Do you need antivirus for a PC or a Mac?

Spyware, malware, and other IT viruses can wreak havoc on your computer. Here’s what you need to know about protecting your data from these threats. 

Spyware, malware, and other IT viruses can wreak havoc on your computer. Here’s what you need to know about protecting your data from these threats. 

Written by
Sajni Shah
Utilities comparison expert
13 AUGUST 2021
4 min read
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What is antivirus? 

Antivirus is a type of software you can upload onto your computer. Its job is to hunt down viruses and other malicious software, sometimes known as malware, and stop it harming your PC or Mac. 

How does antivirus work?

Not only does antivirus software check every file on your computer for malware, scanning for code that’s known to be suspicious. It also looks for unknown viruses, by scanning your computer for potentially threatening files. 

Why do I need antivirus software?

Antivirus could protect your computer from hackers. Not all hackers are criminals looking to defraud you. But hackers of any type can cause serious damage to your computer, and, if you’re using it for work, your business.  
Antivirus software isn’t foolproof, but it could go a long way towards protecting your computer.  

Who needs antivirus software?

If you’re using a computer, you’ll need it. Without antivirus software in place, you could find yourself the victim of cybercrime. Bots and trojans can infect your computer with malware and use this to steal valuable information. The hackers could even demand you pay a ransom in return for the data.  
The other big danger is spyware, which criminals can use to copy every word you type. 

How can I tell if my computer has a virus? 

If your PC or Mac is infected, you may notice some or all of these tell-tale signs:  

  • Your computer runs slower than usual; 
  • Programs shut down unexpectedly, or won’t open at all; 
  • Your browser won’t display websites; 
  • Your computer locks; 
  • You get lots of pop-up boxes, even when you’re not online. 

How do computer viruses spread?

Viruses don’t just come from sketchy websites. They can also spread through portable storage drives like USB sticks, so be careful about what you plug into your computer.  

Do I need to install antivirus on my smartphone or tablet?

The National Cyber Security Centre says this shouldn’t be necessary provided you only install apps and software from official stores like the Apple App Store and Google Play. The exception is if you have an older device that can’t be updated to include the latest security features.

What are the disadvantages of antivirus software? 

Antivirus software does have a few downsides worth knowing about:  

  • Antivirus software may slow down your computer. 
  • It may not offer absolute protection, and hackers could potentially target your data through weaker antivirus software packages.

How to choose antivirus software 

t’s likely your PC or Mac will come with some kind of antivirus software already installed, so you’ll need to think about whether you want to pay for extra protection.   
Some antivirus software is free, but other programs charge a subscription fee. You’ll need to compare what each one offers and decide whether it’s worth paying out.  
Using more than one antivirus software program isn’t recommended. You might think you’re doubling your protection, but having extra antivirus products could cause your device to glitch.  

What’s the best antivirus software?

Norton AntiVirus Plus is probably one of the best-known brands. PC Mag has recommended Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Kaspersky Anti-Virus and Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus, with each one receiving an ‘Excellent’ rating and 4.5 stars. 

How much is antivirus software? 

Prices for antivirus software vary. Some, such as Total AV, are completely free – just download it onto your Mac. Norton offers a range of plans at different price points.  

Top tips for protecting yourself from malware

There are steps you can take to protect your computer from malicious software and other viruses. Here are some of them:  

  • Make sure your antivirus software is working 
    It isn’t enough just to have the software – you also need to remember to keep it turned on. 
  • Make sure your software’s up to date 
    It’s easy to ignore those annoying update notifications that pop up on your devices. But having the latest software version means you’ll also have the most up-to-date security in place. Change your settings to ‘automatically update’ so it’s not something you have to think about.   
  • Don’t download anything from suspicious websites 
    Be sure to only download apps from reputable places, like Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Other sources could be risky.  
  • Keep your firewall turned on 
    Firewalls give you an extra layer of protection, acting as a kind of barrier between your computer and the internet. Most operating systems have their own firewalls in place, so it could just be that you need to turn yours on.  
  • Be extra careful with email 
    Email is a common way of spreading malware, so never click on links in emails or download any attachments from them, unless you’re absolutely certain they’re legitimate. 

Does Windows 10 need antivirus?

Windows 10 comes with the Microsoft Defender Antivirus, a built-in app that protects your computer from viruses and other malware. You don’t have to pay for it, and if you install extra antivirus software, Microsoft Defender will disable automatically.

Can Macs get viruses?

Macs have always been considered pretty safe, but unfortunately, cybercrime has become more sophisticated and attacks on Macs and Macbooks are said to be on the rise.

Do I need antivirus software for my Mac?

Computer operating systems are fairly advanced these days, but it’s likely you’ll need some kind of antivirus software, whether you have an up to date PC, a Mac, or a Macbook.

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