Gizmo’s Freeware Award for Best Freeware Product of 2011



Our reader’s votes are in and counted and the winner of this year’s award is Microsoft Security Essentials.
This is the second year in a row that Security Essentials has won this award. It is a worthy winner. It not only provides first class protection for your PC against malware it also has the advantage of coming from Microsoft itself.  This gives many users great comfort that the product is reliable and can be trusted.
And technically the product is very sound. While its malware detection rates are not class leading they are still very high and approach the levels achieved by the very best commercial products. Furthermore it imposes only a moderate overhead on your computer so many users will notice little or no impact on the speed of their PC.
But its virtues don’t stop there. It is very unobtrusive in operation and doesn’t disturb users with warning alerts and other notices. The rate of false positives is also very low so in normal circumstances most users won’t even notice it is running except of course if a virus or other threat is detected in which case Security Essentials will spring into action to stop the intruder and  neutralize it.
Critics would argue the detection rates could be higher both for circulating malware and more particularly new malware. Security Essential for examples manages a 92.1% detection rate for current malware and 48.7% for new malware while the popular Avira Anti-malware program achieved 99.5% and 62.4% based on the most recent tests at AV Comparatives.
While there is some truth in these criticisms, they do not detract from the fact that in real life Microsoft Security Essentials provides a perfectly adequate level of protection for average users. This combined with its unobtrusiveness, low resource usage and the Microsoft brand is a winning combination for many users.
Second place:
The popular hard drive cleaner CCleaner came in a very close second being pipped at the post by just a handful of votes.
Although it has been around for years CCleaner is regularly updated. In addition to removing temporary and other unwanted files created by Windows it now removes similar files for dozens of products. Additionally it includes a basic though very safe registry cleaner.
I use CCleaner regularly to free up space on my laptop hard drive and I'm always surprised at just how many temporary and other unwanted files it manages to find and how much space it frees.
In these days of massive hard drives there is less need of this kind of product than in the past but for laptops and other devices that don’t use multi-terabyte drives CCleaner is an essential tool for effective computer maintenance.
Third Place
Sandboxie came in a close third to the top two programs. Like CCleaner this is a product that has been around for a long time but is still regularly updated.
I’ve personally used Sandboxie since the time it first arrived on the market. While not strictly freeware you can use it without paying provided you don’t mind losing a few advanced features such as multiple sandboxes and are prepared to tolerate a nag screen.
I use Sandboxie regularly. For example whenever somebody sends me a PowerPoint presentation or video I always view it from within Sandboxie. That way if there is a malware infection in the file it is totally contained within a sandbox and will disappear entirely when the sandbox is closed. To me it is an essential security product.
Well folks that’s it for our Best Freeware reader poll for 2011. Thanks to all those who took time to nominate and vote for these products and thanks to all the freeware writers and developers who provide these great products. For those interested, a full listing of the final poll results is available as is the full list of all reader nominations.

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