Do You Still Need Antivirus Software

We know it’s a scary world out there, and we hope that by arming ourselves with the knowledge in this article, you can feel better prepared. Remember to keep your antivirus software up to date and run regular scans on your computer. It’s also important that you know how to spot an infection before it gets too serious—see our section on how do I tell if I have an infection? for tips on how to tell if something is wrong with one of your devices. If all else fails, though, remember: always backup!

In this guide, we find out the following: Do You Still Need Antivirus Software, Does Windows 10 require antivirus, what devices need antivirus software, and best free antivirus.

Do You Still Need Antivirus Software

One of the big stories this year was that the world’s most popular antivirus software, Norton AntiVirus from Symantec, is being discontinued. It’s not gone yet but its future is in doubt as Symantec works to merge their consumer and enterprise security technologies into one brand by 2020. The news led some people to ask if they still need antivirus software these days—and what will happen if you don’t install it? I’m going to answer all these questions and more in this article!

Symantec is down but not out against the Kaspersky Lab

Symantec has been on a downward spiral for years, and Kaspersky Lab has been gaining ground on Symantec. This is why I don’t think you need to worry about removing your antivirus software just yet.

However, if you’re worried about your computer’s security, there are other things you can do besides using antivirus software—such as installing an anti-malware program or using a firewall. These tools will help keep your computer safe from hackers and viruses even if the antivirus software that comes with it doesn’t work anymore.

Are Chromebooks Antivirus-Proof

Chromebooks have gotten a lot of hype lately as the ultimate solution to all your computing needs. They’re often touted as being safer than traditional PCs because they don’t come with antivirus software. After all, Chromebooks are cloud-based devices that rely almost entirely on the internet for their functionality, so do you still need antivirus software?

Well, no—but only because most people don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to security or technology in general. If you’re using a Chromebook without knowing how to use it properly and keeping up with updates, then yes: absolutely! You should still be running some form of antivirus software on your device if you want to make sure that everything’s working properly. There are plenty of ways for malware and viruses to infiltrate your device’s network even if you think it’s “immune” from these types of problems; just think about what happens when companies like Adobe release critical security updates for their programs every few months (and sometimes more frequently).

So does this mean I need Microsoft Windows 10 installed on my MacBook Pro? Or macOS Sierra/High Sierra running through Parallels Desktop 11? Not at all! You can still run an operating system like Linux or FreeBSD on top of macOS instead—it’ll give you better performance while removing any potential vulnerabilities associated with running something proprietary underneath those layers (like having Java available).

Does Your Router Need Its Own Antivirus Software

Your router is an essential part of your internet security, but it’s not designed to be secure in the first place. Routers are designed for convenience and speed, which means that their default settings can leave them open to cyber attacks.

That doesn’t mean you should ditch your router and start anew; “it’s not possible (or even desirable) to have a completely secure network,” says Mike Sonders of PC Magazine. Instead, make sure you take advantage of all the features offered by your current device while also ensuring that it has up-to-date antivirus software installed.

The good news is that most routers come with built-in protection that can be activated with a few simple steps like: changing the admin password; enabling WPA2 encryption; enabling firewall rules; setting DNS settings manually instead of using DHCP auto-assignment (to avoid rogue DNS servers); turning off UPnP compatibility if it isn’t needed for certain devices on your network; configuring port forwarding rules selectively rather than allowing all traffic through the firewall (because this will allow some malware access).

How to Tell If You Need Antivirus Protection

To determine whether you need antivirus protection, consider the following:

  • How often do you use your computer? If it’s a daily driver, chances are a virus could strike at any time. However, if your machine is more of a family computer (or even a work-only device), there’s less chance for an infection.
  • Do you download files from the Internet on a regular basis? If so, be sure to check with the website first to make sure that the file isn’t infected with malware before downloading it onto your machine.
  • Are there multiple people using this device—with different needs and usage patterns—or just one person who uses it all day long? A single user may not need as much protection as someone who shares their machine with others in their household or office environment.

What to do if you have an infection

If you have an infection, you’ll need to use a malware scanner to find and remove it. Two good options are Malwarebytes and Kaspersky Lab.

Does Windows 10 require antivirus

Windows 10 and 11 include Windows Security, which provides the latest antivirus protection. Your device will be actively protected from the moment you start Windows. Windows Security continually scans for malware (malicious software), viruses, and security threats. In addition to this real-time protection, updates are downloaded automatically to help keep your device safe and protect it from threats.

what devices need antivirus software

Hardly a day goes by without a report of another hack where confidential customer data has been leaked, or a new scam trying to con people out of their money or personal details.

But while these are worrying, what about viruses? Are they still a threat? Do I need antivirus on my PC or laptop?

Unfortunately, they are. According to AV-Test, over 450,000 new malicious programs and potentially unwanted applications are discovered every day.

That is an awful lot of bad stuff which you don’t want anywhere near your computer.

Antivirus software is of course the way to keep it safe, and modern antivirus apps usually do a lot more than simply watch out for and block viruses.

The best antivirus should protect your laptop, PC (and other devices) from viruses, but should also guard your personal information – your identity, bank and credit card numbers – from the criminals that want to steal your money.

This means it’s wise to use a security app that runs on your phone and tablet as well as your Windows laptop or PC.

Many of these apps now include a VPN to give you extra security and privacy while you browse the web, and will warn you if malware is trying to access your device’s camera  and microphones. They also include password managers which remember all your logins so you can have different passwords for all your accounts, which is the best way to keep them safe.

Identity protection is also included in the very best suites. This does various things, such as monitoring the dark web for your email addresses, passwords and other personal information, and then alerting you if it’s spotted so you can take action.

So, yes, Windows does still need antivirus software, but you’re best off getting a full security suite that will protect you from much more than just viruses.

Does Windows come with antivirus software?

It does indeed: Windows 10 and 11 have Windows Defender. Microsoft has included virus protection in Windows for many years, and the latest version of Defender is the strongest it’s ever been.

If your laptop or PC didn’t come with any other antivirus software pre-installed then Windows Defender will already be protecting you.

Yes it is. Although in the most recent report from AV-Test its scored have dropped a bit, it has an excellent track record. It regularly matches or beats antivirus apps from the top names, such as Norton, McAfee and Bitdefender.

But there is a drawback: Defender shouldn’t slow down your laptop and much as apps from other companies because it’s part of Windows, but in fact it causes apps to load more slowly, and files to take much longer to copy than its rivals.

But more importantly than this, it doesn’t offer the extra features you get with paid-for security suites, so you’re not as well protected from dangerous websites, scams lurking in social media feeds and in phishing emails.

Of course, there are still advantages: Defender doesn’t cost anything and it’s already installed, which is convenient. Just remember that it isn’t protecting your phone or tablet, though.

Why pay for antivirus software?

Hopefully, you already know the answer to this question.

We’ve already explained that Windows Defender can slow down your computer and – at least in the most recent test – didn’t catch 100% of viruses and so-called zero-day threats.

But a paid-for security app, such as Norton 360 or McAfee Total Protection, provides a wider range of features that protect you as well as your PC or laptop.

You can expect to get alerts when apps want to access your webcam, notifications that an email address or password was exposed in a data breach, plus warnings of fake and dangerous websites.

Paid-for antivirus software is regularly updated and new features added, so while it’s yet another thing you have to pay for, it could save you a lot more than you spend on it.

If you want to see which security suites we recommend, then read our roundup of the best antivirus. 

The bottom line line is that if you want the best protection, you should get good security software. Often, a single subscription will protect your whole family’s devices including mobile phones and tablets.

What can I do to beef up Windows 10’s security for free?

You can’t get the same level of protection for free without putting in a fair amount of work and, in some areas, you simply can’t get the protection at all.

But there are things you can do. Here are two you should do straight away:

A good password manager such as Bitwarden will store all your logins and enter them when you need to log into an app, website or service. It might mean changing duplicated passwords on a lot of sites, but aim to have a different, strong password for all websites and services that store personal information that you wouldn’t want to be compromised.

Often, password managers will tell you where you’ve used the same password so you can more easily change it. Some will even link you directly to that site’s password change page.

Second, a VPN encrypts your internet connection and helps to add security and offer privacy while you visit websites, download files and other online activities. You don’t need to use one all the time, and you should only use a trustworthy VPN service, but there are some good free VPNs to choose between.

Be very careful what you click on

Many of the scams these days work by tricking you into clicking on links in emails, which then downloads malware, or clicking through to fake versions of websites which then ask you to log in, therefore stealing your account details.

A good rule of thumb is to always navigate to a site yourself. If you get an email saying your account password needs changing, or even that there’s a great sale on, then don’t click on the link. Instead, go to your browser and type in the address of the site. If the sale is real, then you’ll be able to find it.

Be very cautious about links in emails or social media messages too, as these can be just as perilous. Basically, treat every link or download as suspicious, and you can avoid a lot of problems.

best free antivirus

We spend a lot of time looking at the best paid antivirus suites, but we don’t talk much about free antivirus solutions. Part of the reason is that the free versions are based on their paid counterparts.

If you see a paid version you like that offers a free alternative, you can safely assume the antivirus protection level is similar, save for any specific malware types the free version doesn’t cover.

To create this list of the top free AV programs we looked at the top mainstream antivirus suites for Windows 10 and selected the ones that offer a free version, as not all of them do. After that, we looked at how well these suites performed in third-party detection tests. We also made sure they weren’t resource hogs, because the last thing you want is a piece of free software slowing down your PC while running in the background.

In the end, our selection came down to these five antivirus suites.

1. Avast Free Antivirus

Avast One is a very highly rated antivirus program. With the free version of this suite you can run all the various virus scans. Most of the key Avast protections are also available, such as scanning new files added to your system, watching for malicious behavior from installed programs, a web browsing shield, and an email shield.

Avast Free even allows you to inspect your network and see the devices currently connected to your home router. 

Avast Free uses a so-called smart scan to look for a variety of problems including browser threats, outdated apps, viruses and malware, and “Advanced issues” such as whether your webcam is protected from hijacking and the status of your firewall. The trick with those advanced issues, however, is that to supposedly fix them you need to start paying for the Avast One suite, which costs about about $50 per year for new subscribers.

What you don’t get for free is the phishing protection, the sandbox to separate suspicious files from your system, the Avast firewall, webcam shield, password protection, and a sensitive data shield. It does, however, provide basic ransomware protection.

Avast is surprisingly useful in its free version and is one of the most flexible options around. Yes, it can be a little annoying during installation—like trying to sneak a Google Chrome install on you, for instance—but that’s the kind of minor annoyance free software often comes with.

2. Kaspersky Security Cloud Free

Kaspersky is another highly rated antivirus with a good amount to offer in its free service. This free AV suite doesn’t try to install any extra software on the sly like Avast does. It will, however, ask you to create a Kaspersky account during installation and remind you to try a 30-day free trial of its premium services.

We had some issues installing Kaspersky with Microsoft’s Edge browser in late May 2021. Defender’s Smartscreen kicked in, flagging Kaspersky Free as dangerous. It’s not clear why this happened.

Kaspersky Free supports the various scanning options you’d expect from paid suites, including full scans, scans of external devices, and the ability to schedule scans. Also part of the free package are Kaspersky’s password manager and Secure Connection VPN with a 300MB data usage limit per day.

What you don’t get are the privacy-protection features for preventing unauthorized use of your webcam; Safe Money, the sandboxed browser for financial transactions; PC Cleaner for clearing out old files; and any of the extra tools such as the software updater or network monitor.

Overall, however, Kaspersky offers solid protection for free, plus a few extras.

3. Avira Free Security

Avira Free includes antivirus protection, a basic password manager, file shredder, and a free VPN with an allowance of 500MB per month. It’s not as full featured as Avira Prime, but it’ll do for a free suite.

The free version scans your PC, and offers real-time protection for your desktop. But it lacks protection from web threats and email threats. It also lacks the improved PC cleanup feature for clearing out old files in the Pro version.

The free version scans your PC, and offers real-time protection for your desktop. But it lacks protection from web threats and email threats. It also lacks the improved PC cleanup feature for clearing out old files in the Pro version.

Installation with Avira is easy, with no attempts to sneak in other software, and no requirement for creating an account. Avira used to install multiple applications by default, but now it’s much simpler with many features operating out of a single window. Plus, you only have to uninstall one application instead of the multiple uninstalls required with something like Kaspersky.

4. Bitdefender Antivirus Free

Most antivirus suites use the same desktop interface as their pro versions. The difference being that all the premium features have some kind of lock icon over them to indicate that you can’t use them. This approach lets you see all the fun stuff the full suites offers, in the hopes you’ll subscribe to unlock the paid features.

Bitdefender doesn’t take that approach. Instead, it offers a stripped-down antivirus program with minimal options instead of the full interface of Bitdefender Total Security.

Bitdefender’s free antivirus scans your PC only. You can click the System Scan button to initiate a scan, or you can drag-and-drop particular files in need of scanning. If you like, you can exclude certain files or folders to speed up scan times.

That’s about it for extra features. There are no password managers, PC tools, or VPN. It’s malware scanning and that’s it. Well, almost it. Bitdefender’s free edition includes anti-phishing, and anti-fraud protection.

5. Windows Security

Finally, we come to Microsoft’s built-in security solution. There was a time when we wouldn’t even consider Windows Security (also known as Windows Defender) for an article like this. Times have changed, however, and Windows Security is equaling the competition in terms of results from third-party testing houses.

Windows Security is very good. There are third-party options that have better detection capabilities based on independent tests, but the improved performance is often marginal. If you want reasonable security without the bother of installing a third-party suite, then you’re all set. Windows Security is active by default in Windows 10, and it works in the background ensuring you’re protected from threats.

What you sacrifice with a free AV program

As you can see, there are several capable free AV programs for you to choose from. Still, we feel it’s important to point out what you don’t get when you opt for a free solution. Email protection, for example, is typically a paid feature—and something that people who are extremely active in a desktop email program might care about. 

The same goes for phishing protection and other web threats. While some free antivirus suites offer minimal protection, the best protection against malware online comes from the paid versions of each suite. You can, however, minimize web threats with ad blockers and other security-minded browser add-ons. 

Ransomware protection used to be exclusive to paid tiers, but these days many programs are offering some type of ransomware protection for free. It’s usually not as extensive and detailed as in the paid suites, but it does exist. 

Also missing from the free suites are enhanced security features such as a sandboxed area for opening suspicious files, a sandboxed browser for shopping protection, an enhanced firewall, monitoring for malicious behavior from installed programs, and webcam monitors.

If, however, you’re only looking for basic antivirus protection that scans your PC and alerts you when there’s a problem, then one of these suites will do the job without costing you a cent. 

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