Apr 18 2010

Paid or free antivirus – which is better?

Category: Malware Protectioncomparem @ 11:25 am

With most things in life you get what you pay for. However, with virus protection software that isn’t always necessarily the case. Because of the universal need to protect networks (not just home PCs, but corporate and government IT environments and infrastructures too) it has been too much of a risk to assume that all users will pay for antivirus protection. And because the stakes for leaving these networks unprotected can be so high, free antivirus protection has always been available for those users that haven’t wanted to pay for it.

As a consequence of this it has often been assumed that the free versions of virus protection software are generally inferior to the paid versions, but this is not always the case. In this post we look at a number of the pros and cons of each, and try to draw some conclusions from the findings.

Free Antivirus Protection

Pros:

  • it’s free!
  • generally lighter on system resources
  • can be as effective or even more effective at detecting malware than many paid versions
  • mixing and matching means you can choose the best component in each category
  • generally a lower rate of “false positives” detected

Cons:

  • you need to know what you’re looking for. Requires a certain level of knowledge from the user
  • no customer support
  • products don’t come in packages or suites, so virus protection software, spyware/adware protection and firewalls need to be chosen and installed independently of each other
  • some free Antivirus software can in itself be malware, so you should only go for known brands
  • generally no regular updates

Paid Antivirus Protection

Pros:

  • a trusted brand name
  • 24/7 support (generally)
  • packaged ’suites’ of software, which include firewall, antivirus, adware protection, spyware protection, keylogging protection, and protection from Trojans, dialers and rootkits
  • regular updates
  • thorough third party testing and reviews

Cons:

  • integrated suites usually make a compromise on one or more of the components
  • malware detection generally no better than with free protection
  • can be expensive
  • generally a high rate of “false positives” detected

So the results – probably unsurprisingly – are somewhat inconclusive. Many users prefer the peace of mind that paid antivirus software provides, while others are happy going with free component-based protection. The key facet that hasn’t been mentioned here, however, is user behaviour. Computer use as a whole requires an amount of common sense, and of course there are places on the Internet that are higher risk than others, regardless of the type of virus protection software you have installed.

Anyway, below is a list of some of our recommended anti-malware products (paid and free):

Recommended free antivirus software:
- AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition
- Avira AntiVir Personal Edition
- Avast! Free Antivirus
- Comodo AntiVirus
- PC Tools AntiVirus Free Edition
- Rising Antivirus Free Edition 2010

Recommended free Firewall software:
- Zonealarm
- Comodo Internet Security
- Online Armor
- PC Tools Firewall Plus

Recommended free spyware/adware protection software:
- Spybot Search and Destroy
- Lavasoft Ad-Aware

Recommended paid malware protection software packages:
- Kaspersky AntiVirus 2010
- Norton Internet Security 2010
- Trend Micro Internet Security Pro

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