Best antivirus: 14 home security suites reviewed and rated

Detect and remove threats before they can cause harm

Once the trial is installed, though, life gets much easier. An exceptionally straightforward interface gives speedy access to the program's various scanning features, a capable and versatile scheduler helps you configure future scans to run automatically, and there's really nothing else to do at all.

Part of the reason for this simplicity is that F-Secure ANTI-VIRUS is a pure antivirus product, with none of the extras you'll find in other tools: banking, URL-related browsing and social network protection are all reserved for F-Secure Internet Security. (Web-based malware should still get blocked, but this happens by scanning the download, not preventing you from reaching the malicious site in the first place.)

Best antivirus 2014

It's the core antivirus engine which really matters, though, and here F-Secure ANTI-VIRUS does very well, with the program's protection consistently rated very highly by independent testing labs. There are some possible problems − an AV-Comparatives "Real World" test found F-Secure raised a high number of false positives − but on balance F-Secure ANTI-VIRUS provides solid, capable protection for a very reasonable price.

Score: 4/5

4. Avira Antivirus Suite

£25.99 (1 user, 1 year); £38.99 (1 user, 2 years); £51.99 (1 user, 3 years)

Avira's new Antivirus Suite offers great value, as it's licensed by user rather than device. Protecting your PC, laptop, Android phone and tablet costs a mere £51.99 for 3 years − a fraction of what you could spend elsewhere (and you get 5GB of online backup space thrown in, too).

The innovations haven't stretched to Avira's interface, unfortunately, which still looks dated − it's a cluttered mass of options which could put off novice users right away. Browsing protection hasn't been updated either. It still requires you to install a variation on the Ask browser toolbar, and doesn't deliver particularly accurate or reliable results.

Best antivirus 2014

Once you've found your way around Avira Antivirus Suite, though, it's easy enough to use. Email scanning and cloud-based technologies mean it performs better than Avira's free tool. The core antivirus technology has scored very well with the independent testing labs, too, with AV-Comparatives giving it the highest Advanced+ rating in their last Real World Protection report. (AV-Test scored it lower for protection, but the package still did well overall.)

The limited browsing protection is an issue, but Avira Antivirus Suite can perform well in some situations, and there's no doubt it's good value for money. If you're a fan of the company then it's worth a try.

Score: 3.5/5

5. Emsisoft Anti-Malware 8.1

£26 (1 PC, 1 year); £80 (3 PCs, 2 years)

Emsisoft Anti-Malware 8.1 is a solid antivirus package which provides the three layers of protection you need. Browsing protection blocks access to dangerous links, dual scanning engines detect known threats as you download or run them, and behaviour monitoring watches running programs for suspicious actions, helping to block even the very latest threats.

Independent testing shows largely positive results, with the program gaining particularly high marks at AV-Comparatives (although it doesn't do badly at AV Test and VB100, either). It's relatively lightweight, too, and should have little effect on your PC's performance.

Best antivirus 2014

Perhaps the real highlight is Anti-Malware's configurability. Play with the scheduler, for instance, and you can run scans at a certain time (9pm), fixed intervals (every 90 minutes), between other times (every 30 minutes between 7pm and 10pm, say), or maybe every two hours on Saturday and Sunday. You have great control over how modules like the browsing protection work. And if you want a trusted program to do something suspicious − change the HOSTS file, say − then you can create an application rule to make it happen.

Emsisoft Anti-Malware still doesn't have quite the protective power of the leading antivirus tools, and it's also a little expensive if you need to protect several PCs. But if you need an antivirus tool which can be tweaked and customised then it could be a good choice.