Will Antivirus Slow Down Your Computer in 2020?

There’s an old theory that antivirus can slow your computer down by 50%. While this may have once been true, it’s no longer a reality. However, your antivirus will have some effect on the overall speed of your device.
It’s frustrating when you arm your computer with security tools and then the speed takes a nosedive. While your first instinct might be to uninstall your antivirus or anti-malware protection, don’t be hasty! It’s possible to diagnose the problem and make small changes to resolve the speed issues.

If you think your antivirus may be the culprit of the slowdown, follow this guide.

Why Does AV Slow Things Down?

 All apps use processing power. With antivirus, CPU usage can be constant, as the programs perform ongoing, automatic scans. These can occur at scheduled time intervals, whenever you install a new app, or when you download a file from the web. Every time a scan happens, the AV software has to compare the network drive with a vast list of known malware signatures and behaviors. Understandably, these in-depth checks need power to function.

The list of malware-types has grown drastically, and the databases that AV programs use became very large. Fortunately, security companies quickly recognized the problem and now, most premium antivirus companies work online. This uses the provider’s server to power the processes rather than the customer’s.

If your device is so slow that it’s become unusable, it’s unlikely that your antivirus alone is at fault. Ensure there isn’t another cause before you make any changes to your security suite.

Other Potential Factors

Many people are quick to blame newly-installed software for their speed issues when really there’s another underlying factor. Check that the following aren’t slowing you down before you switch up your AV:

Hard Drive Troubles

The first place to look is your hard drive. If your memory is full, there isn’t enough space to process, slowing your computer down. Similarly, old hard-drives can start to corrupt and reduce their functionality, also resulting in speed problems.

Other Malware

The number one cause of computer slowdown is malware. Even if you have an antivirus, certain malware types can slip through. Try using a variety of free malware detectors to see if they flag any problems.

Operating System

Your computer’s OS is integral to the device running smoothly. If you haven’t updated it in a while, chances are it’s the root of the problem. OS updates provide patches for coding problems so staying up-to-date is essential for speed.

Background Programs

Most installed apps want startup permissions, which means they’ll open as soon as you turn on your device. Then they’ll run in the background, using precious processing power. Check what’s running by looking in your Task Manager (PC) or Activity Monitor (Mac). Also, check for any apps you might have forgotten to close on a previous use.

If none of these options help, it’s time to start looking at your antivirus.

Tips to Speed Up Your Computer

No matter what the cause of your computer slowdown is, these quick changes can speed things up.

Scan at Night

All good antivirus run background scans while you work to provide real-time updates of your system’s health. Unfortunately, these scans require power. If you edit the setting, so the scans happen at night or your computer isn’t in use, it will reduce the impact.

Clean Up Your Hard Drive

Every hard drive has wasted space. Old files, apps we don’t use or accidental downloads all take up unnecessary memory and drain your computer’s resources. A quick once-over should uncover things you can delete to speed up processing.

Update Everything

It’s not just your operating system that can cause delays if it’s not updated. Every app you use regularly has a similar effect. Make sure you’re up-to-date with your browser, social media apps, streaming services, email clients, and anything else you rely on.

Choose a Fast Antivirus

If you’re still having problems, then it’s time to switch your antivirus. So many premium-quality services exist, and it’s easy to experiment with them thanks to free trials and money-back guarantees.

Below are some characteristics of fast antivirus providers. Finding the best option may be a case of trial and error, so don’t worry if your first attempt isn’t successful.

Characteristics of a Fast Antivirus

When choosing an antivirus, look for the following features to guarantee as little slowdown as possible:

1. Cloud Processing

Many antivirus companies now offer cloud-processing to negate slowdown. Instead of using your computer resources to scan for viruses, they use their own servers and transfer the information over the web. The one drawback here is that it won’t work if you’re not attached to the internet.

2. Behavioral over Signature-Based

Traditionally, antiviruses used a database of signatures to spot known malware families. Since so many viruses now exist, this catalog takes up substantial memory. Instead, some companies have moved towards a behavior-based detection system to decrease slowdown.

3. Low RAM Usage

Checking how much computer space each software title will use is usually a good indication of the speed. Heavy-weight downloads that take up lots of RAM are always going to be slower than lightweight options. This information should be easy to find before you make a purchase.

4. Short Installation

Installation time is another telling factor for antivirus. Some can take hours or even days to fully install on your system. If an app needs that much time, it’s usually because it has a lot of elements to handle. The more internal elements, the slower the program will be.

Finally, many online resources offer regular testing of antivirus options. You can always check your antivirus against the most current database of test results to see if significant slowdown was noted.

Don’t Settle for Slow Antivirus Protection

Antivirus is essential; with so many cyberthreats, you’re asking for trouble if you leave your computer unprotected. However, you don’t want to sacrifice usability. If you think your antivirus is responsible for slowing your system, then do something about it.

Once you’ve ruled out alternative problems and tried to fix the speed issues internally, then it’s time to look for another security provider. Fortunately, numerous premium providers exist, so there’s no shortage of options. With a bit of investigation, you’ll be able to find a sleek and straightforward option that causes limited slowdown to your system.

About the Author

Sophie Anderson
Sophie Anderson
Cybersecurity researcher and tech journalist

About the Author

Sophie Anderson has spent the last 10 years working as a software engineer for some of the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley. She now works as a cybersecurity consultant and tech journalist, helping everyday netizens understand how to stay safe and protected in an online world.