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...

The Rankin File

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!


Email:

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 23 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Dan
01 Sep 2015

I used Bitdfender for three years a while back and started using it again two years ago. I has warts but overall it's a really good program. I would recommend it to anyone. (I've never used the free version) I also use Comodo Internet Security on one machine. I kind of like tinkering with its many firewall options. :-)


Posted by:

Fallon T Gordon Sr. MD
01 Sep 2015

Thanks for this and all of your articles! FTG


Posted by:

intelligencia
01 Sep 2015

OH PLEASE!!!

I had a major computer crash recently!
None of the anti-virus software I tried (one-by-one) and not simultaneously were able to flush out the malware that was embedded inside my computer prior to its crash!

I am now using the Linux Distribution (Distro) Linux Mint 17.2 and have NOT looked back at Windows and I had been a Die-HARD Windows User for two decades!

i


Posted by:

Patrick
01 Sep 2015

I have Malwarebytes, Panda Cloud and Avast on a Win 10 HP machine, and I regularly scan with all three at LEAST once a week. I have Zone Alarm Free firewall (it works for me).
I've been a Faithful Follower of yours since the Tour Bus and you've never let me down. Keep on rockin', Mr. Bob!


Posted by:

Dave
01 Sep 2015

If I choose to go with a paid full service antivirus program on my Windows machine, can I/should I turn off windows defender/Microsoft Security Essentials?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, you should have only ONE real-time antivirus tool active.


Posted by:

jim flournoy
01 Sep 2015

where's any updated info
btw which is the lightest on resources
cheers


Posted by:

Gordon Peterson
01 Sep 2015

What about Spybot-Search & Destroy? That's another favorite of ours. And I also really like CryptoPrevent... a program which resets your computer's Group Policies to make you less likely to inadvertently launch a possibly-malicious piece of malware.


Posted by:

Andrew Spence
01 Sep 2015

I have used Avast and AVG at different times with reasonable results and I regularly run Malware Bytes, Comodo and iObit System Care. Even so, until recently I was haunted by the idea that something was bound to get through.

I recently downloaded Browser in the Box - a hardened Debian Linux system running Firefox inside a Virtual Machine. To my mind, this massively reduces the chances of catching a virus, Trojan or malware programme in the first place. I am immune to phishing and picky about what I download so both these threats are relatively trivial. Browser in the Box, which is free for single, private users, has at last made my Internet browsing completely safe.


Posted by:

adj
01 Sep 2015

Hi Bob, and many thanks for your persistent efforts to do us good. Or whatever. (I would like to regret the US bias, but I recognise that my friends in the States need help as well - though it is sometimes a bit trying to be offered an amazing breakthrough that only works if you are Minnesota or circumambient terotory)

AV suppliers seem to have reduced the Free options drastically, which is not reflected in your note.

Avast now only give you a 60-day option, after which they want to switch you to a paid version.

The two free AVs that do well in the latest AV comparitives (UK: comparatives) test (March -June 15) are Panda (which comes out top with 99.9% pretection rate and Lavasoft (at 19 out of 22 - only 90% protection rate).

The only drawback about Panda, which I have used for the past year and installed on my younger daughter's machine (the elder is a law unto herself), is that it keeps popping up an offer to upgrade to the paid comprehensive version (I have not worked out how to disable this, tho' if anyone has any bright ideas ... ?)

Otherwise you have to pay for the top AVs such as BitDefender (2nd), Kaspersky, Trend Micro and Tencent - unless I have missed something, which is quite possible.

Personally I would add the paid-for Malwarebytes Pro, to keep an eye on what is going on (it is resource intensive, compared to the free version - but on modern machines, with 8MB or more of RAM, only negligibly so) and also at least the free version of Hitman Pro.

For what it is worth (2 cents ?) you are absolutely right about back-ups - I do them neurotically, in part because the Restore option in Windows (7 ultimate) seems to have stopped working completely for me: I cannot remember when I was last able to do a successful restore from any point, automatic or manual (and I do check with Msoft's fixit and sysinternals that things are as they ought to be).

Keep up the good work, best, a.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You comment about Avast is not correct. There is no obligation to upgrade to a paid version after 60 days. I've heard this rumor about Avast, Avira and AVG. In each case, the upgrade to paid is optional.


Posted by:

Jimondy
01 Sep 2015

Lately I have been changing my AV programs quite often (free versions, not trial versions). Most find ANY problems I might have, some will correct them and others will ask me to upgrade to the paid version to correct them. They do seem to work quite well anyways.

But, they all get in the way: watching a video, playing a game, surfing through social nets, ... and so forth. Somehow, they all slow down my system.

After uninstalling the AV software: my game playing is better (higher fps, lower pings); surfing is faster (no matter which browser I use); and online videos are smoother. But I don't know how many “left over’s" are working in the background after the uninstalation.

In any case I need a free Av program, even if it slows me down. I want one for the many and the few things I do on my computer.


Posted by:

Mike
01 Sep 2015

Thanks Bob> I have gone with avast.


Posted by:

polly
02 Sep 2015

MBAM -- I used it for 3 different periods of time. Each time the only thing it catches are PUPs and each time when I accessed it, it would try to change my browser to something strange I've never heard of. Last time I checked was last week. I've deleted it for the last time.


Posted by:

Jay
02 Sep 2015

Recently purchased a dell laptop with McAfee anti-virus. A few days later a screen warned me that I had no anti-virus, the firewall was off and windows defender was off. I had planned on loading Bitdefender free after the McAfee trial so I loaded it and turned on the firewall. I noticed that the fan was running much less without the McAfee. I'm sold on Bitdefender. I also use Web of Trust, another free download.


Posted by:

Steven Horn
02 Sep 2015

It seems that over the quarter century I have been using a PC I have used most antivirus products out there and have never had my system infected. This says a fair bit for the suppliers.

But I now use Webroot Secure Anywhere which is highly rated by sources I consult even if Bob's sources don't seem to consider it. I also run MBAM occasionally. I won't say my system is impregnable but it is one which is as secure as I think it has to be.


Posted by:

Ivan
02 Sep 2015

I read some of what you all had to say, and I suppose in reality we all worry about virus in our computers, it is unavoidable and even the very best of everything can not always keep them out.

But one thing you do not do as it will not work well for you so do not even consider it. Never use (regardeless of what the manufacturer says) use two or more antivirus software packacges in your computer, it can do more harm that good. More is not always better and in fact could miss something while they are fighting with each other.

This article is excellent and well versed. The man knows what he is talking about. I myself use Malwarebyte and super anitspware pro and Microsoft windows defender which is not really good. But it seems everytime I try a new antivirus something goes wrong, it does not install correctly, it does bad things I have to undo, it interferes with this or that. But never the less, you must have some kind of anti virus and one (1) good one will do, not several.

Just my opinion. :)


Posted by:

Carol K.
03 Sep 2015

I installed Avast free software. Bitdefender was not quite ready for Windows 10, or I would have tried that. My problem is that Avast recommended I uninstall Windows Defender, which I would have been glad to do. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be an option for me. And when you go to its settings, you can't even change them to Off. It's all grayed out. What to do?


Posted by:

Gary
03 Sep 2015

Microsoft MSE and Pc Matic - end of story and no drama EVER!


Posted by:

David
03 Sep 2015

Have been seeing a lot of ads for PCMatic.com. Any comments from you or other users?
Thanks.


Posted by:

Kate
03 Sep 2015

I chose Webroot (paid) three years ago after Bob called it the "smallest, fastest and best" antivirus program. I got tired of some of the large, slow packages. Like Steve, I still use it because of its good protection. I have no plans to switch any time soon.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
03 Sep 2015

Bob, as you know, I have been a fan of Avast!, for about the past decade. I have used Avast!, both the FREE and Paid versions.

While, I am very pleased with the overall Avast! program -- I am getting tired of their pushing other programs, that are not included in my Paid version. Example: Avast!'s Secureline VPN and Clean-Up, which, both are added costs. Yes, these two programs are included in their Premium version, but, I have their Internet Security version. I wonder why, neither of these programs are included with the Internet Security version. Safe Zone comes with my Paid version and allows me to go safely and securely, to my financial institutes and well known shopping sites, that I purchase from.

I have been considering to try the FREE version of Bitdefender. I have been impressed with their results in independent anti-virus results, that you Bob have published yourself. I have also, read about these results, in other reliable newsletters and online computer magazines.

I found Avast!, by simply trying the FREE version, all those many years ago. I left AVG, for Avast! -- Many it is time, to look for a new Anti-Virus program and Bitdefender, really intriques me.


There's more reader feedback... See all 23 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