Choosing a program that will keep your computer safe from viruses and other cyberattacks is no easy feat. How can you choose the best software for your computer if they all look the same at first glance?
Sure, lots of reviews on antivirus programs are now available online. Comparing all of them and making sure that actual customers wrote them is another story though. Remember the time you bought that cheap blender because it had lots of 5-star reviews? Then it turned out to be a complete waste of money? The same thing can happen to you if you don’t take the process as seriously as you did with any other product you’ve bought.
As you start your search for the best antivirus software, you will come across two kinds - free and paid antivirus.
Paid antivirus programs offer a complete suite of security features. The bad news is you’ll have to commit to making recurring payments for them. The good news? Most companies now offer free versions of their antivirus software. These programs can give you protection from viruses and other malicious software.
Here’s a list of what you’ll get from free versions of most antivirus programs out there:
Real-time antivirus protection - Free antivirus detects suspicious activity in real time. The best one can usually run in the background without making your computer slow down.
Ransomware protection - Ransomware is a type of malware that can encrypt and lock your computer data. Hackers use this to demand something from their victims for them to restore access to their data. Free security software includes a virus scanner that detects and removes these threats.
Adware protection - Adware usually manifests itself by throwing endless advertisements on your screen. It piggybacks on another program and tricks you into installing it on your computer or mobile device. The best antivirus programs usually come with adware removal. It roots out any trace of adware from your machine and puts an end to those annoying pop-ups.
Spyware protection - When spyware infects your device, it collects sensitive information like usernames and passwords. Trojans, another kind of spyware, can also cause you to lose files and other data you have on your machine. Free antivirus software has built-in tools that protect you from this kind of attack.
Protection against phishing - Phishing lures have become a very common online scam. They usually disguise themselves as websites and emails and prompt you to click on certain links. They can sometimes make you download unsafe files too. Once installed, hackers can get your login information or infect your computer with malware. A wide variety of free security products can help you detect and avoid phishing attacks like this.
Optimization tools - Whether you are looking to get a Mac or Windows 10 antivirus program, you’ll see a lot of products promise to help your machine perform better. These optimization tools clean up your machine’s memory and storage space. They can even block apps that can hog your computer's resources. These optimization tools will not only reduce crashes but will also improve your battery life.
These are just some of the features that are usually included in free antivirus software. The following features are usually available in paid versions only:
Antivirus protection for multiple devices
Detection of software flaws
Anonymous browsing through VPN servers worldwide
Identity theft protection
Access to mobile apps
It's also important to note that free users usually get limited access to customer support. However, most antivirus companies have an extensive knowledge base where you can get answers to your questions in an instant.
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like paying hefty monthly or annual fees until you’re completely sure about your purchase, a free antivirus program will do you a world of good. After all, you can always upgrade to a paid plan once you’ve found a program that ticks all the right boxes. You can also uninstall it and replace it with another software if you are not happy with its performance.
All the choices out there can be quite overwhelming. My advice? Download free antivirus software from a reputable company to get started. No commitments, no fees - just plain excellent protection against widespread malicious software.