UPDATE: Free Antivirus Programs

Category: Anti-Virus

Readers often ask for my recommendations on antivirus protection. A common question goes something like this: “I got a trial version of Norton (or McAfee) antivirus with my computer, but the subscription expires in a few days. Should I pay, or switch to one of the free anti-virus programs? What do you recommend?” Read on for my updated list of the top FREE antivirus tools, and some tips on choosing free versus paid...

Protect Your Computer With Free Anti-Virus Software

Your computer is running slow... your high-speed internet connection feels like dial up, and popups are popping up everywhere. What's wrong? It could be a computer virus, or perhaps a bunch of viruses, infecting your hard drive. Viruses not only take up valuable memory and slow down your computer, they can also expose your personal information to Evil Hackers.

The good news is, there are plenty of anti-virus programs that can clean up the mess and keep you safe going forward. Many of them are even free!

Here's a rundown of the most popular free anti-virus packages. I'll also share my take on free versus paid anti-virus software. Find out which option is right for you.

free antivirus software

Free Anti-Virus Programs

AVG Free - is one of the most often recommended freeware anti-virus packages. It blocks viruses, spyware, rootkits, and other malware; scans Web, Facebook, and Twitter links for links to dangerous sites; and warns you of malicious email attachments. Works on PCs, Macs, and Android mobile devices. AVG's Community Protection Network combines information about emerging threats from millions of AVG users, and provides automatic updates.

AVG Internet Security (free trial, $55/year) adds "Online Shield" to screen your downloads; file encryption; updates every 2 hours; has anti-spam and enhanced firewall; and free support. A 30-day free trial is followed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Avast! - another highly recommended anti-virus program with a rich feature set, and ease of use. Avast! claims it’s #1, with 230 million users worldwide. It is updated regularly. The Avast Free Anti-virus protects against viruses, spyware, rootkits, and even zero-day attacks that no one’s heard of yet. Its Home Network Security scans your network for weaknesses that could admit malware or hackers. It includes a Browser Cleanup feature that can eliminate stubborn adware toolbars and other unwanted add-ons. Protection is offered for PCs, Macs, and Android mobile devices.

Avast Internet Security ($40/year) adds a firewall, anti-spam, anti-hijacking, and extra protection for login credentials. Avast Premier ($50) adds automatic patching of security holes in your system and file-shredding to prevent recovery of sensitive data. Both come with 30-day free trial periods.

Avira Anti-Vir - claims over 200 million users worldwide. Avira Free Anti-virus gets good reviews for basic anti-malware protection. Free browser extensions protect against phishing and rogue sites. Avira's Protection Cloud serves as an "early warning system," analyzing unknown files encountered by other Avira users, to protect against zero-day threats in real time. Versions are available for PCs, Macs, Android and iOS mobile devices.

Three personal paid versions add additional features, including system optimization and automatic driver updates. ($45 to $80 per year).

Microsoft Security Essentials, (also known as Microsoft Windows Defender on Windows 8 and 10), is free and (cough) worth every penny. The last time I looked at Defender’s test results, they were still at the bottom of every independent testing labs’ lists. See my article Has Microsoft Security Essentials Improved? for details on why I cannot recommend this software.

BitDefender - is yet another highly rated freeware anti-virus tool; it even beat AVG, Avast, and Avira in PC Magazine’s 2014 tests. It scans your drives and memory for viruses only during idle periods to avoid slowing you down. Additionally, it has a real-time shield to stop malware before it infects your machine; zero-day protection against unknown threats; intrusion detection; behavioral analysis to detect when apps are doing things they shouldn’t; link scanning to warn of dangerous sites before you fetch them; and anti-rootkit technology. The free edition is licensed for one PC.

The Family Edition secures up to 3 Windows, Android, or Mac machines for $60/year. The Total Security Multi-Device package covers 5 devices for $100/year.

Comodo AntiVirus uses a blacklist of files to block known malware; a whitelist of known safe files to avoid blocking your legitimate apps; and behavioral analysis to “arrest” apps that are acting suspiciously. Any file not on the whitelist will only be allowed to run in a memory “sandbox” where it cannot alter your hard drive or other resources. Add intrusion detection and cloud-based threat intelligence, and you get very formidable defenses for free.

Comodo Internet Security Pro ($40) covers 3 devices with a $500 “virus free guarantee.” Comodo Internet Security Complete ($90) adds a firewall, 10 GB of TrustConnect encrypted proxy service, and 50 GB of online storage.

A Second Layer of Defenses

Free anti-virus programs used to be one-trick ponies; they addressed only unambiguously harmful things like viruses, trojans, and rootkits. Mere “annoyances” like spyware or adware were ignored, so additional software was needed to address those threats. The ever-escalating features war has made free anti-virus programs more comprehensive.

I still recommend secondary tools such as MalwareBytes Anti-Malware (MBAM) and AdwCleaner for an occasional peace-of-mind scan, and as last-resort malware killers when other software can’t detect or eradicate what’s bugging your system. The free version of MBAM protects against malware and spyware, screens web links to help you avoid dangerous sites, and has some of the highest ratings for rooting out stubborn rootkits. AdwCleaner specializes in rooting out rootkits, toolbars, and browser hijackers. It can find and remove traces of malware that sometimes "resurrect" rogue software after restarting your computer.

What You Should Know About Anti-Virus Software

I strongly recommend that you also read these two articles to understand more about malware protection and firewalls. The first will tell you about the free programs I personally use to stay safe online, and the second will demystify the subject of firewalls.

I do have one caution about using anti-virus and anti-virus “plus” packages. Some people assume that because the software is free, then more is better. I've gotten reports from people who are using TEN or TWELVE "anti" programs at the same time. The truth is that anti-virus programs like to be left alone, or they can end up in a "death spiral", each thinking that the other is trying to do something bad. Multiple anti-virus programs can interfere with each other, causing system slowdowns or lockups.

That's why I recommend that you pick ONE of the real-time protection tools listed above, and optionally supplement with an on-demand scanner like MBAM or AdwCleaner.

Paid Versus Free Anti-Virus

Do you really need paid anti-virus software? That depends on you. If you or others in your household are prone to visit the dark corners of the Internet (peer-to-peer music/movie downloads, adult sites or pirated software), or if you have children that will click and download almost ANYTHING, then you will probably want the best protection possible. Generally, the commercial anti-virus packages with monthly subscriptions offer very high levels of protection, fast updates when new viruses are found, and good customer support.

On the other hand, many of the "premium" features offered in the paid products are included in your web browser, or can be found as free addons to the free versions. For example, malicious link detection is standard in most browsers. Anti-spam is built into webmail services. Free encryption tools are available, but this isn't something most home users care about. And free tools are available to detect and update out-of-date software.

You should consider a paid anti-virus package if you run a business, or if you have sensitive information on your computer. It's a small price to pay to ensure that your data is secure, and may protect you from legal liability. Here are some commercial anti-virus packages, all of which are rated "Advanced+" in the latest AV Comparatives report, which is an independent, unbiased testing group.

In summary, don't take your Internet security lightly. You really DO need good anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection. It's my opinion that most users will do just fine with one of the freebies I've mentioned at the beginning of this article. But if you (or others using your computer) fall into one of the higher risk categories mentioned above, a paid security software suite may better suit your needs.

What's YOUR internet security strategy? Post your comment or question below...

Ask Your Computer or Internet Question

  (Enter your question in the box above.)

It's Guaranteed to Make You Smarter...

AskBob Updates: Boost your Internet IQ & solve computer problems.
Get your FREE Subscription!


Check out other articles in this category:

Link to this article from your site or blog. Just copy and paste from this box:

This article was posted by on 1 Sep 2015

For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.

Prev Article:
Google Hangouts - Finally Usable?

The Top Twenty
Next Article:
Geekly Update - 02 September 2015

Most recent comments on "UPDATE: Free Antivirus Programs"

(See all 79 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Sophia Callas
28 Sep 2017

I am using Escan Antivirus.it's good antivirus. if you want more information about escan antivirus support contact us USA 1-800-294-5907 Canada 1-844-573-0859 UK 0-808-189-0272 AUS 1-300-326-128.

Posted by:

15 Dec 2017

I've seen Windows Defender actually do its job in Win 10. Nice to see. It has found & removed some junk lately.

I've used many free AV over past 30+ years. My recommendations would change almost yearly so won't share the blow by blow but this year I like AVAST especially for old PCs. However, I go through its settings with a fine tooth comb and turn off the myriad wasteful pieces especially ones for 'cleaning' my computer.

I work on other people's computers too. I find that behavior is the number one key. One person can do what they do with no AV at all and be fine. Another could have the best AV in the world and get their computer so locked up it's almost funny. I tell people every day what to watch out for. Coincidentally the same ones will barely get home and be calling saying they've been 'hacked.' I know it's not cool to mention people's shortcomings and actually, if you're reading articles here, you're not likely one of the ones getting 'hacked' every day. Kudos to you. Let's keep trying to educate. The ones that do make me sad are the elderly getting taken advantage of through social engineering.

Also, I have a huge beef with places that think it's ok to let anyone advertise on their site. There's a well-known site I'm thinking of where they discuss getting rid of certain adware junk things like 'Driver Update' and the 'Slimware' ilk that shouldn't sleep at night IMHO, and what is advertised on that very site, the junk they tell not to install and how to remove it. I suppose it keeps them busy but... I've written to them but never get a response.

Ok, I'll quit. Prob slightly off topic.

Paid AV. It has it's place. Unfortunately too many of them take tremendous resources ( CPU RAM ) to run them so some old machines need free maybe. It's like having a very good seatbelt and roll bars. Can help but if you purposely drive off a bridge, please don't expect them to save you.

Oh, to the Ubuntu question. It's complicated to answer but I don't use AV on my Linux based OS. I believe free Clam AV is still available. I encourage you to keep using Ubuntu and frequent their forums and try some things in command line interface. If you wish to learn, personally, I think it's the way to go. Yes, Windows owns the market but they also love to play The Wizard of Oz acting like they should control what people do and see in their OS monstrosity. IMHO of course. :-)

Peace. Thanks for your good lessons here. I do learn.

Posted by:

11 Jan 2018

I've never paid for AV - I've used Zone Alarm Free for as long as I can remember.

Posted by:

27 Jan 2018

Thanks for the link to the AV Comparatives Report Bob. It was very informative and interesting. I used to run Kaspersky but have been using AGV for a few years now and it was good to see how well they both do when tested. Cheers

Posted by:

09 Feb 2018

Bob I have enjoyed reading for years, thanks. Why will you not post anything about PCMatic? I have been using it for years also. Can not find anybody newsletter that will mention them?? You have another reader asking about it in this posting.. Can you give your very valuable opinion about PCMatic in the future? I know it is a paid AV+, but how does it compare?

Posted by:

22 Mar 2018

oday i bought kaspersky antivirus claimed to be 2018 but why does the labeling on the CD show copy right 2017 and after installation it shows copy right 2017 when you go in settings>about but 365 days left.thanks

Posted by:

04 May 2018

Hello Bob, I have been following you for years & have learned a lot.
I was pleased to see today, that you recommend Comodo. I have used their AV etc for a long time & it is easily the best I have found. I used Kaspersky one year, it was highly recommended in the UK that year. I too bought the current version & discovered that it was actually the previous years, however, I rang their helpline & they were extremely helpful & sent me an email with the correct, up to date, link. I opted to go back to Comodo after nearly a year.

Posted by:

05 Jun 2018

Bob A point! You have written a good article which I've commented on re Avira and it's problems but I notice in your related subject re free AV progs you mention it as a contender ! Am now a little confused but could be an age thing!

Posted by:

09 Jul 2018

Thank you for sharing their knowledge of success always

Posted by:

11 Jul 2018

I use Kaspersky, Norton, McAffe and the other American programs have back doors to NSA and other authorities ! Even Windows has!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Uh huh... would you care to provide any sort of reference for that claim?

Posted by:

keluaran togel sgp
18 Jul 2018

thanks for sharing information
keluaran togel sgp

Posted by:

23 Jul 2018

I have used Kaspersky some years. Very good and without back doors to NSA and others who spyes on people ! Automatic updates etc.

Posted by:

02 Aug 2018

Here is what Consumer Reports wrote about the Kaspersky attack:

Posted by:

04 Oct 2018

I have Avast internet security,cleanup, and proxy.
Recently, when I run the cleanup;all is cleaned out except for the google cookies!!
All listed to be cleaned out have any empty box and when I click on empty box it adds a check mark. But this isnt the case with the google cookies line. It has a minus mark and it cannot be taken away or switched out for a check mark. BOB CAN YOU HELP ME? Should I get rid of Avast? The reason I ask;I suspect avast is in cahoots with google to keep stealing my information!! I would appreciate your input. Thank you, TD

Posted by:

21 Oct 2018

Your explanation makes sense. Thanks!

Posted by:

31 Dec 2018

I have an older computer running Windows Vista. Malwarebytes no longer supports Vista. Is there another free program similar to MB? I am on a fixed disability income and cannot buy another newer computer. Thanks, Bob. Have been reading you since 2008.

Posted by:

26 Mar 2019

Anne K (top of page) said: " I am happy to reward the efforts of programmers and software engineers whose products help keep me safe"
Are you kidding ? The antivirus companies probably create a few virus's. Wouldn't that be in their best interest? Makes sense to me. Pay me, pay me, pay me,
I'll protect you. :-))

Posted by:

04 Jun 2019

Try closing your browser and running CCleaner to clear the cookies

Posted by:

12 Aug 2019

An article about free anti-virus and the built-in Windows Defender doesn't even get a mention?
It is not as if it would be a crappy product to stay away from, is it? It certainly seems to work well on many computers. So why?

Posted by:

13 Sep 2021

Hi Bob,

Avg is a sticky software. It leaves a solid foot step. Slows the system and hard to get rid off.

There's more reader feedback... See all 79 comments for this article.

Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions

*     *     (* = Required field)

    (Your email address will not be published)
(you may use HTML tags for style)

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! Comments of a political nature are discouraged. Please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are reviewed, and may be edited or removed at the discretion of the moderator.

NOTE: Please, post comments on this article ONLY.
If you want to ask a question click here.

Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter

Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
About Us     Privacy Policy     RSS/XML

Article information: AskBobRankin -- UPDATE: Free Antivirus Programs (Posted: 1 Sep 2015)
Source: https://askbobrankin.com/update_free_antivirus_programs.html
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved