How to Choose Best Free Antivirus Software?
Selecting the best free antivirus software depends on your needs.
There is a large number of antivirus programs that offer decent protection but how do you find the best one? Do you go with the one that comes with your OS or the one recommended on an Internet forum? How do you know which will do a good job?
Third-party independent test organizations test all antivirus products – paid and free – on a monthly basis and rank them according to their effectiveness, performance, and usability. This allow users to base their decision for protection on actual statistical data rather than recommendations and discussions on anonymous Internet forums.
Free vs. Paid Antivirus Products
With the vast choice of free antivirus software programs these days, most people don’t see the point in paying for protection. Of course, this does not mean that paid antivirus doesn’t have its merit. First, you need to decide whether you would consider spending money on an antivirus and what you expect in terms of features and experience. If you don’t want to spend money – there are many decent, free antivirus products that guarantee solid protection.
Free antivirus products typically offer the same antivirus detection features as commercial antivirus products, so that means you will pretty much get the same results in malware detection and blocking. Paid antivirus products have extra features and greater functionality as they offer a more complete security suite. This means that features like additional firewall, anti-theft tracking, anti-spam features, phishing filters, and e-mail scanners are also included. These features may offer an increased level of protection but they are not really necessary as you don’t need a full security suite, just an antivirus program.
Free products, however, don’t skip the opportunity to upsell their paid version and this can sometimes result in daily pop-ups that disturb your work. Some are less intrusive than others and only display the occasional offer encouraging you to upgrade to the paid version. This is the trade-off you make — your privacy for the benefit on not having to pay a yearly subscription fee.
Choosing from Well-Known Antivirus Products
As a general recommendation it is best to stick with a well-known antivirus product from a reputable company. This ensures the software would have passed certain tests by independent parties that vouch for its usability and performance. Unpopular and obscure programs can actually cause more harm to your computer, especially if they have weaknesses in their defences. Another reason to stay away from lesser-known products is that they are the target of malicious attacks more often and their executable files are frequently infected with Trojans and viruses.
There are many instances of actual malware disguising itself as antivirus programs. “Fake antivirus” malware can come under names, such as Antivirus Live, Advanced Virus Remover, and Internet Security 2015. These forms of malware pretend to be legitimate antivirus programs and upon installation – infect your entire system. Another reason to go for reputable antivirus software is that companies release regular updates to ensure their products are equipped to handle the latest virus and malware threats.
Where to Find Up-To-Date Antivirus Test Results Online?
There is a number of different websites where you can find antivirus test results. At the top of the list are these is AV-TEST. AV-TEST performs regular tests of antivirus programs and ranks them according to their protection, performance, and usability metrics. This tells users how successful each program was at blocking the malware samples that were tested, how it affected performance of the system while doing so, and how easy its interface is to use.
The AV-TEST is frequently updated with their recent test reports to demonstrate how well antivirus products are performing. The information posted on the site is invaluable as they continue to periodically tests both regularly updated antivirus products as well as those that fall behind on staying up-to-date with the latest virus definitions for a clear comparison of which do a better job.
With all this in mind, it is important to know that there’s no single best antivirus. Test rankings vary, and programs that have outperformed other free antivirus software last month may not be as efficient at stopping the newest threats at the next test. Further to this, different systems are affected differently by these programs as some require a lot of system resources and visibly slow down all other processes, which can cause problems. Users need to choose free antivirus software in terms of their own computing habits – does it make sense to have full protection with features you rarely use and don’t really need if this will affect your day-do-day operations? Some antivirus programs are more aggressive than others and flag almost all files you download and try to install as suspicious – if your work involves dealing with running test files in simulated environments, writing code or something similar – this means essential files will constantly get flagged and quarantined (maybe even deleted) by your antivirus. Most people automatically assume that ‘more is better’ when it comes to protection and go for the program that promises the most features, but this is not the case at all. It’s very important to tailor protection to your user habits and system requirements.
Downloading free antivirus tools from the internet is fast and easy and you will instantly be protected from malware. Most free programs provide the majority of the features that are included in paid-for internet security through a combination of free add-on downloads. This means that you will need to build your antivirus package from the ground up but this gives you full control of the tools you choose to install as well as complete understanding of the programs you use. For example, you may opt for a lighter antivirus suite and complement it with a free VPN service and a browser extension that disables vendors from tracking you and logging information on location, browsing habits and any other sensitive data. Installing security programs and add-ons separately is the best way to eliminate system compatibility issues as most software products create restore points and you can simply go back to the point at which your system did not experience any problems.
Go Beyond the Basics
Even though it is not necessary to pay for protection, it is not a good idea to stick with the antivirus programs that come with your computer, especially Windows Defender. These programs offer basic protection but fail to block the biggest threats out there. In addition, because of the popularity of systems like Windows 8 or 10, they are the most common targets of, making it a very vulnerable product.
As not every antivirus program works on every computer, it is necessary to narrow down your choices to products that have been tested and perform well on your particular system. MAC users have a more limited set of options but Windows PC users are the target of most malware attacks these days. Still, there are decent choices of free antivirus software for both OS and based on your browsing habits, computing use and system model – you can make a decision on a program that provides protection without slowing down your computer or disrupting your work. It is important to consider all potential weaknesses of your system and choose an antivirus that addresses them. For example, if you frequently use email, messaging, and other web services, it’s important to go with a solution that includes Internet security software.
Making sure the antivirus program you have selected is compatible with your system is the most important step of the process. If it isn’t – you simply cannot use it, regardless of how great its features are. Most free antivirus programs allow for the user to choose between custom and express installation, where the latter installs the most standardized package of features and options that are used. It is recommended that you tick the custom install option only if you are familiar with the suggested features and know your way around this type of software as incorrect installs can not on only render your program obsolete but ruin your entire system if they cause damage to the registry.
Once you have installed your choice of antivirus program you should remember to update it regularly to ensure you remain protected against the latest threats. In this sense it is best to only consider antivirus products that frequently release virus and malware as otherwise your system is prone to attacks and infections. Some programs allow for automatic updates, which is convenient if you forget to do it yourself and you always know your computer always has the latest security and is protected against the threats that change on a daily basis.