As you search for the best antivirus software, you’re going to run into free software that claims it is as capable as paid programs. If you were to rank antivirus software categories into three different tiers, you’d find free software in the bottom tier, with the least functionality and protection. Although free software can be enticing, free antivirus protection is not as capable as paid software. All free programs can scan for viruses, but only some of them scan for malware automatically and offer real-time protection or browser add-ons to help you avoid bad links. Most advanced features are limited to paid antivirus programs.
One annoyance of free antivirus software is that each program displays ads for the full, paid version of the product. This doesn’t detract from the free version’s performance or capability, but it can be distracting and annoying. Some programs even immediately launch your web browser and link to their company’s website if you click on a feature that isn’t available in the free version, which may be minor but annoying nonetheless.
Perhaps the biggest frustration with even the best free antivirus programs is the general lack of support offered by the developers. Paid programs generally offer extensive technical support, allowing you to contact the manufacturer via email, phone and live chat. Free programs generally leave you fending for yourself with user manuals or a knowledgebase in which you have to comb through information before you find helpful material specific to you.
Perhaps the most confusing part of shopping for antivirus software is finding the best program for your needs. Besides free programs, there are generally three recognized tiers of virus protection: antivirus software, internet security suites and premium security suites. Antivirus software is the lowest tier and is regarded as entry-level viral protection. Internet security suites, the next tier of protection, offer more functionality with further protections, such as firewalls and antispam tools. The top tier of virus protection is premium security suites, which are comprehensive tools to help you protect your system from the most aggressive malware with a variety of measures and protections.
Each tier of PC virus protection lends itself to different users in different situations. Here are a few of the main components found in antivirus suites that you won’t find in entry-level antivirus software:
As stated above, antivirus software is the entry-level version of virus protection for your PC. That is not to say this software is ineffective, as it can protect your personal computer from even the most vicious viruses. In fact, all antivirus software includes tools to block or remove spyware, worms, rootkits and other malware types. Rather, this particular set of virus protection software has fewer features than the two antivirus suites. This software does include the ability to scan incoming email for potential threats, automatically clean or quarantine infected files, and create bootable rescue disks, to name a few of its many features.
Internet Security Suites
Internet security suites generally contain all of the tools found in entry-level antispyware, such as antimalware, PC tune-up utilities, safe online banking and shopping, secure browsing, vulnerability scanning, and privacy protection. However, these suites include additional features that add more levels of security and protection to your computer system. Most internet security suites include an alternate firewall from the one included with the Windows operating system, and many even offer social network protection designed to detect threats through your online social presence. Additionally, these antivirus suites include parental controls to limit where your children go while on the internet, which can protect the computer system, and more importantly, your children.
Premium Security Suites
Although the additional protections found in internet security suites are highly valuable, premium security suites offer even more protection. Just as internet security suites contain all of the features found in antivirus software, premium suites include all of the features found in internet suites. These programs add extra layers of protection in the form of file shredders, online backup, system tune-up utilities and password managers. In other words, these suites tend to be the best of the best, offering an entire arsenal of defenses and protection against malware.
With the different tiers of computer antivirus software demystified, you can determine the level of security you require and apply that to your particular situation. Although they aren’t the best or most comprehensive programs, free antivirus software allows you to scan and remove threats on your computer, for the most part. However, free software lacks the functionality, features and overall support that is readily available on paid programs. Entry-level antivirus software provides significant advancements over freeware, and its feature set provides enough functionality for many home users. Internet security suites provide even more features, while premium security suites are the pinnacle of PC protection.
No matter which antivirus software catches your eye, make sure you consider help and support before making your final decision. Look for a program that offers 24/7 access to support through email, phone or live chat. Regular, easy access to support ensures that you can get the help you need, whether you have a simple question or your entire computer system crashes and you need immediate help. Whether you’re looking for protection on your Windows 10 tablet, Windows 8 laptop or Windows 7 business computers, make sure the software has numerous means of technical support.