AVG Anti-Virus + Comodo Firewall
ZoneAlarm Review: Strike 1, 2, 3 – You’re Out
The McAfee anti-virus software that came installed on my Dell laptop was about to expire so I decided to search for a free alternative. Even though my license was good for another 10 days, I decided to get rid of McAfee ASAP as its daily pop-up reminders telling me that it was about to expire were causing Windows Explorer to hang.
My top replacement choices were Avast, AVG, Comodo, and ZoneAlarm. Based on protection and not performance review grades from several sources, I decided to go with ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall. Sunday night I uninstalled McAfee and downloaded and installed ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall. The install went off without a hitch – although it took a fair amount of time to complete.
Strike 1 was when I tried to use my printer. Attempts to print to my USB-connected (not network-connected) Epson printer failed. Testing revealed that the problem disappeared as soon as I turned the firewall off. Searching the ZoneAlarm forums I found that others had experienced similar problems. I configured ZoneAlarm’s firewall based on the recommendations I found there. These changes did not fix the problem. So it appeared that if I wanted to use my printer, I would have to turn the ZoneAlarm firewall off – an unacceptable option.
Strike 2 occurred when I set up an account to ask about the firewall/printer problem on their forum. I registered, then clicked on the activation link in the email they sent me and my account was activated. Unfortunately 12 hours later I was still waiting for authorization to post questions to their forums.
Strike 3 occurred when I tried to use my clipboard with OpenOffice Calc. The Copy operation took some time to complete but when it came to pasting, Calc would just hang and I had to use Windows Task Manager to force a shutdown. Again searching the forums I found a similar post with regards to Microsoft Office Excel but no solution.
It is worth noting that ZoneAlarm is identified as an under performer in terms of system utilization in the reviews I saw but this took a back seat to my desire for protection – the category in which ZoneAlarm held a slight advantage. And I definitely noticed that my laptop behaved in a clunkier (yes that is the technical term) manner than before with McAfee, which is a rather poorly rated anti-virus solution itself.
With ZoneAlarm failing to meet my usability expectations, I turned to my backup choice – AVG Free Anti-Virus and Comodo Firewall. Uninstalling ZoneAlarm, I first installed the Comodo firewall software. Wow – opening a document and printing it worked perfectly – unlike with ZoneAlarm which apparently refused to trust my printer. For the novice, it is worth noting that Comodo is more demanding of the user in terms of configuration and the issuing of alerts – which I personally prefer. I prefer it when my computer asks me what it wants me to have it do – versus the alternative of it thinking for itself. Give me the wheel and let me drive – which may not be for everyone.
My next step was to install AVG Anti-Virus Free 2013. I would like to point out that I always choose the custom install option when given the choice. I do this because so much free software these days installs additional components that are of little or no benefit to the user. Personally I want to know as much as I can about what an installer is doing to my computer. With respect to AVG, I did opt to install the AVG Surf-Shield but have not yet seen any benefit. There was a similar toolbar with ZoneAlarm but as far as I could tell it provided no benefit either (at least none has been apparent in terms of the very limited surfing done with either/both).
One nice benefit of AVG Anti-Virus Free is that the install says they offer free 24/7 support. Wow. ZoneAlarm offered none – just their forums. Testing, things appear to be speedier with AVG when it is performing a full scan than with either McAfee or ZoneAlarm when not scanning. Also I can now copy and paste with my clipboard when using OpenOffice Calc.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that you may experience different results. Also, if you are pursuing the free anti-virus/firewall route, it could do you no harm to have a couple of alternative options ready to go in the event that your first choice fails to meet your expectations.
Caveat Emptor, Jim