I’m often asked if free antivirus apps are as effective at protecting a Windows PC from virus infections as their “paid” counterparts.
And I must say, that’s an excellent question.
Back in the early days of home computing my answer would have been no because the free antivirus programs available at the time were indeed inferior to the commercial programs.
But that has changed over the years…
Today, the free and paid versions of the most popular antivirus apps use the same exact antivirus engines. As a result, there are literally no differences between their relative abilities to prevent, track down and remove viral infections.
The only real differences between the free and paid versions are in the extra “add-on” bells and whistles that come with the paid versions and the fact that the paid versions typically come with tech support included.
In my opinion the average user doesn’t need those extras (and yes, that includes the tech support).
Truth be told, head-to-head tests consistently find that free antivirus tools provide the same level of protection as their paid counter-parts.
In fact, the latest head-to-head test by the experts at security research firm AV-Test actually found that several free antivirus apps scored a perfect 6s across the board.
What’s more, Windows’ native Microsoft Defender was right up near the top wish a score of 6-5-6.
As you can see, several of the free antivirus apps actually tested better than some of the commercial (paid) apps that aren’t even available as a free version.
In case you’re wondering, this isn’t a one-off fluke. Avira, Avast Free and Microsoft Defender have been performing at or near the head of the pack for quite some time now.
Bottom line: I have long said there’s no reason to waste money paying for an antivirus program, and all the recent independent tests confirm it.
I recommend that you skip the expensive ‘paid’ antivirus apps and choose one of the top-rated free apps.
Yes, you’ll see occasional offers to “upgrade” to the Premium version (for the apps that offer a Premium version), but I believe that’s a fair trade-off since you can simply ignore them.