With so many threats to your data today, adding extra layers of protection is a sensible idea. On your PC or laptop one of the best options is antivirus software that can keep an eye out for any nasty programs trying to sneak onto your system. We show you how to choose the right one for your needs, and get it set up on your computer.
Doesn’t Windows come with its own security software?
It’s true that Microsoft includes Windows Defender within Windows itself, and it’s a decent choice if you just want barebones antivirus. It doesn't have as many features and can't quite match the power of many dedicated security packages, but you should certainly have it turned for the time being.
To see what it has to offer, read Do you need antivirus on a new Windows PC or Laptop? which compares the differences between Defender and the other packages.
What kind of antivirus should I use?
There are two main types of antivirus software available – paid and free – and both share a certain amount of features. Many of the major security brands, including Avast, Bitdefender, and Kaspersky, offer a free version to tempt you into its garden.
For the majority of users the free packages are great for trying out, initially at least, as it will protect you from spyware, malware, viruses, unsafe links or attachments in email messages, and similar pests.
Moving up to the paid versions usually brings advanced features like protecting your webcam from snoopers, the ability to scan email attachments, password managers, and secure vaults where you can store important data that can’t be corrupted by the blight that is ransomware.
We’d recommend trying the free version first and then moving to the paid subscription if you like the software and think the additional features are worth the investment.
To see the software suites that currently top our recommendations charts, check out our review of the best antivirus software.
Installing antivirus software on your PC
Setting up an antivirus package on your device is little different to any other program. First, find the one you want to use, then download it from the website.
Once the .exe file is on your machine either double-click on its name that appears in the bar at the bottom of the screen (while still in your browser) or go to your downloads folder and double click on the file there. If you can’t see it straight away, click on the Date column (you’ll need to be in Details mode, which you’ll find in the View menu at the top of the window) so that the files are sorted by latest to oldest (if you see it’s the reverse then click the column a second time to switch it).
Next, you’ll be presented with a window telling you that the software wants to make changes to your system, this is a normal part of the process, so click Accept and then an Install option should appear.
Before you get things underway, check for any tickboxes on the screen, as free versions can often ask to additionally install secure web browsers, or for permission to share your details with advertisers. These aren’t necessarily bad things, but be sure you know what you’re agreeing to before you click Install.
When the program has finished its installation process you’ll usually be asked a few questions regarding upgrading to other related products, but just say no for now, as you can always do this later on.
To ensure everything works properly with the new security software you’ll want to turn off any existing ones you might have running. This includes Windows Defender, so here's how to turn on or off Windows Defender off.
The last step is to run a full scan of your PC so that the new software can check that you don’t already have any naughty programs lurking on your system.
That’s it. You’ve now updated your security. Take time to explore the various features offered by the software, and whether you need to set up regular scans or if the suite does this automatically.
Bear in mind though, that while you might have protection against viruses, that doesn’t mean you can drop your guard online. There are plenty of other ways for hackers to gain access to your data, so be sure to also read our How to protect yourself online guide.