An antivirus detects, prevents, and takes important action against any malicious software detected on your computer. These include viruses, spyware, malware, ransomware & more. Antivirus is essential to protect data and computer systems from getting corrupted due to malware attacks & ensure no sensitive data leaks occur.
According to Statista, in the United States, only 89% of desktop users & 80% of laptop users have antivirus software installed on their systems. Apart from that, only 49% of smartphones and 50% of tablets have antivirus protection.
However, every day, at least 350,000 new malicious programs are detected globally & this number is only increasing each day. With such threats looming around, not using a good antivirus can be disastrous.
What to Look For in an Antivirus?
Below mentioned are some factors that you need to consider before buying antivirus for your devices.
Even though your antivirus will protect you in the background most of the time, you want to make sure that it is easy to set up & use. A rule of thumb is that you are always only a couple of clicks away from taking any necessary action.
2. Real-Time Protection
What separates a good antivirus from the others is the real-time protection feature. Malware attacks are always operational behind the scenes without your knowledge. It would be best if you always preferred an antivirus that detects & eliminates threats in real-time by continuously scanning for them even in the background.
3. 24×7 Customer Support
Malware attacks always require urgent and immediate action. If your system is under attack and requires vital support, your antivirus support team should be prompt to reply to you. Ideally, they should always be just a click, call or email away from you, day or night! Make sure you choose an antivirus that meets this crucial parameter.
4. Best Protection Features
It would help if you always went for an antivirus that packs in the latest & best features available on the market. It will ensure you are protected against every possible type of new or old threat. Some of the best protection features you should look for in an antivirus are:
- Protection beyond viruses: A good antivirus will protect you beyond only viruses. It will protect you from all kinds of threats like malware, ransomware, spyware & more.
- Additional services: Services that protect your privacy like VPN or webcam protection.
- Automatic updates: Automatic updates mean that your antivirus always has the latest virus definitions for early detection of threats.
- Multiple device protection: With the increasing dependence and interconnectivity of multiple devices, every device you use must be equally protected against threats.
Budget will mostly be a crucial part of your decision-making process when shopping for an antivirus. When looking around, you will find both free as well as paid packages.
At the foremost, not having an antivirus is never an option. Either you go for a free or paid antivirus, but never use any of your devices without an antivirus. Both of them have their respective pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look & help you decide which one suits your needs better?
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Free Antivirus: What Do You Get?
1. Minimal Protection & Features
Some free antivirus programs offer excellent malware protection. Software like Windows Defender, Avira, Avast & Bitdefender provides a perfect set of basic threat protection. However, all free antivirus packages will always have a limited set of features. You will have to upgrade to a paid subscription in case you wanted to extend these features.
An exception is the Avast Free Antivirus that offers free VPN services and password management in addition to real-time malware protection. Another significant limitation is that free antivirus packages usually only protect a single device & not multiple systems.
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2. Limited Support
Apart from some exceptions like Avast Free Antivirus, most free antivirus packages will have minimal to no support options. You would mostly rely upon public forums & FAQ sections on their websites for support. Avast, on the other hand, also provides email support even for their free products.
3. Annoying In-App Ads
Developing any product or service requires a lot of resources. Any organization will eventually like to monetize that service for staying up-float. It is done either upfront by selling the service to interested users or sharing your data with third-party advertisers that serve you ads. Free antivirus packages usually will have many ads pop up from your notification panel or embedded in their frontend interface.
Paid Antivirus: What Do You Get?
1. Advanced Protection & Features
Paid antivirus packages are loaded with premium features as compared to their free versions. Some of the standard premium features are Anti-ransomware, parental controls, VPN service, a password manager & safe banking & shopping features.
Suppose you have a family in which everyone uses multiple devices. In that case, it’s highly recommended you go with paid subscriptions as you can use the in-built parental control feature to your full advantage.
2. Multiple Devices Protection
As we discussed above, paid plans enable you to protect multiple devices in a single subscription. Moreover, with paid plans, you get to control & monitor all the devices from a single dashboard
3. Priority Support
Paid subscribers have prompt support options for the products they use. Most of the common premium support options are email, live chat & support over the telephone.
4. Free Trial or Money Back Guarantee
Almost all paid subscription plans will offer a fully functional free trial or a money-back guarantee on their products. It lets you get a taste of their features and services & helps you in deciding if the antivirus is actually worth your spend.
Popular paid antivirus software like Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Norton offer fully functional free trials. If budget is a matter of concern, then spend some time researching the best available online prices. For instance, if Bitdefender is your preferred antivirus, you can always check the latest Bitdefender Total Security discounts and get the best prices throughout the year.
Free Antivirus: When to Go for It?
1. Budget Constraint
a) If you’re on a tight budget, free antivirus is always the first option. But make sure you do extensive research on it before taking a final call.
b) If you wish to rely on a free antivirus, you need to make sure that you follow all best practices for using the internet. For example, download files only from reliable resources, not open emails from unconsolidated sources or click links in such emails, etc.
2. Opt for the Best Ones
After reviewing all the options, if you decide to go for a free antivirus against a paid antivirus, you have plenty of choices. You can go with some free basic plans offered by the same developers who develop paid antivirus plans. These include Avast Free Antivirus, Avira Free Antivirus, Bitdefender Free Antivirus, to name a few. Make sure you opt only for the best plans according to your own needs.
Does Free Antivirus Provide Real-Time Protection?
A crucial feature you want to look for when choosing a free antivirus is whether it provides a ‘real-time’ protection feature. For instance, even free versions of Bitdefender, Avira & Avast come with real-time protection features.
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Protection from antivirus will dramatically improve your digital security & privacy. Whether you go for a free or paid subscription entirely depends on your requirements. If your browsing habits are good enough and you can easily recognize dangerous phishing attempts, free antivirus software should suffice the need. If not, then going for paid subscription makes sense and ensures you are always protected.