Every internet-connected device needs strong anti-virus protection. We explain how to ensure that your PC is completely protected without spending a penny
Anyone using a PC without security software is putting their personal data at great risk. Even though Windows has some built-in security tools, it is still at risk from online criminals, and new threats from malicious software appear all the time.
The solution is to use the best security software available, and that means paying a small fortune, right? Well, yes - if you insist on sticking with the big-name brands. That’s precisely what lots of Windows users do because when it comes to security, trust is important and many people understandably place a lot of trust in known brands.
However, there are alternatives that are equally effective, every bit as trustworthy - and totally free. In this article, we will explain how to cancel subscriptions and safely make the break from paid-for security software while still ensuring that your PC is completely protected.
Most new PCs come with lots of software pre-installed. While some may be useful, such programs are often time-limited trials that the developers have paid the manufacturer to install. Disparagingly referred to as ‘crapware’, these tools are usually best removed straight away.
Uninstalling an unwanted media player or branded web browser toolbar is sensible, but what about a free trial of an anti-virus program? With no other security software to hand, this seems like a useful offer.
However, the catch is that such trials are designed to lead users into paying an ongoing subscription once the trial period expires. After all, most people would rather pay a few quid to instantly extend security software they’ve been using since day one with their new PC than remove it and find something cheaper.
Security software firms love this customer inertia because they can make more profit from it. Converting the 30-day trial of McAfee Internet Security 2012 to the full program, for example, costs £25 – and that is with a supposed £25 discount.
Now we should stress that there’s nothing wrong with using paid-for security software. In fact, some users consider £25 a trivial sum for fuss-free PC security, particularly when it combines several malware-protection tools in one suite, often with support available by email or phone should problems arise. But you can cut out all those fees and keep your PC totally secure.
Remove paid-for anti-virus programs
The first step in switching from paid-for to free security software is to determine what’s actually installed. The best place to start here is with the ‘Uninstall a program’ (Windows 7/Vista) or ‘Add/Remove Programs’ (XP) option in Control Panel (click Start to find this).
The list of programs that appears should be easily understood, but don’t remove anything just yet. Instead, make a note of any obvious anti-virus, anti-malware or other security programs.
An internet search can help identify any installed programs you don’t recognise, but a quicker option here is to use a program called Belarc Advisor that’s designed specifically for this purpose. Download and install this free program, and it will run automatically. Accept its request to download new security definitions and wait a few seconds for it to scan the PC.
When the scan is complete, Belarc will display its results as a web page. This contains a lot of information to wade through, so just look scroll down the page to find the Virus Protection section (in the left column) to see what the program has found. Then scroll further to the Software Versions & Usage section to see a list of all the software installed on your computer. Print this page for later reference.
Updating your subscription status