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10 Best (REALLY FREE) Windows Antivirus Programs for 2019

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.

Quick Links: 10 Best Free Antivirus Programs for Windows

  1. Total AV Free Antivirus
  2. BullGuard Free Antivirus
  3. Panda Free Antivirus
  4. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
  5. ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus
  6. Avira Free Antivirus
  7. Avast Free Antivirus
  8. AVG Antivirus Free
  9. Kaspersky Free (Updated)
  10. Sophos Home Free

Free Vs. Paid Antivirus

When it comes to antivirus protection, you always get what you pay for. While free antivirus programs are better than none, they usually have limited functionality. Many companies reserve their best features for paying customers.

By going for a free antivirus, you may have to sacrifice on advanced features like a firewall and decent technical support. That being said, free programs can still be feature-rich, and something is always better than nothing until you can fork out for the real deal.

Why do Windows Devices Need an Antivirus?

There are so many Windows-specific viruses and malware out there that it’s very likely you could be hit with one. And while Windows devices come with a built-in antivirus – Windows Defender – it may not be enough to keep you fully protected.

The program is good and the latest update is actually the most powerful its ever been. However, you’re only protected if you have updated to the latest version, and Microsoft is always slower to bring in newer updates and features than paid antivirus programs.

You’ll also get plenty of extra features to make your money worth it with a paid antivirus, such as a password manager, and web and email filtering.

How We Tested Them

We created a benchmark by testing all of the antivirus programs on the same device. We tested them on the length of the installation, their ease of use, malware detection ability, features, and their impact on performance.

We tested each antivirus to determine:

  • The impact on performance
  • The length of setup and installation
  • The interface’s ease of use
  • The options and speed of the scans
  • How many ads and pop-ups there were
  • Whether they can pick up the majority of viruses, including zero-day threats

The below free Windows antivirus programs were the best performing in our tests:

1. Total AV Free Antivirus – Best for Phishing Protection

Total AV Free Antivirus – Best for Phishing Protection

Total AV is a free antivirus that does its job at the basic level – getting rid of malware and improving the performance of your computer. While the free version may be limited, scans are fast and reliable and there are several handy tools designed to declutter your computer so that it runs better.

Features:

  • Phishing protection
  • Disk cleaner and system boost
  • Browser manager
  • Safe Site browser extension for Chrome and Edge

What we liked:

  • Compatible with Windows, Android and Mac devices
  • Finds and removes duplicate files
  • Very fast with no impact on performance
  • Detected 90 percent of verified phishing samples

What we didn’t like:

  • Lacks real-time malware protection
  • Several false positives
  • Bonus features require upgrading or paying
  • No control over the weekly scan, and no daily scan option

Reasons to go for the paid version:

  • Advanced ransomware protection
  • Extra features like a password vault, web shield, Smartphone optimizer and remote firewall
  • 24/7 technical support
  • 30-day money back guarantee

Best suited for:

Total AV Antivirus is a decent antivirus if you’re just looking for quick protection, but if you’re looking for more advanced features such as a remote firewall or password vault, you’re probably better off upgrading to one of the premium versions – the 30-day money back guarantee means you can try before you buy.


2. BullGuard Free Antivirus – Best for Clean-Up & Boost

BullGuard Free Antivirus – Best for Clean-Up & Boost

BullGuard is a leading antivirus that protects your Windows machine against just about every threat, including ransomware, unsafe websites, Trojans and more. Enabling the parental control features provides robust coverage against all malicious attacks.

BullGuard also offers up to a 30-day free trial, depending on the package you go for. From there you’ll need to buy the full version to continue using it.

Features offered:

  • 24/7 support
  • Automatic scanning
  • Robust parental control settings
  • Protection against malware, spyware, adware and phishing
  • Firewall
  • PC tune-up

What we liked:

  • 30-day free trial version
  • Ultra-fast vulnerability scanning alerts on risks
  • The gamer mode that halts notifications and scanning temporarily

What we didn’t like:

  • High number of false positives
  • No password manager
  • Performance lagged a bit with full parental tools running

Best suited for:

BullGuard protects your Windows machine against just about all types of threats, including rootkits, malware, and phishing scams. While experienced users can tweak the features as needed, lightweight beginners can feel comfortable with simply switching on the antivirus to run quietly in the background.


3. Panda Free Antivirus – Best with a VPN

Panda Free Antivirus – Best with a VPN

The developers of Panda have made sure to “cover all the bases.” The free version is easy to use yet still one of the most accurate anti-malware, anti-ransomware, anti-spyware, and anti-Trojan programs out there.

Features offered:

  • VPN client software
  • Gaming mode
  • Full, critical or custom scans
  • Scheduled scans
  • Safe Web URL scanner for Explorer, Firefox and Chrome
  • PC clean-up tools
  • Process monitor
  • USB and SD protection

What we liked:

  • Compatible with Windows XP through to 10
  • Strong virus detection with very few false positives
  • Light impact on performance
  • User-friendly interface
  • USB and SD card scan

What we didn’t like:

  • Only the basic features are offered with the free version
  • No direct technical support
  • VPN only has data allowance of 150 MB per day
  • No automatic scanning
  • Requires an account
  • Average malware protection

Reasons to go for the paid version

  • Privacy protection
  • Unlimited VPN
  • Safe payment protection for shopping and banking
  • The ability to protect up to five devices
  • Parental controls, password manager and file protection (Total Security)

Best suited for:

For a free option, Panda ticks all the boxes. It’s quick, accurate and reliable, and has stripped away many unnecessary and unwanted features. But if you want stronger malware protection, you may have to look elsewhere.


4. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition – Best for Ransomware Protection

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition – Best for Ransomware Protection

One of the most highly recommended free antivirus softwares is Bitdefender, 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
  • URL blocking
  • Browser extension tool
  • Anti-ransomware tool
  • Home scanner tool

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 it’s running)
  • Can use Bitdefender free tools, such as a browser extension, anti-ransomware, and home scanner

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)
  • Requires an account

Reasons to go for the paid version:

  • 24/7 technical support with FREE phone calls
  • Advanced ransomware protection
  • A firewall
  • Parental control tools
  • A VPN
  • Secure banking browser
  • Password manager

Best suited for:

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


5. ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus – Best for Firewall Protection

ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus – Best for Firewall Protection

ZoneAlarm is considered the best free antivirus for web surfers, as many of its features are geared towards online protection. It also comes with a solid built-in firewall that’s easy to install and configure.

Features offered:

  • Anti-malware scanner
  • Built-in personal firewall
  • Web security and built-in privacy toolbar
  • Kaspersky engine
  • Identity theft protection
  • Web security and 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
  • Fast installation
  • Automatic updates
  • Scheduled scans

What we didn’t like:

  • Limited scan options, including no custom scan
  • Heavy on system resources
  • No URL filtering
  • No real-time protection
  • Adverts

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 excellent firewall protection.

However, if you browse the web a lot and worry about your safety, ZoneAlarm is a solid choice.


6. Avira Free Antivirus – Best for Zero-Day Threat DetectionAvira Free Antivirus – Best for Zero-Day Threat Detection

Avira 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, it’s 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:

  • Firewall manager
  • Browser extensions
  • Quick, full and custom scans
  • Scheduled scans
  • Privacy Pal for online ad tracking
  • System speed-up tools

What we liked:

  • Compatible with Windows Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10
  • 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 antivirus tests)
  • Accurate detection with few false positives (virus definitions are constantly updated)
  • Can download the free security suite for a VPN and password manager
  • Free rescue disk

What we didn’t like:

  • There’s no XP or Vista support
  • Heavy on system resources
  • Most free tools are actually limited trials
  • Constant pop-ups and ads for other Avira products
  • Wants to install a toolbar on setup

Reasons to go for the paid version:

  • USB protection
  • Ransomware protection
  • Online shopping and banking browser
  • Software updater to patch your programs

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.


7. Avast Free Antivirus – Best for Online Banking ProtectionAvast Free Antivirus – Best for Online Banking Protection

Avast 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 antivirus programs haven’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:

  • On-demand and real-time scans
  • Web and email protection
  • Browser plugin
  • Hardened mode
  • Secure browser for banking and shopping
  • Video downloader
  • Password manager
  • Wi-Fi/network scanner

What we liked:

  • Compatible with a host of platforms, including Windows XP to Windows 10
  • Do not disturb feature
  • User-friendly interface
  • Low system impact
  • The Wi-Fi scanner for safe browsing

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.


8. AVG Antivirus Free – Best for Online Shopping

AVG Antivirus Free – Best for Online Shopping

AVG Technologies 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
  • Real-time download and email scanning
  • Online shopping browser extension
  • Do not disturb mode
  • File shredder

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
  • You don’t have to sign up for an account to use it
  • Performance check highlights junk files

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
  • Average phishing protection
  • Some quarantined threats weren’t permanently deleted from the system (risk of reinfection)

Reasons to go for the paid version:

  • Secure DNS
  • Webcam protection
  • AntiVirus PRO for Android™
  • A firewall
  • 30-day free trial

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).


9. Kaspersky Free (Important Update)

Kaspersky Free (Important Update)

Despite Kaspersky 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 have been aiding state-sponsored hackers in Russia.

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.

Read more about this topic.


10. Sophos Home Free – Best for Real-Time Protection

Sophos Home Free – Best for Real-Time Protection

Sophos 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
  • Protect up to three devices
  • Remote management
  • Basic parental web filtering

What we liked:

  • Compatible with both Windows, including 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, and Mac OSX, Linux, Android and iOS
  • Protection for up to three devices
  • Simple and easy to use interface
  • 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 and can’t run two scans at once
  • Only scans for known viruses and malware (no zero-day protection)
  • Slow full scan and no quick scan
  • Parent content filter is ineffective
  • You have to sign up for an account
  • Few options for more advanced users

Reasons to go for the paid version:

  • Advanced ransomware protection
  • Protection for 10 devices
  • 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.


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.

Sophos Home Free – Best for Real-Time Protection

Sophos Home Free – Best for Real-Time Protection

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, it’s important to be aware that with antivirus programs, you get what you pay for.

There are limitations to free antivirus programs. Many come with ads and pop-ups and more advanced features such as a firewall or proper ransomware protection are reserved for paying customers.

So if you’re looking for a long term solution with better protection on the latest threats with upgraded features, you may want to consider upgrading to a full-scale paid antivirus.  Compare top-ranking antivirus progams.

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.

Transparency and Trust – We pride ourselves on being the only site where users can freely contribute and share their reviews on any antivirus with other community members. When you visit an antivirus site we link to, we sometimes get affiliate commissions that support our work. Read more about how we operate.