A come-from-behind success story is always inspiring, even in the antivirus arena. Anti-Virus Plus 15, from India-based K7 Computing, was much more successful in our testing than the previous edition. Still, it lacks some features found in competing products, but its performance is improved, and it avoids a serious problem with false positives that plagued the previous version.
Compare Similar ProductsCompare
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2016%displayPrice%
Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2016)%displayPrice%
McAfee AntiVirus Plus (2016)%displayPrice%
Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus (2016)%displayPrice%
Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security 2016%displayPrice%
Avast Pro Antivirus 2016%displayPrice%
Emsisoft Anti-Malware 11.0%displayPrice%
ESET NOD32 Antivirus 9%displayPrice%
F-Secure Anti-Virus 2016%displayPrice%
Panda Antivirus Pro 2016%displayPrice%
Your $39.95 subscription gives you one year of protection on one computer. For $10 more you can up that coverage to three computers. In fact, you can pick any combination of one or three users for one, two, or three years. The company also offers K7 Antivirus Premium at $44.90 per year, but as the only difference between Plus (reviewed here) and Premium is the addition of a firewall, I don't see the need for a separate review of Premium.
Installation is quick and simple—just click one button to accept the EULA and launch the installation. When it finishes, you must activate the product, either by entering your serial number or by choosing a 30-day trial. Update the antivirus definitions and you're ready to go.
I did note one unfortunate behavior. During the activation process you must create or log in to your K7 online account. I already had an account, but had forgotten the password. When I clicked the link to deal with a forgotten password, it generated an email containing my password in plain text. That's just not safe.
The main window features a brushed metal theme and displays handy stats in large, easy-to-read panels. In particular, it displays the date and time of the last update, the version of the virus definitions, and the number of days left in your subscription. Links and icons give you access to scans, settings, bonus tools, and more.
As you click those links and icons, new pages appear as if sliding in from above or below. I like this feature. However, the strong emphasis on vertical movement almost caused me to miss out on some features. On exactly one of the many pages, the Scan page, there's a right-pointing arrow. Clicking slides the page horizontally to reveal additional scan types. This is no big deal, but it's a blip in an otherwise-spiffy user interface.
Lab Results Are Good, but Sparse
Researchers at independent testing labs around the world spend their days torture-testing antivirus products, in order to identify the best ones. I follow five labs that release public reports on a regular basis. Only two of the five include K7 in their testing, but those two give it decent ratings.
Earlier this year I switched from following Virus Bulletin's VB100 test to looking at the same lab's Reactive And Proactive (RAP) scoring. K7's score of 83.15 percent in this test is just slightly below the average score in this test.
AV-Test Institute rates antivirus products on three criteria: successful protection against malware; small impact on performance; and good usability, meaning few false positives (legitimate apps or sites flagged as malicious). Products can earn six points in each area.
K7 took 6.0 points for protection, and 5.0 for performance, but a slew of false positives dragged its usability score down to 4.5. A total score of 15.5 isn't bad, but doesn't compare to Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2016, which collected a perfect 18 points. Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2016), Avira, and several others managed 17.5.
Kaspersky, ESET NOD32 Antivirus 9, and a couple others appear in the results from all five of the labs I follow. My aggregate-results formula gives Kaspersky 9.6 of 10 possible points, the best score among current products. K7's aggregate score of 8.5 is about in the middle.
See How We Test Security Software
A Speedy Scan
K7 offers the expected full system scan, quick scan, and custom scan, as well as a separate scan that aims to detect rootkits by their behavior. On my standard clean test system, a full scan took 33 minutes, well below the current average of 44 minutes. Like Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security 2016, F-Secure Anti-Virus 2016, and a few others, K7 uses that first scan to optimize subsequent scans for speed. A repeat scan with K7 took just two minutes. I did notice that even after several complete scans, the Last Scan indicator still said the system had never been scanned.
By default, K7 scans incoming email for malware; you can optionally set it to scan outgoing mail as well. You can also schedule a daily, weekly, or monthly scan.
Good Malware Blocking
When I opened the folder containing my current collection of malware samples, K7 started picking them off right away. Within a few minutes, it had eliminated two-thirds of the samples. That's a good start.
I proceeded to launch the remaining samples and record the product's reaction. It stopped some before the installer could launch, and eliminated others during the install process. One way or another, it detected 97 percent of the samples, the same as Emsisoft Anti-Malware 11.0. K7 earned 9.0 of 10 possible points; it lost points for allowing some of the detected malware to plant executable files on the test system. Tested with this same sample collection, Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus (2016) scored a perfect 10.
For a different view of K7's effectiveness, I launched 100 malware-hosting URLs from a feed supplied by MRG-Effitas. In this test, I give equal credit whether the antivirus steers the browser away from the dangerous URL or wipes out the payload during download.
K7 is a bit unusual in that malicious URL blocking is present only in the security suite, not in the basic antivirus. Phishing protection is likewise absent. K7 did block 59 percent of the malicious payloads during or immediately after the download, but that's pretty low. Avira Antivirus Pro 2016 blocked 99 percent, all by preventing access to the URL. McAfee AntiVirus Plus (2016) and Norton shared the next-best score, 91 percent.
Falsie Fiasco Fixed
K7's System Monitor component aims to detect brand-new malware based on its behavior. This kind of detection can easily generate false positives, as some of the behaviors it monitors are used by legitimate programs as well. As a kind of sanity check, I test each product's reaction when I install about 20 PCMag utilities, programs that must hook deeply into Windows to do their job.
System Monitor wasn't the problem when I reviewed K7's previous edition in 2013, though. The antivirus itself identified well over a third of my legitimate samples as Trojans. What a mess!
Since that time I've changed out my collection of legitimate programs, and K7's behavior seems to have changed for the better as well. It refrained from hand-waving about programs setting themselves to launch at startup, an annoying feature of many behavior-based detection systems. In fact, the only warning it gave involved a utility that installed a new Windows service, which truly is a potentially dangerous behavior.
Earlier I mentioned that I almost missed the fact that I could slide the Scan page left and right to reveal more options. One of these was the Vulnerability scan, which aims to keep your applications patched against exploits. The similar feature in McAfee and Kaspersky took a little while to run, and found some missing security patches. K7's scan finished in a flash and reported no problems, even though my Chrome and Firefox both needed updates. I'm left unsure exactly what K7's scan looks for.
A scan for unusual system changes also ran in a flash and found nothing. The Tracking Cookie scan did find and remove a couple tracking cookies, browser cookies used by advertisers to track your surfing across websites.
Clicking the Tools icon brought up a page of bonus tools, including two simple cleaners for Windows temp files and for temp files created by your browsers. There's also a virtual keyboard, so you can enter passwords with no chance of capture by a keylogger, even a hardware one.
USB Vaccination, like the similar feature in Panda Antivirus Pro 2016, modifies USB drives so that malware can't use them to spread. K7 also offers to scan any USB drive you insert.
Worried about your kids accidentally infecting the family-room computer with malware brought home on thumb drive or disk? In K7's Device Control settings you can fine-tune just what's allowed in relation to USB drives, CD/DVD drives, and floppy disk drives. For total control, you can password-lock each device. You can also choose to ban autorun on the device, prevent executing files from the device, and disallow modifying files on the device.
A Big Improvement
K7 Anti-Virus Plus 15 is a huge improvement over product's previous edition. It fared better in independent lab testing and in my own testing, and it managed to avoid the truly horrific false positive problem demonstrated by that previous edition. Even so, it lacks the ability to block malware-hosting URLs and phishing URLs. And other than the unusual Device Control, its bonus features are pretty lightweight.
If you're going to pay for antivirus protection, stick with our Editors' Choice products. Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, and Bitdefender Antivirus Plus don't cost any more than K7. McAfee AntiVirus Plus does cost more, but comes with unlimited licenses.