Back from the nearly dead, or at least the un-updated, ESET returns with high-level security that’s light on your system. For a basic antivirus suite that’s light on latest nod32 antivirus free download system and tough on malware, NOD32 gets a yes from us. The last time ESET updated its two security suites–the antivirus and anti-malware-only NOD32 and the more feature-heavy alternative Smart Security–it was a different computer security world. It was March

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Back from the nearly dead, or at least the un-updated, ESET returns with high-level security that’s light on your system. For a basic antivirus suite that’s light on your system and tough on malware, NOD32 gets a yes from us.

The last time ESET updated its two security suites–the antivirus and anti-malware-only NOD32 and the more feature-heavy alternative Smart Security–it was a different computer security world. It was March Anonymous barely existed, Stuxnet hadn’t gone public, and ransomware was the stuff of science fiction. Version 5 of ESET NOD32 is a solid, creative attempt to create a suite that adapts to a rapidly changing threatscape, with an emphasis on generic detections and the now-commonplace reliance on both cloud and locally stored detections.

Where NOD32’s bigger brother Smart Security 5 left us wanting more in the ancillary features department, the area that many don’t consider “core” security, NOD32 strikes a perfect pitch between features, price, and effectiveness.

Editor’s note: Installation ESET’s installation could be faster, although it’s by no means sluggish. It’s slowed down by a preponderance of screens, including registration, and an unnecessary query as to whether or not the user wants Potentially Unwanted Program PUP protection activated or not.

While a legitimate query, there’s no reason for it to slow down the install by yet another screen to click through. PUPs are definitely a security issue, though, so perhaps the program ought to just scan for them on the first scan automatically, and then ask you if it’s a scan you always want.

One decent thing about the registration process is that it’s all done from within the suite–no need to jump to your browser. Also, there’s no reboot required after the installation. Still, the one-minute-or-less installs from Norton and Trend Micro should be a goal that all security suites aspire to. Interface The layout of ESET 5 remains unchanged from version 4, except for minor details, although neither is quite as easy to use as it ought to be.

The interface opens to a window indicating your security status. The default is colored green and labeled Maximum Protection, which changes to red and a warning when core security features, such as Network Protection, have been disabled.

The center pane doesn’t indicate this very clearly, but the plain text Maximum Protection labels that tell you which parts of your computer and activity are protected are actually links. Click one to drill deeper into your settings, toggle features, and gain more granular control over your security. To the interface’s credit, each tab’s layout is kept similar, and there are helpful mouse-over tooltips that help clarify things like the differences between default scans, but key features, like the Advanced Settings window, are hard to find.

Along with a lack of clarity about how to get around ESET’s interface is the confusion created by redundancy. There’s nothing gained by making things harder to find, and even savvy users will probably have to take more time than necessary to get up to speed.

Its collection of features, while not revolutionary, are nevertheless extremely well implemented. What it lacks are many of the modern ancillary features that justify the higher price. On the side of the basics, there are two default scans: ESET has improved its antivirus and antispyware engines so that they don’t detect only threats, but prevent your host files from corruption before the bad guys go after you. There’s removable media control, so you can block USB keys or external drives from connecting to your computer, and the new gamer mode automatically initiates silent running whenever a program is running at full screen.

This is perfect for movies and presentations, as well as games. You can also activate it from the system tray. ThreatSense, ESET’s cloud-based detection, isn’t new–yep, it had it three years ago–but it’s been expanded in version 5 to include reputation analysis. All of that comes in the basic NOD Upping to Smart Security gets you antispam, parental controls, and a “smart” firewall that learns how your computer uses the Internet very quickly. ESET’s browser guards are browser-agnostic, and don’t require an extension.

You won’t get search results ratings, but ESET successfully blocked us from attempting to reach known dangerous Web sites clicked on in search results. In addition to the hot-line support, forums and knowledge base, no other security suite offers an education module like ESET does.

Called “Cybersecurity Training,” the module features an interactive city that you can explore to learn about how to protect yourself, your personal data, and your computer when online. It’s an in-depth approach that we wish other vendors would take, because at the end of the day, it’s going to be your own wits that keep you safest.

It’s accessible from the installation CD if you buy the physical boxed copy of the program, and we’re not sure just yet about how to launch it from the downloadable version. Performance ESET’s overall performance presents a reliable security option. It’s not the most effective security suite we’ve seen this year, and the benchmarks leave room for growth, but overall it’s a solid, secure choice, with low false positives and a light touch on your computer’s performance.

Real-world test results for ESET were confusing. On our real-world test computer, an x86 Windows 7 laptop that we use for all hands-on testing of security suites, ESET scans were invariably slow and ponderous. On average, the first scan took nearly two hours, and subsequent scans were only faster by about 20 to 30 minutes. These marks did not match up to CNET Labs’ results, which found ESET’s scan times on a freshly imaged computer to be among the fastest results we’ve seen so far this year.

Because of the large number of programs that get installed and uninstalled on the real-world laptop, which could adversely affect the computer’s Registry, we’re inclined to favor the labs results in this case.

Note that we can’t directly compare this year’s results with last year’s because we upgraded our testing computer from Windows 7 x64 to Windows 7 x64 with Service Pack 1.

Smart Security slowed down the Labs’ computer boot time by an average of For both programs, ESET’s boot time impact was minimal. Both suites had a small impact on the computer’s shutdown time, slowing it down only by about six to seven seconds longer than an unprotected computer.

However, it should be noted that the shutdown time for an unprotected computer was half that, so even though ESET’s impact was minimal when compared with other suites, it’s still having a big affect on the computer itself. The Cinebench results were close to the average level of impact. So, all things being equal, you’re not going to notice much when ESET is running as you go about your computing business.

This was borne out by our real-world tests, too.

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