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My friend Dan over at Outsmart Technology wrote a fantastic article about choosing the right antivirus package. As a followup to Dan’s article and my own article yesterday explaining what a virus is and how your computer actually becomes infected, I wanted to voice my opinion about so-called “total protection” packages being sold by the top names in personal computer security. That opinion is, stated bluntly, that their software is bloated, junky, and not worth your money.
The Skinny on the Bloat of Total Protection Software
Personally I think that McAfee and Symantec, the top dogs in the personal computer security market, having been riding the wave of brand recognition for many years now. While I love Symantec’s corporate offerings (Symantec Antivirus Enterprise, and Ghost, for example), their personal software is simply bloatware; and don’t get me started on McAfee! While both of these companies still offer a standalone antivirus application, they have been focused on their “total security” packages for several years now, which includes such tools as anti-spyware scanners and firewalls.
Dan asked the question, “Is it possible that some of the commercial anti-virus programs are better in various ways?” I know two things that commercial antivirus software are better at doing: slowing down your PC and wasting your money. These total protection packages are what we in the IT business call bloatware: software that hogs your system resources to provide a bunch of unnecessary features. Much of what they offer is redundant and unnecessary because your operating system already provides these tools (such as phishing protection and a firewall). I have seen brand new PC’s slowed down to what seems like half the speed they ought to run at by these total protection packages.
Perhaps it’s because companies like AVG and Avast! aren’t direct competitors for your money in the personal security business, but their products are minimal in the features they provide, and thus simply don’t require the same amount of resources as Norton or McAfee. If you are looking to breath life into an old machine, a free and minimal antivirus solution is going to be your best, and possibly only option.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is: don’t waste your money. Follow Dan’s advice and download a free antivirus program (I personally use AVG, he uses Avast, and I’ve installed ClamAV for some nonprofit customers of mine). If you feel guilty about getting something for nothing, AVG does have a paid edition of the software.