Let's go over a few things about antivirus software in general, about free versions, as well as paid versions, before we get into which ones provide enough protection for a computer system. Since the dawn of the computer age one thing has remained true and constant. The technology used to create a product such as antivirus software has pretty much remained constant and therefore stagnant. In other words, although the technology used to write these programs has improved significantly, the process of manufacturing these products has stayed the same.
How does this affect the amount of protection a paid version provides in comparison to a free version? The answer is it doesn't. The only difference between a fully functional paid version and a limited free version is the amount of features and functions that are available. Here is the underlying problem with antivirus software, it relies on known virus definitions and malicious computer codes in order to identify any virus threats, and it doesn't have the technology to prevent infection from unknown virus definitions or malicious computer code.
Why is this? It's actually quite simple, back in the mid to late 1980s an individual named Fred Cohen predicted that as long as computers continued to evolve and the language used to produce them continued to evolve as well, there would be no possibility of establishing an algorithm that would be able to detect any unknown virus definitions or malicious computer code. What does that mean? It means that every aspect of computer technology is constantly improving, in conjunction the opportunity for programmers to write new malicious computer codes and virus definitions continues to increase, making it impossible to predict what programmers will use in the future.
Why is this important when trying to decide between a free version and a paid version of antivirus software? Because realistically, regardless of available features offered by either version, they are only able to protect you and your computer from virus definitions and malicious computer codes that have been previously detected and added to the blacklist data bank of the antivirus software program. If a new virus is launched tomorrow, the updates you downloaded today may not be effective against this virus until it has been detected elsewhere and an update is offered to protect others from catching it.
Some of you may still be confused. Think of it this way. An antivirus software program is only as good as the data bank of known virus definitions and malicious code it contains. Therefore anyone using these programs are only as protected as the system will allow. Another important fact surrounding antivirus software usage is that it is only as good as you allow it to be. All of these programs are adjustable, which means that you can personally and manually configure them to your specifications, so if your settings are too low, your computer is exposed to an increased risk of becoming infected with a virus.
To answer the original question, “Does free antivirus software provide enough protection?” It can, if you employ the proper Internet habits in conjunction with the free antivirus version. The best solution to antivirus protection is how you use your computer. You can have one antivirus software program and the proper habits and rest comfortably knowing that you are doing everything necessary to protect yourself and your computer, or you can have several different antivirus programs running all at the same time, use bad judgment and poor Internet habits and end up exposing your system to viruses you wouldn't normally have if you simply changed your browsing habits.