Used to be, one antivirus product was much like another. Whether you chose McAfee, Norton or TrendMicro was just a matter of personal taste – they all did a decent job.
But then they started growing – adding internet security, phishing filters, parental controls, etc – each time one product added a feature, the others did the same, till these antivirus programs were HUGE. They were extremely safe, but you were lucky if you could actually access the internet through all the safety features. And they slowed down everything on your computer.
Apparently these antivirus vendors are trying to pare down their programs now, streamlining so you don't feel like you are running through mud when you use your computer. Even if they do succeed in speeding up their products, there is still a problem – subscription to the products expire every year.
You've seen it - “Your antivirus product will expire in 364 days” - as it starts to count down almost as soon as you've bought it. We ignore the warning since it starts so early, and as a result many users actually miss the expiration date and the product expires. Or we forget. Or we just don't have that $50 right at the time the product needs to be renewed. That means no more updates, and THAT means your antivirus product is essentially worthless within a week. It can no longer keep up with the newer threats because it is not updating, and the newer threats are the ones most likely to bite you because you ARE protected against the older bugs.
When Microsoft Security Essentials was first offered for free by Microsoft, I thought it was a brilliant idea – who better to protect Windows from threats than the makers of Windows themselves? So far, it is turning out to be a great product. Sure, something will get through it at some point, but that hasn't happened in my house yet. Yet! But the consequence I hadn't considered with this free product is that I never have to renew my subscription. Sure, I keep an eye on it to make sure it's always updating to the newest virus definitions (it always has so far), but I don't have to worry about renewing and paying each year. And I like that.