The difference between Freeware, Shareware, and Commercial AntiVirus Software

Freeware AntiVirus Software

Freeware programs are either distributed for the love of humanity, for fame, or as stripped down versions of programs that cost money. For the most part, this is the domain of the independent, or "freelance," developer.Remarkably, some of the very best programs for use on the Internet  are completely free. Most free antivirus software, even though it's not commercially sold, is copyrighted by the author. Always check the license agreement if you consider using the application for anything other than your personal use.

  1. Your support, if any, will be limited to e-mail. We've found the support level to be much lower than with shareware. We've rarely been able to get an e-mail response from a freeware developer. Their attitude seems to be, (but this is only our opinion), that: "I spent a lot of time developing it and I gave it to you for free. I don't have time to respond to all the e-mail I get each day."
  2. There are unscrupulous people who use the freeware concept to download junk, (like a virus), into your computer. 
  3. Some freeware requires that you also download large support files containing special code to run the software. You may not know this "up front" and it may take "forever" with a dial-up connection.
  4. There are adages that say: "You get what you pay for," and "Let the buyer beware."
  5. Some freeware may be difficult, or impossible, to remove. We tried one piece of software, that when removed, disabled our web browsers and all internet access!
  1. Of all the words in the english language, FREE has to be one of the nicest!
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Shareware AntiVirus software

This type software is, for the most part, commercially developed, but by smaller companies. These companies do not market in stores, but sell worldwide on the internet. They can sell for less because it costs less to advertise.

Unlike commercial software, its hard to find fault with shareware. This is probably the main reason for its popularity. There are only a few problems we can think of.

  1. Your support will likely be by e-mail, altho many offer limited phone support.
  2. The software may have a few bugs in it because of a smaller customer base, and lack of the (usually) extensive "beta tests" performed by large corporations. Its often the case with shareware that YOU become a member of the beta test team when you download it!
  3. There seems to be an increasing tendancy among shareware developers to follow the lead of commercial marketers by selling "subscriptions" for up-dates.
  1. You can try the software for FREE! The trial period varies, but is usually in the 10 to 30 day range. If you do not like the software, just delete it and look for something better. Be CAREFUL that the software has an uninstaller built-in or can be removed with "Add/Remove Programs.".
  2. In general, prices are much lower than for comparable commercial software.
  3. Frequently a small developer will listen to you and may even include your suggestions in up-dates. Try getting THAT from a large corporation!
  4. You are likely to find a MUCH greater variety of shareware software. In our opinion, this is because the small companies are trying to find their "niche" and are more creative. Large corporations have already found their niche, and are wary of taking chances. 
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Commercial AntiVirus Software

Much of it, but not all, is commercial software of the kind you may buy at a store. Many of the companies that produce it are leaders in the industry. In general, these companies stand very well behind their products. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. You cannot test the software to see if you like it.
  2. You'll likely never be denied a refund for "just cause," but it may take time at a store to exchange it or get a refund.
  3. If bought online, "return" policies are often unclear; you might want to ask questions first by e-mail.
  4. Getting help from a real person over the phone is all but impossible and most likely will not be free.
  5. There may be "hidden costs" in that, nowadays,  you may have to pay for a "subscription" to keep the software up to date.
  1. You're usually deal with industry leaders and likely will get a good product.
  2. You can pay for support which is often available 24/7. If you are a business, this may be an advantage.
  3. Few worries about downloading a virus or other built-in "nasty."
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There is much debate on the subject of freeware, shareware, and commercial antivirus software. There are proponents of each, and those against each. What it comes down to really is YOU. How do you feel? What "works" for you? What do you need to fulfill YOUR needs?  Do what makes sense to you, but be careful!

In closing we offer the following caveats:
  1. Prior to downloading anything, run your antivirus and/or spyware software to make SURE your computer is "clean," up-front. Run it again after the download. Is it still clean? Be wary of software you've downloaded that tells you, out of the blue, that: "you have a virus" or similar. It may be that this new software can detect things your present software cannot, BUT, it may also be a ploy to get you to buy it.
  2. If its not mentioned, BEFORE downloading, question the developer on whether the software has a built-in "Uninstaller," or if it can safely be un-installed using the "Add/Remove" feature of Windows.
  3. NEVER ever use the internet without antivirus software. We use FIVE different types PLUS a firewall. SPAM is an annoyance its nice to be rid of, but thats all it is. A VIRUS can destroy your computer. It is the greater threat. Up-date weekly if possible.
We would really like to hear your comments, both pro and con, about freeware, shareware, and commercial software. Your thoughts may be included on these pages if you allow us to quote you.

Our recommendation: Shareware & Freeware Software
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