When it comes to proactive protection, Eset's NOD32 was the hands-down winner in "Virus Stoppers," our eight-program antivirus roundup. In our tests, it caught 79 percent of unknown malware samples when using one-month-old signature files. The next-closest program, BitDefender Antivirus 10, came in with a distant 61 percent.
NOD32's overall malware detection rate wasn't stellar, however. When pitted against AV-Test.org's nearly 900,000-strong "zoo" of Trojans, viruses, and other malware, NOD32 caught only 90 percent, compared to the 96 percent rate of top performers Kaspersky Anti-Virus 6, Symantec Norton AntiVirus 2007, and BitDefender Antivirus 10. It fared surprisingly poorly with 32-bit Windows viruses (approximately 1 in 11 samples in the zoo), catching only 73 percent.
In disinfection tests, NOD32 cleaned up all malware files but missed resulting changes to the Hosts network settings file and most of the less-important Registry changes, for a disappointing 55 percent success rate.
The program installed without a hitch, and the default settings were almost ideal for the average customer. One annoyance: NOD32 doesn't enable the full-system scan by default; you have to schedule it yourself. And when you set that up or want to change other settings, you might be turned off by an overly technical interface: For instance, you'll need to open up the 'DMON' interface module to figure out that it's responsible for scanning Microsoft Office documents. If you do need help, the program offers no guideposts for finding phone or e-mail support; you must go to the company's Web site.
The program ties into Outlook and Outlook Express for e-mail scanning, but doesn't directly integrate with any IM applications for scanning sent links or files. Plus, it offers integrated virus, spyware, and adware protection, where some other programs require two separate scans, one for antivirus and another for antispyware. The multithreat engine can also detect malware-hiding rootkits.
At $39 for a single-user license and $27 for yearly renewals, Eset NOD32's pricing is about average for the group. E-mail and phone support is free.
We tested the Vista version Eset NOD32 for our "Virus Stoppers" roundup. An XP version of the software is also available.