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Is Free Antivirus Good Enough, or Should I Buy One?

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Almost every company offers free Antivirus software that provides basic protection. The challenge is to decide if that basic protection is good enough for your needs. Ultimately, the way you interact with your computer and the internet will dramatically impact your online safety. Therefore, that interaction should be a driving factor when deciding whether to use free or paid Antivirus software.

Free Antivirus software is as good as the paid version in detecting viruses and other online threats. But, on the other hand, you may be missing out on premium features like Online Banking Protection, VPN, or Advanced Threat Defence, to mention a few.

If you practice safe computing by staying away from questionable sites, avoiding installing software from unknown sources, and not opening unknown documents or attachments, free antivirus software should protect your computer from viruses and other malware.

You can also read my other article on how a computer virus infects computers, where I have explained in detail what is a computer virus and how your computer may get infected by it. When writing that article, I have realized how vulnerable my computer was to malware infections.

At that time, I’ve decided to buy Bitdefender Antivirus software that has replaced my free version. I have used the free version of Bitdefender for years. I even took part a few times in beta testing, so the selection was easy as I was already familiar with it.

If you think that the Bitdefender is also for you, then make sure to check the latest Bitdefender offers on their site.

I also like the premium features like Bitdefender Password Manager, Safe Online Banking, Microphone, or Webcam Protection, to mention a few.

Most companies offer a free version of their antivirus software, including Bitdefender. Still, the free versions usually come without all sorts of premium features like Password Manager, VPN, or Safe Online Banking, which you should definitely consider before deciding.

Do you need Antivirus software?

The official advice from National Cyber Security Centre is always to use Antivirus software. However, it does not offer advice on whether to use the paid version. It recommends, however, utilizing free antivirus solutions, which are already built into Windows and macOS systems.

Do you need Antivirus software for Windows?

If you are using Windows, you already have build-in free Antivirus software. In addition, the Windows Defender is getting better with every new release of the Windows operating system. Currently, Windows Security offers the following safety features:

Do you need Antivirus software for macOS?

If you are a Mac user, you will benefit from the technology called XProtect for the signature-based detection of malware.

In addition, you will also be protected by Notarisation technology, a malware scanning service provided by Apple, and finally by MRT or Malware Removal Tool. The MRT tool will remove the malware from the already infected machine after receiving a security update.

Do you need Antivirus software for Linux?

If you are a Linux user, you probably think that your system is safe and you don’t have to use antivirus software.

Well, think again.

It is true that the Linux operating systems are less affected by viruses and other malware but only because the overall share of the global market hardly exceeds 2%. That’s minuscule in comparison to Windows or macOS.

Due to such a small share, it is simply not worth it for the developers to target Linux systems with malware and viruses.

Fewer vulnerabilities but far fewer protections.

Malwarebytes

But that doesn’t mean that you are safe. The threat still exists, especially for server-based Linux systems. According to Malwarebytes research, Linux malware accounts for over 36% of all new malware detections.

As for the user based Linux distributions, the research performed by the Royal Holloway University of London, “Testing antivirus in Linux: How effective are the solutions for desktop computers?” highlighted the weakness of Linux based Antivirus software with a detection rate rarely reaching 60% and as low as 8% using heuristic detection mechanisms.

Do you need Antivirus software for Android or iOS?

According to National Cyber Security Centre, as long as you download the apps from the official sources, Google Play for Android, and App Store from Apple, you should be ok.

However, it appears that despite downloading the apps from official sources, 0.05% of Android users end up downloading potentially harmful applications on their devices. The iOS users were also affected, although I could not find the statistical data confirming this.

The good news is that if you chose to buy Antivirus software for your computer, the chance is that you will also be able to use it on your mobile devices.

Is Free Antivirus as good as paid software?

If your main priority is to protect your device from viruses and other malware, free Antivirus software provides similar protection to the paid version.

You still have to check with the individual company what type of protection is included in their free version.

Still, I’m confident that if the company offers a free version of the Antivirus software, the basic functionality that the software should provide is protecting your computer from being infected with a virus.

Companies offer free versions of their Antivirus software, hoping that the premium features will convince you to upgrade the product in the future.

Benefits of free Antivirus software.

The most obvious benefit you get is that the software is free. There are no monthly or annual costs associated with the free version of the Antivirus software, but you are still getting the basic protection against the viruses premium users have.

  • Free forever (if you are not interested in premium features).
  • Basic protection from viruses and other malware.
  • Smaller software size – without extra features, the software takes less space and resources on your device.

However, make sure to check what premium features each Antivirus software offers before opting for the free version.

Limitations of free Antivirus software.

In many cases, the free version of the software is limited to the basic level of protection against viruses and other malware.

What you may be missing out on is the premium features like:

  • Ransomware protection.
  • Advanced Threat Defense.
  • Web Attack Prevention.
  • Free online support.
  • Wi-Fi network security.
  • VPN.
  • Password Manager.
  • Vulnerability Scan.
  • Webcam and microphone protection.
  • Firewall.
  • File Encryption.
  • File Shredder.

And many more.

The competition is steep, and each company is trying to lure you with a feature that they hope will convince you to pay for the software.

It doesn’t mean that all premium features are useless, the opposite is true, and I have been using many of them as they are included in my Bitdefender package.

Benefits of paid Antivirus software.

The paid versions of Antivirus software offer additional features that may further enhance your safety. These premium features may include protection against ransomware, web attack, or intruders by filtering your network traffic.

It can also help you manage your passwords by offering Password Manager as Bitdefender does or offering a VPN, which will help you stay anonymous when browsing the web.

You may also like: What is a Strong Password? Free Password Strength Checker.

Examples of Premium features found in paid Antivirus Software:

  • Ransomware protection.
  • Anti-Phishing & Anti-Fraud.
  • Advanced Threat Defense.
  • Web Attack Prevention.
  • Free online support.
  • Wi-Fi network security.
  • VPN.
  • Password Manager.
  • Parental Control.
  • Vulnerability Scan.
  • Webcam and microphone protection.
  • Firewall.
  • File Encryption.
  • File Shredder.
  • Anti-Theft.
  • Privacy Protection.
  • Family Sharing.

You would definitely like to check which company offers the best deal and what features are included in your paid plan if you chose to buy the license.

I did my best to compile a comprehensive list of features available in both free and paid versions of the most popular Antivirus software.

As much as I want to keep this list up to date, this is not always possible, so please follow the links to the company site to confirm that the antivirus feature you are interested in is actually included.

Best Free and Paid Antivirus Software.

1) Bitdefender Antivirus.

Bitdefender AntivirusIncluded Feature
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition Advanced Threat Defense
Web Attack prevention
Anti-Phishing & Anti-Fraud
Bitdefender Photon
Global Protective Network
Bitdefender Internet SecurityAll features above plus the following:
Network Threat Prevention
Multi-Layer Ransomware Protection
Vulnerability Assessment
Rescue Environment
Autopilot
Game, Movie & Work Profiles
Battery Mode
VPN
Anti-tracker
Safe Online Banking
Wi-Fi Security Advisor
Social Network Protection
Password Manager
File Shredder
Microphone Monitor
Webcam Protection
Antispam
Parental Control
Privacy Firewall
Bitdefender Total SecurityAll features above plus the following:
Speed Up Your Devices
Anti-Theft
macOS Protection
Android Protection
iOS Protection
Bitdefender Family PackAll features above plus the following:
Protected Family Devices
Bitdefender Antivirus features available in each software edition.

2) Kaspersky Antivirus.

Kaspersky Antivirus Included Feature
Kaspersky Security Cloud – Free Antivirus Protection
Kaspersky AntiVirus All features above plus the following:
Anti-Phishing
Performance Optimization
Kaspersky Internet Security All features above plus the following:
Payment Protection
VPN
Ad Blocker
Private Browsing
WebCam Protection
Adult Content Blocker
Screen-Time Management
Kaspersky Total Security All features above plus the following:
GPS Child Locator
File Protection
Password Manager
Kaspersky Antivirus features available in each software edition.

3) Eset Antivirus.

Eset Antivirus Included Feature
Eset NOD32 Antivirus Protect my computer
Keep me safe from attacks
Eset Internet Security All features plus the following:
Stop Hackers
Shop and Bank Online
Secure all of your devices
Eset Smart Security Premium All features plus the following:
Safely store and prefill passwords
Encrypt files and photos
Eset Antivirus features available in each software edition.

4) AVG Antivirus.

AVG Antivirus Included Feature
AVG Antivirus Free EditionVirus and Malware Protection
AVG Internet Security All features above plus the following:
Ransomware Protection
Wi-Fi Network Security
Avoid fake and unsafe websites
Phishing sites Security
AVG Ultimate All features above plus the following:
Improve performance and storage space – AVG TuneUp
AVG Secure VPN
AVG Antivirus features available in each software edition.

5) McAfee Antivirus.

McAfee Antivirus Included Feature
McAfee Antivirus Total Protection
Single Device
Home Network Security
Password Manager
File Shredder
Encrypted Storage
Online Support
Safe Web Browsing
Performance Optimization
VPN
McAfee Total Protection Individuals All features plus the following:
McAfee Gamer Support
Multi-Device Compatibility
Identity Theft Protection Essential
McAfee Total Protection Family All features plus the following:
Safe Family
McAfee Total Protection Ultimate All features plus the following:
Identity Theft Protection PLUS
McAfee Antivirus features available in each software edition.

Antivirus is not the cure-all solution.

The Antivirus software is a good start but doesn’t fall into a false sense of security. The AV software on your machine is only capable of detecting threats that were identified earlier enough. In many cases, it will fail to detect new or more sophisticated malware threats.

Be vigilant. Think before clicking unknown links or browsing potentially harmful websites. Make sure your spam filter, firewall, and other defenses are also working so that you have a layered approach to your system security.

My Favorite Software and Hardware.

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful. Here is the list of the software and hardware I am personally using, which I believe you may also find useful. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to use any of them, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. But in all honesty, this is the exact software I have installed on my computer and the hardware I have been using to secure my online accounts or store my passwords.

1Password Password Manager - I have been using 1Password for the past two years, and in my opinion, it is the best Password Manager yet. You can try 1Password for free or check the latest deals on the 1Password website.

Yubikey 5C NFC - This is a hardware authentication device that you can use to protect your online accounts or even computers. If you are thinking of getting one, I will highly recommend Yubikey 5C NFC, which, thanks to the NFC, can also be used with your phone.

Bitdefender Total Security - I had tried other Anti-Virus software whenever my Bitdefender license was about to expire. However, at the end of the day, this is still my favorite Anti-Virus. You can check the latest offers on the Bitdefender site.

NordVPN - If you are looking for some privacy when browsing the web, NordVPN will have you covered. Save 72% now with a 2-year planvisit the NordVPN website for more details.

Malwarebytes - It will defend you against harmful websites and remove any malware from your computer. Make sure to check the latest offers on the Malwarebytes website.