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How Is Antivirus Free? 5 Ways They Make Money (Anyway)

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Many computers today come with free antivirus preinstalled and you can even find free antivirus software you can download online.

You’ve probably heard the saying “Nothing is truly free online!”, and that’s true. So, it makes you wonder:

How Do Antivirus Providers Make Money With Free Software?
Software providers typically make money from offering their users to upgrade their free software to a paid plan. Some bad providers may also collect from their users and make money selling these data to third party companies for advertising purposes.

That’s the quick answer.

Let’s dig into the details and make sure you know what you need to know to not get fooled! 

5 Ways Antivirus Makers Earn Money From Free Software

Nobody likes to work for free – the same goes for antivirus companies.

That’s also why it’s good to exercise some healthy skepticism when anybody offers you anything for free online or on your computer.

We need to understand the underlying mechanisms that keep these companies in business. Let’s start with the most common way to make money from free software.

1) By Pushing a Paid Version

If you’re running a free version of antivirus software you might have noticed the popups from the developers. They typically prompt you from day one or after a 30-day trial period.

When that period ends you will have to pay in order to keep using the software.

That’s a very common business model online.

These popups can be as hard to get rid of as they are as annoying! They have designed it that way for one reason only: To maximize the percentage of users who push that big buy button and give them some money. That’s how antivirus companies make money from this scenario.

2) From Advertising

This is one of the most common business models online.

Get a piece of software (antivirus program in this case) installed on as many computers as possible and sell advertising space inside the software.

The advertising typically appears here:

  • During startup
  • During antivirus scans
  • After the scanning is complete
  • When you close the program

These advertising spots are very valuable as they will be exposed to people who are not computer experts. That makes them ideal targets of a wide variety of tools and programs.

3) From Added Tools From Other Software Providers

Have you tried to install a program on your computer and once it is installed you suddenly have one, two, or three other programs installed as well?

Exactly.

That’s a “clever” business model among free software providers.

Once you hit install you are prompted with unreadable licenses that we all typically click “Yes” to in a heartbeat (who understands this jargon anyway??).

And voila!

You now have a few other “free” software programs running on a first trial month – before they start bugging you about paying for something you never intended to install on your computer in the first place.

This practice is VERY common.

You need to pay close attention to EVERYTHING you click “OK” to in the install process every time you install anything on your computer. You’ll be surprised how often you end up clicking OK to install additional programs on your computer.

The companies behind these other software programs typically pay a commission to the antivirus provider behind the program you installed for free.

4) They Make Money From Business Customers (B2B)

This is a legit reason.

It’s not too uncommon to see large brands offer at free (light) version of their security software to the consumer market.

This is done in order to establish a strong brand among the public in order to push their business products.

It can sometimes be a good way to do business if you have a strong presence among a professional segment or niche. It will let them attribute the cost of keeping everything up to date in the systems to the profit they make from large customers.

5) They Get To Sell Your Similar Products

Once these providers of free antivirus programs have a free program running on your computer they can now sell you other stuff.

This is also known as “upselling”.

They will tell you about this other program that you absolutely need in order to use your antivirus program properly. Or maybe they will have you install a program to scan your computer for other types of files.

But the programs don’t even have to be related. Sometimes they will try to sell you something completely different from a large portfolio of software programs. That can be legit if you click “OK” to all the terms of use they flashed during the install.

This is advertising too but it’s advertising for their own products. So, in this case, they’re not selling your data to a third party company to advertise. They’re not selling the advertising inside the program. Or maybe they will, in order to make money from multiple ways!

So, Is Free Antivirus Really Free?

Free antivirus is not free. They will make money one way or another. Typically from advertising, upselling, or installing other programs as well. It’s important to understand how they make money when the antivirus program is free before you install anything.

That’s the real answer.

Now, let’s make sure you understand how to distinguish the good from the bad when we talk antivirus companies. There are many pitfalls and it’s important to know some basic facts.

You Should NEVER Choose a Free Antivirus Software (Ever!!)

Let’s dig into the details about why you shouldn’t trust free antivirus programs.

We have some really important points to make here so pay close attention.

The Best Programs Are Never Free

Free antivirus programs are typically interior to the competition. Why? Because otherwise, they would charge money for the software. After all, that is most often the best way to make money!

In other words, you are not well protected when you use a free piece of software to take care of the most important part of your computer:

Your security and protection against viruses.

You should not try to save a few bucks when getting antivirus for your computer. It’s better to get a proper program that can really take care of the problems as they appear.

It does cost money and hard work for companies to stay on top of the latest viruses. This is why you shouldn’t rely on a company that will offer you the protection for free. You need to get your antivirus program from a company with specialists who constantly keep an eye on the new threads so they can offer the latest upgrades all the time to keep you save.

They Typically Slow Down Your Machine

When an antivirus program isn’t written properly it typically slows down your machine.

It may end up taking forever to start up your machine because of the antivirus program running in the background. This is super-annoying and something you typically experience with cheap or free antivirus providers.

It takes goods skills and hard dedication to build a top-level antivirus that can actually protect you against the threads online. Why? Because the guys (and gals?) trying to get into your machine are some of the best programmers themselves.

I’ve received training from an internet security expert who has helped big companies protect their computers and networks and he showed me exactly how easy it is for these people to hack a network or a computer that’s not well protected. Trust me, you need a premium (paid) antivirus software.

Basic Features You Need From Any Antivirus Software

Let’s look at a few things we need to make sure the antivirus program we run can do.

It’s important to have these features in order to be protected well.

  • We need to go with a provider who has been in business for several years. They need to have a good amount of experience and they should have been in the game long enough to know how to fight all the basic stuff.
  • They also need to have a solid virus scan feature.
    This is probably the most important feature in order to keep you safe.
  • They need a good online reputation. This one is tricky because you can often buy your way into review sites or you can pay a good amount of money to bloggers to have them mention you.
    Make sure to read over some reviews from websites you trust!
  • Email protection is also a really good feature to have.
    Especially if you don’t feel like you know when an email is legit and when it may contain bad links or files. Make sure you get a program that works well with your preferred email client.

    Unless you use Gmail as they have one of the best levels of security as they scan everything before they let you touch it.

That’s it!

I hope you enjoyed it. And I hope you are better equipped now to find the best antivirus program for your needs!

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