I think I may have already mentioned my opinion that the average antivirus program can be almost as annoying and intrusive as having an actual virus. The slow downs, the updating, the increased boot times, the panicky messages popping up for no good reason, all of them just add yet another layer of potential irritation to everyday computer use.
But, of course, an antivirus is a necessary evil, so at some point I settled on AVG as the least irritating of the bunch and resigned myself to trying to get along with it.
Then it started asking for money - to update the licence (I can only assume I unwittingly upgraded from the free version, though I have no idea when or how). I tried upgrading even further, to the latest version, 9.0 - the counter-intutive option so often seems to work with computer problems. No luck, of course - and on top of that, AVG, mystifyingly, now wanted to query every single action I made in Spotify, even after setting it as an exception.
So. Enough. Time for an antivirus option I've long been hoping wouldn't turn out to be too-good-to-be-true, Panda Cloud - recently out of beta, still free and, encouragingly, getting some excellent reviews.
Panda Cloud's aim is to be simple and hassle-free; analysing threats and updating itself in the cloud (hence the name), not taking over your entire system, using a minimum of bandwidth and system resources, and mostly just sitting there in your system tray keeping a sharp eye out for anything nasty. Moreover, because its virus signature database is in the cloud: a) it can be dowloaded and installed quickly; b) after installation, it doesn't have to do that initial update thing that can take forever; c) the database can be huge (currently terabyte-sized) - and can grow - without causing you storage problems; and d) it will always be up to date.
And how does it measure up in everyday use? Wonderfully.
Pros: Installation is extremely quick and easy, and on first scan it found and removed a trojan - an excellent start. It hasn't once slowed the system down, or queried a program or process it really ought to recognise; nor does the cloud itself seem to have suffered downtime. The interface is pleasingly simple and streamlined - possibly unnervingly so for control freaks and those used to the likes of Norton and McAfee - but does, however, reveal additional options as the need arises, such as letting you reinstate anything it may have neutralised.
Possible cons: according to the PCMag.com review, not the best option for cleaning up an already infected machine (stops malware getting on to the machine in the first place brilliantly, though: "the best free antivirus software available"); according to PC World, not the quickest at on-demand scanning (however, the review was pre- the full release, and even a full system scan was quick enough and unobtrusive enough for me).
Overall, then, exactly what I've always wanted from an antivirus: it does its job, it keeps to itself, and it's never the slightest bother. In fact, it's a shame Panda don't make housemates too.