How to Choose Between Free and Paid Antivirus Software

The FixMeStick is the world’s best-selling virus removal device. But does that mean you no longer need antivirus software? The answer is No.

The FixMeStick works in partnership with antivirus. Think of antivirus as your everyday protection, like brushing your teeth, to make sure that most viruses stay out. However, inevitably threats get through and that’s why you need the FixMeStick! The FixMeStick is like going to the dentist once a year for a deep clean.

So we’ve determined that you need the FixMeStick and an antivirus program. But now the question is, should I pay for an antivirus software? In this article, we break down some of the differences between free and paid antivirus software so you can make a decision on which is best for you.

What Is Subscription-Based Software?

As recently as 2010, most software programs had a single up-front cost that lets you pay once for the program. You can use it for as long as the software continues to work on your computer.

In recent years, different types of subscription models have emerged. For example, there are software that are free for everyone. Then there are the freemium software that allows you to use it for free, but requires you to pay for extra features, to remove ads, or for support services, like Spotify.

The FixMeStick and our partner products like McAfee Total Protection are subscription-based software. This means you pay a monthly, annual, or a lifetime license fee to use the software and receive the latest virus updates as well as support services at no extra cost.

Software subscriptions are like magazine subscriptions. With magazines, you are paying for the latest news, with software you are paying for the latest software updates and features.

Free versus Paid Virus-Removal Software Comparison

When you use free antivirus software, it will not cost you any money. While the financial benefits may be obvious, what happens if the software stops working? Is there a free support service readily available where you can receive help? And who do you contact when you have a question about a virus or if the software is not working properly?

When you use software that requires a single up-front cost, you may be required to pay for additional software updates for support services, or for security patches when the time comes.

If you do not pay for any additional updates or security patches, your software might stop working all-together or become incompatible with the latest operating system on your computer. Even worse, it may not be the most up-to-date and thus not find the latest threats.

This is where the benefits of a paid subscription come in. With McAfee and FixMeStick you pay a subscription fee but will have access to the latest virus definitions to keep you safe and free Customer Support six days a week!

Software subscription services usually offer free customer support to answer questions and troubleshoot issues for active subscribers.

More Benefits of Software Subscriptions

When you pay for an antivirus software subscription, there’s also no risk that the software will suddenly stop working one day or stop receiving updates one day. Your virus definitions will always be updated so your computer will always be protected from the latest types of virus threats out on the internet.

And why is this? Paying for a subscription on any software, including antivirus, will provide companies with the financial motivation to keep updating the software programs and adding cool new features (did you know McAfee just added a VPN?)

Here at FixMeStick, we also welcome all feedback. Have a cool new feature you think we should add? Leave it in the comments below.

Know What You’re Getting

Some antivirus companies will use the same interface, regardless of if you’re paying for their product. This can be good (or bad) depending on if you like their user interface (i.e. how their products look).

However, other free antivirus programs give you a scaled-down version of their paid interface which may contain fewer features. Often you’ll only get the bare minimum with a free service so keep that in mind when choosing between a free or paid software version.


Remember, you’ll want an antivirus with your FixMeStick! So if you haven’t tried FixMeStick yet, give it a try here

And if you’re looking for a reliable paid antivirus, consider trying McAfee Total Protection to defend against the latest online threats.

61 comments

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi John, yes! We will send you a reminder email to renew your FixMeStick.

  1. John R Monroe - Reply

    I notice you didn’t mention antivirus provided by the ISP. I have Comcast/Xfinity and they provide Norton for “free.” Yes I know, it is included in the monthly price I pay. But I would have thought that you would have covered

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi John, thanks for bringing this up! If you have access to an antivirus bundled with another program or service, then you can definitely take advantage of that. But if you’d prefer a specific antivirus program over another, you’ll have to do your research and choose one that best suits your needs. We haven’t reviewed the different antivirus brands on our blog yet but we might do so in the future!

  2. Alan Cueba - Reply

    I have been paying for what I thought was Norton Anti-virus. Turns out it was a tech support company fraudulently representing themselves as Norton. I have reported this to Norton and my bank who conducted an investigation. But I have had no reassurance that this company has been put out of business. It is my belief that someone in Norton is working with the scammers. I see no evidence that Norton is doing anything about it. Is there any recourse?

  3. Steven Karow - Reply

    I use Viper along with my Fixmestick. Both together work great .I went a whole year with 12 clean scans with Fixmestick. I also have the Startmestick. It works great, but I have to use my passwords manually when my computer would fill them in for me when needed. Both great products. Thanks

      • Eleanor Carr - Reply

        Everyone I know tells me not to use fix me stick, that it is a back door into my computer.
        I purchased last year from QVC and I do want to use it. Help me.

        • Linda - Reply

          Hi Eleanor, I can assure you that the FixMeStick runs on a separate system than your regular computer and does not provide a backdoor for hackers to get into your system. We sent some getting started instructions to your email so you can run the program!

  4. Annie - Reply

    Mcafee is on my computer I just need the fixstick. Do I have to get another one or should I just renew the one that I have

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Annie, it looks like the FixMeStick under your account is still functional! We sent you some basic instructions over to your email for your reference.

  5. Anthony - Reply

    Hi I had Mcafee on 2 laptops and both of them got a virus in the end i had to take then to PC World to get them sorted out and i now use Norton as since changing to Norton i have not had a problem so i get a bit annoyed when i see people like you singing the praises of Mcafee

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Anthony, thanks for sharing your experience with us and sorry to see that McAfee didn’t work out for you. We encourage everyone to try out all products before making a decision on what’s best for your situation.

  6. Paul Denyer - Reply

    For me having the most effective and comprehensive anti-virus is simply common sense. And this generally this is going to mean paying for it as in the tests I’ve seen the best paid for anti-virus has outperformed the free versions, albeit some of the free ones have come close. But an anticipated outlay of, say £50/year (£1/week), is much better than the time, cost and inconvenience of resolving the problems casued by a virus or malware infecting my computer. Something to consider is how quickly anti virus signatures are updated. I believe with paid for anti virus it can be several times a day as threats emerge but with free products it may only be once a day, which might be critical.
    And if you do get an infection with a paid for product you have an obvious point of contact to try and get reliable and trustworthy help to fix the problems.
    For an occasional computer user free anti virus may suffice but for anyone making serious use of their computer it probably makes sense to put effectiveness a priority over a small financial saving.

  7. Ken Simmons - Reply

    I use webroot with my system and so far it works well. I did not understand how VPN works and had to study for a while. A lot of instructions on setting up windows 10 for this from Microsoft seem to be not necessary with webroot but I need to study some more to be certain. Thanks for the tips.

  8. Janet Reid - Reply

    Is it possible to use a fix me stick with a tablet that has no USB port? My tablet’s been acting very flaky and although it does have an antivirus on it I’d like to do a more thorough scan.

  9. Charles Yanney - Reply

    Hello Linda, I’ve had a computer for many years. I’ve used Norton, McAfee and Microsoft Security Essential way back when I had to pay for it like the other two. Then Microsoft Security Essentials stop charging ( so it’s now Free) but I still use it today with no problems. I too get Norton Free with my Comcast Subscription but since I’ve used the Big Three and honestly believe Security Essentials does the best job I stick with them. Of course I also use my Fix Me Stick for added Security and very happy with the results.

      • Lynn Plesetx - Reply

        I have McAfee Security Suite with Cox internet and try to remember to use my FixMeStick once a week. Still using Windows 7. Last computer scan was clean. I don’t use that often and shut it down when not using. Will have to contact Cox about VPN. I thought I had it with Cox but after checking my computer info has WPA. Not sure what the difference is. Btw when I purchased my FMS it was for 5 computers for life of computer. Have only used it on my one so far. Great deal!!!

  10. Michael McBurse - Reply

    What about windows defender is this sufficient enough anti virus for my computer ?

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Michael, if you’ve found that Windows Defender has always worked well for you, then it should be fine! But if you still have hidden viruses or possible virus-related issues on your computer, then consider trying a different product.

  11. Ximena Garay - Reply

    Hello, I bought the Fix me stick from HSN and it never worked on the computer. It wasn’t cheap, so I’m done buying this so called antivirus sticks
    And no, I haven’t sent this comment before.

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Ximena, sorry to see that your FixMeStick never worked. That’s why we have a dedicated support team to provide free support 6 days a week! We’ve sent you some troubleshooting questions to your email if you are interested in troubleshooting with us.

  12. Cuddleking - Reply

    I have been regularly using (and trusting) FixMeStick now for a long time, (it was a gift), and had never heard that it is a subscription service, (i.e., “The FixMeStick and our partner products like McAfee Total Protection are subscription-based software.”).

    Are you saying that FMS is also a subscription service like McAfee Total Protection? If so, why have I not been being billed for/paying a subscription fee for using FMS, (not that I mind that!)? ;>(

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi there, if you purchased FixMeStick from our website then it will be on a subscription basis. However, we do have bundles and deals with other retailers that are not subscription-based. So if you did take advantage of one of these deals then you may not have a subscription!

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi there, the FixMeStick and the StartMeStick are designed to do different functions. While you’d use a FixMeStick to clean an infected computer of malware, you would use a StartMeStick when you want to turn any computer (whether it’s infected or not) into a fast, private, and secure one for browsing the Internet. To see a detailed FAQ page, click here.

  13. Geoff Warnock - Reply

    AV programs are like any other purchase, read the reviews, know what you’re buying, get the best for your money.

    You get what you pay for in most reputable AV companies. You want ‘free’, you’re not going to get the coverage or the customer support that you’ll get from a well-known company. Compare ‘Free’ AV programs with the cost of your time/effort to recover from an intrusion, especially a Ransom program, which in most cases is just more money spent for nothing.

    To me, it’s simple to decide what I need to do in order to protect DECADES of information on my laptops and the cost/time of replacing a hard drive that’s infected with ransomware.

    When it comes to AV programs, if you have more than one method of protecting yourself, you’re not paranoid – you’re safe and don’t need to be paranoid. If you have a ‘free’ AV app, I would always be thinking “Are they good enough?”

    I run Malwarebytes Premium AND BitDefender Total Security simultaneously. Yeah, it slows the machine a little, but I’m a word processing, data analysis guy, not a gamer. I worked with both companies and they got me the correct exclusions to prevent the two from beating each other over the head. I also run FixMeStick monthly because it adds another layer of protection. When I go online, I don’t worry about where I am or what I’m doing, I’m focusing on work. It’s worth the one time a year cost, AND I have multiple licenses for my partner and her two daughters …… no issues with us.

  14. James Fazio - Reply

    I have had Fix Me Stick for several years and have never had any emails from you stating I had to renew. I run it and it seems to still work and usually I get a message that there were no threats detected.

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi James, we have bundles and deals with other retailers that are not subscription-based. So if you did take advantage of one of these deals then you may not have a yearly subscription!

  15. James Fazio - Reply

    could you make any product any more complicated to update than FixMeStick? c’mon we’re not computer scientists out here.

  16. Michael Dennis - Reply

    Hello, I have 2 lifetime Fix Me Sticks, of which I have currently only used one. I have used Trend Micro for years and it has always worked excellent for me. In using my Fix ME Stick, it never finds anything, which is comforting to know.
    Keep up the good work

  17. Jeanine Easton - Reply

    What is your opinion about using Life Start to protect not only your computer but also your phone and even your bank accounts. Would you still need more virus protection for your computer.

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Jeanine, Life Start doesn’t look like the name of an antivirus program. If it’s not classified as an antivirus or virus-removal program, then it will not be able to replace the functions of an antivirus or virus-removal program.

  18. Ralph Russell - Reply

    I purchased 1 Fix Me Stick for 3 computers in July 2019…I recently replaced 1 with a win 7 OS with a win10 OS and my Fix Me Stick will not work with the new computer..can I add or exchange credit so I can use the Stick on the new computer.

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Ralph, thanks for reading our blog. We’ve sent you some information about your account and its licenses to your email. Please check your email, thanks!

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Bobby, if you still have hidden viruses or possible virus-related issues on your computer, then consider trying a different product. But if Windows Defender has always worked well for you then it should be fine!

  19. Ernest Boles - Reply

    My fixme stick never did work and all I got was a I am sorry you are having trouble. I am afraid to try another one.

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Ernest, It looks like you recently completed a successful FixMeStick scan on Feb 20. We’ve sent you a follow-up email about this scan and you can reply to that email if you require further assistance or have more questions!

  20. Ellen Demchak - Reply

    can you tell me how much is the fix me stick to re-activate it for 3 computers?

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Ellen, we sent you a renewal link for your FixMeStick to your email. Simply click the link in the email to renew it!

  21. Richard Hildebrand - Reply

    I saw a add on the internet about a Adblock stick to stop all the advertising on the computer. Would you know anything about the stick? And is it any good.
    thank you

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Richard, we haven’t tried the Adblock stick in our offices. Depending on how it works, it may or may not replace the functions of a simply Adblocker browser extension.

  22. Loretta Mills - Reply

    Thank You for anything that will help to keep my computer safe. I have Norton Lifelock. So I’m fine. I just wanted the stick in case someone hacked into my computer.

  23. RA Nola - Reply

    Thank you for info… I am not “tech-savvy”, I purchased (02) Lifetime FixMeSticks from HSN Shopping Network. Just want to confirm that each time I run FixMeStick there is NO Charge?… I’m under the understanding, when purchased (1X buy), it is “FREE”.
    Thank you. Have a wonderful day Linda.

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi there, I can confirm that FixMeStick isn’t charged on a per-use basis. You can use it as many times as you want as long as your subscription is active!

  24. Gilbert C. Martinez - Reply

    I pur chased this unit because it work in ( WINDOWS 7,8,10, XP, and VISTA ) ( LAPTOP and DESKTOP PCs) Life time subscription,also the FIXMESTICK Service virus removal service says : That I have the right fFIXMETICK for the life of time , for tree PCs, which begins upon initial activation of each PC. ETC. Since I purched the unit, it has been used on one LAPTOP, sucsseful and on the second LAPTOP, It disrupt the complete APTOP that my son did not want to see the FIXMESTICK nit at all. I primarilly use daily MICROSOFT ESSENTIALS, to update, quick scan and once a weeck a FULL SCAN. I used this practice, up to las January because i get a new PC. and I think it comes with built in antivirus title ( WINDOWS DEFENDER ), Well, the other day I wanted to try to scan my PC. and immediatelly your program or page. wanted me to register, for what ?… I never has this condition, because it mo let me ignore or by pass, I can’t close the page or the screen, actually it force me to DESCONNECT my entire system by unplug the the electrical cord. I was very angry and frustrated. Now my question to you, why I need go buy a registration again? because the unit thas work with windows 10, if my PC.has already built in antivirus, I may need to buy McAfee, protection yes y all means, but at this time, I’M in z fix-income and m medicines are more important than my PC full protection. Therefore if I must register to continuing use my FIXME STICK unit, tel me and I will se what is my next OPTION. Thanks Lida, for your kindness,

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Gilbert, I checked your FixMeStick and it looks like one of your computers might have been registered twice. I’ve fixed this issue and you should be able to run a scan now!

  25. Anonymous - Reply

    I already use fix me stick and it is good till 11-20!!!! Is this you are offering something new in addition to what i have already?????

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi there, we recommend using your FixMeStick alongside an antivirus program such as McAfee Total Protection. While running FixMeStick is like going to the dentist to get a deep clean for your computer, having an antivirus program is like brushing your teeth every day for preventative measures! If you already have FixMeStick, you can consider adding antivirus protection like McAfee to your computer’s security system.

  26. Shelley - Reply

    Does the McAfee total Protection special for $24.99 come with tech support.

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Shelley, yes – McAfee does have a tech support line for their products.

  27. Leticia Licerio - Reply

    Hi, I bought FMS several years ago. I Can’t remember if QVC or HSN. I’ve used it recently and the stick was upgraded. Can you tell me how long its good for? Also, what does the StartMeStick do?

    Thank you, Leticia Licerio

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Leticia, thank you for reading our blog! We sent you more details about your account information to your email. Please check your email, thanks!

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