Recommendations for new Anti-virus/firewall software

Hi Experts -

I have used various versions of Trend Micro anti-virus/anti-spyware/firewall products for a number of years.  But I have been growing increasingly dissatisfied with them and am ready to make the switch to a new product.

I have 3 laptops to protect, all running win xp.  

I do software development so I am on my main system all the time and am very sensitive to system interruptions (e.g., slow-downs/grinding to a halt/forcing a reboot) whenever updates occur, etc.

One thing I liked about an older version of Trend Micro was that it would check for an update, but then allow me to choose whether it was convenient at that moment to allow the update or if I wanted to delay it while I was wrapping up something else.

Another thing that I liked about TM was that up until recently, when I did tell it to go ahead and do the update, it was quick to download and the download/install progress bar was very accurate.  

Lastly, I really liked the fact that TM didn't seem to slow my system down except during scans where it naturally was competing for system resources.

I currently am running a trial of Kaspersky PURE, but often times it slows my system to a crawl.  This is especially true during updates, where this relatively powerful laptop becomes completey unresponsive during updates and for about 15 mins afterwards.  And trying to work during a scan is just hopeless.

I care a lot about protection.  However, I rarely end up at risky sites, and since I really need my system to be responsive, it is just as high a priority for me to have an unintrusive anti-virus that allows me to keep working while it goes about its business.

Last on my wish-list, the software should offer me the ability to choose what I want to do if it spots a virus.  Kaspersky out of the box went about with its continuous scanning feature and deleted 5 files that I wanted saved and offered no means of recovering them.  They were viruses that I was doing forensic analysis on for a website that had been hacked, but before I could even get kaspersky configured it found the virus/spyware/all-over-nasty program files and deleted them.

Kudo's to Kaspersky for finding them - neither AVG nor malwarebytes nor super-anti-spyware, nor Trend Micro ID'd the files as a problem.  But I would have liked to have kept them around to finish my analysis rather than have them deleted without a choice. And even after I did find the settings for deciding what the default action would be with an indentifed piece of malware, it still isn't clear that the files would be held onto instead of deleted.  

So my other complaint about Kaspersky is that the result of selecting various options isn't very clear.  I'm highly technical and even I couldn't always be sure of the significance of various options.

So with all that info, what would you suggest I try for anti-virus/anti-spyware/anti-malware/firewall?

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The list of products/devices in this Article might be just what you're looking for:
MALWARE - "An Ounce of Prevention..."

I've been using the MSE/MBAM combination (with hardware firewall) on all my customer's computers for almost 2 years with not one infection reported.
I prefer Panda's Free Cloud Antivirus. It is very lean. Also, as it is in the cloud, it doesn't have to download definitions all the time (although it keeps a basic local cache should you loose the internet). One advantage of this is that new threats are likely to get recognized faster than with conventional AV tools.

The only issue I've had now and then is that false positives seem to be slightly more common than with other tools.

As for the firewall, use the Windows Builtin one.
ee_reachAuthor Commented:
Yeah, on the firewall I should have made these points:
1.  Hardware fw is great at home, but these are all laptops that go on the road so they need to take their protection with them.
2.  I don't have a lot of confidence in the MS built-in firewall on xp.    Here are a couple of articles:

So I really am looking for a solution that includes a software firewall, whether part of the main pkg or as a separate add-on.  I've heard some good things about zonealarm free but don't know anything about it.
Simple Misconfiguration =Network Vulnerability

In this technical webinar, AlgoSec will present several examples of common misconfigurations; including a basic device change, business application connectivity changes, and data center migrations. Learn best practices to protect your business from attack.

I've never heard anything good about ZA and in fact I remove it from any computer that comes into my shop.

It tends to interfere with the basic Windows OS and connectivity is frequently a problem.

If you have any questions about the EE Article I linked to above, please let me know.
Thomas Zucker-ScharffSolution GuideCommented:
This discussion has taken place many times, although this is the first time with this particular bent.  I always say first that the choice is generally a personal one.  But given the OP's request, I would highly recommend ESET products.  Preferably, NOD32 with either a hardware firewall (best), or a software firewall running separately (you can even run a decent one off your router if it's a good router that runs a *NIX flavor.  Some routers can even be bought with linux installed and a basic firewall preconfigured (you will need to change the configuration).

If you don't want to run those 2 separately ESET's Security Suite 4 (5?) is excellent and there is virtually  no hit on system resources.
I've never had any issues with XP's firewall, and on XP PC's I never use anything else.
Thomas Zucker-ScharffSolution GuideCommented:
ESET SS 4 contains its own software firewall and when installed removes the windows firewall so that there won't be any interference.  I use ZA for some time and liked it, but the more recent versions are all BAD.  I stopped using ZA some years ago when it bolloxed up my system.  

For on the road laptops, ESET's Security Suite is an excellent solution.

I also use AVAST! on my xp laptop and that has been great.
"I've never had any issues with XP's firewall, and on XP PC's I never use anything else."

Concur entirely!
In fact, I refuse to use an "Suite-type" programs that include their own firewall - nothing but trouble, regardless of brand.
Microsoft Security Essentials is available for FREE to small businesses for up to 10 users.
ee_reachAuthor Commented:
Hello All -

I just want to start by saying thanks for your replies.  

I am still evaluating your comments and recommendations before I decide which solution is right for me.  Then I will award points and close the question.

Thanks for your patience.  

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