Is free antivirus safe to use? It’s a simple enough question, but there is no simple and short answer as such. The good news is that a slightly more in-depth answer isn’t very long, and it’s easy to understand.
You may be worried about free antivirus apps because you have heard that they may be unreliable, or maybe even vectors of the malware itself. And it’s true – there are plenty of free antivirus programs out there, and some of them are questionable, or even downright dangerous.
However, there are also high-quality free antivirus apps that are completely secure, and the trick is to be armed with the knowledge to help you choose the right free antivirus. With that, we followed into the Armory…
Dodgy antivirus apps
As mentioned, there is a bewildering array of antivirus apps, some of which are proverbial bad eggs. This means that they can be poorly programmed, not working properly to give you protection, or they can be easily evaded and/or tampered with.
When we test antivirus products, we always try some method to manually stop application processes and services, and otherwise try to disable the protection. That’s because more sophisticated malware might try this kind of trick in order to surreptitiously infiltrate the system, and a good antivirus will have self-defense measures to stop any such trick.
Unfortunately, as we sometimes find in our reviews, some antivirus products are not very safe in this regard, or have few self-defense measures at all – and this is clearly very bad news.
In all cases of poorly implemented antivirus applications, the user who installed the software might think that they are protected, but in fact they are not – a dangerous situation (worse, in fact, than having no protection at all, because they have a false sense of security, as well about not having any real defenses).
The worst case scenario is that your antivirus software may be completely fake – and actually do nothing, except possibly steal your personal data, or perform other malicious activities.
Some malware will pretend to be an antivirus as well. You’ve probably heard about this kind of thing: a message pops up on your computer telling you that hundreds of viruses have been found on your drive, and you must “install” a program right away to get rid of them – or you’ll lose all your data, or some Such a threat. Needless to say, never ever act on any random claims like this, especially if they claim that ‘disaster’ is about to happen if you don’t Immediately“.
the good guys
So, with the type of apps we discussed above, you are not safe, and in fact it is very likely that you are at risk. The simple answer, as you might imagine, is to stay away from such programs. how? Just use a high quality antivirus.
This is where we come to. We regularly review a wide range of antivirus software, from big names and lesser known companies, via free and paid offerings, and our roundup of the best free antivirus software is compiled using knowledge gleaned from comprehensive reviews of these different products.
If you stick to the antivirus apps we recommend — which have been thoroughly vetted by us and other experts in the matter, including independent testing labs, which put the same providers at the top of their ratings over and over again — you won’t go wrong with a free antivirus. A good free antivirus app (like Avira Free Antivirus, our top choice at the moment) will have the same basic engine as the paid version of the program, giving you the exact same level of basic protection.
Download Avira’s Free Antivirus is our pick of the bunch (Image credit: Avira)
What you don’t want to do is download any old antivirus app, no matter what promises it might make, or how good it might sound; Because at that time things can go wrong.
Another idea you might have is that if the free app offers you the same basic protection as the premium version, why pay for the latter? Simply because you get all kinds of extra security features with a paid package, and it might be worth having them, depending on your exact use case.
For example, the premium version might have dedicated anti-ransomware protection, to keep you safer from this really nasty alternative to malware, or a secure browser for your online financial transactions, and perhaps an in-depth system of parental controls – the latter could come in handy for those with a family naturally.
The point then is that there are some great extras with paid products, and you might be safer with a premium antivirus, in some ways – but with a good free app, you’re still secure enough, and you benefit from the main thing the antivirus has to offer : Strong basic malware protection.
Is Free Antivirus Safe?
As you might expect, then, paying money for an antivirus that gives you extra protection might be worthwhile, depending on your exact use case. But if your budget is tight, and you really do not want to do without malware protection, it is better to use a free antivirus application.
Any old freebie program won’t do, though. As we discussed, make sure you choose a reputable antivirus company to work with, and you will be safe enough on the Internet.