We all use antivirus solutions for what? The first answer that pops up in our minds is enhanced security and privacy. The protection offered by them is better than the Operating System's default. In a world that more often uses pirated OS and software for daily use, it is an extremely natural thing that free antivirus software is way too popular than the paid ones. Well, that being said, it needs to be noted that most people fail to understand what these so-called free security suites are hiding behind their backs. Giving enough for you to be tensed about, these free antivirus software aren’t that good.
This post will give you a clear idea about these FREE antivirus software and whether they’re good enough to go.
Free Antivirus Software: The Deception
As you would have noticed, almost every free antivirus solution offers basic protection from viruses, spyware & other common threats one would have to face. Though they don’t provide full protection quite tactically, they force you to upgrade to the paid version whenever they can.
While the compulsion is way too high in popular antivirus applications, some have a moderate attitude, such as in the case of Panda Free Antivirus: A popup and a discount at every start-up. It’s a fact that free antivirus software never does provide complete protection for your devices; it rather pretends to do so. Interestingly, these antivirus companies are making revenue from the free stuff.
FREE is Good: The Surprise Goodies
So, they say you get basic-level protection from viruses and threats when you go with the free antivirus solutions. It’s to be noted that, most likely, some other things also come with the free antivirus software. In most cases, there will be a few free tools, which may seem harmless for starters but can do worse stuff. The common cause is the installation of unwanted Browser Toolbars, Browser plugins, change of Search providers, new browsers, etc.
For instance, Comodo Free Antivirus installs a few other stuff when you finish the installation. You can see a Yahoo toolbar in your browsers, an extension named Chromodo that is capable of changing your DNS servers, and Comodo Dragon, a standalone Web Browser.
Basic PC users don’t sense these tools' presence and move on.
Similarly, in the case of AVG Antivirus Free, you will be given a choice to install the Google Chrome browser. It will get you to install other modules like the system optimizer in different ways.
The list isn’t complete, and we doubt it can ever be.
Note: It's not only the free Antivirus software. It would help if you looked at the options during installation for any software under the FREE tag. Even a lot of paid applications come along with Bloatware.
Free Antivirus Traps: Privacy is a Myth
There are a few common instances where we find these so-called free security suites as culprits.
- Most of these free antivirus solutions analyze your usage and track information from you. For instance, installing an extension in your browser makes it easy for the company to know the websites you visit or track your browsing habits. Although these companies promise confidentiality of the data under surveillance, they admit that it’s being tracked. In the recent past, the biggest data selling scandal was by Avast. After a massive outrage by its free users, Avast permanently shut down the data collection branch. Much has changed since then, and Avast is clean and widely used again in its current form.
- Some security solutions come up with fake prompts about virus infection and all. It is also seen that a variety of fake viruses are created by the antivirus solution to threaten the user. By doing so, the company would be able to compel that person to upgrade, which is great for them.
- It’s hard to find a useful toolbar. Well, as in the case of toolbars that have been installed by antivirus tools out there, the sole purpose would be to spy on you — quite clearly, on your web browser.
- Free Antivirus is a great platform for the parent company to market products, especially products related to security and privacy.
How Do They Sustain: Payback Time
The answer to this question would be evident from the sections mentioned above. Free antivirus software can get enough revenue from the compulsion for upgrades. At the same time, they get some money through installing those non-sense toolbars and changing default search engines. So, they’ve many ways to get money from you, even when you’re in the ‘FREE’ mode. By the way, gathering "browsing habit" is gold for marketers, and they can make revenue from it, too, by Ad Targeting.
How to use Free Antivirus safely?
With modern-day resources and raising awareness, the situation has improved. However, the first step is to select only a reputed free antivirus solution. Then it would be best if you kept in mind that you have to carefully analyze the options while installing the free Antivirus, as a matter of fact, any free software.
So apart from the data & privacy concerns, is free antivirus good enough? Let's find out in the section below:
Is free antivirus any good?
What protection do you get for free? Let's look at what you get for free to answer, "Is free antivirus good enough?"
Does the free antivirus protect in real-time? Some free versions of popular antivirus programs like Avira & Avast come with real-time protection features.
Basic protection and features
We do agree that some free antivirus programs offer basic protection, and some go beyond to provide decent malware protection. Microsoft Defender (previously Windows Defender), Avira & Avast provide antivirus protection from online threats. However, all free antivirus packages will always have limited features. You will have to upgrade to a paid subscription for various features.
Some exceptions are:
Avast Free Antivirus, Avira Free Antivirus, and Kaspersky Security Cloud Free offer VPN services (though limited), password management, and real-time malware protection.
The new Avast One Essential provides all-around protection, privacy, and system performance with VPN (5GB data/week), identity protection, PC Speedup, and Software updater tools. Read more on their offerings in this Avast One Review.
Limited Technical Support
You cannot expect any support if you face technical issues while using the program. You either have to depend on their forums or FAQs.
Single Device Protection
You only get protection for a single device for free, Windows, Mac, or Android. To protect multiple devices, you have to purchase a third-party antivirus tool.
Independent testing lab scores
Some free antivirus programs have received excellent scores in independent testing labs like AV-Test and AV-Comparatives.
As per AV-Test's latest report from Apr 2022, Microsoft Defender received perfect scores in terms of performance, malware detection rates, and usability. Avast Free Antivirus had scored a 100% detection rate against the industry average of 99.5%. The Oct 2021 report also included Avast One Essential with perfect scores in all categories.
The free versions of Avast and AVG antivirus received the Outstanding Product Award from the AV-Comparatives test. According to Real-World Protection Test July-August 2022, both Avast and AVG blocked 100% of threats and had very few false positives.
Do I need an antivirus if I have Microsoft Defender?
Well, Microsoft Defender Antivirus is enough for most home users. Windows Security offers good protection against malicious websites. It can detect and remove malware but not all types of malware. Learn more in detail in this post on Is Windows Defender Good Enough?
Free vs. Paid Antivirus: Which One to Choose?
The answer to this question depends on what your expectations are from your antivirus. Why should you even pay for it if you get the necessary protection from a free antivirus? I have jotted down some of the main reasons to pay for antivirus software.
The first and foremost reason to go for a paid antivirus product is for the additional features that come with it. There are many advanced protection features that you will miss in free ones - VPN (Virtual Private Network), Password Manager, Parental Controls, Webcam Protection, Microphone Protection, Advanced Firewall protection against phishing attacks, etc.
Apart from all the security features, many security software offers an extra layer of protection with PC tuneup tools, online privacy protection tools, and several extra features that simplify things.
Priority Customer Support
You get priority assistance if you’re paying for antivirus software.
Protection for Multiple Devices
Free antivirus programs usually protect a single device. A third-party antivirus can protect multiple devices, including your mobile device, and cover popular operating systems like Windows, Mac, Android & iOS. Large families with many devices can use an Internet Security Suite like Bitdefender Total Security (covering up to 10 devices) or Bitdefender Family Pack (covering 15 devices). It is worth noting that these programs come at budget-friendly prices.
Take Advantage of Free Trials
Before paying anything, you can take advantage of the free trial offered by the provider. For example, Bitdefender offers a generous 30-day free trial of their products so that you get ample time to try the product before making a purchase decision. If you are on a tight budget, you can invest your time and look for the best discounts on the product (New or Renew Existing Antivirus Subscription).
I hope these reasons are sufficient to answer your question, "Is Free Antivirus Good Enough."Looking for the best-paid antivirus programs? Here is a list of the best antivirus programs for your Windows 10/11 PC.
Considering all these, we think it's pretty dangerous to move on with free antivirus solutions, especially when such threats to privacy and confidentiality are concerned. Thus, when you're strict about the data you manage, you should have an impressive, premium antivirus package for your PC. You do get the features but at a different price. If you still want to stick to free solutions, be extremely cautious about what you are installing.
Another very important point while selecting a free or paid solution is the type of user. Suppose you are a basic home user without much knowledge of Internet safety practices or do not want to be particularly careful. In that case, you should go for the Paid antivirus package. When you know how to use the Internet safely, where not to click, which emails not to open, and reliable file download sites, you can stick with a good free antivirus. However, always be careful as cyber threats are evolving day by day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Windows 10/11 need antivirus?
Windows 10/11 both include Microsoft Defender. For most advanced users, it is good enough for basic protection. For additional protection from malware threats or malicious sites, it's time to look for third-party antivirus software.
Is free antivirus better than Windows Defender?
Microsoft Defender has come a long way and has improved recently, but you can not compare it with the top cybersecurity companies like Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Avast, etc. Some providers like Kaspersky, Avast, and Avira also provide free versions of their programs.
Is paid virus protection necessary?
It is necessary to complete security and online privacy concerns in the present scenario. A premium product with full-fledged antivirus and additional features to provide complete security for all your devices is the need of the hour.
Is it good to use free antivirus?
Go for free if you do not have the budget to spare and need only limited protection. There are quite a few free antivirus options like Avast Free Antivirus and Avira Free Antivirus, to name a few. Only install the free antivirus from a reputed company. There are risks. However, you can reduce your risk of infection by developing good security habits alongside running a free or built-in antivirus program to stay safe online.
Sourojit is Executive Editor at Dealarious. Rumor says He is Computer Science Engineer; He neither accepts it nor denies it. Tech Explorer, Philosopher and a Storyteller.