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Get Norton AntiVirus 2013 (3 PCs) free after rebate

Widely praised as the best malware removal and prevention tool, it normally sells for around $50.

If you don't mind waiting on a rebate, Norton AV 2013 can be yours absolutely free.
If you don't mind waiting on a rebate, Norton AV 2013 can be yours absolutely free. Newegg

Funny thing about Symantec's security programs: Lots of people still hate them. Like, really hate them. I guess the bloated, sluggish, more-harm-than-good versions of yesteryear were enough to turn some users off Symantec forever, even though the products have improved dramatically in the past several years.

Indeed, several of the company's Norton tools are perennial award-winners, and have been since the early days of Windows 7. And yet I know that at least some readers will see this deal and write, "Norton AntiVirus? No way, never again."

More on that in a bit. For now, Newegg has Symantec Norton AntiVirus 2013 for 3 PCs for free. That's after paying $45 and redeeming a $45 mail-in rebate (PDF), which comes in the form of a prepaid debit card. (And, please, don't tell me it's "not really free." That's Symantec semantics, people.)

The software is designed to remove and prevent viruses and spyware, and according to most leading tech outlets, it's a champ at both. CNET rated it five stars, calling it "a highly recommended paid security option for Windows computers." And PC Magazine awarded it an Editors' Choice, noting that it "beat all other current products in [our] malware removal test and rated high with the independent labs as well."

Of course, as the Cheapskate, I must point out that many users can get by just fine with freeware security tools. For example, using little more than Microsoft Security Essentials and the protections already baked into Windows and my browser (Chrome), I'm batting 1.000 keeping threats at bay -- and have been for years.

However, I'm fairly savvy when it comes to avoiding things like phishing e-mails and dangerous Web destinations. Users who aren't quite as savvy, or who want a live tech-support option, would do well to consider a commercial, consumer-grade option like Norton AntiVirus. And if you can get it for free, what's the downside?

There isn't one, in my humble opinion. Sure, you have to wait up to eight weeks to get your $45 back, but I think that's a fair trade for one of the top-rated security tools currently available. If you're getting along fine with the freeware, great. But if you want something more robust, something backed by support, this is definitely a deal worth considering. It's available until March 20, and you've got 30 days after that to redeem the rebate.

Your thoughts?