Free vs Paid Antivirus - Do the Differences Really Matter?

Free vs Paid Antivirus - Do the Differences Really Matter?

The question of free vs paid antivirus has been discussed for a long time. Which of these two types of PC antivirus should you install? If you have asked yourself this question at least once, well, know that you are not alone. Of course, in 2022, having an antivirus installed on the computer and / or devices used is quite obvious, especially if we look at what has happened in the last three years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have found ourselves connected to the Internet more often, not only for work, between smart working and agile work, but also to combat lockdown boredom. Whether it is to watch Netflix, make a video call with your boss or colleagues, or to check your e-mail, it is undeniable that we are much more active on the net and this inevitably leads to greater exposure to online threats, not only viruses, but also phishing. and ransomware, not to mention the advertising trackers that too often are intrusive and violate our privacy.

And as the consumption of VPNs has increased, correlated with both the protection of traffic to corporate networks in the event of remote working , as well as accessing geo-localized content in entertainment, the need to protect systems from online threats also increases. This is where antiviruses come into play: there are different brands on the market, and many offer free packages, whether they are demo versions or all-round freeware programs. Windows already includes a small security suite, Windows Defender, albeit with its limitations. But is it always worth relying on a free antivirus? Let's find out now.

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Why choose a free antivirus?

A security package can be quite expensive, with a monthly or annual fee that varies based on the number of protected devices and the years of duration of the subscription itself. By now the one-off purchase formula has been abandoned by practically all the major players on the market and less and less often we see the bulky physical boxes, full of documentation and little else on the shelves of electronics and computer products stores. And even when you happen to see some Kaspersky or Norton boxes in the PC section of some large retail chain, most of the time it is still a one-year or two-year package. What hasn't changed is the cost. Indeed, considering that you will have to renew your license every year, it is likely that today antivirus, in the long run, will cost more than a few years ago (even if several brands then proposed new annual versions that replaced the previous ones). >
So, in the face of tags that can easily exceed a hundred euros, the temptation to "settle" for a free version can become quite strong. But who should choose a free antivirus instead of a paid one?

cover only one device offer basic protection against malware, eg. do not include firewall, URL blocking or other extras are only available for specific platforms (eg. Windows or Mac) may not offer more advanced analytics, eg. in terms of "behavior" they often storm the user with warnings and offers to switch to the paid version they do not always have the same capabilities as paid antivirus sometimes they are cumbersome on the system, especially if full of promotional ads What we can assume is that a free antivirus might be fine for users who have very limited requirements: for example, those who use only one computer for Internet access or do not need to protect sensitive documents, work files or other sensitive content. In cases like these, the use of Windows Defender may be enough, although this is often very limited in its ability to detect and block malware, as frequently demonstrated by AV-Comparative tests, to give an example.

Alternatively, you can evaluate one of the best free antivirus we have analyzed for our readers. Until recently, we would have recommended the free version of Bitdefender Antivirus, but unfortunately the company has decided to stop supporting it and no longer offer it to users, focusing exclusively on its paid plans. While basic, it offered the excellent Bitdefender antivirus engine, but we understand the choice of the brand. Take a look at our ranking to find out which free antivirus is right for you. Furthermore, opting for a free version (trial or not) that has a premium consideration could be a great way to test the capabilities of a given brand at no cost, before eventually switching to a paid plan.

Evaluating anti-ransomware capabilities is key when choosing an antivirus

Why opt for a paid antivirus?

If you've already done your research or invested of the time to read our reviews, you will have noticed that for some time now, more than antivirus, we talk about security suites. And it is not simply a change in terminology: in fact, more and more often, the various brands try to offer users diversified solutions, able to protect devices not only from malware, but also from other types of threats and inconveniences, such as trackers. particularly intrusive advertisements, malicious URLs, identity theft attempts or breaches aimed at stealing bank data, without forgetting the fearsome ransomware attacks.

As a result, various security service providers offer spam filters, firewalls, tools URL blocking, free VPNs, parental control tools, isolated browsers to protect banking transactions, and more. These extras are not always worth the upgrade price, and you have to carefully evaluate which brand to choose based on your specific needs.

But a fundamental discriminant in choosing a paid package rather than another is above all the number of protected devices: many of us use smartphones, tablets, laptops, fixed PCs, often switching from one to another (for example starting a purchase on Amazon from the mobile phone and then completing it at home, from the comfort of the PC), and very often antivirus for a fee, they relegate to the more expensive plans the possibility of covering 5-10 devices at the same time and of various platforms (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chromebook and so on). Therefore, in choosing a paid antivirus, it is necessary to evaluate some fundamental factors:

quality of the antivirus engine number of devices covered supported platforms price / devices / annuity ratio features and fundamental functions offered: protection from ransomware, ability to threats stop, firewall, spam filter, phishing protection and URL blocking any extras included: VPN, parental controls, password manager, secure vault, cloud backup These are all the features you need to consider when choosing a paid antivirus. Luckily, many suites, such as Trend Micro, offer the option to try all of the package features for free before committing to a financial commitment, which is another aspect you can consider.

Here are some of the best paid antivirus we have. we would like to recommend you:

Bitdefender Antivirus, one of the best security packages ever

Bitdefender Total Security is an impressive suite with tons of features, if you are looking for an all-encompassing product, this could be for you. In addition, Bitdefender's anti-ransomware system is effective and well thought-out.


Norton is one of the best antivirus on the market, which we recommend unreservedly, also for its ransomware protection system.


Trend Micro Maximum Security

Trend Micro Maximum Security provides advanced protection for Windows and Android devices, more than enough on macOS and outperform most competitors on iOS. Its protection from ransomware is one of the most effective.


Free vs paid antivirus: in conclusion

Answer the question “better to use a free antivirus or choose a paid one? " it is neither obvious nor simple. There are good reasons to opt for a paid security suite, especially if you have a lot of devices to protect (or perhaps a large family) or if you want to make sure your work files stay safe from possible ransomware attacks. On the other hand, spending € 100 a year to protect a single Windows PC that you do not use for business purposes and that does not contain sensitive data may not make much sense. But if you decide to stay on a free antivirus, don't stop at Windows Defender, also because, as we have seen, there are free packages with much more performing antivirus engines, such as Avast and Avira for example. A further food for thought may be the arrival of security packages integrated into some VPN services. For example, NordVPN offers Threat Protection, while the Surfshark One package includes a good quality VPN and antivirus. If you need both a VPN and an antivirus, these options could save you some money. But always carefully evaluate what you actually need and carefully compare the features offered.

So, clearly establish your needs and then follow the criteria we have suggested above to make your choice. On the other hand, you will always have the opportunity to change your mind and upgrade to a premium package or take advantage of the money-back guarantee offered by the vast majority of brands on the market.

Read also: The best free VPNs of 2022

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