It is firmly entrenched in the public’s consciousness that you “have” to pay for antivirus.
Even though a significant portion of the (well-intentioned yet sadly mistaken) public doesn’t currently have up-to-date antivirus, most people would readily admit that the “responsible” thing (even “socially” responsible thing) is to have a subscription with an antivirus vendor that automatically bills their credit card annually for $40, $60 and even $80 a year.
I get the additional impression that there is an attitude that “free” antivirus is of somewhat lower quality or is less effective than “pay” antivirus.
The fact of the matter is, just about ANY antivirus is “good enough” for most purposes. Unfortunately, there’s another side to that coin… NO antivirus is “perfect.” And that applies to both “pay” and “free” antivirus.
I’m here to tell you that in the course of a typical work week in my mobile computer repair business I clear viruses off plenty of computers with perfectly “paid for” and up-to-date antivirus.
So, if “pay” antivirus isn’t perfect – and “free” antivirus isn’t perfect… why pay?
My answer is — Don’t!
Furthermore, after working over a decade in this field, I submit that you should aim not for complete avoidance of viruses, malware and dataloss; but instead prepare for such eventualities and blunt their effects. Read on to learn what I mean…
I am always very cautious in my recommendations for antivirus. First, my clients trust my judgement and I don’t want to let them down. Second, just like anything else, it takes energy to learn a new product and, quite frankly, I don’t like to work any more than the next guy. I won’t focus my attention on a shiny new thing until I see a broad consensus in the market that a new direction is first, harmless and second, maybe even advantageous.
In my opinion there are only four real choices for antivirus.
The first popular free antivirus to make a splash in the market was AVG. Many IT guys still recommend AVG.
One thing you need to keep in mind when dealing with free software of any stripe is that no company on the planet exists solely to give you free things. Free antivirus is no different – there is always an angle.
And, AVG is no different. There is a free version and a pay version. And they’re almost always trying to get you to “upgrade” to the pay version.
AVG fell out of favor with my clients (and thus me shortly thereafter) because the free version of the software would always run a scan at 8am and the scan time couldn’t be modified. The scan would slow the computer down just when many people are getting to work and trying to get oriented in their day – right when they need their computers to be at their fastest.
Next to come into public view after AVG was Avast. People liked Avast because it didn’t have a specified time to scan – it was “always” scanning in the background. I used it exclusively for a while but its interface was “gamey” and not intuitive (to me anyway) so when Antivir came along, I jumped on it. But its true that I have quite a few clients that trust and prefer Avast.
Antivir was unique in that, for the first time, the free version of their software permitted the user to control both when it would update and what time it scanned. So, until recently I was favoring Antivir, installing it pretty much exclusively on my clients’ computers.
But any more I’ve started installing Microsoft’s Security Essentials. Its fast, lightweight, and since its MS, it integrates very well into your operating system. It also goes after more than just viruses per se, targets a wider scope: malware. Additionally, it has gained the approval of a significant portion of the tech community so I feel comfortable lending my support to this software.
Its also a good idea to have a second a/v product on your computer if only because getting it installed on your computer once a virus has infected it may be problematic. A *very* effective tool in my fight against viruses is MalwareBytes AntiMalware (MBAM for short).
Its so good that I “would” recommend people buy the full version if it wasn’t for my general policy against paying for a/v. In spite of my recommendation, however, some of my clients have gone ahead and have purchased the full version anyway and use MBAM as their primary stand-alone a/v. No harm no foul. That’s their choice and it works for them and I support their decision.
(Just a quick heads up, “malware” is the blanket term for all unscrupulous software – literally, the term is the melding of the words “malicious software.” I agree though, it doesn’t roll off the tongue or carry the same punch as the word “virus.” People say “virus” when really they mean “malware.” But antiVIRUS software is specific, whereas antiMALWARE software is more open-ended and will catch more things.)
My operating philosophy vis a vis computer security is this… have a free “check in the box” antivirus product that is running all the time. Also have a good “second string” antivirus installed and standing-by in case you need a quick second opinion (ie: MalwareBytes). And then have an actual honest-to-God backup system in place.*
(Also, recall VirusTotal is always available in case you need opinions 3 through 40!)
It is my opinion that its probably best to accept that no antivirus is air tight. I get the sense that people really do want a/v to be perfect. But unfortunately, eventually, a virus will get through even the best defenses the software security industry can erect and your computer will get “hit” at some point. And when that day arrives, you will have to recover from it. The best way to be prepared for it is to have a multi-layered defense (the military calls it “defense in depth”).
I hope the lesson that you take away from today’s blog post is that that preparation need not involve a lot of expense.
Since you are no longer paying for antivirus, and you are used to paying an annual security subscription, I think my fellow tech support colleague William Murphy is brilliant in recommending purchasing a subscription for an online backup service.
I couldn’t agree more.
That’s what I meant when I said your aim should not be to be failure/casualty/mishap free — your goal should be “resiliency.”
Psst! Fair warning – all of these free antivirus products try really hard to convince you that you “have” to upgrade or else you’ll product will “expire” etc etc. Don’t believe it – they’re free and they’re always free. If that ever changes, and a vendor drops the free version of their software, the other a/v vendors will be there to take up the slack. Additionally, if you feel the urge to take your wallet out, that’s just a good reason to call “All San Diego Computer Repair” to figure out what’s behind that. I’ll tell you your options and convince you to put that credit card down.
This information is very important. It could save you a lot of frustration and anxiety. If you are grateful for the information I’m passing along, leave a simple “thank you” message in the comments and click the Google “+1″ buttons at the top and bottom of this page.
If you happen to find yourself struggling with an intractable pop-up virus like the malware in this blog post, please call the phone number at the top of this page and someone will be dispatched to you ASAP. We specialize in getting your computer back into fighting shape TODAY.
Have a great day!