6 Free Ways to Save Your Digital Life

What's Hot

2 Types of Black Marks Might Vanish From Your Credit File SoonBorrow

6 Ways the Obamacare Overhaul Might Impact Your WalletInsurance

7 Dumb and Costly Moves Homebuyers MakeBorrow

This Free Software Brings Old Laptops Back to LifeMore

Obamacare Replacement Plan Gets ‘F’ Rating from Consumer ReportsFamily

Beware These 12 Common Money MistakesCredit & Debt

21 Restaurants Offering Free Food Right NowSaving Money

17 Ways to Have More Fun for Less MoneySave

House Hunters: Beware of These 6 Mortgage MistakesBorrow

30 Household Uses for Baby OilSave

25 Ways to Spend Less on FoodMore

Nearly Half of Heart-Related Deaths Linked to These 10 Foods and IngredientsFamily

5 Surprising Benefits of Exercising Outdoors in WinterFamily

10 Ways to Save When You’re Making Minimum WageSave

Boost Your Credit Score Fast With These 7 MovesCredit & Debt

7 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years EarlierBorrow

The Most Sinful City in the U.S. Is … (Hint: It’s Not Vegas)Family

The True Cost of Bad CreditCredit & Debt

10 Companies With the Best 401(k) PlansGrow

This Scam Now Tops ID Theft as the No. 2 Consumer ComplaintFamily

6 Stores With Awesome Reward ProgramsFamily

6 Ways to Save More at Lowe’s and The Home DepotSave

6 Healthful Treats for Your DogFamily

New Study Ranks the Best States in the U.S.Family

Thousands of Millionaires Moving to 1 Country — and Leaving AnotherGrow

Strapped for College Costs? How to Get the Most From FAFSABorrow

6 Overlooked Ways to Save at Chick-fil-AFamily

Ask Stacy: What’s the Fastest Way to Pay Off My Mortgage?Borrow

Where to Sell Your Stuff for Top DollarAround The House

8 Ways to Get a Good Price on a Shiny New AutoCars

Ask Stacy: How Do I Start Over?Credit & Debt

Secret Cell Plans: Savings Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Don’t Want You to Know AboutFamily

30 Awesome Things to Do in RetirementCollege

14 Super Smart Ways to Save on TravelSave

The Rich Prefer Modest Cars — Should You Join Them?Cars

You’ll Soon Pay More to Shop at CostcoSave

10 Ways to Save When Your Teen Starts DrivingFamily

McAfee's rolling out a new all-in-one security product for computers, phones, and tablets. But their expensive bundle includes a lot of services you already have, or can get for free – in one case, from McAfee itself!

If you lost everything on your computer, smartphone, and tablet, how would you price the damage? Internet security company McAfee claims it’s about $55,000 in value for the average American.

Of course, they would say that. They’re trying to promote their new software: McAfee All Access, a cross-device security solution that protects multiple Internet-enabled devices (PCs, Macs, smartphones, netbooks, and tablets) with one annual $100 fee.  Symantec also came out recently with a similar service. 

But before I get into all the “solutions” they offer, let me throw out a few more of McAfee’s survey stats…

  • 60 percent of consumers own at least 3 digital devices per household (25 percent have 5 or more).
  • On average, users have 2,777 digital files stored on at least one device, including music downloads, personal memories and photographs, personal communications, personal records (health, financial, insurance), career information (resumes, portfolios, cover letters, email contacts), and hobbies and creative projects.
  • 27 percent of those assets were considered “impossible to restore” if lost and not backed up properly, with personal stuff being the most valuable and irreplaceable.

“Not backed up properly” is the key phrase in that last one. If you don’t take care of your files, frankly, you might deserve what you get. You can back up and protect your files for a lot less than $100 a year, although McAfee tries to scare you away from the free stuff…

When it comes to security software, free is not better. A September 2010 USA TODAY survey of 16 anti-virus companies shows that no-cost anti-virus programs generally lack important features such as a firewall, website health checks, and automatic updates.

Yup, USA Today did say that. They then go into the story of a guy who researched and downloaded a bunch of free software to create “a small fortress” of protection, although they add he spent 50 hours researching this stuff. At that point I would just buy from McAfee.

But you really don’t need to spend 50 hours, or lots of money. Here’s how to get free most of the protections McAfee wants $100 for. Many of them you already have…

1. Firewall

Oh no, free antivirus programs don’t have firewalls! (Actually, some do.) What can we do?! Oh, right – PCs and Macs both come with built-in firewall software. And using multiple firewalls can cause conflicts, security gaps, and user frustration. Check that your firewall is enabled (instructions at the PC and Mac links), and you’re good.

2. Website health checks

McAfee already offers this for free as something called SiteAdvisor, so don’t pay them for it. For that matter, so does Norton, as Safe Web. And Google has a diagnostic feature that will warn you when you click on a risky link in search results. You can also run its diagnostic on your own without visiting the potentially dangerous page: Here it is testing our site.

3. Automatic updates

Again, this is something PCs and Macs can already do. Most of the software you use also informs you of updates. If you’re especially concerned about staying up-to-date, Macs have AppFresh and PCs have Secunia. But the update notifications can become more annoying than helpful.

4. Antivirus

We’ve covered this before: Antivirus Software Is a Waste of Money. Our tech guy Dan (who wrote that post and manages all things web-related here) recommends Microsoft Security Essentials, which is also what I use – without problems.

Do you need antivirus for your phone? McAfee is suggesting you do, and there have been a handful of Android viruses. For advice on this, I asked two of my techie friends: an IT manager for a Fortune 500 company and a computer systems security researcher.

The former said his company doesn’t use antivirus for smartphones, but they do block the download of risky third-party apps. The latter said the average phone user doesn’t need to worry yet: Viruses will continue to target low-hanging fruit, and that’s still desktops for now.

5. Device location

McAfee says its software can track and locate your phone by GPS, and “make it scream” so you can find it. This is another service you can get for free: There’s Find My iPhone, and Plan B for Android, which is even more convenient because you can install it remotely after losing the device.

For missing laptops and PCs, there’s free protection too. Check out this story I did on a man catching a laptop thief from hundreds of miles away. He did it with free software called Prey, which is available for most major operating systems.

6. Backup

With music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, many people don’t need to keep MP3 files anymore, and that’s good, becasue music, along with video, tend to eat up the largest chunk of space. For those who want to keep their collections, Google Music lets you store 20,000 songs free and listen from various devices. For now, you can’t re-download those songs, although it’s still in beta and that may change.

Amazon’s Cloud Drive  gives you 5 GB of space for free (you can use it for music or anything else) and Apple’s iCloud does the same. Dropbox is another popular service for backup and file sharing, and offers 2 GB free.

For traditional offline backups, PCs and Macs once again already have options built in to make it simple. Windows has the Backup and Restore Center, and Macs have Time Machine.

If you’ve got more money than patience, or are responsible for protecting other people’s data, it might make sense to go for McAfee’s package. But the open-source, do-it-yourself ethos of the Web is as strong as ever – and there’s no reason the average consumer can’t take advantage of it.

Looking for more cheap digital security? Check out Your Co-Worker Could Be an Identity Thief – 4 Tips for Protecting Yourself.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!


Read Next: Considering a Fixer-Upper? 15 Ways to Avoid a Money Pit

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 1,986 more deals!