Why Do Windows XP Users Need Antivirus Software?
When it was first released in the early 2000s, Windows XP was a sensation, and a vast improvement on previous Windows iterations. With an intuitive interface, expanded multimedia capabilities and improved hardware support, it got rave reviews and was enormously popular. It sold more than 400 million copies in its first five years and continued to be popular even after the release of Windows Vista and Windows 7. As of 2014, Windows XP was still actively being sold and had sold more than a billion copies at that point. However, in April 2014, extended support ended, along with support of the operating system and security updates.
While Windows XP is dated software, it has aged fairly well, and there are still plenty of people who use it. Windows Vista was released in 2006 in response to perceived vulnerabilities in Windows XP's security. While Windows Vista was not nearly as popular as XP, its release showed an increased need for antivirus protection. Many Windows users, instead of switching over to Windows Vista, opted for third-party antivirus software. Third-party antivirus software for Windows XP is still as important as it ever was. Without antivirus software for your Windows XP, you are at higher risk than most users, and if your computer becomes infected, it can become completely unusable in short time with vicious, all-too-common malware.
Learn about specific antivirus products, XP's basic security and related topics in our articles on antivirus software for Windows XP. For an in-depth analysis of antivirus software across all Windows formats and reviews of the best antivirus software, visit our antivirus software reviews site.
Why Buy Third-Party Antivirus Software?
Windows XP was a general improvement on previous Windows iterations, which accounted for its popularity. However, within a year or two of its release, with antivirus threats becoming more prominent, it became apparent that its security features were lacking. Microsoft responded with the release of Windows Vista, whose primary focus was improved security features.
Windows Vista did provide more antivirus protection than previous Windows packages, including Windows XP, but compared to software whose sole purpose is detecting malware and other threats, Windows Vista couldn't compete. This was confirmed through tests conducted by independent labs like AV-Test. With malware continuously increasing in sophistication, you will be well served to find antivirus software with equal sophistication to combat subversive elements bent on invading your virtual space for personal gain.
There are a lot of options when it comes to finding the best antivirus for your Windows XP. Some of the programs that performed well across the board in AV-Test's regimen are Bitdefender, Kaspersky and Norton. These antivirus programs regularly make it to the top of our antivirus reviews at Top Ten Reviews because of their consistency in providing a high level of protection while having minimal impact on your computer's performance. Other programs that consistently perform well for AV-Test are Trend Micro and BullGuard.
AV-Test puts each program through rigorous testing in three key areas: protection, performance and usability. Specifically, AV-Test monitors each program's ability to guard against malware infections (protection), determines how much it slows down your computer (performance), and tests its ability to accurately detect real threats while avoiding false detections (usability). The best antivirus software consistently scores 99 percent and above in each category.
Types of Security Threats Antivirus Programs Protect Against
Cyber threats have evolved in sophistication since Windows XP and Vista first came on the market, but the best antivirus software can protect your Windows Vista PC against all types of malware and other threats, whether they are brand-new or have been around for years. Here are some types of malware that are potential threats to your computer.
These malicious programs are designed to replicate themselves quickly with the intent to spread to other computers, often through a computer network. While they may not always be designed to intentionally impair computer systems, they do harm by consuming bandwidth, at the very least. Most worms are designed to spread as quickly as possible and are capable of creating backdoor security vulnerabilities, deleting files or even sending files via email.
Like the wooden horse in the Greek myth, Trojans present themselves as useful, interesting or routine programs to trick you into downloading and executing them to cause data loss, theft and sometimes total-system harm.
This software is designed to gather information about you without your knowledge. This information can be sent to another party without your consent and sometimes even take control of your computer. Spyware is capable of collecting any type of data, including your internet history and banking information. Some forms of spyware can install additional software or change your internet or browser settings, which ranges from a mere annoyance to a problem that can take days to fix.
This incarnation of malware infects your computer with the intention of restricting access to your computer system, perhaps preventing you from surfing the internet or accessing the hard drive, and then demanding a payment to the malware creators. It often tries to imitate the look of genuine, trusted software to trick you into buying a solution. For example, it may tell you your user license for a particular application has expired and you need to repurchase the license. Some of the trickiest ransomware creators have acquired millions of dollars from unsuspecting users.
Rootkits is stealthy malware that gives you privileged access to your computer as it hides out, attempting to gain administrative access to your computer, not letting you know it is in your system. This type of malware is generally difficult to detect and remove because it tries to thoroughly embed itself into your computer's system.
Malware is not limited to these five examples, but this gives you a sense of how malicious malware can be. Fortunately, antivirus software is designed to combat these threats by preventing the programs from entering your system and quarantining and removing any malware that does get through. The best way to protect yourself from malware is to update your computer system when prompted and to purchase third-party antivirus software that protects your computer 24/7.
Types of Security Software for Your PC
There are three generally recognized tiers of virus protection: antivirus software, internet security suites and premium security suites. Antivirus software is the lowest tier and is regarded as entry-level viral protection. Internet security suites, the next tier of protection, offer more functionality with further protections, such as firewalls and antispam tools. The top tier of virus protection is premium security suites, which are comprehensive tools to protect your system from the most aggressive malware with a variety of measures. Each tier of PC virus protection lends itself to different users in different situations.
Antivirus software is entry-level software that has fewer features than security suites. Antiviruses can block or remove spyware, worms, rootkits and other malware types. It can also scan incoming email for potential threats, automatically clean or quarantine infected files, and create bootable rescue disks, to name a few of its many features.
Internet Security Suites
Internet security suites generally contain all of the tools found in entry-level antispyware, such as antimalware, PC tune-up utilities, safe online banking and shopping, secure browsing, vulnerability scanning, and privacy protection. These suites also include features that add more levels of security, such as an alternative firewall from the one included with the Windows operating system. Many suites offer social network protection to detect threats through your online social presence. Additionally, these antivirus suites include parental controls to limit where your children go on the internet, which can protect the computer system and, more importantly, your children.
Premium Security Suites
Premium security suites offer even more protection than internet security suites. Premium suites include all of the features of internet suites and add extra layers of protection in the form of file shredders, online backup, system tune-up utilities and password managers. In other words, these suites tend to be the best of the best in terms of protection, offering an entire arsenal of defenses and protection against malware.
G Data is a program that offers all three tiers of protection, including an antivirus software package for basic protection, an internet security suite and a total security package for more comprehensive protection. Each one is optimized to run with any Windows system from XP and Vista to Windows 10.
Once you have determined which level of security your system requires, be sure to consider the customer support before making a final decision. Look for a program that offers 24/7 access to support through email, phone or live chat. Regular, easy access to support ensures that you can get the help you need, whether you have a simple question or your entire computer system crashes and you need immediate help. Whether you're looking for protection on your Windows 10 tablet, Windows 8 laptop or Windows 7 business computers, make sure the software has numerous means of technical support.
Best Antivirus for Windows XP
Upon its release, Windows XP was revolutionary and continued to be the most popular operating system for about 10 years, even after the release of Windows Vista and 7. Critics and users were equally impressed with this intuitive and highly capable system. Now that Microsoft has discontinued support and security updates for Windows XP, protection against malware via a third-party antivirus program is vital if you want your computer to continue running smoothly using this system. To help you narrow down the best antivirus software for your needs, we ranked the top 10 antivirus software based on the following criteria.
The first thing to consider for any antivirus software is its capability to detect and remove malware. Not all programs are created equal, and some software is better at defending your system against potential threats than others. AV-Test evaluates antivirus software for Windows XP to gauge the effectiveness of virus protection programs on the market today.
Make sure the antivirus software you purchase for Windows XP can catch and remove a high percentage of threats so you know your system is safe. The very best antivirus software is capable of detecting and removing 99 to 100 percent of the threats sent its way. A number of other programs perform decently, consistently catching more than 95 percent of the malware AV-Test throws at it. Along with the top products in our lineup, when it comes to performance, Panda and F-Secure consistently perform above average in AV-Test's evaluations.
The next considerations when looking for the right XP virus protection are how powerful your processor is and how resource-intensive the software is on your computer. If you're still running XP but have a relatively new computer with decent specs, you can purchase virtually any antivirus software on the market without having to worry about system performance. However, if you are looking for antivirus software for an older machine, the processing power required to run antimalware programs effectively can be a concern. If you have limited RAM or processing speed, consider an antivirus program that won't take a large toll on your system.
Generally speaking, the older your computer gets, the more ineffective it is at running antivirus and other software that is constantly updating. Whether your Windows XP hardware is relatively new or rather old, it's a good idea to look for programs that are not as resource-intensive during updates, scans or malware removal, just to be safe. We've included the minimum system requirements of Windows XP antivirus software to help you find a program that will work on your machine.
Every program we evaluated is capable of detecting numerous types of malware, including spyware, rootkits and basic viruses. What separates the best antivirus software from the other programs are additional features that offer more protective techniques to combat malware attacks. For example, many programs offer the ability to create a backup recovery disk so that you can recover your computer after it has been infected.
Avira is one of the programs that has all of the features we look for, including some uncommon ones like ransomware protection. Other programs are capable of performing vulnerability scans, in which the antimalware program searches for outdated programs on your computer to see if it can find any weaknesses for malware to pass through. The best antivirus software for Windows XP can also launch a virtual browser, allowing you to run websites separate from your computer system to check it for vulnerabilities. You may not need all of these features for your personal use, but make sure the software you purchase can handle all of your needs.
Windows XP was a revolutionary operating system when it was first released, and its strengths have remained present throughout the years. With the right tools, you can continue using XP even though it no longer receives updates from Microsoft. Virus protection software for Windows XP is designed to be lighter than other security systems, allowing you to use it on older processors. With XP antivirus software installed, you can surf the internet, view media and run additional applications without worrying about malware infecting the system and making your computer virtually unusable.