VPN vs Antivirus: Which Protects Better?

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For many years the main topic when it came to internet security was the antivirus. These past several years as internet privacy is gaining momentum a new player has joined the game. That player is called a VPN. Before we get down to the reasons why VPN is better, we should explain what both of them are.


To have a clear image of which software is better, you need to know at least basics about these types of software.


As the name suggests, the antivirus is a software that works on your computer and protects you from viruses. It scans the files on your drive or removable storage on your computer and discovers any malicious code.

Depending on the severity it either puts it in quarantine or completely removes it if it thinks that it’s very dangerous. You can see it as a security check at the airport.

Also, an antivirus will keep your computer protected against viruses only if the company that develops it updates the virus database so that the software can detect it.

One of the most common misconceptions is that malware is some kind of a virus. Actually, it is vice-versa. Malware is any kind of malicious software, while the virus is a type of malware, similar to spyware or adware.


Virtual Private Network or VPN for short works nothing like an antivirus. Unlike the antivirus, the VPN adds an additional layer of security by encrypting the data that you send over your connection.

In simpler terms – when you are online you are constantly sending and receiving data that show you the content online.

The VPN encrypts that data so that anyone trying to intercept it will not be able to. This means that since internet privacy is a big thing now you are surfing the web more anonymously.

The two most “popular” features of VPN are the ability to hide IP address and to encrypt your data.

As we mentioned previously, these two methods of protection are completely different and now once we explained what they are, we will explain why VPN is better than an antivirus


The popularity that VPN gains can be clearly seen on the graph below taken from Google Trends. As you can see, near the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 antivirus searches have plummeted, while VPN searches are gradually rising.

Antivirus vs VPN trends

A research conducted by Osterman Research on social media security clearly shows that the main source of malware is the internet.

Malware sources


Most people get their computer infected by downloading infected files or clicking on shady links that download the virus in the background. In general, it is your fault that your computer got infected because you were not careful.

So, the antivirus can keep you safe from something that you can prevent.

Also, Windows and Mac OS already have a decent antivirus that comes pre-installed with the operating system. This antivirus would provide a decent protection that should keep the common user safe.

VPN, on the other hand, will protect you from something that you can’t control in the first place.

If someone decides to intercept the data that you are exchanging with the internet there is nothing you can do about it, unless you protect it with a VPN.


We live in an era where no one wants to wait 2 minutes for their computer to boot up. After reports that certain antivirus software was increasing boot times noticeably a few years ago, it is understandable to be sceptic.

The advantage of a VPN is that if you pay for a server you won’t have to install any kind of application. You will be able to use the VPN just by changing the network settings.

Or, if you do pay for an application as well, you will get a lightweight application that will not impact performance.


When it comes down to payment, VPN leads by a mile. Most VPN services cost a few dollars a month, while the antivirus will certainly cost you tens if not hundreds of dollars. This is a one-time payment for the license.

Bear in mind, that sometimes you might need to pay some more for some big update in the future.


Let’s say that you have 5 devices at home: PC, laptop, tablet and two smartphones. If you would install an antivirus you must do it on each device separately. This procedure takes time and you risk having compatibility issues. A VPN company can sell you the server address.

This address can be used on devices individually or you can set it up on your router. If your router supports it you will be able to safely browse the internet on your home network.


If you are the type of person that is constantly on the go and connects to public internet then a VPN is a must have. A public internet connection is the easiest place to get your data stolen.

The reason for this is because you might be connected to the same network as the attacker. The VPN adds an additional layer of security. The layer encrypts the data and renders it untraceable or useful to anyone looking to steal it.


Depending on where you live you came across some content that was not available in your country. Every website that you visit has the ability to read your IP address. When it does, it can block certain content if you are not supposed to see it.

The VPN will be able to “hide” your IP address from the server. With the changed IP address, you will be able to view the content with no restrictions.

A good example of this is Netflix and YouTube. Both services are blocking certain content from some countries due to copyright. With a VPN you will have absolutely no restriction. As you can see from the graph below, almost a third of the users that accessed Netflix were through VPN.

Netflix VPN

Apart from locations restrictions for content you can use a VPN for torrenting. It is well known that in some countries torrenting is forbidden by law, so a VPN would help you stay undetected.

Below is another graph showing the frequency of VPN usage globally opposed to regular internet access.

VPN usage


These are the biggest differences between VPN and antivirus and 5 good reasons why you should consider using a VPN instead of an antivirus.

Which one do you use? What are your favorite services? Let us know in the comments!

Felix Olsson

Felix Olsson

Felix Olsson is a VPN and web security expert. He is a tech enthusiast who loves testing VPN services and the latest developments in the cybersecurity world. You'll often find him either reading privacy policies or testing a new service or device.

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