How Necessary is an Antivirus Program?

Antivirus programs are often billed as an absolutely vital component of your online health, but the monthly prices on some of them can be quite daunting.

If you’re looking to save money, it seems like a tempting option to forgo an antivirus entirely, but is that really a viable option?

Virus detected alert hacking piracy risk shield

What Does an Antivirus Do?

Think of an antivirus program as sort of a mix between a water filter and a metal detector, or maybe something like a security checkpoint for your computer.

An antivirus typically has at least two basic functions.

The first is that each program you download (and oftentimes, incoming emails with attachments) is scanned before the download completes. This download is checked against the database each antivirus program has of known malware or programs that are appreciably similar to that malware.

If the program trips the warning signs it is isolated and waits for your approval to delete it; this helps stop false flags by allowing you to override the antivirus and download it if you’re absolutely sure the program is safe.

The second function is similar, but it scans everything already on your computer, as well as alerting and quarantining any malware already on your computer it finds. This helps make sure any existing threats aren’t overlooked the first time you use an antivirus.

That’s the long and short of it really. Antiviruses are very simple in their functionality, but pretty effective as well, being good protection against most things out there.

So Do You Actually Need One?

I think “need” is a strong word. Antivirus programs are great to have, but they’re more of a safety net or supplement than a must-have option, at least in my opinion.

Good internet health and safety will help you more than even the best antivirus out there – always knowing the source of things you download, and so on.

What the antivirus will do for you is help when you make a mistake, but it won’t prevent you from making those mistakes in the first place…and that can be dangerous in and of itself.

Having an antivirus does not mean you’re immune to having your computer get infected with malware, and in my experience of the two alone, simply being more careful with your internet habits is more effective than an antivirus. Now, that said, having both impeccable internet health habits and an antivirus is going to be exponentially better than one alone, but I think you can safely save some money on an antivirus if you think you can handle keeping yourself safe on your own. And remember, putting all your faith in an antivirus is a foolish move, given how fallible they can be when their database of viruses and malware falls behind whatever the cutting edge is.