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I was looking for antivirus products for my PC and phone, and I decided to give Emsisoft’s low-cost antivirus software a try.
Emsisoft’s super-clean user interface and powerful security protections really impressed me — in terms of malware detection and ease-of-use, Emsisoft is a top-quality product.
I love the remote management feature, which lets you perform scans, adjust settings, view analytics, and manage quarantine files from anywhere there’s an internet connection. I used this feature to check up on my desktop computer while I was traveling abroad, and I’m thinking of getting Emsisoft for my parents so I can manage their cybersecurity remotely. Emsisoft also has a couple of unique security features that help it stand out from the rest, like the Behavior Blocker for analyzing suspicious files and the Emergency Kit for rescuing a heavily compromised PC.
There are a few key features I’d like to see added to the Anti-Malware Home package, however. While Emsisoft is clearly designed for individuals and businesses, the lack of any parental controls is a little frustrating. Additionally, there are no identity protections, no password manager, and no VPN — competitors like Norton and McAfee provide a much more full-featured internet security product (for more money).
All that said, I’m confident in saying that Emsisoft is one of the best-value antivirus programs in 2020.
After 3 weeks of testing, here’s what I found out.
Emsisoft Security Features
Emsisoft has two antivirus engines — the first is a proprietary scanner which uses predictive algorithms to flag potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) and suspicious files, and the second is Bitdefender’s award-winning anti-malware engine. This dual-engine antivirus scanner is powerful — Emsisoft detected 100% of viruses, rootkits, trojans, spyware, and ransomware in my testing, with fewer false positives than McAfee.
Emsisoft’s dual-engine scanner offers three different virus scanning modes:
- Quick Scan. Analyzes files that are actively running. The Quick Scan took just over 2 minutes on my PC and scanned over 64,000 objects — which is amazingly fast.
- Malware Scan. Checks the parts of your PC where malware usually hides, like downloads, system registries, and cached files. It took around 90 minutes on my computer, which is pretty good — Avast took over 2 hours and missed many of the files that Emsisoft was able to catch.
- Custom Scan. Allows you to select which folders to scan with three levels of intensity: Default, Thorough, and Paranoid. I found the Thorough and Paranoid settings to be too vigilant, giving me lots of false positives on different executable files I had intentionally downloaded, but that level of security could be useful for users with a need for intense security. The default Custom Scan analyzed every file on my disk drive — it’s the most comprehensive scan available, and it took about 2 hours on my machine, catching all of the zipped malware files that I had hidden around my drive.
Emsisoft is automatically set to perform the Malware Scan every week, which you may want to adjust in the settings — I set mine for every 3 days. It’s also equipped with a Quiet Mode that automatically minimizes scanning and notifications during CPU-intensive processes.
I was really impressed with Emsisoft’s anti-malware engine. It runs faster than many competitors, it didn’t slow my computer down very much, and it caught as many files as leading competitors like Kaspersky and Bitdefender.
The Behavior Blocker feature analyzes active programs for suspicious behavior and blocks them before they can make changes on your PC. This behavioral analysis can protect your computer from ransomware, rootkits, and spyware.
I tested Behavior Blocker with a range of malware test programs on my PC. Behavior Blocker alerted me instantly that these test programs were acting suspicious, and Emsisoft proceeded to block them before a single file was able to make changes to my system.
Behavior Blocker is also a useful diagnostic tool, offering alerts that make it easy to see where suspicious files are located. Advanced users will appreciate this feature, while less tech-savvy users will probably just want to use the auto-resolve option (which fixes the problem for you). In my testing, Emsisoft was pretty accurate, detecting all of my test files and letting system files and downloads run unobstructed.
Emsisoft’s Behavior Blocker is a powerful tool for staying safe from harmful ransomware, rootkits, and other forms of malware that can hide from traditional malware scanners.
If you get regular calls to clean up infected PCs, or you just want to be prepared in case of a computer emergency, Emsisoft’s Emergency Kit is an extremely unique and useful feature. The Emergency Kit makes it easy to safely diagnose and erase malware on any PC that’s too compromised to install new software. Simply download the Emergency Kit to a USB drive, and you get a portable version of Emsisoft’s antivirus engine that can run on any PC — no installation necessary.
The Emergency Kit offers two interface options: There’s a graphic user interface (GUI) for casual users, as well as a command-line version for advanced users. I didn’t make use of the command line feature, but the GUI is just as intuitive as Emsisoft’s other interfaces — I had no difficulty removing malware from a corrupted test PC.
The Emergency Kit is a really useful feature to have in case your computer gets hacked to the point where you can’t even log in, and the command line interface makes it possible to clean up a computer even if you can’t access the mouse because of malware infection. Panda Dome offers a similar feature, but Panda doesn’t include the command line interface — there aren’t many other competitors that offer this useful tool.
Emsisoft’s Cloud Console is my favorite remote management feature of any antivirus I’ve ever used. It lets you access a mirror of your antivirus dashboard from any web browser. Other competitors offer similar features, but no other software gives the user this level of control. Every feature on the desktop version of Anti-Malware Home is here — running scans, adjusting firewall settings, checking past scan logs, and navigating system files with the Behavior Blocker can all be done from any browser.
Cloud Console even offers analytics to track scan results across all of your devices, which is really useful for families and teams who need to see where the security breaches in their systems are.
It’s also simple to set different permissions on the Cloud Console. “Full Access” lets you change the settings for all of your devices, while “Read-Only” will keep users informed without letting them mess anything up. This can be helpful if you are sharing your plan with someone less tech-savvy who shouldn’t have access to every device covered on that plan.
I often travel for work, and I found the Cloud Console to be a really useful feature — I’m also considering getting Emsisoft for my parents so I can manage their internet security remotely using the Cloud Console.
The Emsisoft Browser Security extension is available for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Opera. It’s designed to detect and keep you from navigating to potential phishing sites.
This browser extension has made some improvements over the years, but it’s still not as good as the best anti-phishing engines around — it missed a few websites that Chrome’s built-in web protections detected.
The Browser Security extension is useful for anybody using Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer, because those browser’s web protections aren’t very good. However, most users should just transition to Chrome, Firefox, or Opera because they offer better security and ease-of-use.
Emsisoft Plans and Pricing
I like that Emsisoft offers a 30-day free trial for all paid plans — I was able to test out all the premium features without getting into a big commitment.
Emsisoft’s Anti-Malware Home is a great deal for one user looking to cover a single PC — but the price jumps up for each additional device. There are a number of competitors that cover multiple devices for a better price. If you’re looking for full-suite antivirus protection across a number of devices, Norton 360 is a better choice.
But Emsisoft is a great value for individual users.
Anti-Malware Free — Only a Virus Scanner
If you decide not to purchase Emsisoft Anti-Malware Home at the end of the 30-day free trial, you’re left with Emsisoft’s free antivirus scanner. It only offers Emsisoft’s virus scanner — and nothing else — no anti-phishing, no anti-ransomware, and no remote management.
If you only want an antivirus scanner, it’s not a bad choice. Emsisoft’s dual-engine virus detection is good, but if you’re looking for free antivirus software with great scanning and included extra features, try Avira’s free antivirus.
The one thing I really like is that Emsisoft’s free plan provides access to the same customer support as paying users. Most antivirus companies only offer full support to paying customers. Emsisoft includes live chat and email support for all users.
Anti-Malware Home — Cheap, Reliable Protection for 1 Computer
This plan includes everything on the Anti-Malware Free plan, plus:
- Anti-Ransomware. Blocks ransomware attacks from encrypting your data.
- Behavior Blocker. Detects programs acting suspiciously and blocks them.
- File Guard. Scans all downloaded files and programs for malware.
- Web Protection. Blocks access to malicious websites.
- Emergency Kit. Rescues severely damaged computers.
- Cloud Console. Manages security via a web browser.
Emsisoft Anti-Malware Home is a good choice for anybody looking for low-cost protection on a single computer. While it’s better to go with Norton or McAfee if you want multi-device support or other additional features like a VPN, dark web monitoring, or parental controls, Emsisoft costs about half as much as competing antivirus software to cover a single machine.
Emsisoft Business + Enterprise Security — Good Protection for Businesses
Emsisoft also offers two plans for business users looking to cover a wide variety of Windows endpoints, like PCs, mobile devices, and/or servers. Both business plans offer Emsisoft’s complete antivirus coverage, including the Behavior Blocker, anti-ransomware tools, active scanning, Cloud Console, and a command line scanner for IT professionals.
Both plans cover 3 endpoints, with an extra fee for each additional device, but there are some key differences between Emsisoft Business Security and Enterprise Security. Emsisoft Business Security is more suitable for a small business — it only allows for 2 administrators and a maximum of 10 protection and permission policies — while Emsisoft Enterprise Security covers unlimited administrators and offers unlimited policies, as well as offering priority customer support.
Both Emsisoft Business Security and Enterprise Security come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try implementing them with your small business, risk-free.
Emsisoft Ease of Use and Setup
Downloading and installing Emsisoft Anti-Malware Home was no problem on my PC. I downloaded the free trial, installed the program, and was running my first scan in a matter of minutes.
Emsisoft’s interface is bright and intuitive. All of the options, settings, and menus are easy to explore — it’s definitely one of my favorite antivirus interfaces for PC.
For the majority of users, the home page is where you’ll spend the most time. Special protection features, scanning, logs, and settings are just a click away.
Emsisoft includes a simple help feature that provides information throughout the program. Hovering over the “i” next to each option brings up an explanation in the Help toolbar. However, some of the explanations are a little brief, while other features don’t have any explanations offered at all.
Notifications can also be customized in a variety of ways. Notifications let you know when potential threats have been identified or when scheduled scans are going to begin. You can select what kinds of notifications you’ll receive, how often, and where notifications should come on your screen — or you can just switch on Silent Mode manually to avoid notifications entirely.
Emsisoft’s Silent Mode suspends all scans and notifications — it automatically engages when any program enters full screen mode, so games, movies, or PowerPoint presentations won’t be interrupted by your antivirus software.
Because it’s such a minimal antivirus software, the user interface integrates all of Anti-Malware Home’s functions really well. While more full-featured programs can get confusing with a huge variety of menus and features that have their own desktop shortcuts, everything I need from Emsisoft is in one place.
Emsisoft Mobile App
Emsisoft’s mobile app is available as a separate download — it’s a good value, but it’s only available for Android devices. Here’s what it offers:
- Malware scanning. Protects your device from Android-specific malware.
- Web protection. Anti-phishing and suspicious website blocker to keep you safe online.
- App auditing. Ensures that apps aren’t secretly accessing your camera or files, and notifies you of suspicious activity.
- Anti-theft tools. Remotely lock or wipe your device if it gets stolen.
The anti-malware scanner caught 100% of the malware in my testing, including ransomware and spyware, and the app drained much less of my phone battery than many mobile antiviruses. The app auditing caught several suspicious apps I had downloaded from the Google Play Store before those dangerous apps were able to access my location and data.
Emsisoft’s malware scanning, web protection, and app auditing tools are all really good, but the anti-theft protections aren’t that impressive. Competitors like McAfee include the ability to remotely access your mobile’s camera and photograph the person using your device, as well as an alarm system and device locator to help you track a lost or stolen phone.
Emsisoft Mobile Security is available for a 30-day free trial, so Android users can give it a try on their mobile devices, risk-free.
Emsisoft Customer Support
Emsisoft’s customer support is decent for English users, but it needs improving for the global community. English speakers can live chat with a support agent, send an email ticket, or check out the user guides and FAQs on site. The first time I connected to a live chat, it took less than 30 seconds for me to talk to an agent (who was very friendly and informative).
However, live chat isn’t always available — in fact, it’s hit-or-miss if an agent will be there when you connect with support, even during business hours. When there aren’t any agents online, you have the option to send an email question. I sent an email during USA business hours and got a response about 8 hours later — which isn’t bad, but also not very good.
In addition to live chat and email support, Emsisoft has an extensive knowledge base with hundreds of user guides and FAQs. Emsisoft also has a very active community forum for questions and observations. Almost all of this content is in English. There’s a decent amount of chats in the German community forum as well, but most non-English speakers will have a hard time with Emsisoft’s technical support.
Emsisoft could improve upon their customer support service. I’d like to see them offer a live call option like Norton or McAfee. Their live chat should be available 24/7 and email support response times also need to be improved.
What’s the Verdict? Is Emsisoft Any Good?
I like Emsisoft as an antivirus engine, but I want more from it as an internet security suite. The Anti-Malware Home plan is a decent value, but it’s lacking important features like a password manager, parental controls, a VPN, or system cleanup tools.
It’s still a strong program, though. The malware scanning is top-notch, and the anti-phishing and ransomware protections keep users safe from a huge range of cybersecurity threats. The Cloud Console feature allows full access to any of your devices from anywhere — travelers, business administrators, and families will find a lot of value in this unique remote management feature.
If you’re looking for a full-featured antivirus suite with multi-device support, a VPN, dark web monitoring, and a password manager, there are some much better options. However, If you’re happy with your VPN and password manager and you’re only looking for a minimal antivirus program for your PC and/or Android, Emsisoft’s antivirus package is a good choice.
Frequently Asked Questions about Emsisoft
Is Emsisoft safe?
Emsisoft is a powerful antivirus program with cutting-edge malware detection — the anti-malware engine is strong enough to stand up to viruses, trojans, and spyware, as well as newer threats like ransomware and rootkits.
I tested Emsisoft with a wide range of test malware, and it blocked every malware file before it was able to make an impact on my devices.
While the anti-malware engine is completely secure, Emsisoft doesn’t include some of the latest security tools that you might need to keep your devices 100% safe. For example, Emsisoft doesn’t include features like a VPN, password manager, parental controls, and identity theft protections which are included in premium antivirus suites like Norton 360.
Does Emsisoft have a free plan?
Emsisoft does offer a free antivirus scanner, but that’s it. The free scanner isn’t advertised on their site, but after the 30-day free trial of Anti-Malware Home, the free scanner stays on your computer if you decide not to purchase the full Emsisoft package. If you just need to check your device for viruses, it’s a pretty useful tool. But it doesn’t include web protections, mobile support, the Behavior Blocker tool, the Emergency Kit, or the remote management features which make Emsisoft Anti-Malware Home a really good product.
Competitors like Avira offer more full-featured free antivirus packages with a variety of useful features, but Emsisoft’s free scanner is still a decent choice.
Is Emsisoft Mac or iOS compatible?
Unfortunately, no. Emsisoft only works for Windows and Android devices — which makes sense, because those two operating systems account for the vast majority of devices worldwide. But it’s still frustrating, especially for people who use both Windows and Mac devices.
There are some really good options out there for Apple-specific internet security tools, but Emsisoft is not one of them.
Will Emsisoft slow down my computer?
Any antivirus product will cause a little bit of system slowdown, especially during scanning. This is because the software has to assess every single file and program on your system, checking it against a malware database and analyzing for suspicious behavior.
However, Emsisoft’s scanning engine is partially designed by Bitdefender, which is one of the least CPU-intensive antivirus scanners on the market today. I was able to use photo editing programs on my computer and surf the internet with zero slowdown while running a full system scan, which is better than some competitors like BullGuard.
Emsisoft also has lots of options for notifications and scheduling scans which can help you to keep scans and notifications from clogging up your system during busy hours. Plus, Emsisoft includes a Quiet Mode, which suspends scans and notifications whenever a program enters full screen mode. You can also toggle Quiet Mode on whenever you need your computer to run at peak performance.
Any antivirus will slow down your computer a little, but if you schedule scans, use quiet mode, and clean up your device regularly, it shouldn’t be a problem. Besides, learning how to use an antivirus program effectively is a lot easier than dealing with a malware infection that wipes all of your data and crashes your computer.