What antivirus program should I use?

Do you need an antivirus program on your computer? Almost certainly. If you run Windows operating system on your computer, you need one, unless you do not have your computer connected to the Internet (ever) or a network and do not intend to use any kind of writable media like floppy disks (perish the thought!) or flash drives and cards. In other words, if you are reading these words, you do. Running Apple or Linux? Computers running Apple’s OS X or Linux distributions like Ubuntu are exceptions; at this point you are generally safe without running active antivirus because most malware writers target the market-leading Windows operating system, but that may change someday. There are already hints that way. Note: You should only keep one active antivirus program on your computer. You may have any number of stand-alone scanners, such as VIPRE Rescue, Malwarebytes Anti-malware, or McAfee Security Scan. But only one antivirus program should be running in the background, checking files and protecting you as you browse. Otherwise, consequences can include a slow computer, multiple false positives (claims that a file is malicious when it is not), or even failure to boot. Many new computers come with a full-featured trial version of Trend Micro, McAfee or Norton antivirus products. These are normally 15-60 day trials that will expire and no longer receive security updates and in some cases cease to function at all. Of course, they hope you will like their security services and pay to receive a full subscription. “Should I buy that subscription?” people ask me. Here’s how I look at it.

  1. Basic antivirus is available for free. If you want solid basic protection from malware that attacks your computer, you don’t have to pay for it.
  2. Paid subscriptions offer additional value. Some offer automatic scanning, or faster scans than available in the free version. Some protect credit card information. Others combine anti-malware security with Internet content filtering or online backup. If you appreciate the added value, you should consider paying for that subscription.
  3. Whatever you do, keep an active subscription. That enables your antivirus program to download updates to identify and stop the most recently developed security holes (exploits) that viruses and other malware like to attack. If you can’t afford the renewal when it rolls around, check out the free versions.

If you want to save your money for things that matter, my recommendation is to install Microsoft Security Essentials and Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware Free. Security Essentials should scan at least weekly. Run the Malwarebytes scanner each month.