Information Technology

Antivirus software

How to keep your Mac or PC infection free

Buckeye Tech Solutions

Whether you just browse daily news and email on the Internet or you run your entire business on the cloud, there is no doubt that the topic of antivirus software has crossed your mind at least once. The primary reasons for considering an antivirus software are to keep your computer running as smoothly as possible and to safeguard against data loss or theft. There are many software options to choose from, of which none can claim to be completely bullet-proof. The three main categories of antivirus software are paid programs/software suites, free versions of the paid programs and Microsoft brand. Let’s examine the pros and cons of each.

Going by the age-old adage of you get what you pay for, you might be inclined to immediately assume that paid antivirus software will provide the highest level of protection and is the way to go over the free alternatives, but that is not always necessarily the case. Speaking from 20+ years of computer experience, I have seen viruses and malware manage to break through every single paid program and infect a computer. That being said, paid antivirus software packages often have a very diverse arsenal of protection options, from real- time file scanning to system service monitoring to email protection, which go a long way to keeping your Mac or PC infection free. However, along with these protection options come a few downsides. The first downside is the hit to your wallet, with some options being as cheap as $10/year/PC when you buy a family pack of licenses to the more expensive $75/year/PC for corporate software packages. The second downside is the hit to your system performance. All of this real-time monitoring takes precious system resources such as eating RAM/memory and chugging CPU power. These effects can be extremely noticeable on older and lower end computers and sometimes even noticeable on higher end computers. In this author’s humble opinion, sometimes it feels like the paid antivirus software slows the machine down more than the viruses it’s protecting against.

Free versions of the paid antivirus programs allow you to test drive the software before committing to a purchase, and they offer a great value. They will generally disable some of the advanced protection options until you pay for the full version, but the core protection options remain and are all most users typically need anyways. The free versions come with the downside of frequent pop-ups and notifications to let you know that they are doing their job and that you could be receiving even more protection with their paid version. However, the notifications can sometimes be turned off completely, and it could easily be argued that a few pop-ups are worth the protection your computer is receiving.

The third type of antivirus software is Microsoft’s free antivirus software. Microsoft has Security Essentials for Windows 7 and Defender for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Defender is installed and runs by default, whereas Security Essentials needs to be installed manually. The advantages of running Microsoft’s built- in antivirus are that it automatically updates with Windows, it runs quite lean, requiring very little system power, and it is free. The downsides to running Defender or Security Essentials is that you are less likely to receive any tech support, and that for the most part, it is a fairly bare-bones program that does not offer much in the way of advanced features; this is likely what allows it to run with such little system overhead. They seem to be just as likely to identify and prevent viruses just as much as the aforementioned antivirus software, so all things being equal, it would be tempting to simply choose the software that is free and utilizes the least amount of system resources.

Now that we’ve covered the types of antivirus software, let’s consider some best practices we can utilize in our day-to-day computer usage, whether it be at home, at work, or on a mobile device. Being savvy about what not to do can go a long toward keeping your data safe and your computer out of the shop, and it may even be more important than the antivirus software you choose. Always keep all of your software as up to date as possible. This should be easy enough as incessant update notifications seem to have proliferated to ever electronic device. Do not open any attachments from people you don’t know, and be skeptical about attachments from people you do know. Trust your instincts! If there’s even a small inkling in the back of your mind that something might be suspicious, it most likely is. Ads are everywhere, almost every single website on the Internet has them. Scammers are sneaky and are able to hijack the ads on some websites to make you think your PC is infected. They will flash bright red pop-ups at you, give dubious warnings of infection, and implore you to call a phone number to receive help in removing said infections. Never, never call those numbers, and under no circumstance give them any credit card or banking information. They are wily and will do their best to get it from you. To help mitigate these risks, you may consider installing a third-party ad blocker software, like Adblock Plus. Lastly, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is, so don’t click on it. Happy surfing!