What You Need to Know About Antiviruses
After identifying the best antivirus, it’s time to delve deeper into what malware protection means and why millions of people use this software.
What Antivirus Software Is and What It Does
When we get ill, we rely on medication and home remedies to flush out the bug. That’s precisely what antivirus software does for your computer. What’s more, this software is designed to prevent the infection from occurring in the first place. You can set it up to scan all the data on your device from time to time or schedule scans when you know you won’t be using your computer. Today, the best antivirus apps are designed to provide a complete picture of how healthy your device is at all times.
How Antivirus Software Works
When you get sick, your doctor needs a certain amount of information to offer a diagnosis. When it comes to antivirus programs, this information comes in the form of a database of virus definitions that usually gets updated daily. Certain antivirus manufacturers may update their virus definitions several times a day. Some programs store these databases on your device, while the top antivirus apps store them in the cloud. They then use them in a so-called heuristics process to check if the scanned file is actually malware.
But, like a virus mutates, there are instances when malware morphs. Hackers are always trying to surprise antivirus companies with sneakier and more devastating versions of malicious code. That’s why a good antivirus must be able to heuristically figure out if the suspicious file should stay under supervision, based on whether it contains any similarities to the viruses the app is already familiar with.
Prevention is a key feature of modern antivirus programs. The best ones should be capable of catching zero-day and other undiscovered, but potentially harmful, malicious files.
Free vs. Paid Antivirus Software
The best malware removal tool doesn’t come for free. Many companies are now offering either entirely free antivirus programs or creating so-called “lite” versions of their existing software. That has led to concerns over whether the cheaper or completely free versions can protect devices amid suspicions that companies snub the freeloaders in favor of paying customers.
In our humble opinion, having any kind of computer protection always beats leaving your device completely vulnerable to hackers. However, free malware protection comes with some caveats, which can include a constant barrage of advertisements or some nasty surprises like tracking your browsing data. It goes without saying, but software manufactured by a reputable company should do neither.
It’s worth noting that even the best free antivirus for an Android phone, or any other device, lacks features found on premium versions. When you’re offered a free antivirus download, more often than not, there is an option to pay for an upgrade to a more complex program or a set of upgrades for the app you just downloaded. In the long run, it’s often better to invest in a paid option.
Do I Need an Antivirus?
One of the most common dilemmas is whether one even needs an antivirus anymore. While it is true that modern operating systems and browsers are way better at detecting malware than their predecessors, there’s still the threat of ransomware attacks. Seven billion virus attacks happen each year, and you need top malware protection to stay safe online.
So, whether you just want to browse the internet or run a business, you should install antivirus software on your computers and smartphones. At the end of the day, it’s better to have a small, unobtrusive app running in the background than lose months of work or your credit card details.
How We Rank Antivirus Programs
In order to select the top 10 programs and determine which one is the best antivirus, we’ve conducted an in-depth analysis of each product. Antivirus manufacturers don’t really have a standardized set of features you can expect to get when purchasing software, so determining what’s most needed is an integral part of our evaluation. Here’s how we do it.
Features and Extras
A nice set of features is always a plus in our book, but this isn’t always a deal-breaker when choosing the perfect antivirus. An antivirus that excels at threat detection is better than one jam-packed with features but with a mediocre virus recognition rate.
That said, a modern antivirus needs a complete toolset to stand out. Top antivirus software offers ransomware protection, phishing detection and prevention tools, and a password manager or file shredder. All these contribute toward improving the software’s score.
A good antivirus doesn’t need to be a jack of all trades, but it’s always a plus when the software comes with extras, so long as they’re not all shine and no substance. A number of antivirus manufacturers even incorporate some form of VPN functionality into their software, while others add parental control tools.
Even the best mobile antivirus needs to be affordable, or at least reasonably priced. We look at how many licenses you get with your purchase, whether it’s possible to save by getting a multi-year license, and if it’s possible to get a discount when ordering a mobile version along with a desktop one. Finally, we scrutinize the upgrade prices and how add-ons contribute to the overall package.
Ease of Use
Not everyone is a computer whiz, and a lot of people don’t like to have a bunch of buttons shoved in their faces while scanning their system. The best antivirus protection software makes the most important information easily accessible.
Users should be able to clearly see whether the scan finds any viruses and have all the features properly labeled and easy to reach. We also value programs that aren’t too pushy with premium ads and notifications. Sometimes, a user just wants to work in peace while the antivirus does its thing quietly in the background.
What to Look for in an Antivirus Program
Aside from the aforementioned general guidelines for finding the top antivirus, there are a few other things to keep in mind while shopping around.
Stick to well-known brands – There’s a reason some companies are better known than others, and it generally has to do with the quality of their products. Some of the names on our list are synonymous with malware protection and ingrained in the everyday lives of the digital population.
Licensing – You can’t exactly stroll into your nearest store and grab the best Android antivirus app. When signing up for one of these products online, it’s essential to keep an eye on the plan you’re choosing. There are monthly licenses, yearly licenses, multi-year contracts, renewable memberships, one-time payments, upgrades, and downgrades. Make sure you know whether the updates stop when your license expires and if the company charges you automatically each year. The best offers should cover more than just one device.
Try before you buy – It’s always best when you can dip your toe into the water before taking the plunge. Always be on the lookout for free trials or free editions for every top antivirus app. Due to growing competition, most manufacturers now offer a 30-day free trial or a money-back guarantee. Many have indefinite free versions that are fully capable of protecting your devices from malware, too.
Think about what you need – An antivirus isn’t the same as an anti-malware app. The latter is used as a cleanup tool once your computer is already loaded with spyware or adware. An antivirus not only removes the bug, but it’s also designed to actively prevent future intrusions. Check out the manufacturer’s website to make sure the product you are getting fulfills your needs.