Should You Pay for Antivirus Software?

Paid antivirus products, with their elaborate system behavior monitors, are more inclined to pick up on new dangers. That is the difference.

It is a free world out there. Free maps, free navigation, free calls on the Internet, free email, free programs for smartphones — but if you trust your digital security to a free app?

For Windows users, some degree of security is necessary on every computer. Malware, botnets, keyloggers, and viruses are daily nuisances and continuous threats, and that is why you will need the best antivirus software you can get.

Antivirus software companies have certainly profited from this truth, but there are also plenty of free alternatives, including free essential programs from the same developers that also provide for-pay packages.


The same, but different

Concerning fundamental performance in catching infections, anecdotal testing proves that the free and for-pay goods were about the same. Some were quicker than others, but more expensive software was not, usually, faster than the free choices.

The only noticeable difference between the gratis and the paid programs was as it came to discovering some new threats, including a website laced with recently created malware. Paid goods, with their elaborate system-behavior monitors, are more inclined to pick up those and also to warn you about other potential dangers.

Some users have complained about seeing more false warnings from free apps. There is a work-around for this, also free. When a suspicious file is tagged and you are unsure whether it’s safe to delete it.

The principal differences between the free and cover products come down to features — some of which may be extremely significant — and simplicity of use.

Free programs generally provide no telephone technical assistance. This may be a deal-breaker for any small business or a household with multiple computer users. Free programs do not, usually, provide parental controls that can keep children off inappropriate websites or warn them about cyberstalking and bullying.

Free programs often also have advertising. This may be negligible, but ceaseless pop-up boxes allow you to register for the paid version of whatever you are using can be rather distracting. Some free programs now attempt to change your web browser’s home page and default search engine, which annoys us considerably.

From the you-get-what-you-pay-for class, the paid programs are usually easier to set up and operate and have fewer conflicts with other programs. You will also find that if you lock down your system too closely, it is easier with paid programs to choose certain attributes and shut them off or to set rules and behavioral exceptions.

The principal differences between paid and free anti-virus applications, however, involve the extra features you get when you pay for a one-year license. You will find the above parental controls, but you will also find more elaborate firewalls to prevent intrusions, and functionality and battle scan for Windows PCs. The paid programs also search for suspicious behavior, including a program trying to access files it should not.

Moreover, McAfee’s manufacturers point out that many free programs don’t rate or assess the validity of sites or warn about the latest phishing scams.

Who needs what?

For those who have a small business, an entire suite is a much better alternative. Technical support will prove crucial should a worker or virus bring down your computers. Furthermore, features that enable you to block certain kinds of sites are able to keep workers from straying, to start with.

Parents may also consider purchasing a full-fledged program. Not only can the extra controls be useful, but the extra warnings about phishing can instruct younger users. Additionally, there are home-networking attributes, offered by the likes of McAfee, that could prevent freeloaders from using the household Wi-Fi.

For the rest of us, one of the better free bundles, for example, Avira Free Antivirus, may be adequate. They are normally kept up-to-date with the most recent virus signatures for monitoring and scanning, and their malware-scanning functionality is similar to their more expensive counterparts.

If you’re diligent enough to download and install one of the best free antivirus apps, then you want to be more cautious than many people when you are online. You might not need the additional protection a $50 or $80 program affords but also needs to be the sort of person who is not likely to open links in odd emails or fall for bogus advertisements on malicious sites. To put it differently, you should not be in much danger, to start with.

1 final issue to think about, however, is that while you can often add other free applications to cover different issues that paid antivirus software provides, such as parental controls, or use the ones that are built into some browsers, mixing and matching can easily get complex.

Whenever there is a conflict with another program or a warning regarding a potential security hazard, it can be tricky to tell which of many products you might be using is causing the issue. Does a setting in the free Windows firewall security have to be reset, or is there another program blocking the applications you would like to access on the net?

Ultimately, should you go the free route, do not simply click on the first “free antivirus program” button that you see, while it is a pop-up advertisement or the result of a Google search. Those are often malicious software seeking to infect a PC. Stick with one of the programs discussed in this story.