WARNING: JUNK AHEAD
Junk offender: Panda Free Antivirus
There’s good and bad things to say about Panda Free Antivirus. The good is that it scores well in independent antivirus (AV) tests and is named after pandas. The bad is that its installer is riddled with so many PUPS - including a browser hijacker “powered by Yahoo” - that it lost my trust long before it had a chance to prove itself.
Why do the makers of free AV software force us to choose between safety and a junk-free PC? Regular readers will know I’ve exposed the PUP tactics of Avast, Mcafee and Ad-aware in the past – all of whom make free tools that claim to protect you but are bundled with unwanted extras. It doesn’t even make commercial sense, because it turns users off – and makes people like me write articles like this.
Panda Free Antivirus has a lot going for it. It scores top marks for malware-detection in independent tests by Av-test ( www. snipca.com/24597) and Av-comparatives ( www.snipca.com/24598), and at around 100MB it’s nine times smaller than Avast Free Antivirus. But I can’t and won’t recommend any product that tries to trick Yahoo adware on to your computer.
Before you even get its installer, you have to negotiate an assault course mined with upgrade traps. The ‘Free’ buttons on Panda’s homepage ( www.pandasecurity. com/uk) are free trials for paid-for products that cost from £20.99 per year. To find a genuinely free installer you have to click Home Users, then Free, then Download, then ‘No, thank you’ in an upgrade pop-up - at which point you’re dumped on to an external Cnet page, which feels like a punishment.
Perhaps this process is designed to leave you so exhausted you fail to notice the three little pre-ticked boxes for Panda Safe Web in the installer. Two and three (Yahoo and home page) sound dodgy enough, but the first one (‘protection against malicious websites’, see screenshot) seems useful. It certainly is not. Panda Safe Web is an extension that’s completely separate from the AV. Even if you manage to dodge the browser hijacker by unticking the Yahoo box, you’ll still install an unnecessary extension that could potentially slow down your computer.