Is Free Antivirus Software No Good?

July 24, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More

Reading time: 5 – 8 minutes

Choosing the best antivirus software is crucial for computer usage in order to get rid of malware from infecting your computer. End users have different standpoint on which antivirus software works for them. Being a software enthusiast myself, you can only have an attachment with particular software based on experience and I mean long term experience—hands-on exposure. Nothing can take the place of an actual experience over theoretical statements or assumptions. It is no different than choosing your home appliance, your clothing line or store, it all boils down to which product meets your requirements and expectations.

When it comes to antivirus software, we all have our own choices and some of us have different requirements. While most of us prefer user-friendly programs, some advance users may prefer more feature rich software while those who are just new to this may resort through trial and error in order to decide which one works for them but above all things, its our computer’s protection we’re after.

Trend Micro, one of the leading corporate cloud security providers, offers free antivirus tools for home users as they understand that not everyone can afford hundreds of dollars in virus definition subscriptions. By giving out an effective preventative tool, they can help slow the spread of malware across the internet which also helps promote their commercial products.

It was just surprising that a niche site posted an article questioning the capability of free antivirus software to deliver the necessary protection to computers blatantly describing the option as risky. Many of us may not agree with this statement at all ever and will condemn such generalization.

What I’m talking about was the blog post of PC Mag entitled “Can You Afford To Use Free Antivirus?” which was rather appalling to the extent that they are a niche site yet they have tendencies to sway on what could have been a blog post that could have showcased their expertise and integrity.

Semantec’s David Hall, Product Manager for Asia-Pacific Consumer Products and Solutions said that free antivirus software can’t keep up with those full-priced suites offered by their company and even though it sounds conceited, PC Mag agreed that Semantec has a point.

Talking about Microsoft Security Essentials alone, they stated that Microsoft created their own version of antivirus as an answer to incapable free antivirus softwares such as AVG or Avira otherwise if the latter guys could not have done a good job, Microsoft wouldn’t have thought of coming up with something on their own.

PC Mag said and I quote,

“The free products also don’t generally update themselves with the same frequency as the pay programs.”

Alright, before you react and I know you will. Allow me to dissect each sections of the post. As a continuation,

“One exception to this may be Panda’s upcoming Cloud Antivirus, but it’s a little early to say. The cloud approach does change the rules on updates.”

It seems that the author doesn’t have an idea if free antivirus software do update on its own and stating Panda’s Cloud Antivirus could be promotional if not unwittingly but may also indicate uncertainty on the author’s part. The post’s second to the last paragraph and first sentence states and I quote,

“I could cite competing authorities on whether the protection quality of the free products is good enough as compared to the pay products, but in a sense none of them are good enough.“

The last paragraph and I quote,

”My common sense tells me that protection provided by the elite pay products is better than that provided by the free products. The reason there are free products, and why there will continue to be free products, is not that they’re as good as the pay products, but that they’re way better than nothing. The more people use them, instead of leaving themselves with big virtual “Kick Me” sign, the better off we all are.”

The former quotation for me is clearly a generalization. If you read between the lines, PC Mag in this author’s behalf concluded that all free antivirus software are crap! Based on the links that this unnamed author cites on the post, he was able to come up with a conclusion that when he/she encountered a Scareware (Scareware is software which pretends to be a security program, pretends to scan your computer and find threats on it, and demands money in order to remove the fictional threats.) one time that he/she has downloaded via a pop up window while surfing the internet. After downloading what he perceived as “free antivirus software” since it run a scan while he was browsing a weather related site, out of curiosity he/she downloaded it. To make the story short, it was a malware that he/she downloaded. And that was the author’s supporting citation about the generalization.

The more striking part is that the author based on the last paragraph states that his/her common sense tells him/her that the protection provided by paid antivirus products are unsurpassable by free ones and that free software are just mere alternative than having nothing at all. Also, the author said that while there are some people like you and me that continue to use and patronize free antivirus software, we’ll never get any better.

It sounds that I needed a lot of coursing in order for me to come up with statements like those above unless there’s an ulterior motive to do so. Coming up with such negative statements especially on a niche site like PC Mag on technical matters such as free antivirus software products is a powerful statement that needs a lot or I mean tons of thinking and research in order to come out reliable and authoritative.

I can’t imagine reading from a technology site certain generalizations that are questionable in nature and lacking with enough supportive proof. I certainly won’t believe a niche site with an author who merely downloads software via pop-ups out of nowhere and creates news out of it with some splash of technical jargons just to make it sound and look geeky and use it as a proof to make generalizations that are out of context.

My common sense tells me that I’d rather not believe niche sites with authors who think that using jargons make them sound reliable and technically authoritative yet lacking in substance.

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Category: software

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