When it comes to security software, there are lots of choices, lots of features, and lots to worry about. After all, you're acquiring a program to protect your computer from malicious software, so you have to make sure the security software is safe and secure in the first place. But can you do it all with free software? Yes, absolutely . I worked really hard to provide you with free software options all the way through this book.
Leo Laporte, my co-host on the TV show Call for Help , taught me about freeware. He has been proclaiming the merits of free software, especially free security software, for a long time. I have to say I was a little dubious at first, but Leo sold me. Freeware is often as good as payware. That said, let's look at the difference.
Payware: Software You Pay Hard-Earned Cash For
Payware is a made-up word that I invented to define programs that you pay for. It is commercial software, the kind you see when you go to the store and buy at the checkout or download for a fee from the Internet. Typically payware is created by a for-profit company that is in the business of publishing software.
Some payware is subscription-based. For example, antivirus programs work forever, but they stop downloading new virus signatures after a year unless an annual fee is paid. Without new signatures, it's not useful against new threats.
Advantages: Payware has a company that stands behind it. That's important when it comes to security programs because you want someone to go to in the event of a problem.
The price also includes some form of help offering (often called support ). There is usually a phone number to call where you can reach someone (if only for a limited period of time) if you have a problem with the product or need help making it work. However, sometimes this service is not that helpful. Payware also comes with the expectation that it is spyware- and virus-free.
Disadvantages: Payware can be expensive. Although some software can be affordable, often packages will cost you $30$50 and sometimes more. Sometimes the support offering is not very good.
Trust factor: When it comes to security software, you can generally trust payware because there's a company that stands a lot to lose if its products fail, are defective, or are not trustworthy.
Freeware: Don't Pay a Cent Software
Freeware includes programs that are offered to the public free, although programmers will sometimes ask for voluntary donations or will limit free use to individuals or non-profit organizations.
Programmers distribute free programs for the following reasons:
Figure 11.1. Patrick Kolla, author of Spybot Search & Destroy, gives away the software for a prayer and some luck sent to him and his girlfriend.
Programmers will also sometimes offer the source code free as well. The source code is the lines of programming that make up the program. This is often referred to as open source software .
If a program is open source, it's a good sign that nothing in it is untoward. Buried programming code in open source software that does bad things to the end user 's computer would be discovered quickly by other programmers.
Advantages: It's free! It's available instantly from the Internet. It's often really great, and sometimes as good as or better than its payware equivalents.
Disadvantages: If it's not open source, you don't know if there's any dangerous code in the program. There is little support for the program from the author because he doesn't have the resources to help everyone who needs it.
Trust factor: Not trustworthy; however, if it's free and recommended by the Internet community or other reliable sources, it's pretty safe to use. If it's open source, that's even better.