A wolf deciding between free vs. paid antivirus represented by two pigs, one in a hay house and one in a brick house

Cybersafety can be pretty expensive. With VPNs, private search engines, ad blockers, password managers, and antivirus software, it’s natural to look for ways to save money. And since there are a lot of free antiviruses out there, why not start with them, right? Well, don’t rush your decision. Let’s first explore the differences between free vs. paid antivirus.

What is the difference between free and paid antivirus?

It all comes down to the resources. Software that can keep up with the latest security trends and provide the features you want needs many resources. Here’s all you need to know:

Paid software
Free software
Does it have the resources?

Free antivirus software is unlikely to be called a “premium” service for a reason – it doesn’t have the same resources. But why does this matter? Well, fewer resources mean fewer features. While it differs from company to company, let’s look at the basic package you can expect if you decide to go free. 

Free antivirus features

A wolf blowing away a hay house to represent the lackluster structure of free antivirus

It’s no secret that free antivirus software is lackluster, but I’m not going to tell you that it’s completely useless. Here is what you will get with free antivirus apps:

  • Malware detection and removal

No real antivirus can function without malware detection. If your antivirus isn’t anti viruses, then what’s the point, right? So you can trust you’re at least getting this bit of basic protection. 

  • Malware prevention

You’ve gotten rid of the old viruses – now what about new ones? Most antivirus software will monitor your devices for potential future threats.  

  • Safe banking and shopping 

Banks go to great lengths to ensure transactions are safe. Still, you can always do more. A good free antivirus should offer protection when banking or shopping online. 

  • Network monitoring

One of the easiest ways to hack you is by connecting to the same Wi-Fi as you. That’s why some free antivirus apps will let you know if any new devices connect to your network. There’s a reason they teach you that public Wi-Fi networks can be dangerous.

  • File protection

Ransomware – encrypting your files and demanding money to return them – is one of the main types of scams you need to look out for. That’s why most free antivirus programs protect your files from third parties. 

You’ve got some pretty good features there, and it’s all free! Except, well, you may have heard that nothing in life is free. So who’s paying for your antivirus? Oftentimes, it’s your data. Many free apps have to sell the information they collect on you just to get by. So you’re paying with your privacy. 

Paid antivirus features

a wolf failing to blow away a brick house to represent the sound structure of paid antivirus

Paid antivirus apps offer everything free antivirus software does and then some. Over the years, antivirus software has evolved to do so much more than just malware detection. Let’s look at these extra features you’d get: 

  • Protection against camera hacks

I can assume most of your devices have a camera. And, well, hackers have been known to hack into webcams. The good news is most paid antiviruses have protection against this. 

  • Remote control prevention

Controlling your devices remotely can be very convenient. And not just for you – hackers can have fun with it too. Using this tool will ensure only you control your devices.

  • Safe usage of apps you don’t trust

Let’s say you download an app you’re really interested in trying, run it and get the warning that it might cause harm to your device. Now, you still want to try it, you’ve read good reviews, but what if..? Well, here’s your solution: paid antivirus programs will allow you to run it in a sort of sandbox mode that will prevent it from causing harm to your device while you try it out. 

  • Permanent deletion of sensitive files

As you may know, your devices tend to “hide” deleted files rather than permanently delete them. With a paid antivirus, you can feel confident that the files you want to get rid of have been turned to smithereens and will never see the light of day. 

  • Automatic app updates

Outdated apps are a security nightmare – you can end up stuck with old security software. A paid antivirus will update your apps for you and ensure you’re always running the latest software. 

  • Technical support 

Whether you find a bug, struggle getting started, or have a general question, paid antivirus apps often have a dedicated support team. They’ll answer your inquiries and make your product experience better.

This list is just the basics of what you should expect. As you can imagine, antivirus software companies will offer additional features based on the needs of their clients.  It’s probably safe to say you can already see that paid software offers a lot more. So there’s only one question left. 

Final look: should you pay for antivirus?

Yes, you should. And I know it’s easy for me to say that – after all, I’m working for a company that offers one. “Surfshark antivirus, a lightweight solution,” you get it. However, the decision is yours. 

I use a paid antivirus. I also don’t buy discounted sushi. You must have learned that some things in life are worth paying for. And protecting the devices you use every day, in my opinion, should be one of them.

Invest in virus-free devices

Get Surfshark Antivirus


Are paid antivirus apps better than Windows Defender? 

Yes. The paid version of any antivirus is a better option as it has additional features, more extensive malware reports, and options to boost your system.

Is a free version of antivirus enough?

No. Although free antivirus software can have pretty good features, it will always be behind paid software. Ultimately, free antivirus companies do not have the resources to react quickly to the newest cyberthreats, which will always leave you somewhat exposed.