Combined with the Windows 7 firewall, free virus scanners can provide adequate protection from internet threats, according to a study by German consumer goods tester Stiftung Warentest.

The group tested 14 security packages and four free virus protection programs. Lower-power computers benefited the most from free scanners without pre-packaged firewalls, since they use the same technology as pricier options to recognize viruses, but take up less memory and computing power.

The Windows 7 firewall works better than various firewalls in commercial programs, reports German magazine Test.

Among the freeware anti-virus programs, testers ranked Avira Free Antivirus the best, followed by Avast Free Antivirus, AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2012 and Microsoft Security Essentials.

The best option among the commercial programs was G Data Internet-Security 2012, even though it consumes a lot of resources.

Overall, Avira Internet Security 2012 received the highest marks.

Third place went to Kaspersky Internet Security 2012. However, while other high scorers got grades of “good” for virus protection, it only received “adequate.” Anyone opting for a commercial program should buy one in a store.

Download costs tend to be more expensive and contracts are automatically renewable.

“There is no all-around worry-free package,” warn the testers.

Since the winner only caught 96 per cent of viruses, users still need to be aware of some ground rules.

It’s possible to pick up a virus with a single visit to a website, even a legitimate one where nothing is clicked. And malware can lurk in illegally downloaded movies and programs such as those for illegally creating license keys.

Even photo printers in stores can carry viruses. It’s best to use a write-protected memory card or to at least scan a USB memory stick after use. Never open attachments in spam mail or from unknown sources. Even clicking on links in such mails is dangerous. The same applies for clicking links on social networks.

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Protecting computersOctober 28, 2012