It is a common misconception nowadays that if you avoid shady websites, update your OS regularly and don’t engage in any illegal downloads, you’re completely safe from viruses. There are people who would swear that they haven’t used antivirus software in years and that their computer is perfectly clean. Most often, when a virus scan is eventually performed, those same people are shocked to discover that things weren’t as groovy as they thought. If you haven’t checked your PC for viruses in a long time, there’s a high chance some level of infection exists, it’s just not that noticeable to the naked eye.
The truth is, in spite of considerable advances in security, the built in antimalware and antivirus software that comes with Windows (the famous Windows Defender) is consistently scoring low grades in independent antivirus tests. It is a free piece of software that offers basic functionality but Microsoft isn’t specialized in antimalware, so if you want a quality product, you need to turn your attention to established internet security brands, like Kaspersky, Norton, Bitdefender, AVG, Avira, Avast! and so on.
So how do you choose the best antivirus for you? The truth is there is no cookie-cutter answer. For most people who don’t do more than light browsing (or are more tech savvy and understand how the internet works, therefore being extra careful in what they download and install) a free antivirus will suffice. Of course, it doesn’t come with any of the bells and whistles of a paid product (parental control, firewall, secure online banking, one-step payments, etc), but it will give you solid virus and antimalware protection.
Free products from reputable brands usually share the same technologies and virus definitions with premium products. Things to look out for are low impact on resources, discreet UI design, and if you’re a gamer -whether or not it has a silent mode, so that the software doesn’t send you a pop-up message while you’re in a game.
Premium antivirus products will ask you to pay an annual fee (you’re essentially buying a license) to use them. The reasons to go with a paid product are obviously the extra perks that they offer aside from basic protection. Those perks aren’t 100% necessary, but they do make internet use just that much easier and better. Extra encryption keeps your data safer, while various optimizing features help remove junkware and free up your computer’s resources. Parental Control is another popular feature that you can only get via premium products.
What we should take from all of this is that there are options out there for all tastes and needs, but that the one thing you shouldn’t do is avoid installing an antivirus altogether. You might think you’re saving resources, but really, all you’re doing is taking an unnecessary risk, and even though your PC may look like it’s working just fine now, malware will eventually find its way to it if you leave it unprotected.