Question from Hailley G: Hi Rick. I’ve been reading your blog for a good while now and I’ve noticed that you always recommend using free antivirus software instead of one of the expensive paid programs.
I really like the idea of using free software whenever possible, but I want to make sure my laptop is protected from all the nasty viruses that are out there these days.
My question: Are the free antivirus programs really just as good as the ones you pay for?
Rick’s answer: Hailley, my short answer to your question is yes, the free antivirus products really are just as good as their “paid” counterparts.
I’ve used virtually every antivirus program available at one time or another, and personal experience has proven (to me at least) that the free programs work just as well as the ones you pay for.
While it’s true that you usually get more bells and whistles when you opt for the paid version, the protection you receive against malware (the reason for running the software in the first place) is exactly the same.
In fact, the antivirus providers typically use the same exact antivirus engine in both their free and paid antivirus products.
I’m asked to remove viruses and other forms of malware from PCs all the time, and most of those infected computers are running a paid version of one anti-virus program or another.
More often than not it’ll be either Norton or McAfee, probably because trial versions of those programs come pre-installed on so many computers but were either never activated (i.e. paid for) in the first place or they were allowed to expire come renewal time.
Bottom line: In my opinion, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to spend money on an antivirus program.
Just choose a good free one (I use and recommend Avast), keep it updated, and run frequent scans with it to find and remove whatever nasties happen to slip through the cracks.
Bonus tip #1: We all know that medical doctors aren’t perfect so we occasionally seek out a second opinion. Well, it’s a good thing to occasionally seek a second opinion when your antivirus program says your PC is malware-free as well. This post explains how.
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