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Today’s market is flooded with antivirus programs, and you definitely still need one. But which one? There are so many to choose from, and many of them are even free. But can you trust a free program to give you the protection you need?
It’s not that free antivirus programs are bad. They’re typically just simplified versions of fancier premium suites that come with a lot more bells and whistles. So it’s not a question of whether a free program is good or bad, but whether you want or need all the extra features that come with a paid antivirus program.
Free Antivirus Can Offer Basic Protection
Free antivirus programs are typically offered by the same developers that make paid versions. They also typically use the same detection engines as their premium counterparts. So you can expect basic protection from viruses and malware when you use a free antivirus.
Any free antivirus tool should be able to detect and remove malware, stop new infections in real time, protect you from spam and phishing emails, and help you protect your most important documents and files. You should also be able to find a free antivirus program that can detect when someone is using your connection.
You’ll probably be alright just using a free antivirus program if you’re pretty web-savvy and know how to avoid malware, viruses, and scams on the internet. Some free antivirus programs contain advertising, and some may try to change the default search engine in your browser or send you to a different home page. You can also get false alerts from free programs.
There’s also no live customer support available with free programs. If you’re good enough with technology to manage navigating a program on your own and using it to detect and remove malware and protect yourself, then that might be fine for you. If you’re a small business, or a not-very-internet-savvy private individual, you’ll probably need that live support. However, many free programs allow you to upgrade to a premium version at any time, so if you decide the free version isn’t for you, you can get a more robust version of your program with more features and more support. You can even get a free trial of the paid version of many apps, like Trend Micro Security.
A Paid Antivirus Is Better If You Want Lots of Features
If you’re not that web-savvy or you have others in your family who aren’t that web-savvy, you might want to use a paid antivirus suite. Using a paid antivirus offers an extra layer of protection for yours and your family’s online activities. A good paid antivirus will protect you from webcam hacks, for example, so you don’t have to worry about keeping a piece of masking tape over your camera lens.
A premium antivirus suite can also monitor your system for backdoor access points, and keep them closed so that hackers can’t get in. Hackers can gain remote access to your system, take control of it, and install whatever ransomware or malware they want. They can steal all your personal data while they’re in there, too.
If you have files that you need to make sure are permanently deleted, a paid antivirus suite should come with a “shredding” feature to help you permanently destroy them. You should be able to sandbox new apps so you can make sure they aren’t malicious before you let them loose on your system. Premiums security software should also update your other apps to ensure you’re not vulnerable to hackers trying to exploit known vulnerabilities.
Paid antivirus software is also a better choice if you have a family. They typically come with robust parental controls that allow you to protect your children from the seedier side of the internet. Many paid programs allow you to use the software on multiple devices, so you can protect up to 10 devices in your home. Most paid suites also provide stronger firewalls to keep suspicious code from accessing your network, and some even offer identity protection. And, of course, there’s a support agent to call if something goes wrong and you get a malware infection or your identity gets stolen.
Free and antivirus programs can both be useful, it just depends what you need from an antivirus program. If you want a lot of features, or if you need additional support, you should get a paid antivirus program. If you just want basic protection that you can troubleshoot and use on your own, you might be fine with a free program – but you can always change your mind.