7 important things to look for when buying antivirus software

Antivirus Windows Pc Woman
Antivirus Windows Pc Woman (Image credit: PlaceIt)

There's no question that you need the best antivirus software nowadays. With an ever-growing variety of threats out there the moment you go online, it's essential to keep your computer, smartphone, or tablet secure from potential risks.

Cybersecurity is no joke, so you want to buy antivirus software that will protect you at all times and do exactly what you need. With so many antivirus software choices out there, how do you know what to look for when buying a new antivirus package? It can be confusing.

Here's a list of the most important things to look for when purchasing antivirus software, considering critical points like the price and how you intend to use your antivirus protection.

Pick software with great reviews

With so many different forms of antivirus software out there, you want to make sure you pick something that's tried and tested. Consult reviews online of the best antivirus software and stick with the names with the best feedback and recommendations. Many antivirus software packages are tested monthly by independent labs such as AV-TEST, which provides accurate and unbiased results about how well different antivirus software performs under test conditions.

Ultimately, there's no point in buying antivirus software that doesn't work very well and fails to detect malware or viruses. Reliability is the most crucial part of an antivirus purchase.

Look for features you'll actually use

It's a given that the best type of antivirus software offers a real-time scanner as well as an on-demand scanner. Combined, that means the antivirus software is always running in the background keeping an eye out for any issues, while you also have the option of choosing to scan specific files with the on-demand scanner. Many antivirus software packages love to bundle in additional features like a firewall, webcam protection, or a VPN. Some even include cloud backup storage or password management tools as sweeteners to the deal. You may well already have a firewall or VPN service already set up. Don't feel obliged to pay extra for services you already have.

Know your budget

What's your budget? There are free antivirus solutions out there if your budget is very tight. For paid antivirus programs, you typically have options of either a one-off payment or a yearly subscription. The latter sometimes offers more long-term support and updates, but you may prefer paying a one-time fee while finances are good and then not having to worry about it for a while. Generally, there are plenty of flexible pricing options out there, so don't be afraid to shop around.

Consider compatibility and speed

In the past, antivirus software was notorious for slowing down many systems. These days, that's less of an issue unless you have an aging machine that requires protection. If that's the case, consider if the antivirus software you're buying is a bit of a systems hog then maybe switch over to a less intrusive option. Again, read reviews to learn more about the more system-intensive options and vice versa.

Similarly, if you want a setup that works across multiple devices, you'll need to make sure that it's compatible with all the different operating systems involved. Not all antivirus software is compatible with Macs, for instance, and there's a growing trend of Mac malware out there.

Make sure it's easy to use

A lot of the time, your antivirus software will be working in the background to protect you, but it's useful to know that it's also straightforward to use. Make sure that the antivirus software you purchase is intuitive, especially if you're not entirely comfortable with the more technical side of PC or Mac ownership. It's ok to find certain software intimidating. Find something that works for you. The best kind of antivirus software tends to be the type that means you're only ever a couple of clicks away from initiating all the scans you could need.

You also want to make sure that in the event of finding a virus, the antivirus software easily removes the threat for you rather than leaving you to have to complete potentially complex steps to do so.

Check the privacy policy

By their very nature, antivirus software gets into every part of your system. By allowing it so much access, you want to know the software you're using is secure. Read up on its privacy policy and check out any reports that suggest issues. In the past, some antivirus companies have been caught up in scandals where they sold user data to information brokers. It's not commonplace, but it's certainly something to be aware of before you effectively hand over the keys to your virtual house to a new app.

Do you need customer support?

Not everyone needs to be concerned about extensive customer support. If you're reasonably confident with computers, this isn't for you. However, if you prefer to know you have assistance or backup during a crisis, check out the customer support offered by your potential future antivirus software. Some services provide a lot of guidance and help, especially if you're unlucky enough to be infected with a virus. This can drive up the cost of your purchase, but it could make a massive difference to you and your computer's safety if you don't feel comfortable removing a virus yourself. Don't be afraid to seek out help if you need it.

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2020

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2020

This antivirus monitors your computer in real-time to stop malicious files before they have a chance to start downloading.

Jennifer Allen