Country Flag  Download Center: United States

URGENT: are you concerned about the Equifax data breach? Protect yourself with LifeLock Standard™ and get 10% off instantly! [X]
Norton Security™
Internet security and antivirus. All in One.

SAVE NOW!



 Save Big on Top-Selling 
 Norton Products 

 

<< Back to Learning Center

Learning Center


Why Relying On Free Antivirus Software Is A Bad Idea


 

When it comes to purchasing anti-virus software for your computer, the age old saying is true. You get what you pay for. There are many free antivirus and antispyware programs available on the Internet but when attempting to secure the vital information on your computer, you should only invest in the best. Your files and personal information are worth protecting, so be sure you are getting a product that will meet all of your individual needs.

Computer viruses, a common concern when protecting your computer, are programs that make copies of themselves and infect files. If these files are exchanged with other computers, viruses can be transmitted with them. Some infected files come as email attachments. These emails may be from strangers (considered spam) or they might be from someone that you know. Most people have no idea when they are sending a file that is infected with a virus.  A well-made virus can be devastating not only to one computer but also to entire networks. Without proper protection software, it can disrupt work for thousands of people and do billions of dollars in damage. Viruses can be extremely efficient and fast-acting. For example, in January of 2004, the ‘Mydoom’ worm infected almost a quarter of a million computers in a single day. This is why excellent antivirus software is vital to the health of your computer.

More than just a minor annoyance, some computer viruses can erase data on your hard drive or entirely crash your system. Other malware that could infect your hard drive includes adware, which usually works by displaying annoying pop-up ads on your computer screen. Spyware can obtain your personal information, such as passwords or other sensitive data that you type into your computer. With identity theft on the rise, spyware is becoming more and more dangerous and antispyware programs are becoming a necessity.

There are several elements you should take into account when considering to get antivirus software. One of the first thing is making sure that the software can detect basic viruses. Most antivirus softwares, even the free ones, can provide this core function. The next element is the ability to detect zoo viruses. "Zoo virus" is a term used to describe a computer virus that exists only in research labs. Used primarily as tools for scientists and programmers, these infectors (estimated to number at least 20,000) make up the majority of existing computer viruses.  In detecting zoo viruses, free antivirus software products are much less effective than products available for purchase. While the free software may find up to 75% of zoo viruses, the potential for false positives is vast. False positives will cause unnecessary panic and waste valuable time.

Another element to consider when choosing antivirus software is response time. How long will it take between the time your computer is infected and the time your software detects a breech of security? If you have free antivirus software on your computer, crucial updates may not be made on a regular basis or worse, may not be available at all. These updates are critical in shortening your software's detection response time. The longer a virus is allowed to live in your hard drive, the more damage it will do and the harder it will be to detect and remove. Computer viruses, once programmed, work quickly to infect as many computers as possible. If you do not have regular software updates, there is no way for your computer to catch new and dangerous viruses.

Another vital point to keep in mind when evaluating software choices is what kind of support options are available. If you choose to use free antivirus software, you may be limited to an online knowledge base or a self-help forum. Some free programs do offer telephone support services, but charge a per-minute fee for using them.

Of course, antivirus software should at least be able to detect and quarantine suspicious files. Ideally, your software should be able to completely remove any viruses found. If you have a family with young children, you should consider purchasing a program which offers parental control features. These will allow you to set up your computer so that children can only access safe, approved sites. This is certainly not readily available in free antivirus software offerings.


In a recent antivirus software test performed by AV-Test.org, none of the free software scanners performed well in the adware and spyware detection departments. Results were disappointing; even the best of the free software only removed 33% of the active adware and spyware components.  What does this mean to you? Get a solid antivirus solution from a reputable company and benefit from regular, automatic updates to protect shield your computer against the most recent threats. There is no need to be cheap when it comes to protect your identity from being stolen by hackers or your personal data to be lost because of major damage to your machine. In most cases, a nominal yearly fee will give you the peace of mind you need to surf the web knowing you are safe at all times.