Antivirus and anti-malware programs may seem exactly the same at first glance. However, there tend to be significant differences between these programs. If you want your PC to stay protected from dangerous threats, then you’ll need to learn these differences.
Viruses versus malware
First, let’s clarify what viruses and malware actually are. Malware is a general term for any type of malicious software. Viruses are a specific type of malware. What makes viruses unique is their ability to replicate and spread across systems.
Meanwhile, other types of malware include:
And dozens of others. So why do we most commonly call it antivirus software when viruses are only one small part of the problem? That’s a good question! The truth is: viruses have made more headlines over the past few decades than any other type of malware. Viruses tend to be big, mean, and nasty.
Viruses have the power to take down a company’s nuclear program (Stuxnet was a mix of a worm/virus) or to steal passwords while masking as a love letter.
Because of all the high profile virus attacks over the last few years, we know more about the importance of antivirus software as opposed to antimalware software.
Do you need both?
Usually. In many cases, anti-malware programs aren’t built to look for viruses, and antivirus programs aren’t built to look for worms, Trojans, and other problems.
Fortunately, there are some popular antivirus software programs that protect users from a wide variety of viruses and malware threats. Avast and Norton, for example, do their best to scan for a diverse range of malware and virus threats, while Malwarebytes Anti-Malware only scans for malware threats while avoiding viruses and worms. McAfee also apparently only protects users from malware+virus threats if they’re willing to pay more.
How much should you be willing to pay?
It’s 2013 and paying $20 to $50 per year for a suite of antivirus tools isn’t really necessary. Antimalware tools are built directly into all the popular browsers and Windows’ own Microsoft Security Essentials program will protect you from a good range of virus/malware threats. However, there are always going to be holes in your security if you’re using free software/no software at all, and if you don’t know how to fix your PC when something goes wrong, then maybe paying $20 to $50 per year is a good option for you.
On the other hand, you could download a tool like PC Cleaner Pro and only pay a one-time fee of $39.99 for it. PC Cleaner Pro provides top-quality malware protection but its usage is perfectly complemented with a good antivirus program.