Ask the Experts: What's the best antivirus software for Windows 2000?

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Ask the Experts: What's the best antivirus software for Windows 2000?

Kevin R. Smith

We get a lot of questions to our "Ask the Experts" link. We answer 'em all.

Most times they're good questions. Some times they're great.

One such question came in today from Rich who asks,
Which antivirus program and firewall can I use on a laptop with Windows 2000 Pro installed.

"The laptop hardware meets most programs requirements but most programs say XP or newer.

"My laptop works great as is and I would just like to have good antivirus and firewall protection.
Here's my reply:

Hi Rich,

This is definitely a tough question.

The problem is this: Windows 2000 (which was my favorite version of Windows) is SO far out-of-patch from Microsoft (it is almost 2012), even if you were to find antivirus software for it, which I quite doubt, the OS itself isn't being updated and thus can't be secured anymore.

If the underlying OS is insecure, all bets are off.

I say this with a background as former CTO of a publicly traded credit card processing company. These types of issues weren't just what-if scenarios there, but things I had to make policy about for my company and shareholders.

The bottom line: even back then I wouldn't have allowed someone to connect to my network with an OS that old, now you're taking about one that's, literally, 12 years old.

It just cannot be secured. Plain and simple.

Here's the next rub: the way the antivirus software "hooks" into the OS has changed even since XP. One malware researcher found the hooking method in XP could in some cases be circumvented and most any antivirus software bypassed. And this was with XP. Who knows what the story is with W2K.

Since Windows 2000, Microsoft has released:
  • Windows XP
  • Windows 2003 (servers)
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows 2008 (servers)
  • Windows 7
...and we ourselves are already testing with Windows 8.

So, as much as I'd love to recommend a product, I'd be doing you a disservice.

Here's why: the reason no antivirus company is making software for 2000 anymore is because if Microsoft isn't updating the underlying OS anymore, they A/V companies certainly aren't willing to put their necks on the line trying to defend what is, practically speaking, indefensible.

Further, most web browsers--the most common attack vector of viruses these days--are no longer supporting Windows 2000.

No matter where you look, the propeller heads have long decided to turn their backs on Win2K

Believe me, I'm a fan of old computer hardware (and I loved Windows 2000) and want to keep things running 'til the end of time, but we're talking about technology not a classic car. (My wife made me recycle more old PCs last year than I'm comfortable even admitting were in my house. I had hardware made in 1991 that still ran.)

In your case, if you're serious about keeping the data on that PC secure, you need to put it to pasture. It just cannot be secured.

My take: a trip to your local Best Buy, to, or to and look for a new lappy. These days, great machines can be had for a song.

And one final note I forgot to mention to Rich: Yes, you can definitely remove the antivirus software that comes pre-installed on a new computer.

It's seldom the best antivirus software for your needs and is often there just because the antivirus company and the computer maker struck a deal to put it there to begin with.

Chances are, they just paid the manufacturer more than the next guy for the privilege. They know a large percentage of people will assume if it's there it must be the best, and they end up renewing the antivirus software when the subscription runs out.


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avast works fine on win 2000

Technically, a lot of antivirus software "works fine" on Windows 2000. Or so it seems.

The problem is that fundamentally, the underlying OS is now *far* beyond the point where it can be considered secure.

Consider antivirus software for a moment to be analogous to having an alarm on your car. If any of the doors get opened, the alarm will sound. Fine. Easy. Makes sense.

The problem is that on Windows 2000 all the car's windows are down, the sunroof is open, and the windshield and rear window are both out, too. Oh, and the trunk and hood are open, too.

So, sure, the car has an alarm, and sure you *can* install some antivirus software onto Windows 2000.

So, yes, it's better to have antivirus software than not on Windows 2000, but when there's such gaping holes in the OS itself like a car with the windows down/missing and an open trunk, the antivirus software has significantly limited efficacy.

In other words: if you're serious about keeping your data secure, upgrade your OS first, get the antivirus software second.

Since Windows 2000 is not receiving updates any longer, anti malware software becomes even more crucial. The problem, though, is is any anti-malware software for Windows 2000 still being updated?

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