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Anti-Virus Software vs. Anti-Malware Software: What’s the Difference?

by | Jul 7, 2017 | Articles, IT Support

If you own a PC,  you’ve likely heard of viruses and malware. Dangerous programs that can hack your computer’s system, encrypt its sensitive information, and corrupt, delete or hold its data ransom, these are large problems.

What’s more, they’re becoming larger problems.

In recent weeks, news has broken of several large-scale malware attacks across the globe, and there’s no sign that the people engineering these viruses are getting tired of the pursuit.

Fortunately, you can protect your computer by installing antivirus and anti-malware programs. But what’s the difference between the two, and which do you need? Read on to learn more.

Viruses vs. Malware

While people use the term “Virus” and “Malware” interchangeably, they’re not necessarily the same thing. While it’s true that all viruses are malware, not all malware is a virus.

Rather, viruses are a single type of malware. Designed to infect a system and duplicate themselves to spread throughout it, viruses take over a computer and wreak havoc.

Malware, on the other hand, is a broader term and can include everything from worms and spyware to adware and trojans.

The reason most software designed to battle these infections is called antivirus software is that viruses are the best-known form of malware, and they commonly affect individual consumers.

Antivirus Software vs. Anti-Malware Software

So, if viruses and malware aren’t the same things, are antivirus and anti-malware software the same thing? The answer is NO!

While lots of people think their antivirus tool will also protect them from malware, this isn’t always the case. In fact, good protection requires digging into your antivirus or antimalware software and figuring out what it will prevent and what it won’t.

Avast Antivirus, for example, scans for viruses and other forms of malware. Designed to address common threats like trojans and viruses, Avast also keeps your computer free of adware and lesser-known programs.

The same goes for McAfee Antivirus, which protects against viruses, trojans, keyloggers, rootkits, and worms, to name a few. Norton antivirus software will also protect users from malware in all its various forms, viruses, and web threats.

Malwarebytes, on the other hand, is a popular anti-malware software that doesn’t protect against common viruses. Instead, this program targets trojans, spyware, and adware, and leaves other companies to focus on protecting users from worms and viruses.

In the difference between Malwarebytes and Avast, McAfee, and Norton, you can see the difference between antivirus software vs. anti-malware software. You can also see how understanding which programs each does and doesn’t block could be so critical for you.

Which Should You Use?

Curious whether you should use an antivirus or anti-malware software? You’re not alone. The answer, though, depends on how and when you use your computer.

If you’re a standard user, who accesses their computer to work, surf the web, shop, and use social media platforms, you’ll find that a background antivirus tool paired it with an on-demand anti-malware tool will be sufficient.

For best results, be sure that the antivirus you install is as broad as possible. Ideally, you want one that scans websites, looks for web-based threats, application-based threats, and file-based threats. Once you’ve installed that, turn your attention to getting a malware tool that can run on-demand. This makes sure nothing slipped past the antivirus and deals with it if it did. The combination of these two programs will save you the hassle of having to remove viruses from your computer. 

While some people think more is better when it comes to antivirus programs, be aware that two background programs running at the same time may well interrupt one another, and you’ll enjoy a faster computer and more thorough protection if you stick with a background program and an on-demand program, instead.

Remember always to disable the background program when you run the on-demand program.

Have additional questions about protecting your computer from viruses and malware? Contact the techs here at Computer CPR!