Are your home and devices vulnerable to hackers and malware? They could be if you’re not using the right antivirus software. But which antivirus program is right for your needs?

That really depends on factors like how many devices your family uses, the ages of the people in your household, and your level of comfort with technology. If it’s just you and your spouse using one or two devices, you might be able to get by with the basic protection a free or freemium program offers. But if you have kids, lots of devices connected to your network, or do a lot of online shopping, you need something more sophisticated. Here’s what you need to know to make the right choice.

Consider How Much Protection Your Home Needs

With so many free antivirus options available, many people don’t see the point of paying for antivirus protection. But most households are going to need more antivirus and anti-malware protection than a basic, free program can offer. Paid premium programs tend to offer a much wider range of features that can do more than simply scan for viruses.

For example, you can get a paid antivirus software suite that offers spam filters for your email to protect you from phishing scams, parental controls so you can keep your kids safe, extra security for online banking and shopping, privacy features to safeguard your social media use, password management, system optimization, and security for mobile devices. And, while a free program can only be used to protect one device, a premium paid program can be used to protect multiple devices in your home, even if they use different operating systems. If you have kids, use multiple devices with different operating systems, do a lot of online shopping or banking, worry about phishing scams, use social media, or use your devices for work, you should seriously consider paying for a premium antivirus solution.

Do Your Research

There are plenty of antivirus programs to choose from, but how do you know which ones are really worth it? Independent testing labs like AV-Comparatives and AV-TEST perform monthly analyses of popular antivirus products to determine how effective they are. There are two important metrics to consider when shopping for antivirus software: malware detection rates and false positive rates.

The malware detection rate refers to the percentage of viruses and malware the program detects and stops. This rate should be at least 95 percent, although there are premium antivirus software suites that offer detection rates higher than 99 percent. However, no malware or antivirus program can offer a 100 percent detection rate, simply because there will always be a zero-day threat out there that no one knows about yet.

The false positive rate refers to the rate at which an antivirus program flags a harmless file as malware. Ideally, you should choose an antivirus program with a false positive rate of zero. However, a false positive rate can be as high as 10 percent without it affecting the antivirus software’s rating certification.

You should also read reviews of any antivirus software you’re considering buying. Professional reviews will tell you how effective an antivirus program is, what its malware detection and false positive rates are, how user-friendly it is, and how much under-the-hood tinkering is possible, which might be important to you if you’re the tech-savvy type. Amateur reviews can give you a window on how much value the software creates for regular users.

Try It Out First

It’s always better when you have the chance to try a product out before you buy it. You wouldn’t buy clothes without trying them on to make sure they fit, and you shouldn’t buy an antivirus program without making sure it’s a good fit, either.

You can usually get a month-long trial period to use an antivirus program for free to see if you like it and if it has all the features you want. If you’re not sure whether you want a paid or a free program, you can try a freemium option that will give you access to basic protection features for free, with the option to pay to unlock the more advanced bells and whistles, like parental controls, password management, and financial protection.

The choice of antivirus software program for your home devices is one of the most important ones you can make. The wrong program will leave you vulnerable to scammers, hackers, and data thieves, but the right program will allow you to use the internet safely, and keep your family safe online, too.

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