/ Technology

Ever been surprised by antivirus renewal costs?

Antivirus written on keyboard keys

One of the biggest gripes we hear about is the cost of renewing anti-virus software. Well, a new site claims to save us £1,200 by comparing renewal prices. Have you been caught off-guard by antivirus renewals?

Many people don’t realise that the initial cost of the anti-virus/internet security software you buy (£30 RRP for Norton Internet Security 2011) is just the start.

After the first year, you’ll also have to pay an annual subscription fee (roughly £30 for Norton) to receive software updates, without which your anti-virus software simply won’t work very well. Is this a small price to pay for peace of mind?

New anti-virus price comparison site Renewalbuddy.com claims ‘consumers are being misled by anti-virus software vendors when it comes to the cost of renewing their solutions’. It reckons that, just by shopping around, you could save a whopping £1,240 over a lifetime.

Anti-virus comparison tool is good news

A tool like this one is, in many ways, long overdue. The fact is, the security software industry does confuse customers with its prices and sales model. We’ve already highlighted the unfairness that any existing time left on an old software subscription isn’t transferred when you upgrade. On that Conversation PJ told us that:

‘I’ve been using Norton Internet Security for years and have learnt the hard way months can be lost from a subscription if you’re not careful about how you renew it. My advice is to go to Amazon or whoever is offering the best deal and buy the latest version of the product just before the old one is due to expire.’

Also, when you’re asked to renew or upgrade your software, the vendor (such as Symantec) will quote its RRP, skipping over any potential special offers that might be available – Amazon.co.uk is offering £20 off Norton Anti-virus 2011 today, for example.

In principle, Renewalbuddy.com is a great idea, as it provides a one-stop shop to let people shop around for the best available deal. It claims it will show you the cheapest renewal price on your existing software and also show you cheaper alternatives.

Of course, there’s more to security software than price alone. You’ve got to think about quality as well – only two packages were up to receiving one of our Best Buy awards.

Why pay anything at all?

That said, there’s no need to pay anything at all for decent security software. There are a number of free packages out there that provide more than adequate protection, notably Microsoft Security Essentials.

With these, there’s no up-front fee and no ongoing or unfair auto-renewal subscription costs. You don’t need a price comparison site to tell you that that’s a good deal!


I have always found buying a new copy ( Norton Internet Security) cheaper than any renewal options.
Searching around a couple of months ago a 3 licence copy cost me about £21 from Tesco who didnt appear in any of the price comparison sites.

Eddie Reynolds says:
10 April 2011

Ever tried to cancel McAffee anti-virus? – they make it almost impossible to contact them for cancellation reasons, any other query, no problem.
Now using Virgin and it’s free with their broadband service.

At present my employer provides me with antivirus software for my work and home computers. I am planning to retire soon and will face the cost of installing my own antivirus software. No problem, except that I use Macintosh computers. I gave up subscribing to Computing Which? because most of the information related to PCs and it was easy to get good quality, free advice from certain websites.

I don’t subscribe to the view that Mac users do not need anti-virus software. I distribute a lot of files created by PC users and distribute them to other PC users, so I need anti-virus software to ensure that I don’t pass on infected files.

Since viruses are not much threat to Macs, I definitely don’t want to pay a lot of money for anti-virus software, but the lack of competition could mean that prices are higher than for PC software. Please consider Mac users when discussing anti-virus software. It is a topic that rarely features on Mac support sites.

alltech says:
2 December 2016

forticlient.com is a great antivirus with content filtering you can tailor to your needs. It has PC and MAC best of all it is free with no popups. It also has a built in VPN client.

TomScotty says:
11 April 2011

I would love to change my current antivirus but I have had it for so long that I worry it will just mess up my computer. Antivirus comparison is useful, though.

I will not use Microsoft applications I find them inferior – I prefer other manufactures – Like WordPerfect, Firefox and AVG – The former a superb superior word processor the latter a superb free anti virus software.

Norton was virtually impossible to remove – McFee just as bad. ESet was far superior but it became very sluggish (or rather made my computer run very sluggishly for 16 mins while it checked my computer on start up) after a year or so.

AVG is effective free and and does not slow my computer down – start up time to first programme running is 1 min 22 secs. Really excellent. I do donate to the shareware programme to help development but it is free to users.

Sophie Gilbert says:
12 April 2011

I use AVG’s free anti-virus system as recommended by your good selves. I’ve never had a problem with it and there are no renewal costs.

Bob Smith says:
12 April 2011

There are several good free antivirus options. Microsoft Security Essentials wins for me because Which? like it and it never nags me to upgrade to a paid version; it just gets on with the job without making a show of itself with pop ups telling me about what it is doing.

It’s great for small businesses of up to ten people – still free!

Tony Philpott says:
12 April 2011

I have found with McAfee their renewal quote is always high. I go back to them and point out I can buy the same McAfee product from Amazon for about half their figure and they always reduce to virtually the Amazon figure

Of course you could just buy an Apple mac and not have the need or hassle of using anti virus software. With the savings of this alone you could buy a very nice macbook or desktop imac…

Apples get really nasty virus’s too.

You’d be a major fool to use nothing at all.

Seriously – don’t send me any files!

Chris – I use anti-virus software on four Apple computers and all it picks up is PC viruses. Since 1993, when I first had Internet access, the only problem I have ever encountered was Melissa, a macro virus affecting Microsoft Word on both PCs and Macs. That was about 12 years ago.

I agree that it is foolish not to use antivirus software on Apple computers, but mainly because it helps avoid the risk of passing on PC viruses.

Very well said, Paul.

I’ve been using Macs (and PCs) for over a quarter of a century and have only ever had one Mac virus (in the early 90s, and a pretty tame virus at that).

Chris, I’ve tried using Mac anti-virus software but all it ever found were PC viruses embedded in spam emails. Whilst I try my best not to pass them on (honestly, why would I want to?), ultimately you are far more likely to catch a PC virus from another PC than from an Apple.

There is a very cheap way of not paying for expensive renewal subs or new latest versions.

For years I have been buying brand-new sealed and uninstalled copies of older versions of Norton AV on eBay or Amazon and just using the Product Key wriiten on the label to reactivate my installed version. As long as the purchased version is not newer than your own version, its Product Key will activate a newer version, e.g. I buy NAV 2006 to activate NAV 2011.

You can even just buy a Upgrade copy rather than a Full one, as you only need its Product Key.

Upgrades can be had for about £2 while Full ones could be about £5.

Its the old game of get them in with a cheap starter and make make money on the renewals.


Snowdin says:
12 April 2011

The past few years I have renewed a 3PC Kaspersky Internet Security Licence cheaply on Amazon, watching the price with Camel Camel and buying when the price is low. I don’t install the new licence until the last day before renewal, ignoring Kaspersky’s very irritsting and persistent reminders.

Mark says:
12 April 2011

I rather pay for my Norton’s 360 as I have tested free vs. paid for and have watch Norton’s fight off a virus and remove it in real time, unfortunately the free software never noticed any problems, I feel that the free software simply has not put enough research and speed to offer any useful service we need to have on our PC or Mac. If you do go free then don’t blame anyone but yourself when your Windows or OS for Mac offers you error messages due to problems you picked up from websites.

IT Tec

Rich says:
14 April 2011

It is worth checking what your bank offers. If you use on-line banking then a number of them provide a free copy of an anti-virus suite. Barclays give you a free 3 PC licence copy of Kaspersky Internet Security.
Other banks offer similar packages.
I used to use Norton but then it started getting too big and bloated, slowing my machine down. If is a nightmare to get off as is MacAfee if you do not use the removal tools they have available on their website.

I get my antivirus software from bt as part of my broadband package so its up to date all the time, the best way in my opinion and you get a decent firewall and other tools from McAfee as well.Shop around when buying this sort of software and always go for one which contains a firewall as well ,buying direct from the manufacturers is usually the most expensive way to purchase software.

Cornish Scouse says:
23 April 2011

I have always used MacAfee as advised many years ago, and have not (to my knowledge) had any problems. This year however, MacAfee gave a warning that my copy was due for renewal in April. I found on their website an offer much cheaper than the version I am using, so I noted the offer, planning to cancel the old and buy the new (cheaper version) two weeks ago I found on my on line banking that MacAfee had charged me the more expensive price. I have tried contacting MacAfee but can get no reply. Surely this is illegal and I should be able cancel and buy from another provider. I am now concerned that I could be in a contract allowing them to deduct an amount from my credit card every year! Can anyone out there help me stop/avoid this unfair payment?

Eddie R. says:
20 September 2011

You need SatNav to find MacAfee’s cancel contact website – strangely, you dig and dig when trying to cancel, but renewal is done with surgical precision!
Same with checking your credit rating, you pay up front and have a week to cancel which I did by e/mail. That doesn’t work, as they then tell you that you must cancel by telephone only, which is hidden in the small print. Heads they win, tails we lose.

Eddie R.

Cornish Scouse says:
20 September 2011

Hi antivirus,
Since my last ‘blog’ (April 23rd) I had another email from MacAfee in July, stating that my subscription was due for renewal,. my credit card was again deducted for the same amount.This time I phoned my card provider, who told me that they would credit my card for the July payment, but not the first, as it wasn’t reported at that time. I wanted to cancel my subscriptions to avoid this happening again next year. After a long search I found that I was being charged by UK and the USA Companies. I wrote to both, telling them that I wanted to cancel my future subscriptions. Within a month, I had an email saying that they had cancelled my subscription, and my card was credited for the full amount. I hope this blog helps anyone who hasn’t looked into their contract, which states in the terms and conditions, that the subscription would be taken from your credit card automatically each year, if not cancelled by the subscriber before the time it was due.

jason says:
16 July 2012

i dont know what the problem is with mcafee and the renewel. just goto your account info and uncheck the auto renew subscription. i do have a problem with us having to pay more than US customers for the same software and them advertising the package for 3pc protection starting from £xx but when you go to buy it the same value is just for 1pc, surley this is in breach of trading standards

Here is a question I can seem to find on Google or Yahoo.
On average, how many paid subscribers (of anything) forget to cancel a subscription?

Strange… but i cant find the answer.

Scenario: You signup for a free or reduced trial, and forget to cancel it when you actually were planning to.