The Real Costs of “Free” Antivirus Protection

When Alan brought his computer to us because he couldn’t access any websites, he never suspected the culprit would be this one seemingly harmless thing.

Our technicians put his computer through rigorous troubleshooting, but were unable to immediately find the cause of his problem. After more in-depth testing, we discovered one small setting preventing Alan from browsing the Internet.

Alan had been using AVG Free Antivirus – one of the most popular free antivirus programs. However, his troubles began when he uninstalled AVG prior to having us install our Advanced Managed Antivirus protection. Even after being “removed,” AVG was still trying to commandeer his Internet connectivity. His problem was solved by removing the remaining hidden AVG drivers.

Little things like these are what make free antivirus solutions less than optimal.

While the prospect of free protection from malicious viruses and malware may seem appealing at first, the cost further down the road is far less attractive and significantly more.

Here are three reasons why you should think carefully about risking your PCs security with a free antivirus program:

Pathetic Protection

What is the point of having an antivirus program installed on your computer if it’s not able to protect you from the latest viruses and malware attacks?

Paid antivirus programs have more frequently updated features and are always kept up-to-date with the latest virus definitions. Most free solutions, however, offer only minimal protection.

In a study conducted by PC World, free antivirus programs allowed an unsettling 15.2% of malware slip through their detection.

Real-time protection is also rarely an option when you are not paying for your antivirus software. You may be protected from common viruses attacking your computer, but many new, more highly sophisticated viruses could easily get away with infecting your PC and stealing your personal information before being detected.

Annoying Advertisements

The last thing you want when trying to rid your computer of malware is intrusive and annoying adware.
Many antivirus companies partner with advertisers so they can make money off their free products. Free antivirus utilities commonly hijack your browser, homepage, toolbars, and search engine. This generates more revenue for them and more trouble for you.

Free antivirus solutions rarely detect or stop unwanted adware. These programs often seem helpful and legitimate – advertised as being used for couponing, finding lyrics to your favorite songs, or even checking the weather.

But these programs gain an alarmingly elevated level of access to your computer. They leave your computer extremely vulnerable to malicious attacks.

Adware such as this results in even more pop-ups, advertisements, and even spam emails. Stuff you’re trying to prevent in the first place!

Something else to think about …

Why do all the free antivirus programs bombard you with ads to upgrade to their paid version? Even they know the paid version is more effective.

Unwanted Utilities

One of the more annoying and potentially dangerous aspects of free antivirus programs are the extra “features” that come bundled with them.

Free antivirus solutions are often bundled with a plethora of other largely useless and problem-causing utilities.

Some contain a bundled proprietary search engine or homepage. But these are a mere rebranding of Ask, Yahoo, or Bing search engines.

If you wish to use one of these search engines, you’re better off going to the legitimate website.

Some antivirus programs also attempt to redirect your web browsing through their servers promoting added protection. Ironically, this often results in security holes due to poor product development, leaving you even more vulnerable to outside attacks than before.

Buyer Beware

While a “free” virus program may be enticing to you, they are often littered with too many downfalls to be a truly good value.

Computer professionals who recommend you use a free antivirus program are doing you a major disservice. They often make more money off cleaning the virus infections and fixing other problems caused by the free programs than they do by offering you a highly effective paid antivirus software.

So what should you do?

Paid antivirus protection costs far less than you would expect. Premium antivirus software is the best option for your computer’s security and for your pocketbook.

If you absolutely cannot or simply refuse to pay for your antivirus protection, you should be extremely confident in your ability to safely navigate the web and steer clear of any and every suspicious website, email, or pop-up.

Christian Hinojosa

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