Best anti-virus for Visual Studio   1 comment

Quick Answer: AVG.

This article is now outdated. I have left this article as-is for informational purposes. Some of this information may still be very useful, depending on what you’re looking for. I have no plans to redo this experiment.

About this experiment:

  • All anti-virus products will slow down your computer to some extent, otherwise it couldn’t do its job.
  • There are numerous anti-virus tests and benchmarks out there but I haven’t found any that benchmark anti-virus products against Visual Studio.
  • I tested 9 popular anti-virus products to determine which product works best with Visual Studio.
  • I specifically picked these 9 anti-virus products because they are well known for speed, or have been recommended on MSDN user forums.
  • These tests were conducted as scientifically as possible. The test machine is not a virtual machine or a sanitized rig, it is a real work development PC with all the typical 3rd party software and SDKs installed.
  • All tests were conducted with the anti-virus default real-time scanning settings, no exclusions.
  • The automatic update feature in the ant-virus softwares were turned off so that they would not interfere during testing.

The goal:

  • To determine which AV product causes the least slowdown of VS launch and build times.
  • I wanted to compare tests between various anti-virus products, both with the real-time scanner enabled and disabled. This produced some very interesting results.
  • Some tests, with the anti-virus product’s real-time scanner disabled, performed noticeably worse than the same test with no anti-virus product installed. This is very important, and I think I’m the first to ever test, benchmark, and document this scenario.
  • This indicates a flaw in some anti-virus product’s engine, its disabled but its still doing something to slowdown your computer.
  • If you can’t trust it when its disabled to not slow down your computer, how can you trust it when its enabled? CA? Kaspersky? Dr. Web? F-Secure? Do you have an answer for me?

The test machine:

  • Windows XP SP3 32-bit
  • Core2Duo E4400 2.00 GHz
  • 3.00 GB RAM
  • 1 TB 7200 RPM HD, 2 partitions: 50% drive C, 50% drive D
  • 80 GB 72000 RPM HD, 1 partition: drive E, documents and swap file
  • Visual Studio and project files installed on drive D
  • Scheduled tasks = disabled
  • Automatic updates = disabled
  • Indexing service = disabled
  • Windows Search = not installed

Testing procedure (repeated for each anti-virus product):

  • Uninstall current anti-virus product.
  • Reboot.
  • Run CCleaner, application and registry clean.
  • Install new anti-virus product, reboot only if required.
  • Update definitions and engine.
  • Defrag drives C, D.
  • Start testing.

The contenders:

  • Avast Anti-virus (trial) 7.0.1426
  • AVG Anti-virus (trial) 2012 10.0
  • Avira Anti-virus (free) 12.0.0.898
  • CA Anti-virus (6-month trial) 2011 7.0.0.297 (as of 4/4/2012 there was no 2012 version)
  • Dr. Web Anti-virus (trial) 7.0.0.10140
  • Eset Nod32 Anti-virus (trial) 5.0.95.0
  • F-Secure Anti-virus (trial)
  • Kaspersky Anti-virus (trial) 2012 12.0.0.374
  • Microsoft Security Essentials (free) aka MSE

Avast:

  • The voice alerts are annoying, when most programs would simply show a tooltip, this program actually plays a recorded female voice message. You can disable them.

AVG:

  • I have no complaints with the professional version.
  • The free version has in-app advertisements for the full version.
  • The amount of screen real estate take up by in-app advertisements is about 30% of the entire window.

Avira:

  • My only complain is the advertising in the free/trial version, it popups a large (800×600?) window every few days, advertising the full version.

CA Anti-virus:

  • The 30-day trial, which is available form the CA website, is useless. The real-time scanner is disabled, and all the settings are locked.
  • I found a legit 6-month trial which is a fully functional time-limited version.
  • There are 2 places called “settings” in the UI, only one of them actually takes you to settings. Its annoying and very non-intuitive.

Dr. Web:

  • Manual scan entered an infinite loop. This is a fatal flaw and could result in unnecessary wear and tear to the hard-disk.
  • I noticed this after the manual scan had elapsed 18 hours and was still going, apparently stuck in an infinite loop scanning within the same folder; repeatedly.
  • The benchmarks are here for informational and comparative reasons only, install at your own risk.
  • I cannot recommend this product.

Eset:

  • Supposedly their scanning engine is written entirely in assembly language.
  • I don’t think that matters anymore, or else they aren’t the only ones, because they do *NOT* have the fastest real-time engine. In test # 1 (probably the most important test) they were second to last.

F-Secure:

  • Supposedly F-Secure has the best detection rate because it internally uses 2 engines, the Kaspersky engine and their own engine.
  • On 3 occasions my computer seemed to be non-responsive for about 30 seconds. Ctrl+Alt+Del was non-responsive. After 30 seconds I was finally able to open Task Manager, and see that the fssm32 process was taking >90% CPU. Unacceptable.
  • The UI is a resource hog (Qt based?), and accessing the system settings is very non-intuitive.
  • My test rig (Core2Duo) cannot smoothly move the main window around on the screen. Unacceptable.
  • I cannot recommend this product.

Kaspersky:

  • Kaspersky is supposedly one of the pioneers of many anti-virus features, such as somehow maintaining a database or marking files as scanned, so that the scanning engine ignores the file unless its changed since the last time the file was scanned. That is one of the best anti-virus feature inventions of all time. Too bad their scanning engine is slow.
  • Their internet security suite is bloated with unnecessary and ridiculous features.
  • Their anti-virus-only product seems to have a reasonable set of features.

MSE:

  • Previously, maybe a year to two ago and nothing to do with these tests, I have noticed some delays when opening Windows Explorer. However I could not replicate this issue after doing my tests. So I’m mentioning it as something that used to be an issue but now seems fixed.
  • Even though this did not score in the top 3, I still recommend this product and it is currently my anti-virus product of choice on my work/development PC.
  • It really is “the anti-annoying, anti-expensive, anti-virus program.”
  • Nice clean uncluttered UI.

What about that other anti-virus product “X”:

  • Except for Dr. Web, I only tested anti-virus products that are either already well known for their speed, or have been recommended by users on the MSDN forums.
  • I tested Dr. Web because I liked their Android app.
  • If its not one of the products I tested here, I think its safe to say its slow.
  • I don’t see any point testing Norton or McAfee because they are already well known for being slow.
  • I tested Panda Cloud a few years ago and it prevented Visual Studio from compiling anything. Absolutely useless. Not for development PCs.

The tests:

  • #1 VS2010 Win32 MFC C++ project build time, AV enabled
  • #2 VS2010 Win32 MFC C++ project build time, AV disabled
  • #3 VS2010 Win32 C project build time, AV enabled
  • #4 VS2005 WinCE MFC C++ project build time, AV enabled
  • #5 VS2005 WinCE MFC C++ project build time, AV disabled
  • #6 VS2010 1st launch times after boot, AV enabled
  • #7 VS2010 launch times, AV enabled
  • #8 VS2010 launch times, AV disabled
  • #9 VS2005 launch times, AV enabled
  • #10 VS2005 launch times, AV disabled
  • The build times were generated by Visual Studio (tools, options, projects and solutions, vc++ project settings, build timing).
  • The launch times were generated by using PassMarks’ AppTimer.

The results:

  • In order from best to worst.
  • Some were very close, so take into consideration the scores, not just the order listed.
  • AVG is the clear winner.
  • AVG, on average, is approx. 40% faster than the next product: Eset.
  • I used AVG Pro 2012 (trial) for testing, there is also a free version.
  • There are other things to consider besides the overall score listed here:
    • price?
    • does it have a clean uncluttered UI?
    • does it have an intuitive UI to access settings?
    • does it have annoying in-app advertisements?
    • does it have annoying popup advertisements?
    • does it have “follow us on facebook” banners that take up 30% of the UI?
    • and can you install, configure once, and forget?
AV Product Overall Score (lower is better)
AVG 0.627
Eset 1.074
Avira 1.163
MSE 1.602
Kaspersky 1.753
Avast 1.803
CA 2.042
Dr. Web 2.724
F-Secure 5.107

The scoring method explained:

  • The elapsed time (in seconds) for the test to complete was recorded.
  • Each test was repeated 10 times (some tests only 5 times), and the average was calculated.
  • The same tests were repeated for each Anti-virus product.
  • The product with the best benchmark time gets 0 score. All other products get a score equal to the number of seconds away from the best benchmark.
  • For example, if product A gets 1.0 seconds, product B gets 3.0 seconds, product A would score 0, product B would score 2 (because 3.0 – 1.0 = 2).
  • The overall score is the average score of all tests.
  • Tests in which the AV products performed similar to each other have little weight in the overall score.
  • Tests where the AV products performed very differently from each other have large weight in the overall score.
  • The overall score is how many seconds the product performed faster or slower than the others.
  • For example, if product A overall score is 1.0, and product B overall score is 3.0, that means that product A, on average, was 2 seconds faster than product B in all tests.

The benchmarks:

test # 1 VS2010 MFC C++
build time
AV enabled
Score
(average of 10)
No AV 37.78 N/A
AVG 39.24 0
MSE 39.85 0.61
Avira 40.40 1.16
Avast 40.71 1.47
Kaspersky 41.97 2.73
CA 42.44 2.76
Dr. Web 43.07 3.83
Eset 44.21 4.97
F-Secure 47.72 8.48
test # 2 VS2010 MFC C++
build time
AV disabled
Score
(average of 10)
Eset 37.68 0
AVG 37.73 0.05
No AV 37.78 N/A
Avira 38.03 0.35
Avast 38.34 0.66
Dr. Web 38.37 0.69
MSE 38.55 0.87
F-Secure 39.24 1.56
CA 40.43 2.75
Kaspersky 42.33 4.65
test # 3 VS2010 Win32 C
build time
AV enabled
Score
(average of 10)
No AV 41.46 N/A
AVG 43.00 0
Eset 43.51 0.51
Avira 44.05 1.57
MSE 44.57 1.05
Avast 45.04 2.04
Dr. Web 46.29 3.29
CA 47.55 4.55
Kaspersky 47.55 4.55
F-Secure 50.46 7.46
test # 4 VS2005 WinCE MFC C++
build time
AV enabled
Score
(average of 10)
No AV 14.1 N/A
Eset 15.2 0
Avast 15.2 0
AVG 15.4 0.20
Kaspersky 15.7 0.50
Avira 16.0 0.80
Dr. Web 16.7 1.50
MSE 17.1 1.90
F-Secure 18.4 3.20
CA 19.8 4.60
test # 5 VS2005 WinCE MFC C++
build time
AV disabled
Score
(average of 10)
Eset 14.0 0
Avast 14.0 0
AVG 14.0 0
MSE 14.0 0
Avira 14.0 0
No AV 14.1 N/A
Dr. Web 14.1 0.10
F-Secure 14.3 0.30
Kaspersky 15.2 1.20
CA 16.1 2.10
test # 6 VS2010 1st launch after boot
launch time
AV enabled
Score
(average of 5)
Kaspersky 40.1096 0
CA 40.1719 0.06
Eset 43.9595 3.85
AVG 44.0193 3.91
No AV 44.6441 N/A
Avira 47.4189 7.31
MSE 48.3818 8.27
Avast 52.0974 11.99
Dr. Web 53.2944 13.18
F-Secure 67.8344 27.72
test # 7 VS2010
launch time
AV enabled
Score
(average of 10)
Avira 16.9156 0
No AV 16.9908 N/A
Eset 17.1842 0.27
Avast 17.7203 0.80
AVG 17.8268 0.91
CA 17.8280 0.91
Kaspersky 18.0767 1.16
F-Secure 18.2093 1.29
MSE 18.3674 1.45
Dr. Web 18.3675 1.45
test # 8 VS2010
launch time
AV disabled
Score
(average of 10)
F-Secure 16.5077 0
No AV 16.9908 N/A
Avira 16.9125 0.41
Avast 17.1563 0.65
Eset 17.4378 0.93
AVG 17.6846 1.18
MSE 17.8329 1.33
Kaspersky 18.0469 1.54
CA 18.0671 1.56
Dr. Web 18.4643 1.96
test # 9 VS2005
launch time
AV enabled
Score
(average of 10)
AVG 2.0201 0
Eset 2.1244 0.10
No AV 2.1562 N/A
Avira 2.3015 0.28
Avast 2.3061 0.29
MSE 2.3096 0.29
Kaspersky 2.5719 0.55
CA 2.6608 0.64
F-Secure 2.6936 0.68
Dr. Web 3.1052 1.09
test # 10 VS2005
launch time
AV disabled
Score
(average of 10)
MSE 1.9359 0
AVG 1.9593 0.02
Eset 2.0390 0.10
Avast 2.0719 0.14
Dr. Web 2.0827 0.15
No AV 2.1562 N/A
Avira 2.2062 0.27
F-Secure 2.3140 0.38
CA 2.4155 0.48
Kaspersky 2.5718 0.64

 

Some good sources for further reading:

Proof that Antivirus software makes your PC crawl

What Really Slows Windows Down

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One response to “Best anti-virus for Visual Studio

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  1. Pingback: Recommended Visual Studio anti-virus exclusions | MFC Tips

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