ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus 10.2 Leapfrogs Rivals

ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus 10.2 is the latest free version of this combined security package. It combines ZoneAlarm’s traditional firewall product with an integrated antivirus – just like commercial paid security suites.

The antivirus element uses Kaspersky’s award winning antivirus engine so I would expect the results to be good. Just how good is revealed by AV-Test’s latest testing of 25 leading antivirus products (including paid suites and free products).

These tests included ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus for the first time and it achieved the best score of any free product – outgunning its four main free rivals and putting most of the paid suites to shame too:

zonealarmEven Kaspersky Internet Security (one of the top paid suites) only scored half a point higher in total (on Repair) – a testament to the AV engine shared by ZoneAlarm.

Main Strengths

  • Antivirus/antispyware
  • Two way advanced firewall
  • Anti-phishing/site status toolbar – optional (but selected by default)
  • Advanced download protection
  • Identity protection (US only)
  • Game mode (accessed via Tools \ Game Mode)
  • Automatic antivirus signature updates (every 24 hours)

Possible Weaknesses

1. At the start of installation you are offered the ZoneAlarm toolbar, homepage and default search engine – all three options are selected by default. If you don’t want them, untick the boxes – I found the toolbar of extremely limited use but it is a standalone program which you can uninstall later in the usual way if you wish. For safe searching I recommend using the excellent Web Of Trust (WOT, covered in our review here) instead.

2. Automatic signature updates are limited to every 24 hours – I would like to have seen this time interval reduced to 4 or 8 hours for maximum security. However, you can perform unlimited real time updates manually by pressing the Update button.

3. Like most free rivals, ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus does nag occasionally about paid upgrades to their paid internet security suite but it’s not too intrusive – turning on the gaming mode turns off most messages.

Effect On Computer Performance

According to AV-Test the average slow-down of the computer in daily use was 11 seconds – reasonable compared to an industry average of 10 seconds.

Do note the minimum system requirements below and ensure you meet them.

[E.g. in my own testing I tried installing on Vista with just 1GB of RAM to see if it was possible – and it was. However, unsurprisingly, the system slowed down significantly – fair enough as the minimum requirement is 2GB – and Vista is slow with 1GB at the best of times]

Minimum Requirements

XP SP2+ with 1GB RAM

Vista SP2 (32 or 64 bit) with 2GB RAM

Windows 7 (32 or 64 bit) with 2GB RAM

Download

Free download (web installer 2MB, full installer about 75MB) from ZoneAlarm here.

Note: at the end of installation you are asked for your email address to receive ZoneAlarm security status reports – this is recommended but you can leave it blank and just Finish if you wish (you can also enter it later via Tools \ Preferences).

Video – See How It Works

Conclusion

ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus is a surprise package that has leapfrogged above its main free rivals – for protection at least.

None of its four major free competitors include a firewall at all – and ZoneAlarm’s was traditionally one of the best.

Combine that with Kaspersky’s excellent AV engine and you have powerful protection (regardless of price) with a decent set of features.

2 Responses to: "ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus 10.2 Leapfrogs Rivals"

  1. aztony says:

    None of its free competitors include a firewall at all –

    I know of (2) competitors that include firewalls in their antivirus package, Comodo and Outpost!

    • Roy says:

      Well spotted, thanks – I meant to say none of its ‘main’ free competitors… i.e. the 4 products noted in the bar chart. I’ll correct the article to suit.

      As you say, Comodo and Outpost do include firewalls in their AV products – there may be others too but I was concentrating on the ‘big four’ free products that are the ones most often tested in independent labs – it’s difficult to find tests of the others to make any reasonable comparison to.