Microsoft Security Essentials is the best choice by far. Download it here: