When it comes to protecting your computer from viruses and harmful programs, you have lots of options. While you could spend hundreds of dollars on pricey anti-virus and anti-malware programs, there’s also plenty of free software that claims to work just as well.
But what’s the deal with these free programs? Are they safe for your computer? Do they work as well as paid versions?
Here’s what you need to know.
Free Software 101
Today, there are dozens of options for free antivirus and protection software on the web. These programs are designed to do everything from protect your computer from viruses to shield you from pop-ups or malicious programs.
While virtually everyone likes to get something for free, it’s important to realize that not all these programs are created equal. Although there are many reputable free programs out there, many free software programs are spyware disguised as something that will help your computer.
Because of this, it’s critical to be careful about which software you download and where you find it. Instead of just opting for the first program you find, you need to understand how to search for programs and tell the difference between subpar and trustworthy ones.
How to Choose Free Software
So, not all free software is bad. But how do you identify the good programs? Here are some tips:
1. Opt for Software From Reputable Brands
Your first step in finding free software should be to check out the offerings of reputable brands like Avast and AVG. While these companies sell paid versions of their software, they typically also offer free versions for home users. If you’re not sure what’s a reputable brand and what’s not, use a site like AV-Test.org, an independent IT security organization, for guidance.
While most of the free programs out there are built for Windows computers, many companies also offer free Mac protection programs now, as well.
2. Make Sure You’re Getting a Copy Rather Than a Trial
Most companies offer free trials of their paid programs. These trials, designed to help paying users decide if they like the software, generally end after 10-30 days and will leave you without any protection when they do. With this in mind, be sure you’re getting a full copy of the software rather than just a free trial version.
Be aware that many free versions leverage their free platform by asking users to share personal data for research purposes, or to consent to see ads within the program.
3. Ask Around
If your community is mostly made up of home computer users, a friend or family member probably has a program they’d recommend. Ask around to see what other people like, and to decide if those programs are a good fit for you. If you need additional input, you can always ask your local computer repair techs.
4. Read Online Reviews
Online reviews will go a long way in helping you select free software. To gather as much information about a program as possible, search for curated lists. Online reviews on sites like Twitter or Facebook are also helpful. Past users are pretty honest about their experience with software, and tapping into their experiences will help shape your own.
5. Don’t Select any Add-Ons
Once you’ve found a free program you like, pay attention to the download process. It’s common for even reputable free software to try and entice users into downloading auxiliary programs, like browser add-ons. Keep your computer free of junk by opting out of these add-ons and only downloading the free software.
Protecting Your Computer Doesn’t Have to Cost a Fortune
While protecting your PC from viruses and malware is important, it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. When you know how to find reputable, safe, free software, you can keep your computer virus-free without breaking the bank in the process.