Best Paid Anti-Virus Programs

Category: Security

My computer came with a free trial of the anti-virus software, and now it's nagging me to pay $49 to renew. Should I pay the ransom, or go with a free anti-virus program?

Should I Pay For Anti-Virus Protection?

There are dozens of free anti-virus programs available. Most of them do a decent job of protecting your computer and network against common malware threats (viruses, spyware, rootkits, etc.) But the paid versions of these and other programs can provide added protection, easier administration in business settings, and other benefits over their free counterparts.

When should you pay for security software? Many vendors offer their programs free for personal, academic, and other non-commercial use. If you use anti-malware for business, you are expected to pay for it. Also, some features such as real-time protection and email scanning may not be available in free versions.

The commercial security tools typically include a suite of programs that includes anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall, spam filtering, and download scanner. A common friendly interface lets you interact with all of them, when you need to change settings, run reports, or get help. And all of the components will have been tested to work well will together.
Paid Anti-Virus Software

But with the freebies, you have to cobble together your own set of tools to get the equivalent. You might end up picking 3, 4, or 5 of those tools, all from different vendors. The downside is that each program will have a different user interface, and the learning curve will be steeper. And there's always a chance that one of them might not play nice with the others.

Keep in mind that technical support is not included with the free anti-virus programs. That's a big plus for the commercial alternatives, especially for less technical users who might run into trouble while installing the program, or be confused by warnings that pop up while surfing the web or downloading.

Commercial Internet Security Software

Here are some of the best paid anti-virus programs and internet security software currently available. I've given the vendor's list price for each, but if you search online for the titles, you can usually find them at discount prices.

McAfee Total Protection 2011 ($44.99) or similar is often pre-installed on new computers, as a trial version with a nagware component. McAfee gets average ratings from users, but scores well in malware blocking, spam filtering, intrusion detection, and warning when malicious websites are encountered. Reviewers have called the parental control component "rudimentary" and "ineffective". The software installs easily, and has a minimal impact on system performance.

Norton Internet Security 2011 ($69.99) gets top marks for detecting and eliminating many kinds of malware. It's also easy to install - only two screens must be navigated before the program begins installing itself. The user interface is also intuitive. On the downside, Norton scans relatively slowly. It also has a reputation for being a system resources hog, and for not uninstalling cleanly.

BitDefender Internet Security 2011 ($29.95) does an excellent job of detecting and eliminating malware infections on hard drives. However, it's blocking of real-time malware attacks before they infect a machine is below average. If your PC is already infected, BitDefender will probably heal it. But it won't do so well with brand-new malware species.

Avast! Internet Security ($49.99) is only middling-fair at detecting infections, finding about 94 percent of test malware installed on a hard drive. It was able to remove only 70 percent of the infections that it did find, about average for anti-malware programs. Consistent with these results, Avast is one of the fastest anti-malware programs when it comes to scanning a hard drive. Its boot-scan feature will scan your hard drive for malware before Windows loads, a key feature in defeating some infections. Avast is easy to set up and the settings screens are fairly intuitive.

G-Data Internet Security 2011 ($39.95) is above-average in malware detection and elimination, and has a "Silent Firewall" that operates invisibly without constantly nagging the user. Its setup and setting screens are more complex than consumers may like. G-Data yields very few false positives - safe files wrongly identified as malware.

Kasperky Internet Security 2011 ($64.95) does a great job of blocking malware attacks before they can infect a computer. In tests, it detected over 95 percent of known malware based on signature files. It also removed 80 percent of infections, tying with the best competitor. However, Kaspersky is one of the most resource-intensive anti-malware programs. Running it on a low-end computer will significantly impact performance.

Bottom line: Plenty of free anti-virus and anti-spyware software is available. If you're willing to assemble and trouble-shoot all the pieces yourself, you should be well protected. But if you want the simplicity of an all-in-one solution, the most comprehensive protection, and expert technical support, you should pay for it. At four or five dollars a month, the price tag is modest, and for many home users, the additional peace of mind is worth it.

What's your opinion about paid anti-virus protection? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Best Paid Anti-Virus Programs"

(See all 35 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

10 Jun 2011

Bob, Comcast is my Internet Service Provider. They offer "Constant Guard" protection free to subscribers, but it is through Norton. I have hesitated to use this free protection because of Norton's reputation as a resource hog, and I don't like the fact that it is hard to uninstall. I currently have the paid version of Webroot, but I was planning to switch to AVG's paid version. Would it make more sense for me to use the Comcast protection? I was a bit surprised that you didn't mention AVG in your list.
Thanks much.

Posted by:

10 Jun 2011

I also am using Sunbelts Vipre Premium, it has kept my desktop and laptop secure and is not a resource hog. It is reasonably priced and all over great protection. I like it better then the previous ones I have used such as Norton, Trend Micro, Bit Defender and Security Essentials.

Posted by:

10 Jun 2011

NOD32 is the ONLY way to go! It consistently scores the best in independent reviews. Don't waste time AND jeopardize your machine with anything else.

Posted by:

11 Jun 2011

I had used Kaspersky for a year and liked it a lot, but my year ended and I just didn't have the money to pay for another... that's when I tried Norton cause it was free with my Comcast subscription. I was apprehensive, because I remembered how it hogged up my resources... but now I am extremely happy with it. I no longer feel it is the big memory hog it once was. They've really improved on it. And I like the protection it gives me when surfing the web. Also like the Norton tool bar that saves my passwords securely. I'd definitly recommend it.

Posted by:

paul redfern
11 Jun 2011

ive tried more than one and NOD32 is without a doubt the best that money can buy. in three yrs i havent had a single bug of any kind get by it and ill stick with it always. type NOD32 into google and open every place there you can find and have a good read. i did and im still with them.

Posted by:

11 Jun 2011

I also use Sunbelt's Vipre. It's fast and very reliable. I've used three others that didn't do as well. Two of them cost more.

Posted by:

Robert Byrne
11 Jun 2011

I'm a strong proponent of the Sunbelt Software(now GFI)Vipre. They make the statement that"If you do get a virus and are using a current vipre antivirus, We will clean your pc at no charge!"
With a position like that you can't miss.
Also it comes with a bullet proof firewall.

Posted by:

Joe W.
11 Jun 2011

What happened to AVG paid version? I would have thought AVG should have made any reviewer's short list of anti-virus software. I've been using AVG since 2005 and had no problems with it.

Posted by:

11 Jun 2011

Don't overlook Webroot Antivirus with Spysweeper. I've been using it for years and it keeps my XP SP3 HP in great shape. It even warns me before logging into sites that are known to harbor malware. I'm a very satisfied user.

Posted by:

11 Jun 2011

I am now running Microsoft Essentials and you can't beat the cost of that one. If I really wanted a paid program, I would use ESET Nod32. It is excellent and I never had a problem with in during the two years I ran it. It also has a small footprint, which is something you can't say about Norton's and MacAfee.

Posted by:

11 Jun 2011

I don't know why people still insist Norton is a resource hog. I run NIS 2011, and have used Norton since 2009. Prior to that I had McAfee, and that really slowed down my system. With Norton there is no noticeable loss of surf speed. Very few alerts, minimal use of resources (checked with multiple system analyses), and simple UI. I think it's great and will probably stick with it for the long haul. It scans all email, downloads, etc., and combined with Malwarebytes I have been virtually problem-free for nearly 3 years. I think a lot of people are basing their opinion on old information (I used to be guilty of that years ago, when my IT guru practically insisted Norton was the devil's spawn).

Posted by:

11 Jun 2011

I am using McAfee on one PC b/c it came with a paid subcription, but I'll switch once that runs out. On my laptops, I use Vipre. I like their pricing and one can find coupon codes/discounts for it many times. I definitely does NOT slow down my pc's at all, it's very quick and doesn't seem to get in the way of anything.

I have read many anti-virus reviews recently and was surprised how many times the new Norton came out on top. Not only for virus detection, but supposedly, it's no longer the system hog it used to be. I keep hearing this, so maybe I'll try it after McAfee runs out on my desktop. I'll definitely keep Vipre on my laptops, though.

Posted by:

11 Jun 2011

The paid anti-virus is ever better than free ones. Wanting free ones without full benefits? The choice is yours.

Posted by:

12 Jun 2011

I agree with you Bob 100%. My experience that freeware malware protections can be put together from 3-4-5 sources with flying colors. At the same time payed AV's like Norton (Symantec) made my computer sluggish. Why to pay for trouble? Unfortunately unmoral manufacturers like HP are bundling their products with preinstalled "free" Norton trash that continuously harassing owners in order to suck up money, when the really free MS Security Essentials can do the same job much better. The latter was not preinstalled. I would be curious what amount of money got HP from Norton to let bullying the new computer owners. Unfortunately, Costco is part of that scheme. Costco sells computers with preinstalled Norton trash with fake "free" products!

Posted by:

12 Jun 2011

Hello Bob, thank you very much for your always useful advice and explanation.

I use NOD32 and I am very glad with it, a few years ago I used Norton, but it was too slow and my PC was too old, so I decided to try a new Antivirus, when I found NOD and fall in love.
I have other friends who use it too and they said it is doing its work fine.
One of my PCs is used by my son, who doesn't know about security and click here and there without even think about it.
He makes NOD flags some trojan and virus too, but thanks to NOD they were stopped before cause any kind of problem in my system.

I am a glad NOD user. :-)

Posted by:

12 Jun 2011

Since there is so much interest in this topic and so many different opinions, perhaps you should write another article and address these issues as well as discuss other paid antivirus solutions.

Posted by:

George Barker
21 Jul 2011

Like Bruce I have used various Norton products for years but a recent one was troublesome. This can give a bad impression of Norton as a whole. The early 2011 Norton 360 suite which deals with computer optimisation and back up as well as anti-virus and other internet security measures has done very well on my Windows 7 desktop, although a Trojan did get through to my ancient Evesham Windows XP laptop.
I'm sure several other paid applications are also very effective, you just tend to stick with the one you know!

Posted by:

Ryan D
19 Aug 2011

I too use ESET NOD32 and have found it to be completly outstanding. I used to be a Norton believer until I was introduced to NOD as an outside IT consultant years back. The system impact between the 2 is unreal, ESET doesnt even seem to be there and as of a little while ago, they were claiming to be the only company that had never had a zero-day "wild" outbreak succeed. I dont know if that is still true but regardless, it is one of the best I've ever seen and Ive installed it for anyone who asked about what they should purchase. So far, no comebacks. It is also cheaper than most of the "big guys" who are probably subsidizing all of these package-bundling deals they are paying for on new PCs.

Posted by:

06 Sep 2011

The truth is nobody knows for sure if your programme is finding and eliminating malware.You never get 100% malware detection.This is mainly because broadband is super fast and the antivirus isn't quick enough to detect it especially if it's hidden in files or the operating system.I find it's best to do at least two scans to make sure.And as soon as you've done the two scans,another malware hacker has got in.

Posted by:

19 Oct 2011

How could you possibly recommend McAfee or Norton? Those are the two worst anti-virus programs around and have been for years. They both slow your computer down severely and leave a huge footprint on your system. I have personally worked on computers that could not connect to the internet or boot up properly and when I removed McAfee the machines worked fine. Norton does no better. When it runs it slows everything down, doesn't really protect your system and is difficult to uninstall. I wouldn't pay a dime for either of them. I now uninstall both programs without question whether the customer paid for them or not. When they question me about, I tell them that they wasted their money and that AVG Free or Avast are far better programs and don't cost a dime. McAfee and Norton just plain suck, and I would recommend them if they were free.

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