ClamWin is a free, open source antivirus for all Microsoft® Windows® operating system versions. It is one of the easiest to setup and manage antivirus products. It is also the only "free" antivirus available for Windows® users. It is based on ClamAV engine and features a high detection rate for viruses and spyware, a scanning scheduler, menu integration to Microsoft® Windows®s Explorer etc. If you're looking for a portable version you can check the ClamWin Portable packaged as a portable app from here.
Important: Currently, ClamWin Free Antivirus does not provide an on-access real-time scanner, which means that you need to scan manually a file in order to test it for malware. However, you can scan one or more folders/OS partitions or add them as scheduled scans.
Trademark Note 1: Microsoft®, Windows® and other product names are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
In the last 15 years, I tried and I paid for several antivirus licenses and I also learned one valuable thing. The best protection against viruses, trojans, worms, backdoors, adware, spyware is always your level of education when it comes down to security and your "common sense".
No, I am not talking about being a security expert or computer guru. You need a basic knowledge (to provide an example: don't download open email attachments, do not visit shaddy websites such as porn sites, scan a file before opening etc. - you can find all these tips on the Internet) and obviously, a decent set of tools that are available for free.
I learned this the hard way, many years ago when I lost all my data on a computer, using a fully license, paid antivirus product (up-to-date) which didn't recognized a dangerous version of Virut virus. After I scanned my PC with other antivirus products, they recognized this virus but none of them was able to clean my hard drive so I ended up doing a full HDD overwritte and a new OS reinstall.
Therefore, is this another "free" antivirus? Check the features section below and read on:
- Currently the only open source and 100% free antivirus for Microsoft® Windows® (for other OS check ClamAV).
- High rates of detection for most viruses and spyware
- Scan Scheduling
- Automatic downloads Virus Database
- Standalone virus scanner and menu integration with Windows Explorer
- Auto add into Outlook and removes infected attachments
I am sure you noticed the first phrase "the only open source and 100% free antivirus" which means that you will never need to buy a license and the source code is also publicly available, which is important because other security experts can inspect the source code, but that's another discussion.
A quick overview
The ClamWin installer lets users integrate the program with the Explorer browser and install the additional Outlook module, which is highly recommended for Outlook users. By right-clicking the system tray icon you can access and configure the options panel and update ClamWin in addition to as scheduling scans, view reports and check for updates manually.
ClamWin's interface is extremely simplistic (something that I appreciate), but it is also very efficient. It is a light program that places a relatively small burden on your CPU (in my test, my CPU which is an i7 didn't seem to struggle at all). If you search for ClamWin CPU usage on older machines, the feedback is positive.
On opening, users are presented with a simplistic tree view which displays all the directories they may want to scan.
Choose the "C", "D" or any other system partition, for example, and ClamWin will perform a thorough scan. If present, the program will alert you to whatever potential issues that may require your attention. Some of what comes up won't necessarily be problems but they are usually worth checking anyway. If unsure, you can upload that file on VirusTotal or any other similar service just to make sure you are safe.
Here is a statement that has nothing to do with this product: ClamWin can't catch everything but the truths is no other commercial antivirus product can guarantee you that it will catch "everything". They all deliver a certain detection rate. From what I read, this free antivirus is not the best but neither the worst. It had some negative feedback a couple of years ago but the recent reviews rated him as a good, decent antivirus product.
To test this, I intentionally downloaded a few files from torrent sites that were flagged by users as malware (and verified them on VirusTotal) and ClamWin recognized them as a Trojan horse. The obvious action was to remove the infected files. You may set ClamWin to deliver a report of suspicious items for manual cleaning and quarantine or delete suspicious files in the order they're found. The program can be set to open when you open Outlook in order to catch any nasty bugs as they enter your machine. It will not affect the way Outlook functions, but it may slow it down somewhat on smaller devices.
As a free option, ClamWin is outstanding. If you're working on a shoestring budget, it may well be the one for you. Good protection is not expensive, however- so if your habits or your workflow put you in harm's way frequently, ClamWin may not be the wisest option. OK, what I am trying to say; if you work with sensitive data you might want to check other alternatives that offer you some extra protection features (to be continued...below).
What's more, if you don't already know- Windows is the most vulnerable operating system on the market. So if you insist on using it, it's probably unwise not to buy a little extra protection. To give an example, a firewall can help, one or more anti-malware products that does not interact with popular antiviruses is great, an anti-keylogger is even better and so on.
Free security utilities like ClamWin will provide you with only a basic level of protection. But don't forget you will also be getting a reasonable alternative to subscription-based tools at premium prices, many of which depend on automated conveniences and frivolous extras that don't necessarily buy you any extra protection in order to justify the price (again, that's another subject and not the purpose of this review).
As with any reasonable anti-virus tool, it is highly recommended that you review your options thoroughly and research at least a handful of comparable anti-virus tools before committing ClamWin to protect your primary computer.
For backup PCs, machines you don't use that often, and for those with tight budgets, ClamWin can be an excellent alternative. We would recommend it without hesitation for those types of uses because any halfway anti-virus is preferable to no protection at all. True, it offers basic, but reliable protection without the added frills of a premium anti-virus package. Just don't forget that this project will appreciate any donation and will help the team working on it to release future, improved versions.