Half Of PC Users Choose A Free Antivirus Product

Half of all computer users choose a free antivirus product – according to the latest figures from OPSWAT. Their worldwide antivirus (AV) market share report for September reveals that 4 out of the top 5 most common AVs are free – and account for 44% of the market.

Minor products (< 2% of the market each) account for a 29% share and include some free products so it is safe to assume that, overall, at least half of computer users choose a free AV product.

Avast, Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) and Avira dominate the worldwide charts with AVG not far behind – of the paid products only ESET makes it into the top 5. In hard times it is perhaps easy to see why free products are so popular – whilst not providing as complete security as some paid products, they often do beat others in the protection stakes.

However, the picture in the North America market is markedly different. Whilst the top three AVs are also free products, MSE enjoys an astonishing lead with a total share of 25.3% – up more than 7% in the last 6 months.

Why Is MSE So Popular in North America?

OPSWAT isn’t a research institute so they don’t explain why such changes have occurred – and it’s difficult to suggest reasons for MSE’s rapid recent growth in North America. The fact that Microsoft is a US company may contribute to its strong showing – benefiting from home advantage and consumer patriotism.

Significantly, US companies like Norton and McAfee also fare much better in North America than in the worldwide market. MSE also has the benefit of the Microsoft brand – many users will trust Microsoft to produce the best security software for their own Windows operating system.

Those factors still don’t explain MSE’s remarkable 7.4% increase in market share over the last 6 months:

av share
North America AV Share (+/- over last 6 months)

However, the rise does tally with my own observations as a frequent visitor to tech blogs and forums – I have noticed a huge increase this year in MSE adoption and determined advocacy which can’t be justified by any significant improvement in the product itself compared to its free rivals.

Perhaps it is just the simplicity of MSE (very much a ‘set and forget’ AV) which has struck a chord with people put off by more complex or bloated full security suites in the past? So many paid AV suites now include non-security ‘features’ such as PC performance analysis and online backup that can slow computers down or interrupt users with annoying (and sometimes cryptic) messages.

Does the average user really need to be warned that a Windows host process is temporarily using a lot of their CPU/RAM whilst it runs? There’s likely not much that the average user can do about it anyway…

What do you think – is a free antivirus product ‘good enough’ or do you prefer a paid security suite? Let us know in the comments.