Here are the selected submissions grouped in one post. Read through them and place your votes in the newsletter poll for the most helpful.
Are free security products any good?
First of all, dont Auto-Renew or renew at all. Even if you have, for example, Norton, and you want to stay with Norton, the best way to do this is to let it expire, uninstall it, then go out and buy a new copy of Norton (or a competitor, if you want to switch) at retail and install it from scratch.
Why? Several reasons:
1. Its cheaper. These products are often on sale, in fact they are often on sale FREE (ok, that usually means Free after rebate, but if you the rebate exercise you should get the rebate).
2. You dont want to give these firms your credit card number. There was an article on this recently, but just about ***ALL**** of these firms, once they get your credit card number, will auto renew every year and charge it to your credit card more or less until your credit card expires or hell freezes over, whichever comes first. The permission to do this is buried in the online fine print that you agree to if you renew online. While there are procedures for getting out of this, none of them is easy, and some of them are almost impossible to either find or execute. So the best way is simply never give them a credit card for online signup. [Brian Livingstons Windows Secrets newsletter (which I highly recommend) for May 17th had an extensive article on this matter; Microsoft, Symantec and McAfee are all guilty, and what they are doing is really unconscionable. See http://www.windowssecrets.com/comp/070517/#story1 ]
Now, as to your question: There are a few good free products. The best free AV product is probably Grisoft AVG. They have a paid product as well, and they both try to push you into the paid product and make the free product hard to find, but as of now, its still available (there have been rumblings that it might disappear). The free edition is available at http://www.grisoft.com/doc/download-free-anti-virus/us/crp/0. Do note that this is JUST Anti-Virus, its not a full service suite, e.g. you will need anti-spyware separately, and optionally a firewall separately if you want one (personally, I dont recommend using any add-on firewall for most people: they cause as many problems as they solve).
As for anti-spyware, Ad-aware still has a free edition, and Microsoft Windows Defender is still free. I find the combination of these two items to be more than adequate.
My own recommendation is as follows:
1. A good Anti-Virus package of your choice. My recommendations are Grisoft, Norton, Kaspersky or Zone Alarm. And, again, if you are patient, you can usually get the PAID products Free, or at least Free after rebate.
2. Microsoft Windows Defender and Ad-Aware.
3. The Windows firewall, but nothing further
4. ***VERY IMPORTANT*** ### ALWAYS ### operate from behind a hardware router that does NAT (network address translation ... they all do it). Use a router even if you have no need for additional ports and no plans or need to share your internet connection.
What you gain from the paid products (which, again, might be FREE) are integration, convenience and support (none of the free products have support). But as to the matter of whether or not the free products can do an adequate job, the answer is that yes, SOME of them can.
Submitted by: Watzman
Choosing a good security configuration can be the life or death of your computer, or at least the difference between minor fixes and total hard drive wipes.
In the area of security, price is not synonymous with quality. While paid security suites tend to have more bells and whistles, their protection is usually on par with the free alternatives. You may think that free means that they are not as good as other solutions, but this is often not the case. In many situations the antivirus companies provide the free edition to home users, because when they get used to using it they will recommend them when it comes time to purchase a new Anti-Virus license at their workplace. Business purchases are much more lucrative than home purchases. It is a good way to break into the market heavily dominated by a few major companies.
The most important part of your security suite is your anti-virus program. http://www.av-comparatives.org/ routinely evaluates the top contenders against the newest viruses. There are several things to consider when selecting your anti-virus product. You'll want to ensure that it has a good detection rate. Anything listed in the av-comparatives tests have decent enough comparison rates to be considered.
While a good detection rate is important, it is not the only thing to consider. The two most common brands are Symantec's Norton Anti-Virus, and McAfee Virus Shield. If you buy a new computer it will most likely come with one of these. Because they are so common, you will want to avoid them. Virus makers target these two applications, just like they do Internet Explorer, meaning you will likely run into a virus that will kill that program eventually. It has happened to me several times. Go for one of the lesser known ones just to be a little bit safer.
Some other things that you will want are to ensure that the program is ICSA certified. If it is, they will display an image on their website. A virus-Bulletin top 100 award does not hurt either.
If you are considering a paid one, Kasperky Lab's Kaspersky Antivirus, or ESet's NOD32 would be my recommendations due to their great normal and polymorphic virus detections.
If you are looking at free alternatives, I would recommend Alwil's Avast Home Edition or AVG Free.
A security suite usually comes with anti-spyware technology as well. Anti-spyware programs are a lot newer than anti-virus programs, and also spyware seems to evolve more quickly than viruses because of the advertising dollars it generates. Because of this, no one anti-spyware program is enough. Most tech geeks will recommend scanning your computer with 2 or 3 different ones (though the real-time protection really isn't needed in any of them. Scheduled system scans will remove most malware without slowing down your computer in the process). I can think of no way in which the paid programs are any better than the free ones, and thus will not recommend any of them, though I am sure that other people have their preferences. Currently their detection databases are more complimentary, so there is no one program beats all type thing. I, as most others, would recommend using the free Spybot S&D, Ad-Aware Personal, and Windows defender to scan your PC. Others might also recommend using Spyware blaster, but I have not used the program so I cannot recommend one way or the other on it.
The third part of a security suite is the firewall. If you have a router (set up properly) it will act as an incoming hardware firewall. Windows Firewall that comes with windows XPSP2 or above is decent enough for the same purpose, but does not include outgoing protection to stop anything that gets in from phoning home with whatever it gets its hands on, so a good software firewall is recommended. The paid programs are numerous, but the most popular free firewall is ZoneAlarm's personal firewall.
These free programs should more than adequately cover the security needs of most home computer users.
Submitted by: Acaykath
Actually, in this case you can get something for "nothing"
In most cases your assumption would be correct. With most types of products you can expect that the paid version will be better than the freebies, but this is an exception.
If you pay for your antivirus and anti-spyware protection you tend to get some nice features, but you usually don't get better protection and the reason is really simple. Viruses, trojans, worms, spyware, adware, and all the other malicious garbage that can attack your computer isn't just a threat to you-- it threatens everyone on the internet. This includes big companies and governments. It is in everyone's best interests to control these attacks, but that can't happen if the malicious code can hide in private computer systems because the owner can't or won't pay for the software needed to protect the machine. Therefore a number of private companies have committed themselves to providing free versions of their software for those who can't or won't pay money for it. A lot of this software is superior quality.
There is a catch, but it isn't any different than if you were buying the software. Whether you pay for the protection or get it free, make absolutely certain that you know what you are getting. Many companies also put out bad programs, and some of them actually cause the problems they are supposed to be detecting. There is no way to avoid the need to check a product out before using it, unfortunately. Many people have purchased or downloaded software believing that they were protecting their computers, only to be infected with viruses or spyware as a result. Never respond to a pop up that offers to "scan" your computer for free. This is one tactic used to sell inferior or even malicious products. Always check out the reviews of the product before allowing it to access your computer.
It is, fortunately, very easy to check out a product before purchasing or downloading it. CNET has a lot of information. Check out download.com, and don't forget to type the product's name into your favorite search engine and see what the reviews on other sites say. You can get a lot of information in a short period of time.
You should run one (and only one) antivirus product on your computer. You should run one (and only one) software firewall on your computer, and the one that comes with Windows is not the best choice. You should run 3 or 4 anti-spyware programs, but not in "real time." Run only the one you trust the most constantly, then run the others manually right after updating them (at least once a week). Be sure to disconnect from the internet while running your scans manually. This is also a good time to run a full antivirus scan and any other utilities that need to be run, such as a defrag program.
If you are still deciding which products to choose, and you are willing to pay for the products, I urge you to support those companies that offer free versions of their software. The paid versions aren't going to protect any better, but you should get some nicer features. Any company that will offer quality software for free deserves your business. They are doing their part to ensure that we can all access the internet safely, and we should appreciate them for that effort.
Also, don't despise some of the free software in other categories. Much of it is high quality. The open source movement is one reason. Also, some of the software is put out by individuals who create a program for themselves and then just want to give others access to it. Some of it is software put out by companies that also sell paid software, hoping that you will like the product and come to them for other software you might need. Take a look at it. You might find something you need for free or at little cost. You will probably find something that is just cool. Don't go wild! After all, there is a lot of junk out there as well, but do take a look and check the reviews. You will be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
Submitted by: 4Denise
Home versus Office - Free Security Software
Jasmine, I assume that your are interested in Free Security Software for your Home PC, not for a buisness.
Most Free Security Software is available only for Home/Personnel use & should be purchased for buisness use.
Generally, the Free Security Software is a Basic version of individual programs & not an integrated suite. You can find articles on Free AntiVirus, AntiSpyware & Firewalls in CNET.com. This is an 'It Depends' problem; relative, to your requirements for Security Software. An example, Free AntiVirus program, may require manual versus automatice update of virus definitiions or may cover your incoming email; but, not your IM. This is part of the difference between Free & Purchased Security Programs, in that the Purchased Programs will usually have more features - but, you know your own situation & have to determine, do you need the extra coverage provided in the Purchased versions. The same is generally true of Free Firewalls; however, AntiSpyware is a different story; currently, the three top Purchased Programs are better than any of the Free Programs; but, you don't want just one.
None of the current AntiSpyware programs [Purchased or Free] catches everything! It is generally recommended that you purchase one of the top three plus use two or three of the free AntiSpyware programs to approach 100% coverage. Another consideration is that integrated security suites from one vendor may not provide the best protection in each category; since, no one vendor has the best products in each of these categories [Oh! don't forget identiy theft & phising as additional security issues! that the suites or indiviual programs may or may not address and/or require additional programs for coverage.]
Relative to how the companies that provide Free programs make their money - generally by advertising with the Free samples - if you use a basic program then maybe you will upgrade to their more comprehensive purchased version; or if you use the free version at home you may recommend it to/for your buisness to purchase or in addition to the Free program, the company will advertise other of their software for purchase or advertise other company's software for purchase. Also home PCs are as a group the least protected; so, are the greatest spreaders of viruses & become zombies. So some of the companies are trying to incentives Home PC owners/users to at least minimally protect their Home PCs with Free Security Software to help make the internet a better place. Along this line of thinking, check with your ISP to see what they may offer you for Free [or discount]; since, SPAM, Zombies & Viruses can affect their operating volume/cost; so, it it in their best buisness interest sometimes to offer Free Security Software for Home PCs to reduce the spread/volume of SPAM, Viruses & Zombies. [Also you may have to consider Upgrade versus Renewal of your Security Suite - with some software companies you can purchase renewal of definition & update support for your current version; but, many times a specific version has a specific life, e.g. like OS Win9x support/update versus upgrade to WinXP, etc. which the company may not support after a specific time 'life' & you have to upgrade to a newer version or a different company's product.]
I hope this info helps with your decision.
Submitted by: bwh48
Some times there really is a free lunch
Well, Jasmine, let's jump right to the bottom line with the statement that whether you're looking for anti-virus, anti-spyware, or firewall software (and I assume you do want all three) there are free products out there in all categories that are solid options well worth considering. I think you are perfectly safe ignoring whether a product is free or is one you pay for when making a decision about what's right for you. Read the reviews, get advice from other users, do your due diligence in whatever way suits you, and then go with the product that you've decided best meets your needs, regardless of whether or not you have to pay for it. There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with free software. Like commercial software it may be very good or simply awful!
That being said let's look at your questions. How do freebie companies make money? In a few cases they don't. Some, like the Linux crew, are simply doing it for the love of creating software. On sites with this type of software you'll often see the opportunity to make a donation to help pay their hosting expensees, but the software itself is always free. Like any other software it can be very good, very bad, or anywhere in between.
In most other cases the free software is put out there by commercial software enterprises. This freeware is usually a somewhat stripped down version of their commercial product. They make their money from people who try the free product, like it, but decide that the commercial version has enough extra features to be worth buying. So in one sense the free version serves as a trial before paying for the full version. In other words the company is offering you a free lunch, while hoping you'll choose to stay and pay for dinner. But in many cases you may decide the freeware is all you need. A close reading of the comparisons on the vendor's web site may show that the added features in the full version are not anything you particularly need. And it may even be, if you're not interested in managing lots of features, that the full version will be less to your liking than the freebie.
You also wanted to know whether the free products can really be as good as the commercial ones. As I've already indicated, there are good, bad and indifferent products in both camps. Whether or not you pay for it really is not the main issue. It is probably true, though, that you will get more features in a major commercial program. However, this can be a negative as much as a positive, as the big commercial companies have to keep adding new bells and whistles to their products to keep the new sales rolling. This leads to feature creep, which means software gets more and more complex, while not necessarily getting any better. Depending on what you're looking for, a major, feature-rich application may or may not meet your requirements.
There's also the third option, between free and pay, which is the time-limited free trial. This is commercial software that you will pay for if you want to use it beyond the trial period, but that allows you to run the full-featured product for a limited time, frequently 30 days. Unfortunately the well-known big names in the security field don't seem to offer this option (at least none that I know of). I recently purchased a full internet suite from one of the big names that had received a very good review here on C-Net. In my opinion it stunk, and it's no longer on my system, but they've got my money! Instead I am currently running a free firewall, an initially free anti-spyware program that I opted to pay for the full version, and a 30 day trial on an anti-virus program that I will probably buy when the trial period expires.
As you've probably noticed, I've avoided naming specific products, as my personal preferences may be just the opposite of yours. The most specific advice I'll give, from my own sad experience, is avoid buying a product you can't test drive, unless you're absolutely sure it's the one you want. With free or free-trial software your money stays in your pocket either forever or at least until you know for sure that this is the product you want. I do think that the major players have gotten too top-heavy and complacent, and taht there are some great new products out there that just might take them down a peg or two!
One final warning, though, on free software. Don't install anything on your computer unless you have verified from reviews on reputable web sites (such as this one) that it is safe and legitimate software. Then be sure to also download it only from its official site or a reputable download service. The net abound with so-called anti-spyware and anti-virus programs that are the exact opposite and are just waiting to infect your system. That being said, I hope you'll choose to investigate the world of free security software and free software in general. Good luck!
Submitted by: jcbowen