Memory Usage Test to See Which is the Lightest Antivirus Software

One of the most common things users do to try and keep their computer running as smooth as possible, is keep control over which programs start with Windows. Having just a few memory or processor hungry programs loading into the system tray on boot can have an adverse affect on the performance of your computer. One of the most common applications that will load with Windows and stay resident in the background while the system is on, will be your chosen antivirus software. Have you ever wondered which are the lightest antivirus packages available and which ones don’t do so well on memory usage?

It’s maybe not such a major issue for newer computers these days having an antivirus which isn’t especially memory efficient because they often come equipped with 4GB or more of RAM. But if your computer isn’t the latest and greatest, using a package which might possibly be eating hundreds of Megabytes of system memory could slow your computer down considerably at inopportune moments. To find out just how much memory gets used by running antivirus software, we’ve decided to gather together a mixture of 25 popular commercial and free antivirus packages to see how they perform.

How We Tested

As you might expect, testing an antivirus product for its memory usage is certainly not an exact science because the program is never standing still and nearly always doing something in the background. A problem with taking memory readings is there are several different numbers you can look at.

The two memory readings we paid most attention to were “Working Set” and “Private Working Set” (WS Private), which do two things:

  • Working Set – This is the amount of memory used by the process PLUS the amount of memory that is shared with other processes. As such, this value isn’t truly accurate because shared memory can be double counted due to the same resource being registered in multiple processes. It does though represent the maximum amount of non virtual memory in use by the process. This is the default memory column in the Windows XP Task Manager.
  • Private Working Set – Is similar to Working Set, but excludes the shared memory. This is only the the amount of memory in use by the process itself and isn’t shared among other processes. Private Working Set is perhaps a more accurate indication of how much physical memory the process itself is using, and is also the default memory column for Task Manager in Windows Vista/7/8.

process explorer working set ws private

We decided to approach this task by gathering memory readings over a period of time. 10 readings were taken for each product at 30 second intervals, totaling 5 minutes of monitoring during idle and another 5 minutes while running a scan. The average score was then taken for each antivirus with all processes created by the application added together. All antivirus software was fully updated before testing using windows 7 32-bit, and the memory readings were taken using Sysinternals Process Explorer.

Below are the results for each antivirus package along with the average Working Set and Private Working Set scores in Kilobytes (KB) while idle and during a scan. The software is in reverse order with the heaviest Private Working Set usage for idle and scan combined listed first, going down to the lowest score and most efficient. If you want to jump straight to the list of results to see how your antivirus got on, they are at the bottom of page 2.

25. ZoneAlarm Free AntiVirus + Firewall

ZoneAlarm memory usage

Number of Processes: 4
Processes Monitored: ISWSVC.exe, vsmon.exe, zatray.exe, ForceField.exe

Idle Working Set (KB): 223,260
Idle Private Working Set (KB): 191,472

Scan Working Set (KB): 287,443
Scan Private Working Set (KB): 226,222

24. Sophos Endpoint Security and Control 10.2

sophos memory usage

Number of Processes: 7
Processes Monitored: swi_service.exe, SavService.exe, SAVAdminService.exe, ALsvc.exe, ALMon.exe, SavProgress.exe, SavMain.exe

Idle Working Set (KB): 216,482
Idle Private Working Set (KB): 192,436

Scan Working Set (KB): 467,817
Scan Private Working Set (KB): 198,452

23. Emsisoft Anti-Malware

Emsisoft Anti-Malware memory usage

Number of Processes: 3
Processes Monitored: a2guard.exe, a2service.exe, a2start.exe

Idle Working Set (KB): 131,158
Idle Private Working Set (KB): 125,337

Scan Working Set (KB): 251,945
Scan Private Working Set (KB): 240,770

22. Quick Heal AntiVirus Pro 2013

quick heal memory

Number of Processes: 8

Idle Working Set (KB): 99,090
Idle Private Working Set (KB): 66,134

Scan Working Set (KB): 273,984
Scan Private Working Set (KB): 227,424

21. McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2013

mcafee antivirus memory usage

Number of Processes: 9
Processes Monitored: McAPExe.exe, mcinfo.exe, mcods.exe, McSACore.exe, mcshield.exe, McSvHost.exe, mcsvrcnt.exe, McUICnt.exe, mfefire.exe

Idle Working Set (KB): 142,375
Idle Private Working Set (KB): 103,518

Scan Working Set (KB): 239,500
Scan Private Working Set (KB): 184,214

20. Ad-Aware Free Antivirus +

ad-aware antivirus memory usage

Number of Processes: 4
Processes Monitored: SBAMSvc.exe, adawarebp.exe, AdAware.exe, AdAwareService.exe

Idle Working Set (KB): 162,540
Idle Private Working Set (KB): 118,728

Scan Working Set (KB): 189,223
Scan Private Working Set (KB): 144,394

19. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

bitdefender free memory usage

Number of Processes: 2
Processes Monitored: gziface.exe, gzserv.exe

Idle Working Set (KB): 115,559
Idle Private Working Set (KB): 91,742

Scan Working Set (KB): 135,836
Scan Private Working Set (KB): 115,795

18. Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus + 6.0.1215

trend micro titanium memory usage

Number of Processes: 6
Processes Monitored: uiWatchDog.exe, uiSeAgnt.exe, coreServiceShell.exe, coreFrameworkHost.exe, AMSP_LogServer.exe, WSCStatusController.exe

Idle Working Set (KB): 102,208
Idle Private Working Set (KB): 72,754

Scan Working Set (KB): 161,926
Scan Private Working Set (KB): 130,022

17. Avira Free Antivirus

Avira Free memory usage

Number of Processes: 6
Processes Monitored: avgnt.exe, avguard.exe, avshadow.exe, avwebgrd.exe, sched.exe, avscan.exe

Idle Working Set (KB): 63,754
Idle Private Working Set (KB): 41,138

Scan Working Set (KB): 199,264
Scan Private Working Set (KB): 157,750

16. VIPRE Antivirus 2013

vipre antivirus memory usage

Number of Processes: 3
Processes Monitored: SBAMSvc.exe, SBAMTray.exe, SBPIMSvc.exe

Idle Working Set (KB): 114,098
Idle Private Working Set (KB): 91,981

Scan Working Set (KB): 134,488
Scan Private Working Set (KB): 104,936

15. NANO Antivirus Free

nano antivirus memory usage

Number of Processes: 2
Processes Monitored: nanosvc.exe, nanoav.exe

Idle Working Set (KB): 176,141
Idle Private Working Set (KB): 53,846

Scan Working Set (KB): 287,284
Scan Private Working Set (KB): 131,201

14. ESET NOD32 Antivirus 6.0.316.0

ESET NOD32 memory usage

Number of Processes: 2
Processes Monitored: egui.exe, ekrn.exe

Idle Working Set (KB): 93,616
Idle Private Working Set (KB): 76,441

Scan Working Set (KB): 103,244
Scan Private Working Set (KB): 82,913

13. Dr.Web Anti-virus

dr.web memory usage

Number of Processes: 6
Processes Monitored: dwarkdaemon.exe, dwengine.exe, dwnetfilter.exe, dwscanner.exe, dwservice.exe, spideragent.exe

Idle Working Set (KB): 92,006
Idle Private Working Set (KB): 66,822

Scan Working Set (KB): 117,973
Scan Private Working Set (KB): 90,430

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