No. Not really. Certainly not to that degree, and certainly not immediately.
But it is important.
It’s not a good thing to let your anti-malware tool’s subscription lapse unless you plan on replacing it.
The subscription isn’t about using the software; it’s about keeping the software up to date. Making sure your anti-malware software is up to date is critical to keeping you and your computer safe.
A lapsed subscription
Many security packages operate on a subscription model, meaning that rather than paying for the software once, you pay so much every so often — typically once a year — for some kind of subscription to the service or tool.
If you fail to pay before the subscription period is over, your subscription is said to have “lapsed” or “expired”.
This means your anti-malware tools won’t get updates about newly discovered threats. It will continue to scan the files on your computer, but the tool will only look for threats that were known as of the last day of your subscription. Your expired software won’t get the updates that would allow it to protect your computer from the constant barrage of new threats.
Your anti-malware software will continue to work, but it won’t be able to protect your computer from the latest forms of malware.
What if you want to let it lapse because you don’t want to spend the money?
Good news: there are plenty of free solutions — solutions that are quite sufficient for most people.
I generally recommend Windows Defender, which is built in to Windows 10 and 8, or Microsoft Security Essentials (the same software by another name) for Windows 7. It’s completely free and protects your computer from malware without seriously impacting your system’s performance.
There are other free alternatives as well.
What I do not recommend is continuing to run security software with an expired subscription. You will slowly become more and more vulnerable to each new threat discovered after your subscription lapses.
Always vulnerable, always vigilant
Ultimately, it’s important to understand that you’re almost always at risk from malware, for a variety of reasons ranging from unpatched system software to sneaky attempts to fool you. The problem is that the newest, latest-and-greatest viruses or malware can take advantage of these vulnerabilities on your system unless you have up-to-date protection in place.
By letting your subscription lapse, your machine gets more and more out of date as time goes on. Each day, you’re at increased risk of being infected or otherwise compromised by the malware that has been created or discovered after the date your subscription lapsed.
That’s a bad position to be in, but the fix is easy: either renew your subscription to make sure your current anti-malware tools stay up to date, or switch to a different, probably free anti-malware tool that keeps your computer protected.