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Free Antivirus

Is free antivirus software good enough?

When it comes to free downloads, you'll notice antivirus software tops the list.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition Avast! Free Antivirus, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and Avira Free Antivirus apiece.

Microsoft Security Essentials is also a popular pick and will be bundled with Windows 8, as well (but could be uninstalled, if desired).

Generally speaking, based on my experience using many of these free tools over the years, they don't work quite as well as the paid packages.

That is, some spyware has slipped through on occasion, causing pop-up windows, browser toolbars I don't want and overall slower performance. Again, this is just our experience on various Windows PCs using some of the free products available. We did have a good run on a spare laptop with Avira as it ran quietly in the background and didn't impact its overall performance.

According to PC Mag, AVG, Avira and Avast! are three of the highest rated free computer security software offerings.

But on our main computers, we've been using Kaspersky lab Internet Security faithfully for the last three years (prior to that we wasn't a fan of the software as we found it bloated and it bogged down my PC quite a bit). Another advantage to paid security software is they're usually updated often to safeguard from the latest threats -- usually handled automatically.

So, what if you can't afford premium security software or don't want to pay for it ?

While it might not be as good as paid options, using free antivirus software is better than nothing at all.

* If you pay for a high-speed Internet connection your Internet Service Provider (ISP) might give away free antivirus and antimalware software, too, so ask if it's available before resorting to freebies. Some are licensed versions of the biggies like McAfee, Norton and Kaspersky.

* If you're using free antivirus software, be sure to check for virus definition updates regularly – in case it's not an option to do it regularly (Windows Security Essentials can stay updated automatically, with your consent). Because threats change often, be sure to protect your PC and files with frequent updates.

* Always back up your important files on a regular basis – just in case your PC gets infected. It doesn't really matter how you back up – external hard drive, recordable DVD or online storage, for example – but be sure to do it before it's too late. Important files to back up include documents, irreplaceable photos, bookmarks, contacts, calendar entries and important emails.