ESET is one of the oldest antivirus suites on the market. It has enjoyed an excellent reputation throughout the years, continually ranking at the top of the antivirus market share.
The question is, how good is ESET right now? In this ESET antivirus review, I’ll reveal the answer.
To answer this question, I installed and tested ESET Smart Security Premium — their most advanced home security product. Of course, it’s not solely an antivirus product; it’s comprised of plenty of other features in addition to malware detection and removal.
The most noticeable element on ESET’s interface is the image of a robot staring at you. It feels as if it’s assuring you that your system is safe while it’s on duty.
At the top of the Home screen, a green bar indicates that everything is safe. The bar turns yellow if the solution detects a low-level threat, or red if it detects a security risk. A notification will appear below the bar if a threat is detected.
What I like about the interface is that the window is resizable. There aren’t many antivirus products that allow you do that. During my tests for this ESET review, I resized the window when I wanted to see more information without having to scroll too much.
I also liked that there are links to support pages on each menu. So, if you want to learn more about a specific feature, simply click the question mark to receive more information in your browser. Furthermore, each option includes a tooltip that you can access by hovering the cursor over the ‘i’ icon.
ESET includes tons of configuration options that can be found in the “Advanced Setup” window. Novice users can use the standard setup options (and receive quick access to help using the question mark button or the tooltips).
Tech-savvy people can use the advanced settings:
ESET is equipped with a variety of features which I’ve thoroughly analyzed below.
Like any respectable antivirus suite, ESET features multiple types of real-time scans. Learn more about each of them below.
One type of real-time scan is the idle-state scan. For this, ESET silently searches for malware while your screensaver runs, your PC is locked, or when a user logs off.
The next type of scan is the system startup scan. As its name suggests, it scans your computer at the user log in. With this scanning feature, you select the files that are to be checked:
Another essential scan is the removable media scan. Whenever you insert an external storage device, such as a USB flash drive, ESET will automatically scan it for malware. Here’s a screenshot of this feature in action:
If you’re working with a lot of MS Office documents, then you’ll appreciate the document scan feature. Document protection adds an extra layer of security to your system. As documents are frequent targets of malware, this is a welcomed feature.
A different type of scan that ESET supports is webcam protection. To prevent someone from hijacking your webcam, ESET alerts you every time an application tries to access your camera. The program correctly showed me when an application tried to access my camera.
A typical manual scan with ESET is straightforward. Just go to the Computer Scan module and click “Scan your computer”. This scan looks for viruses, spyware, ransomware, and other hidden malware in your system.
This scan took only 6.5 minutes and scanned 380k files. It detected a leftover file from a previous ransomware test, and weirdly enough, a utorrent.exe. I allowed ESET to clean the first file but chose to take no action against torrent.exe.
The standard scan is fast, but is it deep enough...?
Advanced scans are more appropriate for users who know a lot about PC security. There are a ton of options for scan customization, such as choosing to scan a particular part of your system:
The Custom Scan window also allows you to select the depth of the scan. I selected the most comprehensive scan, which is simply named “In-depth scan”.
This kind of scan does more digging inside your system, which is reflected in the total scan time — almost four hours! It scanned almost 1,200k objects on my PC, and found a total of three threats, which I was able to clean.
Of course, a powerful antivirus program like ESET includes scheduled scanning capabilities, too. Yet, setting up a scheduled scan is not a straightforward task. Furthermore, there are no scheduling options in the Computer Scan module. You have to go to Tools > More tools, to open the Scheduler feature.
From here, you must add a new task, a name, choose the task type (on-demand computer scan), then follow the steps. You’ll then see the task in the list. If you wish to edit the task, you can do so. Overall, this process isn’t very beginner-friendly.
A firewall is critical to the security of your network. Many cyberattacks, such as botnet attacks, attempt to penetrate networks. That said, PCs with strong firewalls can block most of these threats. ESET provides its own firewall which replaces Window’s default firewall.
As expected with ESET, its proprietary firewall includes tons of options. Regular users will be overwhelmed by the number of options available. Yet, the basic settings work well so there is no need to tinker with the advanced settings (unless you have to).
If you’re a security expert, ESET won’t disappoint. It enables you to create firewall rules and manage incoming and outgoing network connections in detail. The filtering mode selection is a great addition to the advanced settings.
I tested the strength of the firewall using the popular tool, ShieldsUp! The results were good, meaning that my computer’s IP address wasn’t exposed to the public Internet. It may sound a little complicated, but in essence, the firewall tests went well.
Most malware comes directly from the Internet. As such, having strong web security features is essential. While ESET’s web protection arsenal includes the enhanced browser mentioned above, it also allows you to block malicious content while browsing the web.
The great thing about ESET’s web security is that there’s no need to install browser extensions. All web protection layers are integrated with the antivirus engine. In other words, all browsers are protected and supported.
I tested ESET’s web content protection by opening several malicious test pages.
Here’s what I found:
Initially, I observed that Chrome’s defenses blocked malicious test links on wicar.org. Still, I wanted to see if ESET could block those pages, too. To test this, I disabled Chrome’s browsing safety feature. Upon re-opening the test links, I saw that ESET also blocked those links.
However, some of those links were blocked by ESET’s Parental Control feature which I enabled previously. Once I disabled Parental Control, ESET showed its normal threat blocking page (in red) — that was a relief.
An antivirus test wouldn’t be complete without the use of the security features checking tools on amtso.org. Therefore, I opened each malicious test link to see how ESET responded.
ESET blocked all threats; but in various ways according to the threat type. For example, when I clicked on the link for detecting potentially unwanted applications (PUAs), ESET displayed this popup window:
But when I opened the link for detecting drive-by malware downloads, ESET handled the threat slightly differently. What’s important, though, is that the threats were blocked and dealt with.
Strangely, ESET didn’t stop maliciouswebsitetest.com; neither did the built-in defenses of my browsers. I tested this page on Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Edge. ESET only blocked it when Parental Control was enabled.
Unlike web access protection, which blocks websites with malicious content, anti-phishing protection detects and blocks scam and phishing sites. ESET separates these two features, which you can enable/disable in the settings:
In my tests, I used AMTSO’s phishing simulation page to check this security feature. As expected, ESET correctly stopped this page from opening:
ESET correctly prevented a phishing simulation webpage from opening.
Password managers are productivity and security tools for gathering account information. They also automatically fill in your username and password when you log into a website. The ESET Password Manager is, like most password managers, a browser extension (for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari) or a mobile app.
To use ESET Password Manager (a Premium feature), you must first enable it from my.eset.com. Once done, the extension is able to save your usernames and passwords when you log into your accounts. In my tests, I was able to add account information both when logging into sites, and from the extension’s window.
This tool has many options, such as password generation, credit card management, security reports, and more. A feature that’s missing is the ability to share your account information without revealing your usernames and passwords.
Anti-theft is a common feature in premium security packages. As expected, ESET’s relies on a web console that you must log into. I had to create an account that’s made specifically for anti-theft. I was able to add my test laptop easily:
From the console, I could manage the settings of all devices I added. This includes marking a machine as missing, and testing the anti-theft featres and optimizations.
I found it interesting that I could perform an anti-theft test. When I ran one, I received an email several minutes later containing a webcam photo and my location, which was pretty accurate. The app took a picture with the webcam without turning on the small light near the webcam.
Another noteworthy feature is the “Phantom Windows Account” that ESET recommends. This can be created with only the click of a button. This account doesn’t require a password and is designed to “lure” thieves in. Make sure to log into it to get through the initial Windows setup steps.
Device Control is an advanced feature that allows you to manage which connected devices certain users can access. It’s designed to help network admins prevent people from accessing insecure content from devices connected to the network.
This isn’t a typical feature that all security suites provide, and it’s not for everyday users, either. It’s tricky to set up as there are no predefined profiles for performing general actions. Instead, you can configure technical options that, without context, may not seem intuitive. Fortunately, these options are explained in the user guide. However, you’ll still need strong technical knowledge to make sense of them.
I can see the benefit of using this module. Businesses can gain more control over what their employees are accessing from their computers to prevent malware infections, cyber attacks, data leaks, and so on.
Device control lets advanced users control the access of sensitive content.
You’ll have access to the diagnostics tools only with the Premium package. These tools are more appropriate for advanced users who want a little more control over their system’s security. I think they provide a lot of value since most of them can be considered standalone tools, but they’re all included in one bundle.
The first tool, Log files, offers an overview of the events that occurred. These can include scans, threat detections, filtered websites, device control, and more.
The second utility, Running Processes, gives you a list of processes currently running on your system. What’s interesting is that this list also includes a reputation bar that uses data from ESET.
The next tool, Security report, displays how ESET protected your PC over the last 15 days. But that’s not all. If you scroll down, you’ll see a global representation of malware with data provided by ESET, of course.
The Watch Activity feature lets you view a timeline of the file system or network activity in real-time. This help detect suspicious increases in the amount of data received or sent.
The Network Connections utility helps users manage all outgoing connections that are established by installed programs. From the context menu, you can deny or allow communications for the process.
Another tool for advanced users is SysInspector. It’s a separate app that creates a snapshot of the running processes, services, drivers, programs, network connections, and more. Interestingly enough, it assesses each component’s risk level, helping you troubleshoot security issues.
The Scheduler is where you can schedule tasks, such as malware scans, log maintenance, auto-updates, startup file checks, and more.
Here’s an essential tool I discovered while doing research for this ESET antivirus review: SysRescue Live. This is a cleaning tool that can be launched from a CD, DVD, or USB. If you need to clean an infected PC, this is the tool you’ll need. When clicking on the SysRescue Live button, it opens the tool’s webpage where you can download it and learn more about it.
Next, we have the System cleaner. This utility analyzes the system settings and recommends resetting them if appropriate. Changes are often the result of malware or unintentional changes. The System cleaner is not a PC cleanup tool!
Here’s an unusual tool: Submit sample for analysis. Using it, you can submit suspicious files on your PC to the ESET research lab directly from the antivirus interface. Make sure to read the criteria before submitting a sample.
Finally, we have a familiar feature — Quarantine. Here, you can see which malicious files ESET has stored safely, ensuring they won’t affect your system anymore. Here, you can find information about each object, restore them, or submit them for analysis.
The consumption of system resources is a critical aspect of an antivirus evaluation. Traditionally, antivirus solutions consume lots of resources, especially when gaming or performing intensive tasks. But how well does ESET’s antivirus engine fare?
During a full in-depth scan, ESET’s processes took up 25-30% CPU power and 300 MB RAM. These values are average in terms of resource consumption. Also, considering that a full scan can last up to four hours, it’s best to perform only light tasks during a full scan.
As mentioned above, ESET includes a Gamer Mode, which can help boost the performance of games or when doing full screen presentations by temporarily blocking scheduled scans and notifications.
In addition, AV-Comparatives rated ESET’s impact as one of the best compared to other consumer security products they tested. They gave it the highest rating: Advanced+.
ESET has a diverse range of products for both home and business users. As this ESET review is focused on the home antivirus package, I’ll only mention the home plans. These include ESET NOD32 Antivirus (essential protection), ESET Internet Security (advanced protection), and ESET Smart Security Premium (ultimate protection).
Bear in mind, neither product comes with a VPN. You’ll have to get one from somewhere else (or buy an alternative antivirus program that includes a VPN, such as Bitdefender or Kaspersky).
I wouldn’t recommend NOD32 Antivirus for most users as it doesn’t come with an Android app, password manager, network safety, or file protection. That said, you can purchase Internet Security for a small fee (this includes a lot more security features). But if you also need a password manager and a data encryptor, then Smart Security Premium will suit you best.
First of all, I appreciate its comprehensive knowledgebase. ESET delivers this and much more. As you can see from the Help and support module, they offer tons of resources (user manuals, videos, FAQs, forums, etc.) to help users find the solution to their problems:
On top of this, ESET offers many extra tools and utilities for free. I especially like the ESET Online Scanner that removes malware using just your web browser without installing a standalone antivirus product.
Furthermore, the support methods (and help pages) differ from country to country. For example, in the US, they only offer call support for business users from 6AM to 5PM Pacific Time.
To test their customer support, I accessed the international help page. I used a web form to send my inquiries. About 30 minutes later, I received emails that confirmed my requests (one email for each question). They responded the next day, saying that they can’t offer support to users outside North America and I should contact my local seller.
Yes, ESET is a great choice for anyone seeking a robust and lightweight antivirus program. It features advanced scanning capabilities, network security, data protection, diagnostics tools, and much more.
ESET doesn’t include a free version of its software. However, you can download a paid version and test it free for 30 days. If you’re serious about your PC’s security, I recommend investing in ESET Advanced Security, which offers tons of security features designed to keep hackers and malware at bay. Alternatively, you can choose another robust antivirus solution.
Yes, ESET can scan your computer in-depth and remove malware, corrupt files, or potentially unwanted applications. It keeps infected files in quarantine where you can remove them manually. ESET also offers a free independent malware removal tool on its website.
The best ESET package for home use is ESET Advanced. It includes plenty of security features. It comes with both basic and advanced settings ensuring every user feels comfortable.
Octav Fedor (Cybersecurity Editor)
Octav is a cybersecurity expert and senior editor at AntivirusGuide. When he’s not giving his honest opinions about security software on the web, he enjoys playing the occasional video game, watching astronomy documentaries, and fiercely competing at the local pub quiz with his friends.