Whether your computer or device runs Android, Mac or Windows, cybercriminals have sophisticated attacks to target machines across operating systems (OS). It's important to choose antivirus software that's designed for your OS and tailored to your computing behaviors.

Not all antivirus software is created equal, so there are many factors to consider. There's nothing worse than perusing the Internet only to have your computer slow to a crawl as your antivirus software "thinks" about your decisions. If the software happens to detect a problem, is it going to fix it without making you take 20 complicated steps?

Poorly designed antivirus software can be as useless as a bike without wheels. The last things you want to deal with when your information is at stake are errors, crashes and botched attempts to protect against cybersecurity threats. Here's a guide to choosing antivirus software, including common pitfalls and recommendations.

Consider Software with a Light System Load

With antivirus software running in your computer's background all the time, it's important that it performs efficiently. Effective products are capable of scanning during a variety of tasks, including:

  • File copying
  • Archiving and unarchiving
  • Installing/uninstalling applications
  • Launching applications
  • Downloading files
  • Browsing websites

Not all security software performs perfectly across testcases. However, you'll notice some programs are more efficient at certain tasks than others. Pick software with features that are tailored to the type of computing you're most commonly doing. In addition, consider choosing a comprehensive package that you can customize to suit your needs later on, should they change. Even if you think you might not need a certain feature now, it may become helpful in the future.

Choose an Antivirus Program That's Easy to Use

One way to open yourself up to attacks and vulnerabilities is to purchase antivirus software and turn it off because it's too complicated to use. Worse yet, people often let the programs run but fail to keep them updated with the latest software releases.

Most people aren't cybersecurity professionals, let alone well-versed in the inner workings of antivirus programs and settings. You don't necessarily need a program to setup firewalls or run side programs that take up half of the average computer's computing resources. It depends on the type of computing you do and if you keep sensitive data on your machine, like patient records or corporate finance documents. The basic features you'll want automated for you include software that updates, patches and re-configures on the fly without your intervention. Another bonus is a program with a nice user interface so you can quickly determine if a threat's been detected and remediated.

Customer support is an important component of increasing a program's usability, too. People often choose free software and, when they run into issues later on, don't have access to assistance that helps them solve their problems. Even if you aren't well-versed in using antivirus programs, having access to competent customer support teams can help you get the most from the software. You'll have more peace of mind and confidence that your system is well-protected, too.

Figure Out What Works in Detecting and Removing Malware

Cyberthreats are constantly evolving, so it's impossible to rely on antivirus software to protect your computer against every piece of malware, spyware or adware. But some tools are better than others. The threat detection and remediation of products also varies across operating systems. The best Mac antivirus software is not necessarily the best performing software on a PC. Read up-to-date news and testing analyses from reputable bloggers and trusted news sources to determine the most current, high-performing programs for your OS.

You also want to look for a program that multiple independent labs have tested and verified extensively. Organizations like AV-TEST, NSS Labs and AV-Comparatives perform tests and provide reviews on antimalware tools and software for Windows, Mac and Android OS. Pay attention to ratings on the software's false positives, which happen when the program determines harmless files are malware. You don't want to choose software that removes files you need.

Look for Additional Bells and Whistles from High-Performing Software

Some features can recommend one antivirus product over another. New features are regularly developed around emerging trends to help keep users protected, and most companies aren't reserved about touting the features' benefits. While detecting the latest cyberthreats is difficult due to the fast-changing nature of cybersecurity, new features can help keep you safe, including:

● Multilayered malware protection that can rate URLs that you visit or show up in search results using a red-yellow-green color-coding system

  • Proactive detection capabilities that identify threats and abnormalities
  • Firewalls and spam filtering
  • Secure browsers for financial transactions
  • Secure deletion of sensitive files, browsing history, credit monitoring or other virtual breadcrumbs like passwords
  • Cloud backup services with encryption

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for people to avoid purchasing antivirus software until they suspect an attack. Whether it's a slow computer or suspicious glitches, we often wait to take action until our computers' symptoms start working improperly. If this the case for you, make it a priority to implement effective antivirus software. The right program can find the threat and block it without impacting your computer usage in the slightest.

Related articles and links:

Choosing Antivirus Software

Computer Protection Versus Computer Performance

Running More Than One Antivirus Program

Who Creates Malware?

Malware Classifications


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Antivirus Software: How to Choose the Right Protection for Your Android, Mac or Windows System

Not all antivirus software is created equal, so there are many considerations to keep in mind. For tips for buying antivirus software and key factors to consider, read more here.
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