Q & A ...

Q:  I recently purchased a new PC with Windows 8.1 and wondered about the Windows Defender security software — is it good enough to protect my computer? Should I consider another free service or pay to subscribe to a product like Norton?
Windows Defender — which is built into Windows 8 and replaces the free Microsoft Security Essentials program used by earlier versions of Windows — runs in the background and can help stop spyware, viruses and other malicious software from invading your computer. The program can also scan for malware on demand and automatically updates itself, so it is fairly easy to maintain.

But some evaluations from independent labs like Tom’s Guide and AV-TEST in Germany regularly examine most major security products and have found Windows Defender to be weak on defence compared with some other free programs. Microsoft frequently pushes out program updates to help improve its prowess, but if you are concerned, there is nothing to stop you from ditching Defender and switching to a different security suite.

Most paid products from Norton, F-Secure, Bitdefender and Avira have additional features (like spam filtering and parental controls along with malware protection), and technical support, and they often perform better than Windows Defender at blocking threats. On the downside, they do cost money and some programs may slightly slow down your PC.

You can also find free stripped-down versions of some programs, like AVG AntiVirus Free, Avast! and Panda Free Antivirus that have received some better reviews than Windows Defender.

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