10 Best (REALLY FREE) Windows Antivirus Programs for 2019

Aviva Zacks
Posted: December 12, 2018

Finding a free and effective antivirus software for Windows is no easy task, since so many come bundled with ads, spyware, malware and unwanted junk. A good antivirus program should not only rid your PC of threats and infections, but prevent future infections as well. Here’s our list of the 10 best, truly free antivirus programs for Windows that have been tried, tested and verified as 100% legitimate.

10 Best Free Antivirus Programs for Windows

  1. Avast Free Antivirus
  2. AVG Antivirus
  3. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
  4. Avira Free Antivirus
  5. Kaspersky Free (Updated)
  6. Sophos Home Free
  7. ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus
  8. Adaware Antivirus Free
  9. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free
  10. Windows Defender

1. Avast Free Antivirus

Avast free antivirus

Avast (see user reviews) is one of the easiest antivirus softwares to use, and one of the few programs to offer solid protection against zero-day attacks – new unknown threats that an antivirus hasn’t been programmed to catch yet. Impressively, Avast managed to protect against 100% of all zero-day attacks in a recent test.

Ever since Avast merged with AVG Antivirus to provide a more robust solution, they have been offering exceptionally comprehensive anti-malware and virus protection with a host of useful features that are usually only available through paid services.

Features offered:

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

What we liked:

  • Compatible with a host of platforms, including Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10 as well as Windows Vista and XP SP3. It also runs on Mac and Android devices
  • Strong zero-day malware protection
  • User-friendly interface
  • Low system impact (runs without slowing down the machine)

What we didn’t like:

  • Constant ads and pop-up notifications
  • Limited password manager features (it doesn’t have a password reset or multifactor authentication)
  • Slower launch time of other software while Avast was running
  • Lack of privacy options or ransomware protection
  • Average anti-phishing protection, so precaution is needed

Reasons to go for the paid version

  • A browser extension for phishing protection
  • Spam filters
  • A firewall
  • Ransomware protection
  • Automatic software updating
  • A permanent file shredder
  • Protection for more devices

Best suited for:

Avast is the best choice for gamers in particular because it not only offers a dedicated gaming mode but also provides a free Trojan remover tool that’s great if you’re constantly downloading files and games.

Still, even non-gamers will appreciate the top-of-the-line zero-day attack protection and extra features over and above what’s offered with other free antivirus programs. For those who want to avoid annoying pop-ups and ads, we’d suggest going for the premier version as a more suitable long term solution.

Get Avast Now >>>                


2. AVG Antivirus Free

AVG Free antivirus

AVG Technologies (see user reviews) is one of the biggest names in the antivirus industry and we love it because it runs constantly in the background without you having to do anything.

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

However, it’s possible the company may consider combining AVG and Avast in a package deal at some point, which will offer the very best of both.

Features offered:

  • System optimization tools
  • Blocks unsafe links and downloads
  • Real-time security updates
  • Spam and email filter (scans your incoming emails for threats)

What we liked:

  • Compatible with Windows 7 SP1, 8/8.1, 10, Vista SP2, XP SP3 (other free versions available for Mac and Android)
  • Excellent anti-malware performance similar to Avast
  • Easy to customize and configure
  • Little system impact (plus option to scan for PC performance problems)
  • Specific detection (warning messages name the exact threat)

What we didn’t like:

  • Fewer useful features than Avast, such as no browser extension (uses pop-up notifications instead)
  • Constantly advertises the paid version alongside other unrelated features
  • Slow scanning (slows computer down more than other antivirus programs we tested)
  • Average phishing protection
  • Some quarantined threats weren’t permanently deleted from the system (risk of reinfection)

Reasons to go for the paid version

  • Additional ransomware protection
  • Webcam protection
  • AntiVirus PRO for Android™
  • An enhanced firewall

Best suited for:

AVG is best suited to users who want a silent and subtle antivirus without many frills. The program runs transparently in the background with little effect on system performance. If your job requires that you open various email attachments, the email attachment scanner will help immensely.

Overall, AVG is a good solution for those just looking for basic malware protection without the need for advanced features, or anyone wishing to use it as a second layer of defense on top of an existing antivirus (AVG’s passive mode allows it to run in the background in tandem with other antivirus programs).

Get AVG Now >>>    


3. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

Bitdefender free antivirus

One of the most highly recommended free antivirus softwares is Bitdefender (see user reviews), and it’s also one of the fastest free scanning antivirus programs available, with minimal impact on your computer’s performance. It consistently ranks at the top of various antivirus tests.

While the free version doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that paid versions do, 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)
  • Safe File digital vault, which encrypts any files you want to keep safe and prevents any changes

What we liked:

  • Compatible with Windows 7 SP1, 8,  8.1 and 10
  • Fast scanning
  • Very easy to use
  • Excellent accuracy in detecting viruses (and viruses’ definitions are constantly updated in the background)
  • Low system impact (doesn’t slow down your computer while its running)

What we didn’t like:

  • Not many advanced options
  • Slow initial scan
  • Cannot schedule or customize scans
  • No business option (can be used at home only)
  • Zero-day attack protection is below average (protects against known threats, but new and unknown threats are still a risk)

Reasons to go for the paid version

  • Online banking protection
  • Permanent file shredder
  • A password manager
  • 24/7 technical support with FREE phone calls
  • Advanced ransomware protection
  • A firewall
  • Parental control tools

Best suited for:

Bitdefender is a strong contender for users who just want an install-and-go antivirus. Its a powerful antivirus that runs on autopilot for the most part requiring little user intervention and adding very little extra “bloatware”.

Get Bitdefender Now >>>    


4. Avira Free Antivirus

Avira free antivirus

Avira (see user reviews) was greatly improved after its 2018 redesign. It now offers much less impact on system performance while running, and it comes with a cleaner, more user-friendly interface.

What sets it apart is its comprehensive range of protection against anything from malicious viruses to the most dangerous Trojans. Plus, its heuristic engine allows it to detect zero-day viruses (unknown threats) really well – a feature not commonly found with free antivirus software.

This well-rounded and versatile antivirus also comes packed with many extra features to sweeten the deal:

Features offered:

  • Ransomware detection
  • Phishing protection
  • A password manager
  • Free Avira Phantom VPN (1GB/month)
  • Browser tracking blocker
  • Secure search engine
  • Avira Safe Shopping tool
  • Avira Privacy Pal (personal assistant to safeguard your privacy)

What we liked:

  • Compatible with Windows 7, 8, 10, Vista, and XP, as well as Mac OSX
  • Lots of customization and new features
  • Protects from viruses as well as malware (excellent virus detection rating, proven to remove 99.7% of threats according to AV-TEST)
  • Accurate detection with few false positives (virus definitions are constantly updated)
  • Low system impact

What we didn’t like:

  • No business option (only for home use)
  • Constant pop-ups and ads for other Avira products
  • Wants to install a toolbar on setup

Reasons to go for the paid version

  • Unlimited VPN surfing
  • Automatic software updates
  • System optimization tools
  • Premium mobile apps
  • VIP customer support

Best suited for:

The new and improved Avira free antivirus is a fantastic all-in-one solution due to its long list of advanced features you usually don’t get with free software. However, it does come with ads and pop-ups so for a long term solution, you may find the paid version less intrusive.

Get Avira Now >>>    


5. Kaspersky Free (Important Update)

Kaspersky free antivirus 

Despite Kaspersky (see user reviews) being one of the most well-recognized AV brands on the market, we can no longer recommend their products in good conscience due to speculation that their developers having been aiding state-sponsored hackers in Russian. Kaspersky has already been banned by the US government, and there is mounting evidence that they have been data mining consumer information and sending it to The Kremlin, thereby making it spyware.


6. Sophos Home Free

Sophos free antivirus

Sophos (see user reviews) is unique since it’s optimized for multiple machines and runs using cloud-based protection, keeping system slowdown to a minimum. As a result, it works well for families who need protection across several computers.

Features offered:

  • Real-time protection
  • Phishing protection
  • Parental controls
  • Protect up to 3 PCs
  • Remote management

What we liked:

  • Compatible with both Windows, including 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, and Mac OSX, Linux, Android and iOS
  • Simple and easy to use
  • Great network, server and enduser protection
  • Few pop-up notifications
  • Low system impact
  • Includes a 30 day free trial of the premium version

What we didn’t like:

  • Doesn’t support older Windows XP or Vista machines
  • No feature to schedule scans
  • Few options for more advanced users

Reasons to go for the paid version

  • Advanced ransomware protection
  • Protection for 10 plus PCs
  • Banking protection
  • Advanced malware removal
  • Web and email filtering

Best suited for:

Sophos is a great family antivirus as it protects up to three devices. Homes with several computers and children will benefit from Sophos’s parental controls and multi-PC protection.

Get Sophos Now >>>    


7. ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus

ZoneAlarm free antivirus

ZoneAlarm (see user reviews) is considered the best free antivirus for web surfers, as many of its features are geared towards online protection. While it doesn’t come with its own antivirus (it uses the standard Kaspersky engine), it comes with a solid built-in firewall that’s easy to install and configure.

Features offered:

  • Anti-malware scanner
  • Built-in personal firewall
  • Identity protection
  • Online file backups
  • Web security and built-in privacy toolbar

What we liked:

  • Compatible with Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10
  • One of the best firewalls we tested
  • Excellent performance as an antivirus
  • Easy to use user interface
  • Automatic real-time security updates
  • Ability to schedule scans

What we didn’t like:

  • The installation attempted to install some Yahoo bloatware that we had to remove
  • Makes automatic browser changes and installs a toolbar (but there is an option to skip this)
  • Installation is rather slow
  • No customized scan from the interface
  • Pop-up notifications every time something is blocked
  • Uses a lot of system memory to run

Reasons to go for the paid version

  • Strong email and web browsing protection
  • File scanning
  • Two-way firewall
  • Real-time cloud security
  • Chrome anti-phishing extension

Best suited for:

ZoneAlarm works well overall, but comes with a lot of extra features we felt were unnecessary. We would have rated it 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, but if not, its probably best just going with Kaspersky or another free antivirus to begin with.

Get ZoneAlarm Now  >>>    


8. Adaware AntiVirus Free

Adware antivirus

Adaware (see user reviews) is actually rebranded from a previous version. However, certain features were cut out from the change, such as URL and email protection.

Despite these shortcomings, this ‘new and improved’ antivirus is still a viable option for certain niche users like gamers. It uses Bitdefender’s excellent anti-malware engine as well as its own pretty good anti-spyware for well-rounded protection.

Features offered:

  • Behavioral analysis
  • Download protection
  • A gaming mode

What we liked:

  • Compatible with Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10
  • Real-time protection
  • The program can be installed and run alongside other protection tools
  • Low system impact (requires little CPU usage to run)
  • Silent mode for gaming and watching movies
  • Easy to use interface
  • Ability to run scheduled scans

What we didn’t like:

  • Malicious URL protection from the previous version is no longer offered
  • Limited behavioral monitoring
  • Long installation process
  • No email protection
  • Lots of ads
  • Free registration required every year otherwise it expires

Reasons to go for the paid version

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

Best suited for:

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 like Avast or AVG.

Get Adaware Now >>>


9. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free

Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes (see user reviews) isn’t technically an antivirus since it doesn’t prevent infections; rather it cleans out any existing malware on your system.

Nevertheless, it’s 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 for existing threats

What we liked:

  • Compatible with Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, Vista and XP
  • Fast scanning
  • Works well running alongside another antivirus without interference

What we didn’t like:

  • Not an antivirus replacement
  • No real-time protection
  • Majority of features are locked behind a paywall

Reasons to go for the paid version

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

Best suited for:

Malwarebytes is a great “add-on” anti-malware to further strengthen your system’s security with another antivirus running. As it doesn’t offer real-time protection, it isn’t recommended as your only antivirus option.

For those looking for long term solution, we’d highly recommend upgrading to the premium version.

Get Malwarebytes Now >>>


10. Windows Defender

Windows Defender free antivirus

Microsoft’s premier pre-installed Windows Defender (see user reviews) started off as a sub-par but free solution in the early years. 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 on the market.

Features offered:

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

What we liked:

  • Compatible with Windows 8, 8.1 and 10 (Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 7, XP and Vista)
  • Comes free and pre-installed with Windows
  • Works well in combination with other antivirus programs
  • 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 suited for:

Defender is actually a solid basic option for Windows, especially if you combine it with another antivirus like Malwarebytes.

However, if your computer is running Windows 7, Vista, or XP, Windows Defender will only remove spyware. To get rid of viruses and other malware, including spyware, on older versions like Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP, you can download Microsoft Security Essentials for free.

Get Windows Defender Now >>>


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.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking to get rid of threats from your PC or device quickly, these free antivirus programs offer a reliable solution.

However, many come with ads and pop-ups, so if you’re looking for a long term solution, you may consider upgrading to a full-scale paid antivirus. Want our recommendation? We’ve tried and tested 47 antivirus programs available on the market. See which ranked in the top 10.

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.