The days of PCs being viewed as virus-ridden boxes of dismay are long gone. But that doesn't mean there aren't lots of terrible people out there creating malicious programs with the intent to steal something or just create havoc.
Some PC makers will preload antivirus software and try to coerce you into signing up for it because that's how they make money. But you shouldn't ever feel pressured, and you likely don't need whatever it is they're shilling.
But do you actually need antivirus software in 2018? Yes ... but ...
It's not only viruses you need to watch out for
The fact that we still refer to this type of software as "antivirus" is out of date. No longer do we have to be worried only about nasty viruses infecting our computers and wiping out our personal data. Malware is perhaps more common today, with a different tactic to achieve a still-nefarious goal.
The worst part is that the "best" malware — if you can really even call it that — will quietly sneak onto your PC without you knowing. It'll maybe lie dormant, hidden from view, but all the while, it will also do something you don't want it to.
Whatever the term for it, the threats out there are still very real.
You have protection in Windows 10
Microsoft takes your security and safety in this permanently-online world very seriously, and it built two important tools right into Windows 10 to help keep you safe: Windows Firewall and Windows Defender.
This one-two punch is designed to keep your PC secure, and because it's integrated into the OS it doesn't hog any unnecessary resources. Microsoft also updates it frequently with new data definitions, all the while looking to keep the latest threats at bay.
If for any reason something breaks through and you can't get rid of it, there's a beefed-up version called Windows Defender Offline. You can run this while not connected to the internet from a USB drive, and it should find those harder-to-kill viruses.
Windows Defender is still considered in many corners to be little more than a baseline, though. Whatever your own opinion, it's still a good tool and there's no reason not to use it. It's also good to use alongside other software.
You can never be too careful
You might think that you're careful when you're online, visiting reputable sites and downloading from official sources like the Windows Store, or iTunes. But here's the thing: You're never being truly careful if you're going online completely unprotected.
Would you ride a motorcycle without a helmet? Even if you're careful, there's potential for disaster.
The people coding viruses and malware know exactly how to get it out to the wider world. That's why it still exists.
Something is always better than nothing
Earlier, we asked if you need to use antivirus today. The answer was yes and no. The no refers to the fact that you don't have to go and find antivirus software anymore. If you're using Windows 10, and everything is up to date, you already have a solid, free tool built in that won't hog your system resources and will keep an eye on things in the background.
And if you're using nothing at all, immediately go enable Windows Defender. (Do it now!)
Sadly, you do still need antivirus software in 2018. It's not necessarily to stop viruses anymore, but there are all kinds of miscreants out there who want nothing more than to steal and cause mayhem by getting inside your PC. It sounds scary, but because much of our lives are now conducted online, the threat is as real as ever.
Which route you take and which software you use is ultimately your decision. But don't think it won't happen to you. That's precisely when it will.
Updated June 26, 2018: We refreshed this post to ensure you have the latest information for 2018.
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