A frustrated CEO of a major antivirus company said recently that antivirus programs are losing the war against computer malware. That was just his frustration speaking – because the bad guys always have the advantage.
The fact is that you need to always have one good antivirus, or antimalware, program installed in whatever device you use to access the internet. This includes Mac’s, by the way, as well as your smartphones and tablets. No operating system or device is immune to malware these days.
There is a huge selection of antimalware programs available. Most are sold on an annual subscription basis, although there are many legitimate free versions available too.
Even though they’re free, remember to never have more than one active antivirus program in your computer at a time. (“Active” is sometimes called “real-time”.)
It might seem counter to common sense, but it’s true. Antivirus programs, if they are working properly, will conflict with each other. And that, at the least, can cause your computer to noticeably slow down. At the worst, it can leave your computer unprotected.
So; no matter how tempting it might be; never have more than one antivirus program running in your computer at a time.
Free Versus Paid Antimalware
There are completely free antimalware programs, like Microsoft’s “Security Essentials” (now called “Defender” in Windows 8). Everything that you need is there, for free.
Then there are free versions of antimalware programs that are slimmed down versions of fancier packages. Examples of these are “AVG” and “Avast” for Windows, and “Sophos” for Macs. These folks provide free, fully functioning antimalware programs as a sort of come-on to their larger subscription-based packages with more bells and whistles. Some of the options may include scanning emails (many actually do that anyway) or a backup management program or any number of other things. Happily, the free antivirus parts are really all that you need.
There are also some that will give you a “free trial” for 30 days or 60 or 90 days. New computers always come with one of these free trials installed. Usually “Norton” or “McAfee” but sometimes another name brand, like “Malwarebytes”.
The fact is that all of these brands compete with each other and, at one time or another, one will be better than the others. But this is constantly shifting and has little or nothing to do with whether they are the paid-for versions.
The CEO who expressed his frustration was from a company that has done very well, for decades, selling the antivirus products. Some of his frustration may come from the fact that you can get a fine competitor to his core product for free.
If you don’t know which one to choose, ask your friends or family which that they like. For myself, I mostly use the Microsoft “Security Essentials/Defender” antivirus on Windows, Sophos on Macs, and Avast on smartphones and tablets. None of them are perfect, and you still have to be vigilant and careful on the internet – but they’ll keep most of the bad guys out of your computer, by far.
I hope this is clear and helpful. Two things to remember:
- never more than one active antivirus at a time, and
- “free” is OK, and “paid” does not mean “better.”
As always, if I can fill in some details or help with anything on your computers, please don’t hesitate to call:
Mike Pepper ~ Computer Guy