Is antivirus software worth paying for? – Geek Review


With device-destroying malware making headlines every few months, a few dollars for the software you need to protect your PC might seem like a price worth paying. But that money may not give you the extra protection you think.

Many free options are available, and some come with your PC. We’ll look at the differences – or lack thereof – between basic free and paid software, as well as the additional features offered by premium software.

It should be noted that the following article contains advice for people using Windows computers. If your machine is running macOS or Linux, this probably doesn’t apply to you, although there are options for those who want them. If you are a business owner, your risks and requirements are very different from those of someone with a home PC, as are the consequences of choosing the wrong antivirus software.

Businesses tend to process sensitive financial information about themselves and their customers. They may also have design documents or other files that they cannot afford to lose. For hackers, this makes companies worthy of being individually targeted. So again, find a program specific to your situation.

Windows Defender may be enough

The Windows Defender menu

If you’re using a Windows PC, it’s protected by default with Windows Defender. Although quite basic, the software does a solid job of protecting your PC from malware. It automatically scans your PC for malicious code or suspicious program activity, then addresses any issues it identifies using cloud-based backups to repair damaged files. When it comes to stopping things from entering your PC in the first place, Microsoft’s program will automatically scan anything you plug into a USB drive and attempt to block any suspicious installs or downloads.

Microsoft also emphasizes security and defense packages against the latest malware threats with every update. If something nasty makes the rounds online, Microsoft will most likely push out an update to protect your PC as quickly as any major antivirus company.

Defender also has an advantage over other antivirus programs, it doesn’t take much to work. I’ve lost count of how many times my PC or laptop fans started cranking because Avast decided to update, run a random scan, or use an extra 20% of my processor because Windows is updating.

Windows Defender releases scores on par with many other free and paid antivirus programs in laboratory tests. Defender had a pretty bad reputation, but the software’s scores have improved dramatically in recent years.

So what are the disadvantages of Windows Defender? Its simple nature means you can’t schedule scans and have to manually choose to run one instead, which you can forget to do as often as you should. You will also miss features such as sandboxing– which lets you test programs you’re unsure of, as well as VPNs, password encryption, and various other tools that help you stay safe online.

None of these features are life-saving, they simply reduce the chances of you installing malware in the first place and can reduce the effectiveness of any malware that enters your PC.

Windows Defender also limits malicious site blocking to Microsoft’s own browser, Edge, leaving you to rely solely on your browser if you’re using a different one. This is in contrast to something like Avast, which will scan everything you click on and intervene if you’re about to visit a site or program that could harm your computer.

Lots of free software available

Sharaf Maksumov/

Avast, AVERAGEand Kaspersky are the big names in the “free” antivirus world. They will all offer solid protection with more features and a more intuitive user interface than Windows Defender.

Basic features (like anti-phishing, anti-malware, and firewall protection) will be comparable to all paid options. They will also have you covered regardless of your browser preference. You can also use free software to automate much of your protection. If your Sunday mornings consist of light browsing and you think now is the perfect time to scan your PC, you can schedule a recurring full scan to run automatically every Sunday morning and get on with your life. The startup scan is also a useful feature that allows your PC to remove deeply embedded malware without much trouble.

You can also download several programs and assemble many paid features for free, such as sandboxing. However, if they are all configured to run when your PC starts, a separate antivirus, firewall, specialized anti-malware, specialized anti-spyware, sandbox, drive cleaner, etc. . all together can significantly slow down your computer, which is a significant trade-off.

The downside is that businesses have to make money. Your “free” antivirus will spend a lot of its time trying to sell you premium features. Selling techniques will include free trials and deep discounts, constant pop-ups, and running premium scans before telling you that the fix requires a premium subscription. Depending on who you are, the upsell can be a minor annoyance that you can ignore or a deal breaker that forces you to uninstall the software.

No matter how sleek your program is, it will have a more noticeable impact on system usage than Windows Defender, since they are not made by the same manufacturer. High-end PC users won’t notice much of a difference in system performance, but if you continue with a mid-range laptop from a few years ago, intensive processes like virus scans and updates updates can potentially ruin your day.

Paying gives you more features, but not much more protection

Hands holding credit card and using laptop.  Shopping online
Ivan Kruk/

As mentioned earlier, there is no real difference between the basic programs of free and paid antivirus software. At best, opening your wallet gives you a few more software options, including BitDefender, Nortonand McAfeewhich are three of the most well-known paid antivirus programs.

If you’ve purchased a computer before, you may have come across advertisements for McAfee or Norton – free trials of their programs are often included with pre-built devices. BitDefender, which has received a lot of praise software reviewers, recently dropped their free version and moved to a subscription-only service.

There is no noticeable difference between the level of protection offered by free antivirus software versus premium antivirus software. In most cases, you’re paying for the extra features, not the extra protection.

When it comes to scanning, detecting, and removing threats, any free or paid options will do the same job. Some of the additional features like password generation, sandboxing, VPNs, etc. can make you more secure, and having them all handled by one program puts less load on your PC. But these features may not be something you will use. Sandbox can be an incredibly useful tool for keeping your PC secure because it allows you to install and run programs in a fenced area of ​​your computer while you test them. However, if you’re the type of person who never installs programs you don’t fully trust, you don’t need a sandboxing program.

So what do you need?

Focused young person wearing glasses using laptop, typing on keyboard, writing email or message, chatting, shopping, successful freelancer working online on computer, sitting in modern kitchen

How you use your computer determines the level of protection you need. Suppose you are obviously careful when clicking on links and opening emails, and your browsing activity is limited to trusted sites. In this case, you will be fine with Windows Defender only. If your online education consists of illegal streams and any other caution, you could probably benefit from a little more protection. And if you’re somewhere in between (not too careful about what you click on but don’t spend time on sites that make a living from illegal activity), you should probably at least consider increasing your level of protection.

When it comes to basic antivirus programs, the free options are just as well supported as the paid options. Spending the money gets you a few extra programs you might not need and doesn’t change the level of virus protection the software gives you. The other advantage of free programs is that you can try them and give them up without asking for a refund or suffering any financial loss. If you want essential protection, most free programs will give it to you without asking for your credit card details. Plus, with free software, you won’t sign up for a free trial and then forget to cancel.

There are different levels of protection available, and at an average of around $40 per year, paid software might seem like a bargain. But you pay for the features, and if you want virus protection, it’s easy to meet your needs for free.

Considering the number of high quality free options available, I don’t think antivirus software is worth paying for. The features offered by paid software can be useful but not worth it for most people whose browsing activity is limited to social media, legal streaming services and trusted websites.

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