Do I Need An Antivirus? Is Antivirus Necessary?

Do I Need An Antivirus

Do I need an antivirus? It’s natural to ask, but from malware and viruses to phishing scams and identity theft, it’s important to have protection online.

Windows and MacOS have some built-in security features, but these may not be enough. In this article, we’ll explore how antivirus software can protect you and answer the question, “Is antivirus necessary?”

Why is Antivirus Necessary Today?

As we spend more of our time online, our devices are increasingly vulnerable to threats like viruses, trojans, malware, and phishing attacks. These dangers have become more widespread over the years, meaning it’s crucial to protect your devices and your online activity.

As we share and store increasing amounts of our personal information on the internet, identity theft and ransomware attacks have also been becoming more common. Companies are especially vulnerable to ransomware attacks, which are on the rise globally, but individuals can be targeted, too.

Antivirus apps can help protect you against all of these online hazards. They are widely available, affordable, and easy to use, so it’s wise to invest in your online security.

Antivirus Software Features

Antivirus apps offer a range of features that can help protect you from online dangers. In this section, we’ll run through the most important features to look for.

Firewalls

A firewall functions as a gatekeeper between your device and the internet. Antivirus apps include software-based firewalls that monitor incoming and outgoing data and can block traffic that’s identified as being threatening.

This is an important first line of defense, and it can identify and stop threats before they reach your computer.

Manual and Scheduled Scans

Why do I need an antivirus

Antivirus software can scan your computer for known threats such as viruses and malware. The app will let you know if it finds anything suspicious and let you choose what action to take.

You can generally manually initiate a scan of specific files or folders or choose to scan your whole hard drive. You can also schedule regular automated scans, running every day or every week, so you can have peace of mind that the antivirus is regularly checking for threats without you needing to think about it.

In most cases, scans take place silently in the background and won’t interfere with the performance of your device.

Quarantine

When an antivirus app detects a potentially harmful file on your device, it can isolate it from the rest of your files by placing it in a special quarantine area. This prevents it from infecting other files on your device and stops any potential problems from spreading.

Quarantine is important as it alerts you to threats but also gives you options about how to handle them. If you recognize a file and know the result is a false positive, for example, you can reinstate the file. This prevents accidental loss of important files.

Backups

Prevent important files from being lost

Many antivirus apps offer the option to back up your data. You can choose to back up certain crucial files or make a complete copy of all the apps, data, and settings on your device at a specific point in time. Some antivirus apps let you store backups offline or in the cloud.

Creating a backup allows you to reinstate your device in the event that it’s compromised by malware or if you lose your data due to another unanticipated event, such as a power surge, fire, or theft.

Password Management

Passwords are a significant vulnerability for your online security. It can be hard to remember a unique password for every service you use, which makes it tempting to reuse the same passwords across multiple services – even though you know it’s risky.

Many antivirus apps include built-in password managers to help address this problem. They work by automatically generating strong, unique passwords for any new online services you want to use and then storing them in a secure vault.

This way, you only need to remember one password to log into the password manager, and you can increase security by adding two-factor authentication, biometric logins, or even physical authentication devices.

VPNs

Hide your online traffic with a VPN

Using a virtual private network (VPN) allows you to access the internet via a software-based private server. Many antivirus apps include VPN functionality so you can hide your online traffic as well as details about your location and your device from your internet service provider.

Crucially, VPNs can also hide this information from bad actors like hackers and data thieves, which is particularly important if you’re using a public network.

Ransomware Protection

In a ransomware attack, thieves steal important data or take control of devices and then demand payment in return for restoring access. These attacks can target individuals or organizations, and in both cases, they can be extremely costly and disruptive.

Antivirus apps often include protection against ransomware attacks. This can include data backups, which help you store a copy of valuable information in the cloud or offline to ensure you always have access to it.

More advanced antivirus software can include real-time threat monitoring that uses algorithms to watch out for known ransomware attacks or signature behavior, such as the rapid encryption of files on your device.

Dark Web Monitoring

Dark web monitoring in case of data breaches

The dark web refers to the hidden layers of the internet which users can access anonymously by using special browser software such as Tor.

The dark web has legal and legitimate uses, but because of its anonymity, it’s also used by bad actors to illegally share valuable data such as user passwords, personal details, and credit card information.

Some antivirus apps offer monitoring services, which can detect if your passwords or personal information are shared online. This can help you to take swift action to protect your data security.

Do You Need Antivirus for Windows 10 and Windows 11?

Many PC users wonder if they need dedicated antivirus software for Windows when they already have free access to Windows Defender, also known as Windows Security, in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

The answer is that it depends on how you use the internet and whether the more advanced features available in dedicated antivirus apps are important to you. Windows Defender offers many of the same basic protections against viruses and malware as standalone antivirus apps.

However, it does not include strong protection against phishing scams, it has limited ransomware protection, and it does not include dark web monitoring. In addition, Windows Defender doesn’t offer a password manager or VPN functionality, which can both be useful for protecting your information online.

If you generally follow safe internet practices, such as avoiding suspicious downloads or links, and you have a good system for creating and managing strong passwords, Windows Defender may be enough on its own.

However, if you need additional support with your online safety or if you’re concerned that your device or your personal information may have been compromised in the past, investing in a dedicated antivirus app is a great choice.

Do I Need an Antivirus For My Phone?

Given all the online threats we’ve discussed, you may be wondering – do you need an antivirus app on your phone?

Many antivirus providers offer apps for Android and iOS at no extra cost for subscribers, and it’s a good idea to use a mobile app if you have access to one. However, the more in-depth answer is that it really depends on the type of device you use.

iOS Devices

Antivus for iPhone

The Apple iOS operating system is already very secure when faced with viruses and malware because of how tightly Apple vets and controls the apps that appear in its App Store.

While viruses are unlikely to be an issue on your iPhone, you may still want to use an antivirus app to block malicious websites, check for data breaches, or use features such as a VPN when you’re using public WiFi.

Android Devices

Best antivirus for android

Android devices are less secure when it comes to malicious software. Malware has appeared in the Google Play Store in the past, though it has always been swiftly removed by Google.

Because you can sideload apps onto Android devices, it’s also possible to bypass the Google Play Store entirely, and this presents another potential vulnerability.

For these reasons, it’s wise to use an antivirus app on your Android device, especially if you can access a mobile app as part of your antivirus subscription.

The Case Against Antivirus Software

Antivirus for PC, Mac and Smartphone

When you’re weighing up the benefits of using antivirus software, it makes sense to look at the drawbacks, too. There are good reasons why some people choose not to use antivirus apps.

  • Cost – The price of antivirus apps is probably the top reason. While there are plenty of free options out there, most fully-featured antivirus apps understandably have a monthly or annual subscription cost.
  • Native security – Whatever device you’re currently using, it probably has security features built into its operating system. Windows Defender is a standard feature of Windows, for instance. Depending on your online habits, these native security features may be sufficient.
  • Device performance – Some antivirus apps can use up significant system resources in the background, especially when running scans. This can lead to decreased performance in other tasks. However, this is only likely to be a significant issue on older, slower hardware.
  • User expertise – You may simply feel that your online habits are safe enough that an antivirus app is unnecessary. Given the increasing sophistication of online threats, however, it may still be a good idea to invest in the extra protection offered by antivirus software.

While there are some valid arguments against using antivirus software, the benefits outweigh the negatives. Antivirus app subscriptions are generally very affordable, and performance impact is unlikely to be a problem if you’re using modern hardware.

Most importantly, antivirus apps offer significantly enhanced protection against threats compared to built-in security tools across a wide range of devices. So, is virus protection necessary? We’d say it is.

Antivirus Software Protection for PCs, Macs, and Smartphones

EDITOR’s CHOICE

TotalAV – Outstanding Antivirus Software for Complete Protection, Including Password Manager and VPN

  • Minimal system impact
  • Unlimited VPN bandwidth
  • Excellent phishing protection

There are many excellent antivirus options on the market today that work across Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices. Read on for our top picks for desktop and smartphone.

We’ve included independent test results from AV-Test to show how each option rates for protection, performance, and usability.

Antivirus Software Test Results Starting Price Max Devices Supported Compatibility Free Version Top 3 Features
TotalAV 6/6 for protection, performance, and usability $29/year 6 – Total Security Plan Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android Free scan – VPN with unlimited bandwidth
– Phishing protection
– Real-time website tracking
Norton 6/6 for protection, performance, and usability $19.99/year 5 – Deluxe plan Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android 7-day trial – Automatic cloud backups
– Integrated firewall
– Password manager
TrendMicro 6/6 for protection, performance, and usability $19.95/year Unlimited Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android Yes – Cloud-based
– AI-powered malware detection
– Folder Shield feature
ESET – 6/6 for usability
– 5.5/6 for protection and performance
$39.99/year 1 Windows, Mac, and Android 30-day trial – Secure browser
– AES-256 encryption
– Advanced diagnostics
Avast 6/6 for protection, performance, and usability $31.08/year (monthly) 10 – Premium Security plan Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android Yes – Excellent free plan
– Strong test scores
– Built-in ad blocker

All of our top antivirus recommendations offer excellent performance, with an extremely high level of protection against malware and other online threats. Depending on the features you’re looking for and how many devices you want to use, you’re sure to find a product that’s right for you on this list.

Check out our full review of the top antivirus software products for more details.

Are Antivirus Programs Necessary If You Have a VPN?

Do you need antivirus software with a VPN? Antivirus programs and VPNs work together to protect your device and your online activity, but they serve different purposes. To maximize your online safety, it’s best to use both an antivirus program and a VPN.

Antivirus software scans your device for threats such as malware. If it finds a suspicious file, it can quarantine or remove it and prevent it from affecting other files on your device.

These apps can also monitor your internet traffic to alert you to potential threats before they make it onto your device.

VPNs, on the other hand, help to obscure your internet usage and personal information from bad actors like data thieves by anonymising your online activity and device information.

It’s especially important to use a VPN when you’re accessing the internet from a public or unsecured network, such as the WiFi in a coffee shop or airport lounge.

Both antivirus apps and VPNs are important tools to increase your safety online and protect your personal information, and you should use both wherever possible.

How To Optimize The Performance of Your Antivirus Software

Once you’ve decided on the antivirus software you want to use, you’ll want to optimize its performance to make sure it runs well and doesn’t interfere with other tasks on your device. Here are some simple steps you can take to keep your antivirus at peak performance.

  • Update software regularly – Antivirus developers release regular updates that can improve the detection of current threats and improve general performance. Make sure you opt-in for automatic software updates so your antivirus always has access to the latest threat database.
  • Schedule scans during less busy times – Antivirus scans use system resources on your device, which can slow down the performance of other tasks. Set a regular scan schedule for off-peak hours, such as overnight, so scans won’t slow down your device while you’re using it.
  • Exclude safe files and folders – You can configure antivirus scans to exclude certain files and folders. Use this feature to exclude files on your device that you know are safe, which can speed up scan times.
  • Close unnecessary apps – All apps and background processes on your device use up system resources. Close any apps you’re not using to free up resources for your antivirus software, especially at times when you know you won’t be using your device.

Our Other Antivirus Guides and Resources

Check out our in-depth antivirus guides for more information and to help you decide on the best antivirus app for your needs.

Conclusion – Do You Still Need Antivirus?

Online threats emerge every day, from viruses and malware to phishing scams and ransomware attacks. Antivirus software provides a crucial defense against these dangers, helping to keep your online activity safe and your personal information protected.

Given this, the answer to the question, “Is antivirus software needed?” is a resounding yes. There are a range of excellent free and paid antivirus apps on the market that offer high levels of performance and protection.

Key features to look out for include firewalls, VPNs, cloud and local backups, password management, and dark web monitoring.

Many paid options can be used across all your devices, including smartphones and tablets, and can also offer protection for multiple members of your household.

Even if you have safe habits online and your device includes built-in security protections, it’s still a good idea to use dedicated antivirus software for the extra protection it provides.

FAQs – Is Antivirus Software Necessary?

Do you really need an antivirus?

Do I need McAfee with Windows 10?

Does my phone need antivirus?

Why do I need antivirus for Windows 10?

Why do antivirus programs come with so many features?

Should you pay for antivirus software?

Harry Werber

Harry is a veteran technology writer who focuses on software, AI and climate tech. He has worked with a range of organizations, from tech startups to enterprise organizations such as Microsoft, Dell and Vodafone. Alongside writing, Harry's experience includes roles leading teams, as well as managing projects, operations, and product development.