As we are all aware it’s thought to be a free world out there. Free maps on your phone, free navigation on your tablet, free calls over WIFI, free email, free apps for smartphones — but should you trust a free Anti-Virus program?
It’s to be noted that all Windows users need some gauge of security is needed on every computer. Malware, Trojans, keyloggers and viruses are daily nuisances together with been a constant threat.
Theft Protection Software
Antivirus software organisations have certainly benefited from this fact, but there are also plenty of free options, including free basic programs from the same developers that also offer for-pay packages.
Available for free are some firm and reputable antivirus programs for Windows machines. Avast Free Antivirus, Avira Free Antivirus, AVG Antivirus Free, Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition and Norman Malware Cleaner are just a few.
Microsoft itself even offers Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows Vista and Windows 7 (not on XP). Like the rest, it will scan your system for bad actors and keep a constant vigil on downloaded files. (On Windows 8, it’s rebranded as Windows Defender and built into the system.)
There are many more paid anti-virus programs from such well-known names as Bitdefender, McAfee, Norton/Symantec and Kaspersky Lab. Paid programs generally offer a slew of additional features, which can be helpful or overkill, depending on what kind of computer owner you are — cautious or geeky.
The same, but different
In terms of basic performance in catching infections, anecdotal testing shows that the free and for-pay products were about the same. Some were faster than others, but more expensive software wasn’t as a rule faster than the free options.
The only noticeable difference between the gratis and the paid programs was when it came to detecting some new threats, such as a website laced with newly created malware. Paid products, with their more elaborate system behaviour monitors, are more likely to pick those up and to warn you about other possible dangers.
Some users have complained about seeing more false warnings from free programs. There’s a work-around for this, also free.
When a suspicious file is tagged and you’re not sure if it’s safe to delete it, you can upload it to Virus Total ), which will submit the suspect to scores of antivirus-engine interrogations and present you with results.
The primary differences between the free and pay products come down to features – some of which can be extremely important – and ease of use.
Free programs generally offer no telephone technical support. This can be a deal-breaker for any small business, or a family with multiple computer users.
Free programs don’t, as a rule, offer parental controls that can keep kids off inappropriate sites or warn them about cyberstalking and bullying.
Free programs often also include advertising. This can be negligible, but ceaseless pop-up boxes pestering you to sign up for the paid version of whatever you’re using can be quite distracting.
In the you-get-what-you-pay-for category, the paid programs are usually easier to install and run, and have fewer conflicts with other applications.
You’ll also find that should you lock down your system too tightly, it’s easier with paid programs to select specific features and shut them off, or set rules and behavioural exceptions.
The primary differences between free and paid anti-virus software, however, involve the additional features you get when you pay for a one-year license.
There are the aforesaid parental controls, but you’ll also find more elaborate firewalls to prevent intrusions, and performance and conflict scans for Windows PCs. The paid programs also look for suspicious behaviour, such as a program attempting to access files it shouldn’t.
In addition, McAfee’s makers point out that most free programs do not rate or assess the legitimacy of websites or warn about the latest phishing scams.
So..who needs what?
If you have a small business, a complete suite is a better alternative. Technical support will prove essential should an employee or virus bring down your computers. Furthermore, features that allow you to block certain types of sites can keep employees from straying to begin with.
Parents may also consider buying a full-fledged program. Not only can the additional controls be helpful, but the additional warnings about phishing can educate younger users. There are also home networking features, offered by the likes of McAfee that can prevent freeloaders from using the family Wi-Fi.
For the rest of us, many of the free packages are sufficient. They are usually kept up to date with the latest virus signatures for scanning and monitoring, and their malware-scanning performance is similar to their more expensive counterparts.
The mere fact that you are diligent enough to download and install a free antivirus application means that you’re also probably more careful than most people online and may not need the added protection a £25 or £40 program affords.
You aren’t likely to open links in strange emails or fall for false ads on malicious websites. In other words, you’re not in much danger to begin with.
One last issue to consider, though, is that while you can often add other free software to cover other issues that paid antivirus software offers, such as parental controls, or use those that are built into some browsers, mixing and matching can quickly get complicated.
Whenever there’s a battle with another program or a warning about a possible security threat, it can be difficult to tell which of several products you may be using is causing the problem. Does a setting in the free Windows firewall protection need to be reset, or is there another program blocking the software you want to access on the Web?
Finally, if you do go the free route, don’t just click on the first “free antivirus program” button you see, whether it’s a pop-up ad or the result of a Google search. Those are often malicious programs looking to infect a PC. Stic