Free vs. Paid Antivirus: Comparison

Free vs Paid Antivirus

It’s not uncommon for PCs to come with pre-installed suites of antivirus software. It depends on a number of factors like the company your system is by and which operating system is in use etc. But one thing is for sure, the antivirus software is from a reputable, and most of the time an elite company. The only difference is that it is usually a trial version. As soon as the trial period ends, users only end up with the standard Windows Defender.

Usually, instead of buying to extend the trial version software, people opt to buy from third party companies. In case you cannot afford to buy a premium security suite for your system, don’t sweat too much – you can acquire pretty decent protection with the free version of antivirus as well.  But, what makes an antivirus, free or bought, an efficient one at its basic functionality? It must be able to, at least, get your system rid of the existing malware, and also protect it from any further attacks – not only malicious threats but also Trojans, ransomware botnets, and other harmful entities that may threaten your system’s wellbeing.

We will discuss the best available malware protection systems in this article – paid, and free.  


Free Antivirus vs. Paid Antivirus

Alright. So, if you are able to obtain core level security with the free antivirus software, why would you ever pay to acquire one? Well, first and foremost: these free versions are not fit for commercial use. If you store any important, financial, or business related information on your system, or conduct transaction of sensitive data – you are in need to buy a more sturdy security system. You cannot risk data that sensitive since you may end up paying more as a damage than you ever will for the antivirus suite.

It’s a given from the start, that the free antivirus is obviously not going to offer the kind of features that its paid-for progression may. For instance, the free version from Kaspersky does not offer the System Watcher feature that its paid version does. The function of this feature is that it runs a scan in the background that constantly monitors any suspicious activity taking place in any of the processes.

Similarly, Adaware’s paid counterpart comes with an additional layer of protection against harmful websites and any threats that may enter through these websites. In case of Panda, it does not even feature a firewall or application control in its free version.

Just like that, most companies only offer the bare-minimum with their free versions – that, too, with no tech support.


Free Antivirus Software: Considerations

Even though most of the free antivirus software versions are more or less the same, the ones by Panda, Avast, Bitdefender, and of course Microsoft Defender are amongst the most trusted ones. Since they cost nothing, one does begin to think about how the company may be making money if not through their sales.

The answer is simple: Advertising revenue.

The companies make their money via advertising through the free suites running on your systems. While some users don’t mind, others do get increasingly frustrated – as it is unsolicited. And how does it know what kind of ads to present on your system? They have access to your browsing data, the types of apps on your system, and the individuals that you are in contact with – it reads your habits. Which protects you from the very basic threats but your system is still susceptible to contracting viruses.

Paid Antivirus Software: Considerations

Amongst many prominent benefits of a paid antivirus are the few that we will discuss here.


Paid antivirus software not only analyses an unknown hazard, but as it is in the process of detecting it, it isolates the suspicious file. While the threat is being analyzed, it will not cause harm to the other data in the system

Browser Protection

It is common for paid antivirus software to include extensions that protect sensitive data and prevent it from being stolen or misused.


In most, even the basic, antivirus suites, a sturdy firewall protection is in place that monitors the nature of traffic that goes in and out of the system through various channels.

Protection against in-memory attacks

This is a feature that is not common in the most basic tier of paid antivirus protection, but the premium versions offer it. There are threats that may escape the security by not writing to storage on disk. This protocol detects and prevents such attacks from exploiting the storage.

Ransomware Protection

This is also a very common feature that comes with most paid antivirus suites – including the basic versions. It is a crucial layer of protection that is needed in order to save your important files from being held hostage by hackers.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Last, but most importantly, using a VPN along with your antivirus software ensures that your internet use is not being tracked by your ISP (local), unsolicited Wi-Fi hackers, or even government officials.


Independent Antivirus Lab Test Results

`There are labs all around the world that are dedicated to inspecting the functionality and credibility of antivirus suites. Most of which publish their reports for the public use – in order to help them make a better and more informed decision.

 There are four most reliable labs that we trust:

  • AV- Test Institute
  • SE Labs
  • AV-Comparatives
  • MRG-Effitas

It is considered to be an honor to be tested by these highly trusted and reputable labs – companies tend to pay heft funds so that their antivirus suites may be tested by these labs. Even though labs, usually, do not conduct detailed tests on the free suites of antivirus software, they include a quick review of the free version as well if they have tested each and every other suite from the company. As a result, it can be seen that every premium company provides solid basic protection when it comes to preventing malware, as their paid suites come with additional security and features.


Malware Protection

In addition to studying the test results from these independent labs, we also conducted our own malware protection tests. During the test, we subject every antivirus to our own concoction of various malware, and monitor its reaction.

According to the results of most tests, the free antivirus successfully rooted out most of the malware samples. But, since the tests we conducted use the same set of malware every month, it is difficult to determine the antivirus’ capability to detect and wipe out new viruses. According to another test that we ran with brand new malware provided by MRG-Effitas, Norton’s antivirus held the highest score, second is Trend Micro Antivirus Plus, and third is Avira Free Antivirus.

Useful Features about Free Antivirus

  • File scans on access and blocks malware from launching
  • Detection based on behavior
  • Spyware protection (most, but not all companies provide this feature for free)
  • Rare free suites offer a virtual keyboard

What’s Not Here? What About Windows Defender?

Microsoft Windows Defender, amongst other free antivirus products rate at least at three-stars from us. But, since it’s not a standalone product and comes with Windows by default, there is not a lot to test.

There are other free software options that are focused completely on protecting your system from rasomware, such as:

  • Trend Micro RansomBuster
  • Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware Beta
  • Cybereason RansomFree
  • BitDefender Anti-Ransomware

Others are devoted to only getting rid of the existing malware and threats in your system. But, since their sole purpose is to clean your system, they do not come with any other features, and can only be taken use of once your device is affected.


Who Needs What?

If your use for the device is limited to basic use, and do not require proper protection from all kinds of malware threats – you can opt for a free antivirus suite. In case you have a running business, regardless of the size, you store sensitive information on your system that could be hacked into, then you will need to purchase a proper security suite.

The technical support that comes with a paid antivirus is sure to prove extremely helpful in case your system does incur harm and you need assistance in order to deal with it – or how to prevent any further damage before getting it under control.

As for parents, purchasing an antivirus suite is more suitable due to the lack of parental controls in the free antivirus suites. In addition to the parental control, more premium versions of antivirus help young people to be vigilant about phishing and warning them against entering s website that may expose them to breach of personal information.

If you absolutely need to get a free antivirus, then we suggest opting for a suite by one of the companies that we have mentioned in this article.


Final Thoughts

The most important thing to remember is that even if you opt for a free antivirus suite: do not tap/click on any and all options that appear on the site you are visiting at the moment, that seem to say “Download Free Antivirus Here.” Not only are you going to find yourself with no antivirus, you may just end up exposing your system to even more dangerous and infectious viruses. So, be more diligent while choosing a free antivirus suite.

Overall, if you require more features and controls in your antivirus suite, then choosing a paid suite is going to prove to be a more effective security system for your devices.