Are you still getting by with a free antivirus program? Maybe it’s time to update your antivirus protection. While you can make a free program work for you in a pinch, a paid program will offer a friendlier user interface, a wider range of features, and perhaps a somewhat more robust level of protection. What are the must-have essential features of antivirus software? With free products, you often have to combine several different freeware programs to get the same functionality you could get in a single, paid antivirus suite. It’s much more convenient to not only have everything in one place, but also only have to worry about updating one program.

There’s a fairly wide selection of paid antivirus programs available on the market these days, and it’s not always easy to tell which features are must-haves and which ones are do-withouts. Most households will want a program with at least the following essential features of antivirus software.

Spam Filters and Phishing Protection

Phishing emails are getting more common, and more sophisticated. You have to look pretty closely at some phishing emails these days to see the signs of a scam. And it only takes opening an email while you’re tired, upset, in an altered state, or simply in a hurry and not really thinking for a phishing attack to succeed. Plus, not everyone in your household may be as knowledgeable about fake email scams as you are.

It’s best to keep phishing emails and other spam from ending up in your inbox in the first place. Spam emails can be a real pain, even when they’re not blatantly trying to steal your banking password. Protect your family’s data with robust spam and phishing filters.

Child Safety Features

You might not be as worried about these if you’re not raising children at the moment, but if you are, you need an easy, efficient way to keep tabs on their online activities. What you don’t need, and what they don’t really need either, is to have you hovering over them all the time while they’re trying to chat on Messenger Kids or do their homework or watch their favorite YouTuber. Parental controls keep your kids in the safe parts of the internet, and let you monitor what they’re doing, who they’re talking to, and what they’re talking about.

Firewall Protection

A good firewall monitors traffic going into and out of your network, and stops any malicious file downloads or data theft in its tracks. You want one that will send clear alerts that make sense. Download scanning will protect you from further attacks by malicious bits of code that could be present in the program files.

Malware Scans

A strong antivirus software suite should prevent malware infections by comparing any files downloaded against a database of threat definitions and preventing any threatening or suspicious files from infecting your system. You also need the ability to scan your system for current malware infections and quarantine them. Look for software with a high malware detection rate of at least 95 percent.

File Shredding

You might be surprised to learn that simply moving a file into your trash folder and then emptying the trash does not actually delete it from your system — at least not right away, in most cases. Instead, it merely tells the system that it’s okay to overwrite that disk space with different data, when it needs the space. So, anyone who gets their hands on your computer can recover some or all of your deleted files. A file shredder, on the other hand, deletes all digital traces of your documents from your system.

Password Management

Good password hygiene is one of the most effective things you can do to protect your privacy, data, and accounts, but so many people skip out on creating a unique, strong password for each account because it’s such a hassle to keep track of all those different login credentials. Rather than write them all down on a piece of paper that could get lost or stolen, keep track of them in a password manager that generates strong passwords and stores them in an easy-to-access database.

Light System Load

Some antivirus programs are notoriously draining on your system’s resources. An antivirus program with a heavy system load will slow down your system while it’s running a scan and even while it’s just running in the background, protecting your system from threats. It’s no good installing an antivirus program if the antivirus itself is going to cause decreased functionality. Look for programs that are rated highly for their use of system resources.

Antivirus software is essential if you want to do business online safely. Look for a paid program with all the essential features of antivirus software you need. It’s more convenient, easier, and probably cheaper in the long run than cobbling together a hodgepodge of free programs.

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