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Trend Micro Antivirus Review

We took Trend Micro antivirus for a test drive to see how it stacked up against better known brands like McAfee, Norton and Bitfefender.
Steve Adams 15+ years experience in the tech, privacy and security space

trend-micro-logo-squareEstablished in 1988 by Steve Chang, Jenny Chang and Eva Chen in Los Angeles, California, Trend Micro has been a mainstay in the AV industry for the past 31 years. The company focuses on cloud security and protection for businesses, boasting an impressive track record.
While its main focus appears to be on larger clients, providing automated cloud protection for GoogleCloud, Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, it also provides some consumer grade protection options.

It repeatedly receives good reviews from industry standard antivirus comparison websites, ranking as a top product in both AV Test and AV Comparatives, both of which this review will consider alongside my own malware tests.

Trend Micro’s use of advanced anti-ransomware AI learning as part of its security protection allows it to achieve an exceptionally high success rate in blocking online threats.

It is used in over 250 million systems worldwide, which is only around half the number of the systems protected by rivals Bitdefender, but is nevertheless impressive. It boasts protection against various types of viral threats.

Trend Micro offers three different cybersecurity solutions for the average consumer, and a wide range for small businesses.

But for the average user, what we want to know is the answer to a simple question: How well does Trend Micro protect vulnerable computer systems?

In this review, I will be considering Trend Micro’s three consumer-grade offerings, as well as a brief examination of its free programs, and looking to see which is the best value plan for the average PC user.

We will also discuss whether Trend Micro stands up well against other industry leaders, and what it does to differentiate itself from them.

To do this, I will focus on several questions:

  • What features do the programs offer?
  • How effective is Trend Micro against malware?
  • How does it affect PC performance?
  • How easy is it to install and access support?
  • Of all its consumer-level plans, which is the best value for money?

I considered all of these factors when deciding if Trend Micro is worth the price of entry.

Before I break down my findings, here is a short summary of what I found about Trend Micro’s antivirus products.

Summary

Pros

  • Highly lauded by independent AV testing sites
  • Low PC performance impact based on our tests
  • Highly advanced AV software with some powerful free tools

Cons

  • Tested poorly against our malware samples relative to peers
  • Full scan lacks certain depth, despite fast runtimes
  • Relatively sparse feature list compared to other suites

What’s new in the latest version of Trend Micro?

Trend Micro updates agents every two hours by default to ensure your device is protected against the latest threats.

For the 2021 version Trend Micro has made banking online safer by improving the Pay Guard feature. This allows you to have more confidence in using your preferred web browser to access online banking.

Another feature that has been updated and improved is the Fraud Buster for Gmail and Outlook webmail. This feature will identify and highlight suspicious emails likely to be related to phishing, scams, and fraud attempts.

What versions of the software are available?

Free Tools

Alongside the three consumer level suites, Trend Micro also offer a few free programs you can use to fight malware.

It has several free tools available to download, including:

  • Crypto Ransomware File Decryptor ToolRansomware is a type of malware that encrypts files, making them unusable. To regain access, victims are asked to pay a ransom. Trend Micro’s decryption tool decrypts certain variants of ransomware, so you don’t have to pay up.
  • Mobile tools –  Trend Micro is available for iOS and Android. These apps provide some protection against phishing and internet-based threats that might compromise your mobile.
  • RootkitBuster – This searches your computer for hidden files, registry entries, processes, drivers, and the Master Boot Record (MBR) to identify and remove rootkits.
  • HouseCall – This tool scans your PC for a wide range of web security threats including viruses, worms, Trojans, and spyware.

Antivirus+ Security

The Antivirus+ Security suite provides some basic level protections on one device.

Included in this subscription is Trend Micro’s AI learning system that adapts to new malware, protects against ransomware, safeguards against phishing emails, and includes Trend Micro’s online banking security system.

Antivirus+ Security protection is only compatible with Windows OS.

Internet Security

Trend Micro Internet Security protects up to three devices against online threats.

Like Antivirus+ Security, Internet Security offers ransomware protection, email security, Trend Micro’s PayGuard, and the AI learning software.

In this pricier tier, the company provides parental controls and safer browsing for children, social media security, and a system optimizer.

Again, this option is only compatible with Windows PC devices.

Maximum Security

The highest price tier in the Trend Micro lineup of consumer products is Maximum Security. It protects up to 10 devices, but is also available at a lower price for three or five devices.

All of the other features from Antivirus+ and Internet Security are included in this product, alongside some other tools.

Some of these tools include a password manager, mobile device cybersecurity, and 24/7 premium support, which is not included in the previous tiers.

Trend Micro Maximum Security is available for Windows, Mac and iOS and Android systems.

Is Trend Micro Antivirus effective against malware?

EICAR Simulation Results

The most important question to any antivirus review is: “how effectively can the software defend me against threats to my cyber security?”

These threats include malware, viruses, trojans and worms, and you want a program that can quickly and effectively halt any of these attacks.

To test Trend Micro, I will first look at how the software performs against several malware sample files from the European Institute for Computer Anti-Virus Research. There are four of these sample files, designed to simulate various different malware threats.

We are looking to see if the programs detect and block the samples, and how they do that. The program will also be put up against some live malware samples, including adware and trojan attacks.

Trend Micro’s results can be found in the table below:

Test FileEicar Sample 1Eicar Sample 2Eicar Sample 3Eicar Sample 4
Trend MicroBlockedAllowedAllowedAllowed

What this table means is that Trend Micro managed to block the first sample, a standard EICAR test file, straight from their website with its real-time scan.

Trend Micro Virus effectiveness

The real-time scanning protection of Trend Micro’s suite failed to detect and block the other three EICAR sample files. These other files were samples replicating harmful malware hidden in ZIP folders, which could demonstrate that the real time scans from Trend Micros AV software does not do enough to check incoming files compressed in this way.

It is worth noting that with the full scan, Trend Micro did manage to detect and remove more of the EICAR samples than its real-time operations.

Live Malware Samples

I also tested the software against some live malware files, to see how the software performed against it in real time.

Though it didn’t detect and block the downloads of potentially harmful sample ZIP files, it was able to very successfully block the running of actual malware samples in real time.

This table breaks down its success against the different types of malware that were downloaded:

Test FileLive Sample 1 (Adware)Live Sample 2 (Trojan)Live Sample 3 (Trojan)
Trend MicroBlockedBlockedBlocked

This live malware test puts the program up against three different types of cyber security threat, an Adware program and two different Trojans.

Adware infects your PC with revenue generating adverts, whereas the more sinister Trojans can be utilized to lock elements of your PC behind ransomware, or steal important personal information. Trojans are typically used to download more malware from the internet.

It is useful to note that alongside this success rate at blocking these actual malware files, Trend Micro provides free tools outside of their suites solely dedicated to removing and dealing with the kind of threats seen in the last two live samples here.

AV-Comparatives Results

An industry-standard comparison website for AV software is AV-Comparatives. It provides a number of tests to investigate how effective an antivirus suite is at blocking threats to your PC.

To add to my own tests, I will now turn to these industry-standard independent benchmark results. AV-Comparatives is a leader in these tests. It has two testing styles of particular note.

The Malware Protection Test examines how the programs deal with virus samples coming from network drivers and plugged in from USBs. The Real World Protection Test checks how the programs cope with threats from the internet, testing the efficacy of the entire suite, not just the AV tools.

When put to the May 2020 Real World Protection Test, Trend Micro scored a very impressive 100% success rate, identifying and blocking all 754 cases. This places it at the very top of the upper protection rate cluster.

But rather than awarding the maximum three stars for this performance, AV-Comparatives knocked it down to a two-star rating due to a larger number of false alarms compared to some of the other antivirus products tested.

When put to AV-Comparatives’ Malware Test, Trend Micro scored 99.2%- placing it in the lowest-scoring cluster among those tested. The malware compromised a system on 82 occasions compared to the 10167 cases it blocked. This showed it to be 82 times less effective than top-scoring products like F7 and Total Defense.

Overall, AV-Comparatives considers Trend Micro to be of a lower tier of the consumer-grade products it tested, awarding it two stars in the Real World tests but no stars in the Malware protection test.

From these tests, alongside my own EICAR sample checks, I started to see a trend of a large cloud protection company providing consumer-grade tools that do not quite measure up to industry peers.

AV-Test Results

With a different set of parameters, such as the ones AV-Test provides, Trend Micro fares a lot better.

AV-Test ranks Trend Micro as one of the “top products” that it has tested as of its March/April 2020 tests.

In the site’s Real World Protection test, the process is a similar methodology to my EICAR and Live Sample investigation, but involves a deeper monitoring of how the program is operating. This is how it works:

  1. The products are updated and have complete Internet access at all times.
  2. An AV-TEST analysis program maps the non-infected system as a control.
  3. A site or email infected with malware code is then called up.
  4. If an AV program indicates and blocks dangerous access attempts, this is documented. In the process, every security function is covered, not just noting the attempts to block. For example, the test notes if:
    1. Access to the URL is blocked.
    2. The exploit on the website is identified and blocked.
    3. Download of malicious components is blocked.
    4. Use of malicious components is blocked.
  5. As the detection of malicious components or actions is not necessarily the same as successful blocking of malware, all operations are monitored at all times on the test system. This allows AV-Test to decide whether attacks are blocked completely, partly, or not at all.

Against their Real World Protection tests, Trend Micro blocked 100% of threats in real time, a similar result as seen on AV-Comparatives.

AV-Test also put products up against extensive samples of brand new malware, as recent as four weeks from the date of the test. When faced with 20,236 discrete recent AV samples, Trend Micro blocked every single one – perhaps pointing to the strength of its adaptive machine-learning based protection strategies.

It also performed well against Zero-Day Malware attacks, performing several percent better than the industry standard when placed in front of 304 sample files – maintaining a 100% success rate.

What are zero day attacks?

‘Zero-day’ attacks target vulnerabilities in Windows that are yet to be protected against, which makes them the ideal place for hackers to lurk. These attacks are known to take up to five days for even the experts to fix – meaning it is essential to have a system that is prepared for these kinds of invasions.

Trend Micro’s above-par performance on these tests means that its claims of advanced adaptability are not unfounded, and that it is well placed to protect your device from the most up to date threats.

What other special features are offered?

Trend Micro Payguard

Trend Micro™ Pay Guard™ lets you access your banking or shopping websites securely using your default browser. When you install Trend Micro Security 2020, it automatically creates a desktop shortcut icon that calls your default browser and enables the security needed for banking and shopping online.

Rather than using its own custom client, and get sullied with the potential exploits that can entail (as detailed in this analysis of a similar Bitdefender tool here), Micro Payguard works as an extra measure to secure your regular browser when making transactions.

Machine Learning Malware Defense

What is machine learning? It is a concept that has recently come into vogue in a lot of tech discussion of recent years, especially within antivirus discourse.

The central idea is that a computer can continue to curate and expand its own knowledge without direct human oversight. Like how we as people learn through experience, computer algorithms can iterate upon themselves, making themselves more effective at solving the problems we set them.

Trend Micro’s own definition page portrays machine learning in the following way.

“Machine learning proves to be useful especially in today’s big data world. We come into contact with machine learning on a daily basis. It supports technologies such as identifying voice commands on our phones, recommending which songs to listen to on Spotify or which items to purchase next on Amazon, and even determining the fastest way to reach your destination on Waze, to name a few.”

Trend Micro’s Antivirus software uses this principle to keep itself on top of the most advanced threats to your cybersecurity. While for some it may be a relatively new phenomenon, Trend Micro has been researching and incorporating machine learning protocols in their research and antivirus software for the past ten years.

What this allows the company to do, when it layers machine learning protocols with app behavioral monitoring and other antivirus features, is to detect zero-day threats and brand new malware attack strategies before other software.

What is Trend Micro’s impact on performance?

Impact on PC performance

To assess how much the antivirus program affected PC performance, I ran each scan and recorded how long it took. As a control, I also recorded the percentage of my CPU and Memory that was being used just before I ran the scans.

For the full scan, I noted its length and how many items were scanned in that time. For the quick scan, I also recorded how much of the CPU disk each process utilized in the time of the scan.

Test TypeFull Scan Disk Utilization (MB/s)Full Scan Time (minutes)Full Scan # Items ScannedQuick Scan CPU Utilization %Quick Scan Disk Utilization %Quick Scan Time (seconds)
TrendMicro101106670007221020

Quick Scan

Shown here is the performance impact of the quick scan relative to the control. As we can see, the CPU usage was around 13% more under the quick scan, with next to no impact on the memory utilization.

Test TypeControl CPU Utilization % (no scan)Control Memory Utilization % (no scan)Quick Scan CPU Utilization %Quick Scan Memory Utilization %Quick Scan Time (Seconds)
TrendMicro597172711020

However, despite a minimal performance impact, the quick scan time of Trend Micro’s software is significantly longer than some of the other quick scans of competitor software. Although the performance compromise from this software is minimal, it does go on much longer than some of its industry peers.

Test TypeQuick Scan Time (seconds)
Kaspersky273
Norton171
ESETN/A
Bitdefender338
Avast146
McAfee633
TrendMicro1020

Full Scan

Trend Micro effectiveness

Having established what a full scan entails, here is how the feature impacted my computer’s performance. As can be observed, the performance impact is fairly similar to that of the quick scans – quite minimal.

Test TypeControl CPU Utilization % (no scan)Control Memory Utilization % (no scan)Full Scan CPU Utilization %Full Scan Memory Utilization %
TrendMicro59717763

The following table shows us how many different items the full scan was able to bring under examination in the time it ran for. As we can see, the full scan only had to run for 110 minutes, significantly less than the several hours taken by McAfee or Kaspersky in my tests.

Test TypeFull Scan Time (minutes)Full Scan # Items Scanned
TrendMicro110667000

This would imply that the product’s full scan, as well as having a very minimal system impact, will have this impact for a much shorter amount of time. In this time, Trend Micro only manages to achieve a relatively shallow scan compared to some of its competitors.

When I compare it to a scan completed in exactly the same time by another industry leader Bitdefender, a stark contrast can be seen.

Test TypeFull Scan Time (minutes)Full Scan # Items Scanned
Bitdefender1104200000

Bitdefender managed to scan 3,533,000 more items in the 110 minutes that Trend Micro also took to complete. So despite the fact that the AV suite’s full scan is not particularly resource-intensive for an operating PC, it is also not particularly deep in scope.

Is the interface easy to use?

Trenmicro UI

The above picture demonstrates one of the benefits of a slightly reduced feature list.

There is no unnecessary clutter, with each feature neatly compartmentalized into visually distinct icons.

A clear and distinct layout in this UI makes it very simple to navigate, with the scan icon and various options located in the dead center of the screen.

When you click on the feature icons, this is what you see.

The UI for the Privacy and Data folders within the Trend Micro app.

These screencaps may not have the most aesthetically pleasing layouts, but they are not at all cluttered or poorly organized – letting you know exactly where your defensive tools are.

Trend Micro’s customer support

Trend Micro has several avenues of customer outreach available on their website. It offers a help site, which has many different FAQs, options to search their support databases, and different directories based on what product you own.

A screenshot from Trend Micro’s support page from their Maximum Security help directory.

It should be noted that premium 24/7 coverage is not included for all customers of Trend Micro, only for owners of their Maximum Security product.

Compatibility

Antivirus+ Security

Operating SystemCPUMemoryDisk Space
Windows® 10 (Windows® 10 S and ARM Processors not supported)1GHz1GB / 2GB recommended (32-bit)
2GB (64-bit)
1.3GB
(1.5GB recommended)
Windows® 8.1 Family (32 or 64-bit)1GHz1GB / 2GB recommended (32-bit)
2GB (64-bit)
1.3GB
(1.5GB recommended)
Windows® 7 Family (32 or 64-bit)
Service Pack 1
800Hz (1GHz recommended)1GB (32-bit)
2GB (64-bit)
1.3GB
(1.5GB recommended)

Internet Security

Operating SystemCPUMemoryDisk Space
Windows® 10 (Windows® 10 S and ARM Processors not supported)1GHz1GB / 2GB recommended (32-bit)
2GB (64-bit)
1.3GB
(1.5GB recommended)
Windows® 8.1 Family (32 or 64-bit)1GHz1GB / 2GB recommended (32-bit)
2GB (64-bit)
1.3GB
(1.5GB recommended)
Windows® 7 Family (32 or 64-bit)
Service Pack 1
800Hz (1GHz recommended)1GB (32-bit)
2GB (64-bit)
1.3GB
(1.5GB recommended)

Maximum Security

Operating SystemCPUMemoryDisk Space
Windows® 10 (Windows® 10 S and ARM Processors not supported)1GHz1GB / 2GB recommended (32-bit)
2GB (64-bit)
1.3GB
(1.5GB recommended)
Windows® 8.1 Family (32 or 64-bit)1GHz1GB / 2GB recommended (32-bit)
2GB (64-bit)
1.3GB
(1.5GB recommended)
Windows® 7 Family (32 or 64-bit)
Service Pack 1
800Hz (1GHz recommended)1GB (32-bit)
2GB (64-bit)
1.3GB
(1.5GB recommended)

Other OS Compatibility

Windows Operating SystemsMicrosoft® Windows® 7 (all versions) with Service Pack 1 (SP 1) or later
Microsoft® Windows® 8.1 (all versions).
Microsoft® Windows® 10 (Microsoft® 10 S and ARM Processors only supported by Trend Micro Security on Microsoft Store)
Mac Operating SystemsApple® macOS 10.12 to 10.14 or higher
Android Operating SystemsAndroid 4.1 or later.
iOS Operating SystemsiOS 9 or later. 64-bit device required for latest version.

TrendMicro pricing

Antivirus+ Security

Antivirus+ Security retails on Trend Micro’s site for $39.95 for the first year. It comes with a $10 first year discount, being sold for $29.95 on its site at the time of writing. This provides coverage for one Windows device.

Internet Security

The next tier of product is sold for $39.95 at the time of writing, at a discount from $79.95 for a yearly subscription. This protects up to three devices.

Maximum Security

Maximum Security for five devices is available at a discount that puts its first year at $39.95. That’s a discount from $89.95, which you will pay if you want to continue using Maximum Security beyond the first year introductory offer. This antivirus suite allows protection for Microsoft Windows OS, MacOS, and mobile systems.

Best Alternatives to Trend Micro

Trend Micro scores well in antivirus protection and on its cost thanks to the current discounts available on its packages. Are there any other providers that are a good alternative? Check out the antivirus solutions below and compare them with Trend Micro.

AVG: AVG is best known for its free antivirus products and coverage for mobile devices. It offers a good antivirus for PCs and includes useful tools like a data shredder, webcam protection, and password protection.

Bitdefender: Bitdefender offers a ton of security features and extra privacy tools. It will help to protect your personal data and it produces no major impact on your device’s performance while the antivirus is running.

McAfee: Mcafee is one of the best-known antivirus brands in the world. It offers useful system optimization tools, a file shredder, good malware protection scores, plus a very low number of false alarms.

Antivirus Testing Methodology

We’ve structured our antivirus testing methodology to provide reliable data on how effective the software is at malware protection and performance.

Our testing process includes:

  • Using malware test samples from EICAR
  • Testing live malware samples including Adware and Trojans
  • Comparing our own tests with independent antivirus lab test results

In addition, we measure a number of PC performance metrics and analyze pricing, ease of use, compatibility, and additional features.

If you’d like to know more about how we analyze antivirus software, we have a dedicated post on our antivirus research and testing methodology.

Verdict

In this review, I have found that while Trend Micro is an industry mainstay for big business, its feature lists and performance are not wholly competitive with others in the consumer-grade antivirus field. There are certainly some positives with Trend Micro, as found by AV-Test and in the way it treats zero-day attacks with its flexible and adaptive AV tech.

Despite this, its feature list on the lower tiers is bit lacking, so the choice of Trend Micro plans would be the Maximum Security option.

If you are swayed by the advanced modes of malware protection it offers, you can get started with the program discounted significantly for the first year, and it allows coverage for non-Windows operating systems. This tier of anti-malware protection is also the only one that provides 24/7 premium customer support, which is important for those worried about their cybersecurity.

See also: