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Free antivirus programs are a good choice if you just need basic protection however, be aware that they’re unlikely to offer the same quality of protection as premium solutions. The top free AV software typically has the highest malware detection rates and are certified by independent labs such as AV Test or AV-Comparatives, however they won’t come with the extra features that are generally included in premium programs. These extras, which include threat protection for networks and usage profiles, a VPN password manager and parental controls are essential to complete security online.

The free antivirus programs aren’t updated as often as paid-for solutions. This leaves a gap for the spick and span baddies to evade detection. The majority of free antivirus programs rely on signature detection. This involves looking at malware samples against the strings of characters used in known attacks. This method works when attackers employ the same patterns. However, sophisticated hackers are increasingly employing techniques that are unique enough to evade detection.

Consider the terms and conditions of using a particular antivirus program. Most free solutions are licensed for individual users however they may not be suitable for corporate use. Some free solutions contain technologies that could be classified as adware or spyware. Downloading them should be done with caution. Paid solutions however are more likely be protected by warranties and guarantee that outline what rights the user has to in case of a breach or infection.