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Avoiding the anti-malware trap


Get the best deals on top internet security suites and avoid being stung by expensive automatic renewals

Anti-virus software is a vital addition to your PC if you want to browse the internet in relative safety. However, anti-malware publishers don’t provide their services simply out of the goodness of their hearts and would ideally like you to subscribe at the highest possible cost. Fortunately for your wallet, we have a few tips to keep costs down.

1. Don’t buy directly from the publisher’s website

As you’ll see from the prices and suppliers listed in our reviews, you can get some remarkably low prices if you shop for boxed copies at an online retailer rather than buying directly from the anti-malware software company. For example, a one year, three-user version of our Best Buy winner, Bitdefender Internet Security, costs just £16 if you buy it from, but a whopping £40 if you buy it directly from Shop around, and remember to use Google’s price comparison service.

2. You don’t have to stick with one program

Anti-malware programmers are in close competition, not only against the creators of malicious software, but also against one another. This anti-virus arms race means that the performance and detection rate of different anti-malware engines can change dramatically from year to year.

If you were still using McAfee software following its excellent performance in our tests in 2008, you’d probably be rather disappointed by the way this year’s edition has fared. Although it’s less hassle to just pay for another year’s subscription of the same product, you should always make sure that you’re still getting good value for money.

3. Beware hidden update costs

When your subscription to an anti-virus product expires, you’ll be prompted to renew it automatically. You may already have been asked to enter your credit card details during the original registration process a year ago. Resist the urge to save time by simply agreeing to the terms of the new subscription deal and giving the company permission to bill your credit card.

If you go for an update of this sort, most companies will charge you the full price of a new year’s subscription, and you’ll get none of the savings or benefits available by finding the best price elsewhere. If you have provided a company with your card details, log into your account on their website to ensure that you haven’t also been signed up for automatic renewal and remove the association with your credit or debit card.

4. Know how to say goodbye

Try to keep an eye on how long you have left on your subscription. If it runs out unexpectedly and you don’t want to simply renew it at whatever price the publisher offers, you can always install a free anti-virus program such as AVG as an interim measure. A couple of weeks before your subscription runs out is an ideal time to investigate the cheapest and most effective program around based on reviews such as ours and test results from independent anti-virus research labs. You can then order the new program in time for it to arrive while you’re still protected by your old anti-virus software.

Before you install new virus protection, you should remove your existing software. This used to be a hard task, designed to put you off switching and sometimes requiring specialist uninstallation software, but most programs can now simply be removed using Windows’ usual Programs interface or by using an uninstall link in their Start Menu folder.