Do I have to pay for antivirus software?

Jo Anne writes:

I received a message that said that my Microsoft security software is turned off and I am not protected. What can I do? I even ran the scan. The warning says that I can buy antivirus protection, but I don’t want to pay for it.

If your computer is running Windows, you do not need to pay for antivirus software. To help fight both viruses and spyware, you can download Microsoft Security Essentials at no cost for Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.

First make sure to uninstall any other antivirus software—whether you installed it or it came preinstalled on your computer. If you choose to install other antivirus software on your computer, Microsoft Security Essentials will be disabled.

Windows Defender is an antivirus feature in Windows 8 PCs and tablets that replaces Microsoft Security Essentials. It runs in the background and notifies you when you need to take specific action.

Watch out for rogue security software

The message that Jo Anne received might have been a genuine warning from Microsoft, but it sounds like it could be a rogue security software scam. Rogue security software (also known as “scareware”) claims to offer security benefits but actually provides limited or no security and may even lure you into participating in fraudulent transactions.

As you surf the web, you might see legitimate looking pop-up windows containing “updates” or “alerts” that say you need to click to install the software, accept recommended updates, or remove unwanted viruses or spyware. When you click, rogue security software downloads to your computer.

For examples of rogue security software, see our Real vs. Rogue Facebook app.

About the Author
Eve Blakemore

Group Manager, Trustworthy Computing

Eve Blakemore is a Group Manager for Trustworthy Computing who delivers consumer guidance around the latest trends in security and privacy. Eve joined Microsoft in 1998 and has worked in corporate and field roles with Microsoft Learning, US Public Sector, Read more »

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  1. Anonymous


  2. Anonymous

    I have Microsoft Security Essentials installed on my XP PC and the icon in my system tray is green with check mark.  However, the system tray also has a Windows Security Alert (red shield with x).  What is up with that?

  3. Anonymous

    I am telephoned at least 4/5 times a day by IT Technical Help who tell me that my computer is throwing up warning signs on the server. If I don't get these warnings sorted out then my computer is at risk of crashing and leaving all my information open to anyone's use.  They have offered me Microsoft software for £169.99, then for £69.99 when I told them that I was a pensioner and didn't have the money to pay.  Are they telling me the truth?

  4. Anonymous

    Microsoft security Essentials states "CANNOT COMPLETE INSTALLATION of MSE" with no explanation

    WHAT IS the POINT of THIS?

  5. Anonymous

    The anti-virus says it is off in the security center, I have no other virus protection but I can't get the anti-virus turned on.  How do I get  the system on?

  6. Anonymous

    i have microsoft s. e. installed and it works, the green flag is on. when i do the system check it says it does not detect a virus protection program..and if i have one to change the settings.. whats up with this..

  7. Anonymous

    Judith…no, that's nonsense.  To be sure everything on your computer is ok, check with a local company.  These phone calls are almost assuredly scams.

  8. Anonymous

    I have a virus on my computer and Security Essentials can't fix the problem am trying to take the program off my computer so that I can install Norton security. Why can't I delate Security Essentials it seems locked in?????

  9. Anonymous

    Microsoft security Essentials , shield is red, and tells me that the virus protection is out of date is this true or a scare ware, is this true or a lie

  10. Anonymous

    i am experiencing the same as judith.  i actually made the transaction. They attempted to delete alot of my programs and I stop the procedure.  Every download performed in claims of security was downloaded completely free from the internet… chrome, ccleaner, ms essentials, ninite essentials. They were so rude.

  11. Anonymous

    my computor keeps sending a message that my Hardware excelleration was not working  that my video card after upgrading from windows EX P  to windows 7 how can I fix this problem. I have gone to several sites microsoft, intell, dell. Help

  12. Anonymous

    The problem with Microsoft Security Essentials is actually REALLY simple 😀

    All you need to do is open MSE and navigate to "Settings" tab.  Where it has the "Real-Time Protection" just uncheck that box!  Now both MSE and Windows will tell you there is a problem.  Restart your machine, then open MSE and click the big red button to fix the issue.  Now both Windows and MSE is on the same page.

    Even tho Windows says its not working it actually is.  This is a problem with Windows XP and Vista (if updates are not installed).  It just simply has a hard time actively monitoring the newer software since they have came out.  Got to think XP is over 10 years old, and anything made in the past 4 years has been developed to work with Windows 7.  So these kinds of setbacks are to be expected.

    If it can not complete the install, Colin, then it is due to either A) your system time is not set correctly.  Be sure to check the date, time, as well as time zone settings. B) Other updates are pending.  Please use Windows Update to install ALL of the latest updates first C) a 3rd party program is preventing it from installing (sorry cant help you there cause that is basically all on you) D) your copy of Windows is not Genuine.

  13. Anonymous

    I have not used Anti Virus on any PC ever since Windows 7 SP1. I typically scan my PC's a least a couple times a month since that time with online malware scanners. I have yet to have any PC found to have malware on it.

    But I consider myself very careful and informed about the exploits going on and like the latest Java exploits I quickly disabled or uninstalled Java. The stronger security then a Anti virus program is a well informed user. The really bad stuff tends to get past security programs anyway. As any security expert can tell you. Any security suite can only prevent around 25% of malware. To me that's not enough security to bother with it running on my PC's.

  14. Anonymous

    I have XP on my computer. The red shield is on saying I am not protected against viruses. The green MSE is up to date.  I have a failed secuity update which states "Microsoft NET Framework 1.1sp1 on Windows XP, , Windows Vista & W. Server 2008 x 86 (KB2742597) which will not update. Error code Ox 643.

    Also, every day I have an error report for:Files:NDP1.1sp1 KB2742597.x96 wrapper.log version.txt.

    What must I do to correct this?  Is it necessary to take the computer to be fixed???????

  15. Anonymous

    I am using Microsoft Security Essentials and the software that I installed tells me that  Microsoft Security Essentials version is outdated and the is a new version. How do I upgrade to the new version?

  16. Anonymous

    Does anyone have any experience wih McAfee? It came with my Dell–I've been told that my PC acts like it has a virus even though it's been scanned fully, Recommendations??

  17. Anonymous

    The question was do I have to pay for anti virus protection?  There's all kind of comments, but no answer to the question.

  18. Anonymous

    Can we use MS Security Essentials on the computers in our non-profit K4-12 school?

  19. Anonymous

    Get Norton Internet Security – it's worth the money and can be applied to 3 computers.

  20. Anonymous

    just use AVG that's all you need ,i been useing AVG FREE for 10 years now and had no trouble .Just try it .

  21. Anonymous

    this is a great and powerful application that i use since 2 years ago

    when we're using this app. we don't need to install antivirus of another companies.

    thanks to Microsoft

  22. Anonymous

    I would like to read the "Real VS Rogue" but I do not have this Facebook thing. Where else can I read the article?

  23. Anonymous

    Judith; no, that phone call was not legit.  

    There are several phone calls being made by people in India and other places stating that they work for Microsoft and they have detected some sort of problem with your computer.  One of them is the one you got trying to sell you something that you will never receive and then they have your credit card information and the raid to drain your card begins without your knowledge of course.

    The other phone scam again is a bogus Microsoft employee stating that they found something wrong on your computer and they have the fix for it, first they guide you to open a file in your computer, then they tell you the files marked with the red exclamation marks are the bad files and only they can remove and must remove by taking control of your computer.  If you allow them to take control they will steal all important information on your hard drive like passwords and bank accounts etc.  Once they have that they drain your accounts and screw up you credit.  And those red exclamation points they found…all computers have those and they don't mean anything!

    Microsoft will NEVER call anyone, if any updating needs to be done they do it automatically.

    For the rest concerning virus protection, there are several very good FREE anti virus protection programs on the market, of course Security Essentials (SE) is a very good one, the others are AVG (probably the best of the free ones, but that is just an opinion), and AVAST.  Problem with AVG and Avast is that sometime their not compatible with a particular browser, I had major issues with AVAST being used with Chrome so I had to stop using it, not sure if that was because of Chrome or because I'm on the older Vista operating system, or both combined, but it wouldn't work.  So I switched back to SE, though AVG does intrigue me so I may experiment with it because it is rated better then SE as is AVAST.

    But those are the only free anti virus programs I would use.  There is another free anti virus program that I use called Panda.  Panda works in the cloud and not on the computer like the others.  The weird thing is, that because it works in the cloud it does not conflict with any other anti virus program you may have installed and operating on the computer.  I like the idea of having two layers of protection, since doing that I haven't had a virus in over a year, and have not ran into any conflict issues using SE and Panda together, nor does Chrome seem to run any slower.

    Whats really crazy is that these free anti virus programs run faster then the ones you pay for and they work better!

    A lot of this anti virus stuff and trying find the right one is experimental, you have to try it and see how your system will operate afterwards.

  24. Anonymous

    @Judith Stevens – It is not just Fake calls from Microsoft you need to watch out for, they will also call saying they are your ISP, Phone company and so on. Microsoft will never call you, but if it was your ISP call them back after looking up the number on there website this way you cna be sure you are speaking to who they say they are.

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