/ Technology

Have you been short-changed by anti-virus software?

Anti-virus graphic

Have you ever upgraded the anti-virus software on your computer? If so, did you know that this might have cut short your existing subscription? We’ve found that some companies worryingly support this practice.

We always thought that anti-virus upgrades were no more than just annoying pop-ups that caught you unawares.

So you can imagine our surprise when we received complaints informing us that discounted anti-virus upgrades were more than just irritating nuisances.

We decided to investigate this at Which? Computing and found that the upgrades by Symantec, makers of Norton anti-virus software, certainly weren’t the deals they claimed to be.

Short-changed by upgrading Symantec software

In fact, if you had an existing Symantec subscription and you received one of its upgrade offers, the moment you accepted, your existing subscription was rendered null and void – regardless of how many months it had left to run.

We were even more surprised that Symantec defended this practice, admitting that since upgrades provided additional features and more comprehensive protection, your previous subscription would end.

‘If customers install and activate the upgrade prior to the expiration of the time remaining on their existing product subscriptions, any time remaining on their existing product will not be added to their upgrade,’ the company told us.

Symantec isn’t the only software business to operate in this way, AVG uses a similar system, but we still think this is shocking – especially when many of these offers are promoted as being available for a ‘limited time only’.

Anti-virus upgrades need to change

While the terms and conditions of these offers may well support these practices, the reality is that many won’t be aware of the loss of time remaining on their security subscription.

Plus, isn’t it perfectly reasonable for you to expect that your new licence, even if it is an upgrade, will run on from the end of the existing one? If we didn’t think this, it’s unlikely we’d buy it in the first place.

We’d like the industry to either stop this practice or make it clear to consumers from the outset that by upgrading in this way, they’re shortening the terms on their existing subscriptions.

Paul Mitschke says:
8 December 2010

I have used McAfee for a couple of years now and it was relatively ok until half-way through this years contract I noticed that the logo for the software on my system had changed.Upon closer inspection I found that the back up and restore facility that used to be on there had been removed without any notification. I contacted McAfee and no one could explain why and tried to state it was never there in the first place, despite the fact, if I went on their website I could buy the package I had and it listed back/restore among the facilities!!!!!! After numerous phone calls and technical support online chats, they offered to extend subsription by three monthsas an apology (which when I checked they haven’t) and give me online backup/restore. This is awful as it slowed my machine down to the point of zero and after 3 hours of “backing up” had only done about 3% of what I needed. Truly awful, I will never use McAfee again and strongly advise anyone else not to either. t’s free AV for me from now on.

Gulliver says:
9 December 2010

I have AVG Free which is asking me to update, but at the same time says I can only do so if I disable Microsoft Security Essentials! What should I do?


I would go for the update – The reason is such Microsoft software interferes with the proper operation of AVG.

I prefer AVG over anything Microsoft.


Hello Gulliver, I would suggest stopping Microsoft Security Essentials from running and then updating AVG. However, you needn’t have both running at the same time to protect you from virus’s anyway. I would decide on just one (as they use up memory on your computer). Perhaps use AVG as your real-time scan that’s running all the time, and use MSE as a back-up scan for when you want to manually use it.

D Shah says:
9 December 2010

I use Norton antivirus and never renew my subscription. Instead I buy oem versions at around £10+VAT each year (inc delivery).


I used Norton products all the way through MS DOS and for many years under Windows. But some years ago I brought Norton Anti-Virus and successfully installed it. After 12 months the software demanded that I buy a new licence to continue to get virus updates. When I did not do this the software refused to work any more.

Whilst I did NOT expect to get free virus updates after 12 months I did expect the software to continue to work.

If I buy a new car and then refuse to have it serviced whilst I can not expect the manufacturer to continue with the warrenty I DO NOT expect the car to stop working.

I now refuse to use any of Norton / Symantec products and I refuse to pay for anti virus software.

I use the FREE version of AVG and have done so now for some years on a variety of computers at home and at a charity that I used to work for. I have had no troubles at all whilst using AVG

Meirion says:
27 December 2010

I see Amazon is currently offering Norton AV 2011 for £24.97 whereas Symantec list price for a new copy is £29.99. Does anyone know what they might charge if I allow Automatic Renewal? I tried to ask directly but the Symantec website could not cope. Curiously their US site automatic problem-solving beta Ask N responded to my irritation with ‘I am an Australian’ which sounds racist. As advised I tried the support chatroom on the UK site but got a blank page. Pretty poor stuff if there’s no-one to talk to you about prices. Having said that, I haven’t had any of the problems described here by other correspondents. I have accepted in-year updates as offered without losing any subscription time and Automatic Renewal has worked properly in the past.


Question: I see Amazon is currently offering Norton AV 2011 for £24.97 whereas Symantec list price for a new copy is £29.99. Does anyone know what they might charge if I allow Automatic Renewal?

Answer: You will be paying the full Symantec list price at the time of renewal.

Tessie says:
1 February 2011

I bought VIPRE Antivirus on Amazon at christmas time. They offer a Lifetime version of their Antivirus premium.
With this, I NEVER have to renew my subscription again I have updates and protection for the rest of my PC’s life span… so I dont have to be worried about the other antivirus companies scamming me each year. Plus im 63 so my memory isnt as good as it used to be, this is one less thing to worry about on an annual basis. phew!