Paid vs Free Antivirus Software – is it worth it?

Updated June 2023

Having a computer is a modern-day joy – well most of the time – until the day arrives when you have to update yourantivirus software. Yes, it’s a vital part of owning a computer, as having good antivirus protection saves you from potential dangers. It’s used to prevent, detect, and remove malware from your devices. Most of us keep valuable and irreplaceable information and documents on our computers, which is why we need to ensure that we have the appropriate protection.

There is free antivirus software and there are software packages that you have to buy before you can put them to good use. Of course, there are drawbacks and benefits for both, and it’s up to you to weight these up to determine which is the best solution for you. To help you understand what antivirus software does and whether you need a paid or free antivirus tool to protect your computer, we’ve outlined the differences between paid vs free antivirus software,

What is antivirus software?

Antivirus software is a programme or set of programmes designed to prevent, detect, and remove dangerous viruses on your computer, along with other malicious software like worms, trojans, adware and more.

Why do I need antivirus software?

It is critical that you have up-to-date antivirus software installed on your computer because, without it, your tech will be infected within minutes of connecting to the internet.

But antivirus software protects more than just your laptop or office computers, they also protect precious memories, photos, music, and important documents from malicious malware.

What does antivirus software do?

Different types of antivirus software offer different levels of performance but there are some essential functions that all antivirus tools should deliver. These include:

  • Detect and remove any malicious code
  • Scan specific files for malware
  • Allow you to initiate a scan of a specific file or your entire computer at any time
  • Show you the overall ‘health’ of your computer

While these are the basics that all antivirus software should provide, paid and free, most paid solutions will offer additional features. It is up to you to decide whether it is worth paying more for more protection or whether a free antivirus solution would suffice.

Paid antivirus software

This type of antivirus usually has impressive features – that aren’t available for free. With premium versions of antivirus, you’ll often get helpful extras like more layers of anti-ransomware protection, or web protection complete with anti-phishing tech or perhaps a tailor-made secure browser. You’ll be even more secure with this feature when using the internet which will be helpful for individuals who might be less confident about using the web. Paid for antivirus software is usually more up-to-date and provides your devices more specialised protection that you can rely on.

One key thing to consider when looking for new antivirus software is parental control options. Certain parental controls and social media monitoring tools are generally only available in paid security applications, families may well want to pay for software in order to keep the kids safe when they’re online.

Another major difference between paid and free software is that with premium antivirus packages, you often get technical support included. This often means 24/7 support allowing you to talk to human agents via the phone or live chat online. This facility is really helpful for troubleshooting issues which occur during your subscription period. This is a valuable feature to have, especially if you’re not exactly “confident” in technology. Depending on which protection you buy, you could get certain guarantees or extra benefits that can help you even more.

Free antivirus software

We all like getting a good deal, and when something is free- it’s even better. Or is it? When it comes to antivirus software, more often than not, you get what you pay for (or don’t pay for). If you’re on a tight budget, a free alternative is obviously a tempting option. And there are decent free versions that will definitely do the job of protecting your PC. But of course, you need to do extensive research before downloading any free software as the last thing you want is to end up with a dodgy virus instead of protection!

With free virus software, you’re likely to just get basic features. These applications might only contain the main antivirus engine, and perhaps a couple of additional defences – but companies reserve all the impressive functions and extra features for their paid products. These features are what we mentioned earlier, such as parental controls, technical support and just better all-round security for your devices.

One thing to note if you’re considering free antivirus software is that you should expect continual advertisements to pop-up. Just like when you play free games on your smart-phone, free antivirus software is known for annoying pop-up ads every so often when you’re browsing on your computer. These adverts can be for all kinds of things, or simple messages suggesting you upgrade to the premium version of the software you’re using. If you’re not bothered by advertisements, then this might not be off-putting for you, but if you can’t stand constant annoying pop-ups when you’re browsing on the internet, then this might be a deal-breaker!

What about Windows Defender?

Of course, there are free antivirus software which are worth noting: Windows Defender is a free version of anti-spyware program and has been shipped with several versions of Windows. The concept is a good idea, as everyone loves having extra security features already built in. However, there have been questions about if it’s enough to keep your modern computer safe. Windows Defender is known to be very effective at detecting and blocking malware that tries to start to run on your computer. However, critics have pointed out that it’s only effective when your computer is connected to the internet. This software works by sending information of suspect programs to an online server to see if it matches any threats. Windows Defender can’t do this without an internet connection and therefore shouldn’t be totally relied upon to block suspicious programs.

Which is the best paid for antivirus software in the UK?

If you’ve decided you need some additional functionalities to properly keep your data secure, then you’re probably best opting for a paid antivirus software. However, with so many paid solutions out there, it can bee tricky to know which one to choose. Luckily for you, when it comes to antivirus software, we know what we’re talking about. Some of the best paid for antivirus and virtual private network software in the UK are:

  • McAfee Antivirus Plus – lets you protect every Windows, MacOS, Android and IOS device in your household.
  • Norton 360 Premium – features tons of security features, as well as a no-limits VPN and full parental-control system.
  • NordVPN – incredibly fast VPN, packed full of useful features and super easy to setup and use.

So which type of software should you go for? Paid or free?

Depending on what type of protection you need and for however many devices you need to protect, most paid for anti-virus software packages can be bought at affordable prices. You can pick up an annual antivirus subscription for less than £20. For most people, it’s well worth paying for antivirus software because of the different features that are on offer, such as technical support, reliable protection and multiple device coverage.

If you want to feel safe when you’re browsing on your devices, then buying an antivirus program is a good way to go for peace of mind. Of course, it’s up to you whether you want to pay for protection, or get a free version, and it totally depends on your situation. At the end of the day, the last thing you want, is to end up having to replace your computer because of free antivirus software that didn’t step up to the plate…

Find out more about which is the best antivirus software for your computer and shop our backup and recovery software, too.

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