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gratis anti virus software online

Updated on December 12, 2009


Use these simple tips to evaluate gratis anti virus software offerings.

gratis anti virus

Gratis is Latin for free or complementary. In the world of computer anti virus software, many millions of users chant the mantra "If it's free, it's for me." A few of the more sophisticated users mumble "If it's gratis, it has a desirable status.", but not enough.

Anti virus software typically costs $39 and up for a yearly subscription. Companies such as Norton/Symantec, McAfee, Computer Associates (CA), and Trend Micro exist to sell you software that will make your computer safer. Many of these companies also offer free trial versions that allow you to evaluate the veracity of their products. These versions are typically limited in one of two ways: the program will expire or it will only inform rather than disinfect.

Consider the enormous amount of effort necessary to track virus activity around the world and react to it virtually in real time. It ain't a part-time job. Virus programmers range in experience and motivation from newbie to grizzled computer science professional. Some say that state-sponsored hackers toil in 9 to 5 jobs with the sole purpose of creating code that can be unleashed on unsuspecting computers around the world.

A web site offering gratis anti virus products must be carefully evaluated before installing anything they serve up. The best care scenario: you download a wonderfully compact and efficient utility that cleanses your computer and automagically updates itself with the most current virus signatures. The worst case scenario: you've actually (and voluntarily) added yet another virus to your computer. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Make sure the company web site has a physical address and telephone number. If all you see on the Contact Page is an email address or an online form, be very suspicious. Note that larger companies such as Norton/Symantec do not make telephone number readily available simply because they cannot provide live support for a $39 product. More elaborate support packages are available that do include a real person at the other end of the telephone.
  • Be extremely wary of any site that pops up and immediately tells you that you have numerous viruses. Any anti virus scan, even a gratis anti virus scan, will take a few minutes to execute and will require you to download software. A web site typically cannot scan your computer through your browser. Note that does offer what they call an 'online scan', and it is free, but a download is still required. Any site that throws up garish animated graphics and ever-increasing virus detection counts is probably more interested in your credit card number than actually helping you.
  • A free anti virus program that cannot be regularly updated is almost, but not quite, worthless. New virus signatures and strategies pop up weekly. Well-meaning programmers identify holes in popular operating systems and applications. When those holes become public, the bad guys take over. A one-year-old gratis anti virus program will protect you from one-year-old viruses.
  • No operating system is immune. Conventional wisdom tells us that Microsoft Windows operating systems are particularly vulnerable, but you can't buy an operating system that is bulletproof. One reason that Windows products are an easy target is because programmers want a high return on their investment; why spend hours coding a virus that will only attack thousands of Apple computers when you could program a virus that has an audience of millions of Windows-based machines? The economy of scale is obvious.
  • Some gratis anti virus offerings will scan your machine and let you know if you're infected, then offer to sell you another program to actually clean up the mess. Read the fine print carefully before downloading and installing.


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    • Jenna May Swan profile image

      Jenna May Swan 8 years ago

      So far the free AVG stuff with the inbuilt windows stuff seems to be doing okay for us - but then I am extremely tight! I know maybe I should just pay but being able not too is just way more fun!

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks

      Nicomp, I feel uneasy paying protection money, in real life as well as in cyberspace. When the local police call me up for a donation to their organization, it scares me. I'm not sure if they're saying they won't protect me if I don't pay.

      Computer viruses don't write themselves. People write them. And who profits the most from the existence of computer viruses if not people selling anti-virus software?

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @Aya Katz: AVG has a business model that makes sense to me. They give away a basic version and try to upsell to a product costing #54.99. My opinion as a computer consultant is that anyone who cares at all about their data should be willing to pay a few bucks for protection. I generally don't install free stuff on customer's computers.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks

      Nicomp, that was all a bit general. How do you feel about AVG?