The purpose of antivirus software is to detect, prevent installation and remove malicious software (also known as malware). The best free antivirus software will perform this process in real-time. Alternatively, by scanning every file on your computer, an antivirus software can flag up potentially harmful software and take action on them. This type of software is critical for the users to have installed and up-to-date because a computer without antivirus software installed could potentially become infected within minutes of being connected to the internet.
There are various different companies that offer antivirus software and what each free package offers can differ but they are all designed to perform the following basic functions:
- Real-time scanning to detect any live changes to the PC
- Scan specific locations or files for viruses
- Allow you to schedule scans to automatically run
- Enable you to initiate a scan manually on a specific device, directory or file at any time.
- Remove detected malicious software
It is very important to keep your antivirus up-to-date because virus creators are always adapting their code to find a way through antivirus software. If you don’t keep your software up-to-date, then you could be leaving your devices open to infection as soon as you connect to the internet!
As well as performing these basic functions, some of the best antivirus software makers have moved into the PC optimization world, offering a ‘boost’ of your PC in hopes to speed up the boot times and general performance of your computer. These processes run hand in hand, as both are designed to run a scan and take action on the findings, why not do both clean up and speed up if you are doing a full PC scan?
Another common feature of the best free antivirus products is a ‘File Shredder’, which ‘deep deletes’ files, leaving no trace of sensitive files on your PC. A standard delete is often recoverable through inspection of a hard drive, a file shred cannot be recovered. This is a great feature because the majority of computer users are not aware that files deleted with a standard delete function can be retrieved, by being able to completely wipe a file from your hard drive you are better protected - an antivirus’ main goal.
Many antiviruses also contain a firewall, a program which acts as a barrier to block unauthorized access / software from getting to a computer or network.