You Need Better Antivirus Than Your Computer’s Built-In Software

Your computer’s built-in antivirus software is no match against today’s Internet threats. Here’s why you should replace it with something stronger.

Windows and Mac computers both have default antivirus programs, Windows Defender and Apple’s XProtect. (If you haven’t noticed XProtect running on your Mac, that’s because it runs silently in the background as part of the system software.) But their functionality is limited compared to third-party programs. They guard against common viruses, so they’re better than nothing, but you’ll find better antivirus programs elsewhere.

Despite claims from Microsoft, Apple, and even some Internet providers, these built-in apps aren’t really intended to provide more than the basics. They offer some protection during initial computer setup or if your third-party antivirus goes offline, but they’re just not enough to defend against ransomware, keyloggers, and other advanced threats.

Which is frustrating, because many tech companies claim that their computers “come with antivirus.” But what does that mean? You see, not all computers have the same bundled software. One computer’s “free antivirus” might simply be referring to the built-in software that all Windows and Mac computers have. Another might offer a trial of a third-party program that expires in only a few months. Still another might give you a whole year of some other third-party program free with your purchase. Even more confusing, different stores might offer the same computer with a totally different software bundle.

So it’s important to know which antivirus or security software came with your computer, and what the terms of the subscription are. It should say so somewhere in the packaging or documentation, probably buried in fine print. That’s on the tech companies for being vague about what “comes with antivirus” means. Consider my virtual finger wagged at you, tech companies.

That’s not to say you need to spend tons of money on antivirus software. There are lots of freebies that still work better than the built-in stuff. But, just as it’s worth it to buy a password manager, it’s also worth it to buy a good security suite that covers your computer as well as your mobile devices. Think of it this way: It’s insurance. You’re paying a little money now to prevent big expensive problems later. Here are a few antivirus programs to try, both free and paid.

One more thing to consider about antivirus: It’s not a panacea. There are plenty of Internet threats that slide right by antivirus because they’re not actually viruses. Think fleeceware, which bilks you through expensive fees rather than malicious code, or phishing scams that rely upon tricking you into clicking a link. So, while you should always have rock-solid antivirus, you should also make sure you’re taking other online security precautions.

You can learn more about Windows and Mac security features in these links from Microsoft and Apple:

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