Privacy & Security

Free Antivirus Download Options

April 11, 2009

in privacy & security

by David Hakala

Even though there are dozens of free antivirus programs just waiting to download, many people don’t install or use these vital protections. They have all kinds of excuses. What’s yours?

I don’t use the Internet much, so the risk of infection is low. While the Internet enables viruses to spread like wildfire, it is not the only vector by which your computer can become infected. Viruses can be carried on CDs or DVDs given to you by a coworker or friend. Disgruntled employees of software manufacturers sometimes infect huge batches of discs at the factory, so even shrink-wrapped software may contain viruses. Any new software that you introduce to your computer can contain a virus. You need to download some free antivirus software and use it.

I only read email from people I trust. You can catch a cold from someone you trust. What makes you think you can’t catch a computer virus from someone you trust? Friends and colleagues tend to think alike. If you aren’t bothering to download free antivirus software, they probably aren’t either. That funny PowerPoint slideshow your good buddy forwarded to you may well have originated in a Rumanian hacker shop.

I use Windows Defender firewall. Firewall software detects and blocks active efforts to intrude into your network. It does not detect or neutralize viruses delivered as passive payloads in software packages. Virus-infected software is inert until you run it, so there is no suspicious activity for a firewall to detect.

Antivirus software slows down my computer. Virus software brings your computer to a crashing halt, or turns it into a hacker’s slave, or gets it to cough up your passwords and other information that enables identity theft. Repairing identity theft damage can take years, hundreds of phone calls, and thousands of dollars. Upgrade your RAM, optimize your existing system to free up resources, or even buy a whole new, more powerful computer. Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish.

Almost every antivirus software package can be downloaded and tried free of charge for a few months or even a year. But some antivirus programs are free for non-commercial (home, academic, government) use perpetually, and they are effective protection. Download and install one of them. No, two is not better.

Avast! Antivirus is my personal favorite antivirus program. It continually monitors Web pages, email, newsgroups, and other points of entry into your computer via the Internet. It also keeps a close eye on disk activity and what programs are attempting to do. It updates itself automatically if you are connected to the Internet. It consumes far less computing resources than any commercial antivirus program I know.

David Hakala has perpetrated technology tutorials since 1988 in addition to committing tech journalism, documentation, Web sites, marketing collateral, and profitable prose in general. His complete rap sheet can be seen at