Antivirus is essential. In one year, cybercrime can cost more than $11 million, most of which comes out of the victims’ pockets. Today, it’s not a question of if you come in contact with an infection, but when?
While other procedures exist to increase your online security, nothing targets malware as well as antivirus. Experienced companies develop sophisticated systems to recognize known infections, but also to spot suspicious behaviors that signal new iterations. The protection they offer is unmatched.
Unfortunately, many top antivirus suites come with a hefty price tag, so some people would prefer to take the risk. If you side-stepped premium protection because of the cost, then this list is for you!
These totally free antivirus programs are made by industry leaders and offer maximum security without the monthly fee.
Avast Free Antivirus
Avast Free Antivirus offers as much protection as some premium security suites. They’re a top-rated product on AV-Test for removing all-known malware infections. The software is highly customizable and offers three scan types to suit your needs.
- 100% success rate at spotting known-malware infections
- No third-party ads
- More features than some commercial antivirus
- Settings can be confusing for novices
Avast is known for giving customers complete control. The custom installation allows you to pick and choose which antivirus modules to include. You can also run the program alongside other antivirus software for optimum security. There’s considerable scanning freedom with a quick scan, full system check, or specific folder or drive scan. The flexibility of this free app makes it one of the most comprehensive antivirus options for no charge.
Avira’s free antivirus software contains the same core detection system used by their premium range. The software excels in spotting known-malware and utilizes new techniques to spot new threats. Web-filtering is included, but only via a browser extension which is available on most major browsers.
- Browser extension available for Chrome, Firefox, IE, and Opera.
- Mobile-friendly user interface
- Internal password protection available
- Limited flexibility in custom scans
Setting up Avira Free is almost instant with no need to create an account or custom set-up. However, the console is unnecessarily complicated. It shows all the premium features, even though you can’t use them. The mobile-first design is also clunky when viewed via desktop. Fortunately, the quick, full, and custom scans are straightforward and efficient. You can opt to scan specific drives or search the entire system. The extended ransomware protection feature is a definite bonus.
BitDefender Antivirus Free
BitDefender’s free antivirus offers real-time protection from known-threats and behavioral-based recognition to identify new infections that develop. It also offers web-filtering without extra installations or extensions. The console is truly lightweight with no unnecessary extras and can be up and running in almost no time.
- Installs in a couple of seconds
- Web filtering without the need for a browser extension
- Simple and easy-to-use interface
- No custom settings available
BitDefender Free Antivirus is easy to install but does require you create an account first. There are no customization options but this makes it ideal for beginners who want simple, fast protection. It gives you the option to run a full system scan or choose specific folders. You can restore falsely-quarantined items, but that’s about it. Most lightweight antiviruses claim simplicity, but BitDefender wins when it comes to straightforward security.
AVG Antivirus Free
Although they were recently taken over by Avast, the AVG brand still offers unique protection. This free antivirus uses their famed AVG Zen monitoring system for antivirus and web tune-up. A PC tune-up add-on is also available for free.
- PC and web tune-up also provided for free
- Full scan in just six minutes
- Highly-rated by five independent testing labs
- Poor detection rate for phishing links
AVG Free Antivirus promises simple protection with some level of customization. The full scan can be executed quickly in a matter of minutes. For a more thorough scan, the Deep Virus Scan will go through all of your files but take nearly an hour. AVG has an impressive detection rate, recognizing 94% of the malware tested. The main drawback is the phishing protection, which is a staggering 70% less effective than Norton’s version.
Panda Antivirus Free
Panda’s free app focuses on core processing power, with an impressive 99.5% protection rate. Its extra features provide more protection, cleaning USB sticks, creating a bootable drive for severe threats, and offering a process monitor to browse your computer’s activity to see how secure it is.
- Free Hotspot Shield VPN included
- “Critical” scan takes less than one minute
- Scan scheduling is available, for automatic protection
- Packed with internal ads and monetization tactics
Panda Antivirus is similar to most free software except it has some unique extra features. The free VPN can encrypt your internet connection and protect you from hackers, although it is limited to 150MB of data per day. It provides a unique overview, which shows every transaction since it was installed. Its internal protection level is strong but beginner friendly. The only downside is that it regularly tries to convince you to upgrade, and continually includes ads for other paid products.
Free vs. Paid Antivirus
Free antivirus gets a lot of negative press, mostly that it can’t be trusted for protection. However, most free antivirus titles use the same core systems as their paid counterparts. The differences lie in the additional features that make up each security suite. While some free antivirus offers extra security, they often lack the full range of extra elements.
Free antivirus often doesn’t include:
- Technical support
- Protection from complex infection types such as ransomware, rootkits, and phishing
- VPN protection
- Security from some zero-day infections
It’s great to get paid protection if possible, but free apps are a worthy alternative. You can also use the free trials for premium software if you ever need an added security boost.
Excellent Protection with No Price Tag
Staying safe online is a right that should be afforded to all. While many of us put off premium security products due to their cost, this doesn’t mean you should forgo protection altogether. Free antivirus apps are an excellent alternative and will keep you safe from the vast majority of threats.
We recommend Avast as the best free option as it offers a wide range of security features that rival some paid plans. However, all the options on this list provide high-levels of protection and are easy, quick, and straightforward.