360 Total Security Anti-virus first impressions: Refreshingly subtle but thorough

Anti-virus software is the silent protector. Like backups, you only miss them when they don't work. 360 Total Security anti-virus software is a refreshing look at the lowly anti-virus software application.

Over the years, I've used just about every anti-virus product made from ClamAV to McAfee to F-Prot to AVG to Avast to countless other free and commercial anti-virus programs that all promise to protect me from myself and from the would-be computer software assassin. And now I'm taking 360 Total Security (360) anti-virus software for a spin. So far, so good. It's there. It's unobtrusive and it seems to do what it claims to do -- protect me.

360 is a product of Qihoo 360 Technology Co. Ltd. (Qihoo 360) in Beijing, China.

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Anti-virus is like backup software -- you only miss it or notice it when it doesn't work. I don't really need the audible announcement that my anti-virus software has updated, because it happens too often. I like for my anti-virus to be my silent partner. 360 leaves me alone and gives me subtle notifications when something is different or when something new happens. When it quarantines a file, I know it. When I connect to an online shopping site, I receive a little notification.

The developers of 360 challenged me to take their software for a test drive. I had just installed Windows 10 Professional on my daughter's laptop for some testing of another kind, when I thought, "This will be a good test." The reason why it will be a good test is because virus writers love to try to exploit new Windows operating systems. I know it's fun and it provides a little street cred to your hacking abilities, but if you want some real props, go after Mac OS X or Linux. Sorry, I digress.

I installed 360 on the Windows 10 laptop and went about my business as usual. To my surprise, 360 notified me of my boot time, which is a first for an anti-virus program. I suppose one could argue that knowing your average boot time could warn you that something has gone awry if it changes drastically from one day to the next.

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The most impressive notification I received so far is that when I connected to Amazon.com to purchase a new microphone, I noticed a subtle message that I was now in online shopping mode. Interesting. Until I saw that notification, I hadn't really taken the software all that seriously. But now, I'm intrigued.

To further test 360's ability to ward off Internet gremlins, I opened Chrome (No, I don't like Microsoft Edge -- it's weird and not browser-like at all), and I went to wicar.org to perform some malware tests. My Windows 10 installation is relatively new so I don't have a lot of applications on it yet, so some of the tests might go differently for those of you who have installed a lot of third party apps.

The first attempt at tricking 360 failed. It caught and quarantined the Eicar virus right away.

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Of course, testing your anti-virus or anti-malware against any known tests or sites should be an easy pass. The real test is to hit some ransomware site and see if you survive it, but be prepared either to pay up or reimage your system. Neither of which I'm fully prepared to do.

Unfortunately, the only way you will ever know if your anti-virus software is working is if you stumble across an infected file that gets caught by your anti-virus software. And if it doesn't, you might or might not be any wiser for it until your bank account is drained or your personal security is compromised.

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360 keeps itself updated and it notifies me of those updates, plus I can manually update should I hear of a new threat. But 360 also allows you to open suspicious (or any) files in Sandbox mode so that your whole system doesn't fall victim to some obscure Internet bug. Of course, you can also manually scan folders, files, or your entire system at any time.

360 includes Speed Up and Clean Up services to keep your systems running in optimal fashion. On my brand new Windows 10 installation, 360 removed more than 1 GB of files that I didn't need and reclaimed that space.

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While this is not a formal review, I have to admit that I like 360. It's subtle. It's quiet. It seems to do what it claims. I don't have any complaints about false positives or resource hogging and it doesn't seem to get in the way of actually working like some anti-malware programs do. I hate having to acknowledge every single thing I ever click on. It's the uber security settings on some of these things that cause people to bypass security altogether.

360 is available for Windows, Mac, and Android.

I'll have to provide you with an update after a few months of working with 360 before I can give a definitive blessing, but preliminary tests have been positive.

Have you tried 360? What do you think? I would love to read your feedback about it. Please use the Comments form to tell us about your experiences.

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