Free Antivirus – Is It Worth It?

June 14, 2019

Being a typical Yorkshireman, I’m a big fan of getting owt for nowt. And this is undoubtedly the case with antivirus. There are lots of free ones out there but are they any good and is there really such a thing as a free lunch? Well, let’s find out, shall we?

I have used free antivirus for years and have tested many different versions over that time to see what they perform. I can honestly say I have never had a virus. The main reason, I would assume, is because I am careful with what I do and have the knowledge to know what to look for. You could argue, therefore, that it’s OK for me to have a free one as it is unlikely I will get a virus. There is some truth to that but let me put forward the case for the free antivirus.

It Does What Is Needed

All free antivirus has core protection from the nasties that could invade your computer. Most paid-for antivirus add additional features that just fluff to the central security.  These add-ins may make it look like it is worth buying, but it is more of a sales tactic than anything else. An email scanner add-in may remove a virus-laden attachment before the email gets into your inbox but the main antivirus part would – or should – stop it anyway.  On top of that, other useful protection is also often supplied by other programs. A phishing filter – good for stopping you going onto a bad website – is now built into all the modern web browsers.

It’s Not Like The Old Days

We don’t get viruses like we used to. These days, it is all about identity theft and getting details from your various online accounts. An antivirus can’t stop you from giving your details away – although a phishing filter as mentioned above can sometimes help. Ransomware is about the closest we get to a traditional virus and, again, this should hopefully be treated by any protection free or otherwise.

Blame The Operating System And The Operator

It is often the weakness of the Operating System that creates the opportunity for a virus to happen. Keeping your computer, phone or tablet’s OS up-to-date will help massively in filling those holes that could let a virus catch on and breed on your device.

And lastly, m’lord, we – the user – are the best protection there is. I mentioned at the beginning of this blog that I hadn’t had a virus because I am careful. Being careful is the most critical thing we can do for defence against both viruses and identity theft. It is just a case of not going into shady areas of the internet. And avoiding clicking on suspicious attachments or links within emails – no matter how convincing they look or who they may be from.

So I rest my case. Any antivirus should only ever be a safety net for when our brains at not at their best. And a good free antivirus should be able to do that without issue.

Case Closed – Or Is It?

Of course, that is not the whole story. There are negatives to free antivirus. One of the main ones is the fact that free antivirus is often a cut-down version of a paid-for one. There is nothing wrong with that, as explained already, but the company that supplies the antivirus are often very keen to tell you this fact. They want you to buy their full product and will tell you this frequently while you use the computer with pop-up boxes and other forms of advertising. Free antivirus is usually given away by these companies with a moral obligation in mind but mainly as a way to push you into parting with your money for the full kit and carbuncle.

Ideally, therefore, we need a free antivirus that won’t push it’s luck with constant pop-ups but will do a good job if needed.

Is There Such A Thing?

At the time of writing, there are two products that I believe fit the bill: Windows Defender and Bitdefender free.

Windows Defender is built-in to Windows 8 and Windows 10. If there are no other virus protection installed, it will do the job and, in my opinion, do it well. As Windows Defender is totally free – Mircosoft stumps up the bill on this one – there is no advertising or anything else.

Bitdefender Free not only covers Windows but Apple Macs and Andriod smartphones as well. It is a free version of a pay-for one, but it never pushes the full version. It does what any good antivirus should – keeps quiet, does its job and only bothers you when there is a problem. It is pretty much set and forget – although you can still open it and run manual scans etc. if needed.

Summing Up

So a good free antivirus is worth using and can save you a pretty penny every year.  I can’t, however, guarantee you wouldn’t get a virus on your device. No antivirus protection is ever 100% effective but take heed of everything you have just read, and the chances are very slim indeed.

Any questions on any of the above – or anything else – just get in touch.