/ Technology

Why pay for antivirus? Windows 8 tops security software tests

Man with Windows 8 laptop

You don’t have to spend a fortune to keep your PC free from viruses. In fact, could the results of our latest security software test spell the end for standalone security programs?

How many of you keep your computer safe by using security software? And how many of you, once the Norton trial period has elapsed, just leave it to chance? I have to admit that I fell into the latter category with my first laptop. And let’s just say it didn’t end well for the laptop.

I actually have some good news for both camps. Not only does Microsoft’s Windows 8 come with free inbuilt security software, it topped our security software table this year.

Check out our Best Buy antivirus software table and the Windows 8 security software review specifically.

Stay safe and save money

This means that lazy people like me don’t have to worry about installing extra antivirus programs. And if you’re already good at keeping your computer safe, you no longer need to turn to pricey third party software. Yes, Windows 8 beat out all the paid-for software as well. If you don’t want to upgrade to Windows 8, Microsoft Security Essentials is a good bet and happens to be free too.

The security software built into Windows 8 has the right mix of keeping your computer safe from digital attacks, while also being very easy to use. It comes with lots of other handy features, such as parental controls to keep innocent eyes from seeing sites they shouldn’t. You can even manage the time your kids spend online to ensure the computer isn’t used after lights out.

It has great protection against malware, even blocking the download of malware in a zipped file. Many other packages don’t even look into zip files. Other standout features include being integrated with Outlook 2013 and auto-scanning when you  insert a USB stick. It also has a strong two-way firewall that lets you set different levels of security for different scenarios, eg in a café vs at home. All of this is packaged together as part of the Windows 8 operating system.

What’s the future for security software?

In the early days it seemed Microsoft didn’t pay much attention to security, leaving the door open for security companies to build their business around Windows. Now the tables have turned, with Microsoft launching Windows 8 and its outstanding inbuilt security software.

Will this mean a decline in traditional security software sales? What will familiar names like Norton do in the future?

My guess is that, since the threat of viruses is ever developing, there will still be a place for security software companies. They may also turn their attention to newer technologies like tablets and smartphones – both of which face potential security threats. As for PCs – would you trust security software built into your computer’s operating system?

[UPDATE 29 June 2015] – Since the date of this Conversation, we have significantly changed the way we test security software. We decided that it was no longer appropriate to report on Windows 8 security in the same way that we do on third-party anti-virus software (whether paid-for or free) and so it does not appear alongside our other product reviews.

That said, Windows 8 has strong built-in security and antivirus features, and Which? has found that it is not absolutely necessary to use additional security software if you have installed Microsoft Security Essentials.


I’m sure that many of us would like to know why the security software in Windows 8 is so much better than in previous versions. Is it just good security software or is W8 inherently more secure?


Hi Wavechange,

Thanks for the comment.

With regards to security, Windows 8 is better built than previous Windows operating systems. It has a tighter system meaning that you are less likely to become the victim of an attack. The app store is also vetted in a similar way to the Apple store – meaning you can only download apps that have been checked by Microsoft.

In addition to this – it’s the first Windows system to come with the security software built-in. You don’t have to download extra software, as with Microsoft Security Essentials, making it easy to use.

I hope that helps!



Thanks for that Jessica. Although I am a confirmed Mac user, friends often ask me for advice, information and practical help with their PCs. After personal experience with Vista I thought that Microsoft had really lost the plot, but I’m impressed by Windows 8 and so are friends who have finally switched from XP.

Hopefully Windows security remains good because dealing with malware has wasted time and money for many users in the past. Let’s hope that people don’t become complacent about malware, like many Mac users are.

I am not sorry that vendors of security software will lose out, since commercial software was sometimes no better than what was available free-of-charge.

Stephen says:
21 January 2013

I have used AVAST free and AVG free and McAfee and Trend Micro and Norton. I have found the best ones to be McAfee and Trend Micro. I found the AVAST and AVG free both missed viruses which were picked up when I used ones that you pay for. I know I had a virus as my machine was not working correctly. I still think the ones you pay for will be more effective than the ones that are free like the one in WIndows 8 or in Microsoft Security essentials.

Julian says:
22 January 2013

Interesting. This months PC Pro magazine leads on the poor quality of Windows 8 security. It points out that it updates its virus definitions infrequently, so is not aware of the latest threats. I think I will continue to install a security suite.

Creoulo says:
22 January 2013

Remember some banks give free internet security to costumers.


One example is Rapport, offered by NatWest. I doubt that this affords comprehensive protection and I have seen various criticisms.

Julian says:
23 January 2013

Indeed. Barclays customers can get Kaspersky Internet Security suite for free. This is the security suite that I’m currently using.