If you’re like a lot of consumers, you don’t want to pay for malware protection. Maybe you feel like a good, free antivirus program is enough to protect you from viruses, ransomware, worms, Trojans and other malware. Or maybe you don’t think an antivirus program is necessary at all.

Well, if you think that a paid protection suite is expensive, you should see the costs of recovering your system after it’s been taken hostage by ransomware or ravaged by a virus, Trojan or worm. Paying for a comprehensive antivirus suite that will protect multiple devices from spam, scams and malware is much cheaper than paying someone to recover your computer after the fact, or paying for a ransomware decryption key and hoping for the best.

An Ounce of Prevention Is Cheaper Than a Pound of Cure

If you can’t afford paid antivirus, can you afford to be online at all? While a free antivirus program is certainly better than nothing, paid programs offer more up-to-date and comprehensive protection against emerging threats. Many consumers balk at the price of comprehensive internet security, which can range from about $40 to $90 a year for a subscription service.

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That sounds like a lot, but consider the cost of having your computer, tablet or device de-bugged if you do catch a virus. At many computer repair shops, just getting the problem diagnosed will cost you about $40 — the same amount you would have paid for a year’s worth of protection. But that’s just the beginning of what you could end up paying.

Once the technician has identified your problem, you’ll end up paying hourly for repairs, just like you would any other sort of repair labor. Labor can cost $80 or more an hour, so a job that takes a few hours can easily end up costing hundreds. If you can’t bring the device to the repair shop and need the technician to come to you, labor will cost more, and an additional travel fee could be imposed, too. Remote assistance, in which a technician accesses your computer from afar to fix an issue, could cost even more.

Even after you’ve got your computer repaired, the costs may not end. You might need to pay to replace programs that were lost when your files were damaged. If you needed your computer for important work projects, you may need to pay for a loaner machine to tide you over, especially if you’re an independent contractor. And that’s not even to mention the cost of lost clients, lost opportunities and lost time.

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Ransomware Costs More Than the Ransom

If you’re unlucky enough to be targeted by ransomware, you could end up being asked to pay hundreds just to get back into your computer. The average ransom asked for by hackers in 2016 was $679. And even if you pay the ransom, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually get back into your system and get your files back. The hackers could give you a decryption key that doesn’t work or simply take the money and run.

Even if you do get back into your system, your personal information has now been compromised, and you’re at risk for fraud or identity theft that could cost you thousands. You may still need to pay for additional post-attack repair and recovery. You might lose important files that will never be recovered. You may need to pay for forensic investigation. If you used your computer for work, you could suffer professionally.

And, after all of that, you’ll still need to pay for comprehensive malware protection. Maybe it’s better to just pay for the antivirus protection up front and save yourself the costs of repairing your computer, replacing programs, losing important files, dealing with the financial repercussions of lost time and effort on work projects and worrying about your personal information falling into the wrong hands.

While antivirus software might seem expensive at first glance, it’s significantly cheaper than the costs of dealing with a malware attack. Don’t put your important files and expensive programs at risk. Pay for antivirus software today, so you won’t have to pay for expensive computer repairs down the road.