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 50 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

15 Jan 2016

Hello everyone:

This is the system I have set-up:

I run Malwarebyte's full time. I run Super AntiSpyware on schedule for three times a week, then Hitman Pro runs only on start-up.

My computer has been clean for the last year or two. Each program has caught something.

I go to only three places: mail, Amazon and Barnes and Noble for a few books.

Thanks for your time.

Posted by:

19 Jan 2016

I recently uninstalled Avast because it apparently was responsible for a Windows 10 issue that locked up the Start menu & Cortana. When I Googled the problem, I found a lot of highly-technical back-and-forth that was way above me, but the understandable advice was: Uninstall Avast. That worked for me. (I agree with Don Brohm that the nags were excessive - I sure won't miss them!)

Posted by:

Luis Robles
13 Feb 2016

Hi there thanks for your wonderful posts like this i have been going trough all of your recommendations of antiviruses so far I have tried Kaspersky, Mcfee (came with the PC) and now currently trying bitdefender trial, which is okay, ill try esod next just wanted to point out that the link is wrong it starts with ww2 when you click on it. Thanks Bob.

Posted by:

17 Mar 2016

One caution I would give readers is to take care din downloading 'Free Version' software from the source vendor's website. Many download sites mimic the source site, alongside "free download" services. Each of these derives their income by including adware of various kinds in the download bundle. The more honest sites give you a means to opt out, but that is not always clear to see and many users just do not pay attention to it. If you have had problems after downloading free software, this is the most likely cause.

Posted by:

08 Apr 2016

Bob, I read your newsletters religiously. I see you are on PCPitstop as a contributor. I wonder why I have never seen you suggest them. I have been with then actually longer than you and trust both of you very much. How do they compare to you other antiviruses?

Posted by:

09 Apr 2016

I use AVG Free,IO Malware Fighter, C Cleaner and have no complaints.AVG keeps nagging to upgrade but since it is free I guess it has a right to that.
My biggest line of defense though is not to leave anything personal on the computer. Before I switch off, everything is cleared from my computer, cookies, cache, everything.Also check Document and Setting, especially 'Local Settings', for some reason non of the cleaner programs seem to find them in there. They tell you that you need cookies to give you a better experience online, load of BS, I have allowed cookies to stay in the past and there is no difference without them. What they do do is to retain your personal details so you don't have to keep re-entering them. I'll re-enter them, small price to pay for security. I know in an ideal world you should be able to leave anything on your computer but it is not an ideal world. Even Cloud has been hacked. If you must keep your personal details handy, put them on a USB flash drive and only insert it when needed, all other times remove it.

Posted by:

Cliff Stewart
05 May 2016

I was hit with a virus onApr. 30th (Hacked)it was taken out over a 2 day period @ a cost of $430.00 by Global Mind It.I think they put the Virus in and took it out and it never existed in the 1st place.I changed my bank info(which they had,I stopped payment)and have been getting nasty phone calls,live chat etc.threatening with attorney,messing up my computer etc.I think(according to Canada Anti Fraud )that I,m safe now as these people have been under in vestigation for quite some time.Is there anything else I should do??

Posted by:

Carlos Jean Andrews, Sr
21 May 2016

I have been using PC Matic for a few years and it keeps my wife's Laptop, my Lap Top and my Computer in top shape. Our problem is the DSL with ATT. We live in the country and are a couple of miles from the main connection so we have the slowest speed which cost around $40.00 a month. With PC Matic you can install it on 5 computers at $50.00 a year. To me that is a good deal!

Posted by:

David Quinn
19 Jun 2016

Thank you usfull information.

Posted by:

Barry Heath
30 Jun 2016

I've used Checkpoint's Zone Alarm Internet Security suite for many years. It was recommended to me by the IT chief at my late wife's office - she was a senior database engineer at a financial software house. OK, mine is the paid version, but a basic, but competent free anti-virus and firewall are available, and would seem to be as good as most others out there. Paid or free, it's as comprehensive as most and more than many, yet always seems to be ignored by almost every anti-malware survey and test.

Am I missing something?

Usual disclaimer applies, by the way...

Posted by:

Ed Tulloch
26 Aug 2016

A local (Sequim, WA) tech I spoke with earlier today is recommending people only go with antivirus/security apps that are owned and produced here in the States because of questionable lines of ownership and influence among overseas sources, like Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Avast!, Avira, (all Germany or Eastern Europe) AVG (Dutch? Russian?), Panda (Spain) etc. Your take? Thanks,

Posted by:

21 Sep 2016

I use Panda and don't have any problems.

Posted by:

Mike UK
25 Sep 2016

Having been caught out while using AVG Free and getting some serious malware that I couldn't clear myself (cost me £60 for a professional to do it involving the loss of my laptop for a week), I will now only use paid-for anti-virus protection. This happens to be ESET Smart Security (includes NOD 32 mentioned above) but it could have been any of the good ones. ESET appears to use very little in the way of resources but does the job well. I'm in my third year with them and no problems so far. I also needed to use their telephone support from the local UK office near us in Bournemouth and received very good service and advice, even though it was the weekend. Makes a change from the way most "services" are delivered these days. I would recommend them. (I work in IT but am not connected to ESET in any way, other than as a user!)

Posted by:

11 Nov 2016

I installed Avira on a old computer I was setting up as a spare and decided to uninstall it. That's were the trouble started it just will not go away. It is impossible to get rid of it after it is installed. Maybe a expert like Bob would find a way but for the less knowledgeable like myself it turned out to be a nightmare.

Posted by:

Col Burns
27 Dec 2016

For years l experimented with different free products from only reputable sources.
Bear in mind l only stumbled onto 'Ask Bob Rankin' site last week.
After researching to see if this site is as good as its words, up until thorough investigation l finally gave this site the thumbs up.
Bob Rankin is identical to my thinking and research when it comes down to keeping a PC safe.
I installed the free-version Comodo Internet Security and its firewall along with CCleaner (free) and Malwarebytes Anti-malware (free) a year ago and these worked great ever since so far. Why get paid products when free products like these does the job as good as those?

Posted by:

Justin M
05 Jan 2017

Hello, I just stumbled across this site after hearing about ScanGuard which was free AV all-in-one and it was free up until litterally today. I use Ubunto 16.04 and I'm unsure wether or not I should use that while its free(I'm downloading to my thumb drive and will or may possibly install on my laptop once I see some replies to this).
My question is actually, are there any free AV and or scanners or something that is best or most suitable for Ubunto 16.04? I am learning HTML, CSS, and much more while my kids are in school I'm single dad and need to make sure I am safe online so I can learn too.
Any and all advice is much appreciated!
Thank you very much, I love the site Bob and am adding to favourites/bookmarks now. :)

Posted by:

Nick Els
14 Jan 2017

Hi Bob. What is your take on Sophos?

Posted by:

01 Apr 2017

With regard to using several selected antivirus programs simultaneously as long as they do not interfere with each other. And at least several meet this criterion. Not all AV programs have real-time capabilities, which I feel is also critically important. I would like to combine several on my computer but I do know which is which. Do you of any source that has some kind of listing that shows which programs are and are not compatible with each other, and also, which free programs have real-time capabilities and which do not. I this would be extremely helpful for most computer users.

I have been subscribing to your newsletter for several years now and found it to be invaluable.

Thank you.

AV programs have

Posted by:

Robert Wallis
06 Apr 2017

I didn't read all the comments but hope someone mentioned how painful it is to "uninstall" some of the free programs...if ever you should decide to.

Posted by:

13 Apr 2017

As always, great stuff, Bob! I use BitDefender (paid version). But I also use a really neat app called VoodooShield. Check it out.

There's more reader feedback... See all 50 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! And please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are previewed, and may be edited before posting.

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

Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
RSS   Add to My Yahoo!   Feedburner Feed
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy -- See my profile on Google.

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