Antivirus Software is a Waste of Money

You need an antivirus program on your computer. But that doesn’t mean you need to pay for it.

If you use the Internet (and if you’re reading this article, you do), you’re at risk of contracting malware, a virus or other nasty computer program. Like viruses that infect humans, the computer variety can arrive unexpectedly from unknown sources and have devastating effects.

Fortunately, there’s a simple “vaccine” to protect against Internet-borne malware: antivirus software. While you may already know about antivirus software, what you may not know is that you don’t have to pay a dime to get it.

When you bought your computer, it probably came with an antivirus program installed, along with a “free trial” for the program’s regular updates. Once that free trial expired so did your protection. And since virus protection software has to be kept updated to be effective, you did what millions of other Americans do: You started sending some company $30 to $60 a year to keep your virus-protection current.

However, that annual subscription might not be necessary. Last year, Microsoft introduced an antivirus program called Microsoft Security Essentials. It’s easy to install, backed by Microsoft and completely free.

There are those in the business who say that Microsoft’s free virus protection isn’t as good as its costlier cousins from companies like Symantec and McAfee. For example, here’s a study funded by Norton that concludes Microsoft Security Essentials isn’t as effective, but plenty of others disagree. Check out Do Not Pay for Security Software from CNET or Despite Taunts from Rivals, Microsoft Security Essentials is Solid from PC World.

For the best protection on your computer, you need to observe common-sense rules like never clicking on unknown email attachments, shady ads or other suspicious links, and keeping your web browser and its plugins (like Adobe’s Flash) up to date.

If you want free but don’t want Microsoft, there are other options. CNET recently put together a comparison of five free security suites. Their editors gave three, Avast Free Antivirus, AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition and ThreatFire AntiVirus Free Edition, five out of five stars. However, each of those programs will try to sell you a “premium” version. Microsoft’s doesn’t.

What should you do with your current antivirus? If you’ve already payed for a subscription, keep it installed until the subscription expires. Then, if you decide a free substitute will do the job, uninstall your current costly software and replace it. If your subscription has already expired or you don’t have an antivirus program installed, download a free one and set it up right now.

Antivirus isn’t the only free software worth considering. Check out our story called Five Best Free Software Programs for some additional freebies for your computer.

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. Take 5 seconds and join our family by clicking here. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!

More Money Talks News


  • john peters

    go to and look up free security software and you will find many solid norton allowed a worm into my comp that was found by a free one…bye norton……

  • Anthony

    I've used the free version of AVG for years without any issues. I can't justify paying $40 for virus software.

  • Jim

    You failed to mention the best of the free antivirus solutions: Avira AntiVir Personal – Free Antivirus. The reason the editors at CNET didn't give it 5 stars was that under an older version, it gave too many 'false positives', meaning that it alerted you to potentially problematic software that's not necessarily harmful. That's been fixed. If you examine the actual results by antivirus program, you'll find that Avira has a faster scan engine and detects more harmful software than any of the other free programs, and more than many of the paid ones. I switched from AVG several years ago. I like AVG, but I prefer Avira because of its speed, its detection rate, and it's 'day zero' detection abilities. You can find the download at . It's the first one listed.

  • Jim

    One of my friends switched from McAfee and another from Kapersky and Avira found over 150 malware programs on the first and over 200 on the second. The second machine was pretty old, but still, if you're paying for a service, shouldn't it perform?

  • Jim

    One of my friends switched from McAfee and another from Kapersky and Avira found over 150 malware programs on the first and over 200 on the second. The second machine was pretty old, but still, if you're paying for a service, shouldn't it perform?

  • Ed Boyd

    Another overlooked freebie… Comcast provides free a Norton Suite that is the same as their Internet Security Suite 2010. A lot of people have Comcast cable and internet service. It's free!

  • Jim

    That's true….but it's still Norton…

  • Lori Thomas

    I wish I had seen this before I spent $39.99 last night on NortonAnti virus protection. As they say, “A day late, a dollar (or 40 in my case) short!”

  • Tone Loc

    But MS “licensing” gets to “look” at your system for this free fee….

  • John

    microsoft security essentail only works on vista and windows 7 will not work on xp or win 2k should have mentioned that on news oops

  • Sippy

    Just so you know…the “free” anti-virus protection is not free at all. Sure it will diagnose or detect a problem for free but it will not “fix” it. For that you need to sign up and pay a fee. Once again the old addage is true: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!” Too bad we were duped.

  • That's not true unless you're referring to Norton Security Scan or other freeware “scanners”. Avira AntiVir Personal – Free Edition is a fully-functional antivirus system with both a scanner and guard. It will scan, detect and remove any threats, exactly the same as any paid system. You may be referring to Norton Security Scan, which is, as the name implies, merely a scanner. But, Avira, AVG, Avast, Microsoft Essentials and several others are full programs just like their paid counterparts.

  • monica

    Type your comment here.whos 2k? what news channel?

  • Mez

    There is some software programs that are free for personal use some only do certain things like Ada-ware(free spyware sweeper remover) also you have Kapersky as well, but to say that not paying for a well named Virus Scanner is just totally bogus, now that you can contract a virus, malware, trojans just from the programming language on a website (no clicking needed). I see it alot with phishing account websites etc.

  • Microsoft has released a new beta of their anti-virus solution, Microsoft Security Essentials.

  • What I’ve learned since I posted the reply to Sippy 7 months ago is that there is an even better way to deal with viruses, worms, trojans and other malware: Get rid of MS Windows and switch to Linux. I use Linux Ubuntu, a free operating system, on my machines. If you’re familiar with Linux, you may hear Windows users say that it too can get viruses. The fact is, that’s never happened. Not even once. Why? Because nothing can infect your machine unless you allow it to; all authorized updates are done through carefully monitored ‘repositories’ as are other programs you need or want. The benefit, besides never having to worry about viruses, worms, trojans or malware is that your machine runs faster and more efficiently because it doesn’t have to run both massive antivirus programs and massive antimalware programs simultaneously. Ubuntu, and other Linux distributions, don’t need those, so your machine runs smoothly, quietly, and efficiently…and faster!
    Do your own research. Also be aware that if you just want to TRY Ubuntu without converting completely, you can do that, too. Or, you can load Ubuntu beside Windows on your machine and either dual boot or choose which OS you want to run at startup.
    You can get more information on Ubuntu here: . There are downloads available for desktops, laptops (also uses desktop version just as I’m using right here), and netbooks. Also be aware that there are other Linux ‘distributions’ or versions available.
    Since I’ve switched from Windows Vista on one machine, XP on an older one, and even converted a brand new laptop from Windows 7 the moment I got it home, I have had no crashes, no viruses, or any other problem. I LOVE Ubuntu!


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 2,046 more deals!