10 Best (REALLY FREE) Antivirus for Windows in 2018

Aviva Zacks
Tags: Reviews
Posted: October 10, 2018

Finding the best free antivirus for Windows isn’t always easy. For every great program that exists, there are countless ones that are riddled with ads, spyware, and other unwanted junk. You typically only want one thing when it comes to removing viruses, spyware, and malware, and that is to remove those unwanted programs from your computer.

Well, ask and you shall receive.

Here at Safety Detective, we take security seriously and that’s why we’ve decided to create a list of 10 of the best, truly free antivirus programs for Windows that you can find on the market. For each choice, we will describe our reasoning, a few pros and cons, and the types of situations where each program excels.


1. Avast Free Antivirus

Ever since Avast merged with AVG Antivirus to combine their efforts, they have offered an exceptionally comprehensive anti-malware and virus protection with a slew of useful features to sweeten the deal.

It’s also one of the few options with solid protection against zero-day attacks, or viruses and malware designed to exploit security weaknesses quickly on the same day those weaknesses were found. In fact, Avast managed to protect against 100% of zero-day attacks in a recent test.

Features offered:

  • A password manager
  • An anti-malware network scanner
  • A gaming mode that disables notifications and reduces system load when gaming

What we liked:

  • Strong zero-day malware protection
  • User-friendly interface
  • Low system impact (that is, capable of running without slowing down the machine)

What we didn’t like:

  • The constant pop-up notifications
  • The slower launch times of other software when Avast was running
  • The lack of privacy options

What you get if you choose to pay:

  • A browser extension for phishing protection
  • Spam filters
  • Automatic software updating
  • A permanent file shredder

Best situations for this antivirus:

Avast is the best choice for gamers in particular since it not only offers a dedicated gaming mode but also provides anti-trojan protection when you constantly download. Still, even non-gamers will appreciate the top-of-the-line zero-day attack protection.

See Avast Deals >>>                


2. AVG Antivirus Free

As mentioned, AVG’s company recently merged with the developers of Avast. However, while both programs benefited from the combination, it seems AVG has gotten the shorter end of the stick. While it’s still a solid antivirus, AVG is much like the “little brother” to Avast.

Keep your eyes out, though, since it’s possible the company may consider combining AVG and Avast in a package deal at some point, which will certainly be interesting.

Features offered:

  • System optimization tools
  • Web link protection
  • Email attachment scanning

What we liked:

  • Excellent anti-malware performance similar to Avast’s
  • Easy to customize and configure
  • Little system impact

What we didn’t like:

  • Fewer useful features than Avast, such as no extension support
  • Constantly advertises the paid version alongside other unrelated features
  • Slow scanning
  • Sub-par phishing protection

What you get if you choose to pay:

  • Additional ransomware protection
  • Enhanced firewall

Best situations for this antivirus:

Overall, AVG is best suited to users who want a silent and subtle antivirus. The program runs transparently in the background with little effect on system performance. Also, if your job requires you to open various email attachments, the email attachment scanner will help immensely.

See AVG Deals >>>    


3. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

A fairly popular and heavily recommended antivirus, Bitdefender positions itself as one of the best free antiviruses available, constantly ranking near the top of various antivirus studies. While the free version doesn’t offer many fancy features and the bells and whistles of other options, Bitdefender Free covers the basics exceptionally well.

Features offered:

  • Phishing protection
  • Automatic Scanning
  • Behavior-based malware detection (i.e. analyzing a process’s potential activity before it does anything)

What we liked:

  • Fast scanning
  • Excellent accuracy in detecting viruses
  • Little system impact

What we didn’t like:

  • Few options for more advanced users
  • Cannot schedule scans
  • Zero-day attack protection is below average

What you get if you choose to pay:

  • Online banking protection
  • Permanent file shredder
  • A password manager
  • 24/7 technical support

Best situations for this antivirus:

Bitdefender is a strong contender for users who just want an antivirus that doesn’t require further attention past the initial setup. Bitdefender runs on autopilot for the most part requiring little user intervention.

See Bitdefender Deals >>>    


4. Avira Free Antivirus

Avira was greatly improved after its 2018 redesign, featuring much less system impact and a cleaner, more user-friendly interface. Avira is a well-rounded and versatile antivirus with many features that can appeal to a wide range of users.

Features offered:

  • Ransomware detection
  • Phishing protection
  • A password manager

What we liked:

  • Lots of customization and features
  • Excellent virus detection rating (Avira managed to remove 99.7% of threats according to AV-TEST)
  • Accurate detection with few false positives
  • Runs with little system impact

What we didn’t like:

  • Many of its options are locked behind a paywall
  • Constant advertisements for other Avira products
  • Too many pop-up notifications

What you get if you choose to pay:

  • An automatic software updater
  • System optimization tools
  • Built-in VPN service
  • Mobile app support

Best situations for this antivirus:

Avira works great as an all-in-one solution due to its long list of features as long as you don’t mind the paywall for some of them.

See Avira Deals >>>    


5. Kaspersky Free

Kaspersky’s developers clearly have the “cover all the bases” philosophy. Kaspersky Free is easy to use and one of the most accurate anti-malware, anti-ransomware, anti-spyware, and anti-Trojan programs out there.

Features offered:

  • Real-time scanning
  • Phishing protection
  • Email scanning
  • Anti-spyware protection

What we liked:

  • Strong virus detection methods that result in very few false positives
  • User-friendly interface
  • It doesn’t bug you to upgrade to the paid version too often

What we didn’t like:

  • Only the basic features are offered with the free version
  • Limited technical support

What you get if you choose to pay:

  • Privacy protection
  • Built-in VPN
  • Parental controls
  • Safe payment protection
  • The ability to protect up to 3 computers

Best situations for this antivirus:

Bottom line: Kaspersky Free just works. It’s accurate and reliable too, so if you aren’t interested in being pestered with too many unrelated features, Kaspersky is your best bet.

See Kaspersky Deals >>>    


6. Sophos Home Free

Sophos is a unique antivirus, as it’s optimized for multiple machines and runs using cloud-based protection which keeps system impact at a minimal. As a result, it works well for locations with several computers and families especially.

Features offered:

  • Phishing protection
  • Parental controls
  • The ability to protect up to 10 PCs

What we liked:

  • Simple and easy to use
  • Few pop-up notifications
  • Low system impact

What we didn’t like:

  • No feature to schedule scans
  • Few options for more advanced users

What you get if you choose to pay:

  • Protection for even more than 10 PCs
  • Web and email filtering

Best situations for this antivirus:

As mentioned before, Sophos is a great family antivirus. Homes with plenty of computers and children will benefit from Sophos’s parental controls and multi-PC protection.

See Sophos Deals >>>    


7. ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus

ZoneAlarm can be considered the best free antivirus for web surfers, as many of its features are geared towards online protection.

Features offered:

  • Anti-malware scanner
  • Personal firewall
  • Identity protection
  • Online file backups

What we liked:

  • A solid firewall, one of the best in fact
  • Excellent performance as an antivirus
  • Excellent user interface

What we didn’t like:

  • The installation attempted to install some Yahoo bloatware that we had to remove
  • Speaking of which, the installation is rather slow
  • Notifications pop-up every time something is blocked, which becomes annoying quickly

What you get if you choose to pay:

  • Strong email and web browsing protection

Best situations for this antivirus:

ZoneAlarm would otherwise be considered a rather unexceptional antivirus had it not been for its truly elegant firewall protection. If you browse the web a lot and worry about your safety, ZoneAlarm is your answer.

See ZoneAlarm Deals >>>    


8. Adaware AntiVirus Free

Adaware is actually rebranded from a previous version. However, certain features were cut out from the change. Despite its rocky origins, Adaware is still a viable option for certain niche users. It uses Bitdefender’s excellent anti-malware engine as well as its own pretty good anti-spyware.

Features offered:

  • Behavioral analysis
  • Download protection
  • A gaming mode

What we liked:

  • The program can be installed and run alongside other protection tools
  • Great, easy-to-use interface

What we didn’t like:

  • Malicious URL protection from the previous version is no longer offered
  • Mediocre virus and anti-malware
  • No email protection
  • Lots of advertisements

What you get if you choose to pay:

  • 24/7 technical support
  • Web protection, especially for shopping
  • A firewall
  • Email and network defense

Best situations for this antivirus:

Adaware works well for gamers who want an extra set of antivirus tools to combine with an existing antivirus. Users outside of this niche are advised to choose other, better options.

See Adaware Deals >>>    


9. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free

Malwarebytes isn’t technically an antivirus since it doesn’t prevent infection, but rather cleans out malware currently standing on your system. Nonetheless, it’ss one of the most well-respected anti-malware solutions out there. As its name implies, it specializes in malware prevention, so its other features are locked behind a paywall.

Features offered:

  • Anti-malware scanning

What we liked:

  • Works well running alongside another antivirus without interference

What we didn’t like:

  • Majority of features are locked behind a paywall

What you get if you choose to pay:

  • Scheduled scanning
  • Real-time protection
  • Browser and web defense

Best situations for this antivirus:

Again, Malwarebytes is a great “add-on” anti-malware to further strengthen your system’s security with another antivirus running.

See Malwarebytes Deals>>    


10. Windows Defender

Microsoft’s premier pre-installed Defender started off as a sub-par but free solution in the early years of Windows. However, recent versions for Windows 8.1 and 10 have improved greatly to the point where Defender can stand on its own as a decent antivirus. It’s also completely free, with no paid version available at all.

Features offered:

  • Basic antivirus, anti-malware, and anti-spyware protection
  • Automatic scanning
  • Browser-based protection (but only for Microsoft browsers)

What we liked:

  • Comes free and pre-installed with Windows
  • Works well in combination with other antiviruses
  • Generally low system performance impact

What we didn’t like:

  • High number of false positives
  • Full scans impact system performance greatly
  • No browser protection for non-Microsoft browsers
  • Very basic with few extra features

Best situations for this antivirus:

Contrary to what many believe, Defender is actually a solid basic option for Windows, especially if you combine it with Malwarebytes.

See Windows Defender Deals >>>    


Feature Comparison Chart

Note: chart only refers to the free version of each software for their respective Windows’ versions. Pro versions may offer additional features.

About the Author

Aviva Zacks
Aviva Zacks

Aviva Zacks is a content manager, writer, editor, and really good baker. When she's not working, she enjoys reading on her porch swing with a cup of decaf.