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AOL to offer free antivirus protection

America Online will bundle McAfee antivirus software into its service and stop charging for it.

America Online on Wednesday said it will bundle McAfee antivirus software for free into its proprietary service and no longer charge a subscription for it.

AOL will offer the software, McAfee VirusScan Online, as part of AOL 9.0 Security Edition, debuting in November. AOL said the McAfee product can scan for and remove harmful viruses delivered via peer-to-peer software, Web downloads, CD-ROMs and media files, to name a few.

Up until now, AOL charged $2.95 a month for the service as part of the online giant's attempt to boost add-on subscriptions.

After witnessing a mass exodus of its premium dial-up subscribers for more than two years, AOL is trying to keep customers by offering perks. The company is trying to sell a "bring your own access" version for $14.95 a month for subscribers who plan to switch to a broadband connection from their phone or cable company. The full dial-up service costs $23.90 per month.

At the same time, AOL is trying to spice up its service by premiering exclusive content, such as live concerts and TV shows, and services to keep people from defecting. AOL next month will premiere the teaser trailer for Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith a day before the preview hits theaters on Nov. 5.

The company has tried to position security as a must-have for users and has released a handful of studies that highlight virus and spyware threats.

AOL is not alone in offering antivirus software as part of a paid package of services. Yahoo and MSN both offer antivirus and anti-spyware features in their premium service packages.