ashampoo antivirusFor a good free anti-virus, we’ve long recommended Avast. But PC Magazine recently gave their highest marks to another free program: BitDefender. Now along comes Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014, which bundles BitDefender with a lot of other useful programs. It’s $40, and there’s a free trial download from the web site:

But wait a minute. BitDefender on its own costs $50 at its web site,, and half that from other suppliers on the web. So how come we said earlier that it was free? Well, it can be had for free if you do a web search on the words “bitdefender free” or click here.  It is a wonderful digital world we live in, but it’s sometimes strange.

Just to keep everybody oriented: Ashampoo is a German company; BitDefender is a Romanian company; BullGuard is a Danish company; Avast is a Czech company. (Does this mean war?)

In one of our test computers, BitDefender removed 246 infected objects and quarantined eight more. We had been using BullGuard Internet Security on that computer, but BitDefender did better.

But Avast just won’t go down for the count. We ran the latest version on another computer that had BullGuard installed and it prompted us to download free protection for our smart phone and to use their free software updater. That was nice. We clicked “activate automatic updates” and may never have to worry about it again. But back to the main point: On our test computer, Avast found dozens of infected files.

We then ran BitDefender on the same computer and It found an additional 108 infected files. That sounds more awesome than it is. Almost all of them were what are called “cookies.” Cookies are small bits of code that track your computer’s movements around the web. Some are beneficial and nearly all are harmless, but their presence makes many users uneasy, and none of them are really necessary.

A few words – again — about free programs: Some are completely free and offered because they hope you will upgrade to a program that has more features and is not free. Some are free because they have sold space to other companies to install their own programs, which can be annoying at best and downright harmful at worst. Anytime you see “offers” for other free programs that can be downloaded alongside the one you want, don’t do it. Sometimes you have to click “custom install” to avoid them.

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