The Best Free Antivirus Software: Get Antivirus Protection

article by Nicky Hoseck
July 02, 2019
The best things in life are free but not when it comes to our online lives. Not usually anyway. For the most part, when it comes to computers, internet connections, and smart devices, we very much get what we pay for and regret it when we’re forced to prioritize budget over performance. Antivirus products are different though and, surprisingly enough, there is some impressive and powerful free antivirus software out there just waiting to protect you and your devices.

While most of us enjoy taking a few risks and a gamble here and there, when it comes to online security, leaving ourselves exposed is no fun at all. As cybercriminals get increasingly adept at infecting our devices with malware, taking over our webcams, and sneaking off with our identities, heading off into cyberspace without the protection of a robust antivirus isn’t worth the gamble. Especially when it’s free!

The Best Free Antivirus Software

#1 AVG

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AVG Free Antivirus takes just minutes to download, install, and activate. Compatible with Windows, Android, and Mac, this versatile product gives you the benefit of real-time security updates, and effective defense against ransomware, viruses, and all types of malware.

AVG’s free product will also protect you against phishing attacks, spam emails, and potentially dodgy website and dangerous links. Unlike some free antivirus software, AVG won’t take up much space and will generally beaver quietly away in the background, leaving you to get on with more important tasks, like watching movies on Netflix or catching up with the latest in the international sporting arena.

While it may not include all the additional features of a premium product, AVG Free Antivirus performs well in lab tests, proving its ability to detect a wide variety of threats without throwing out endless false alarms.

Of course, any free antivirus software is going to have a few missing links and when you look at the extensive protection offered with AVG Internet Security, you begin to realize why so many people choose to pay for their antivirus protection. AVG Internet Security offers the same basic protection as the free version but throws in things like webcam security, an enhanced firewall, and extra ransomware to boot.

Whether you want the benefits of a comprehensive premium package or the basic free antivirus software, AVG uses the latest machine-learning and AI technology to keep you and your devices safe online and off.

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#2 Avast

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Given that Avast owns AVG, it’s no wonder the two products are so closely aligned, both in terms of design and protection. Like AVG, Avast offers lightweight apps for PCs, Macs and Android devices, using state-of-the-art technology to create a safe haven for its users. Last year, the independent antivirus testing site, AV-Comparatives, awarded Avast Product of Year which is indicative of its efficacy.

Avast Free Antivirus not only screens for malware but also looks out for any suspicious behavior, taking malware protection to another level. Smart analytics and machine-learning techniques are used to guard against cyber attacks and infections while a Wi-Fi inspector will make sure your network is secure.

For gamers and movie buffs, Avast’s free antivirus software includes a Do Not Disturb mode that will prevent notifications from interrupting you when streaming or gaming in full screen. Avast’s free antivirus protection includes a password manager that will help you keep your passwords in order and sync them across your devices.

Avast keeps things simple when it comes to the user interface and its ingenuity belies the power behind the technology behind the interface. Using Avast Free Antivirus and even customizing it according to your needs is a simple matter and you can simply switch features on or off as you wish.

Although Avast inevitably keeps some of its most powerful features for its paying customers, its free antivirus offers excellent protection against malware and other common cyber threats while keeping you from blithely connecting on unsecured Wi-Fi connections.

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#3 Avira Antivirus

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Another award-winning free antivirus product, Avira utilizes a combination of cloud technologies, endpoint scanning, and artificial intelligence to protect users against all types of malware and ransomware. Although not as impressive as Avira’s premium package, its free version does an impressive job of malicious websites and phishing sites at bay while blocking ransomware attacks.

Compared to AVG and Avast, Avira is a bit of a heavyweight, weighing in at around 5KB. Nonetheless, compared to some antivirus software, like McAfee for example, this is still tiny and should cause a minimal impact in terms of device performance.

When it comes to detection performance and lab tests, Avira’s free package performs very well and, by uploading suspicious files to a cloud prior to downloading, offers some robust malware protection. The only real drawback is that it lacks any kind of protection or scanning of emails, downloads or USB devices.

While Avira Free Antivirus delivers basic protection without a hitch, users won’t benefit from enhanced ransomware protection so are still vulnerable to zero-day attacks. The interface is also a little over-crowded and you certainly won’t get a password manager included either.

Avira is a reputable company that produces effective and up-to-date antivirus protection but, if you’re looking for greater versatility and a wider range of features, you’d be better off opting for either AVG or Avast.

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#4 Panda

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What Avira lacks on the feature front, Panda has in spades, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily pick up on every threat that comes your way. Panda produces free antivirus apps for Android, Windows, and Mac all of which include a firewall and 150MB of VPN protection per day. Users can access these and other tools using Panda’s rather quirky interface which, while easy enough to navigate, can’t really compete with the streamlined operation of AVG or Avast’s slick intuitive interfaces.

Like Avast, Panda Free Antivirus has a gaming mode that users can activate so they can remain protected but without being interrupted by notifications and alerts. Panda has also included a rescue kit in its free package which can tackle even the most complex of infections and save your device from the grip of death! USB protection will stop any viruses from sneaking in the backport while its Android app will go as far as to optimize your battery life for you.

While Panda has produced some impressive scores in lab tests assessing its detection and protection capabilities, it does have a higher than average false-alarm rate which could irritate some users. On the positive side, the Application Control is a great feature, enabling users to prevent unknown applications from accessing their devices. If only Panda’s firewall was as effective but, sadly, it’s not and its detection rates are sometimes excellent but, at others, inconsistent to say the least.

Things are certainly not black and white with Panda’s free antivirus software and while it has its pluses, it also has a few negatives, leaving the likes of AVG and Avast to secure the top spots when it comes to free antivirus protection.

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#5 McAfee

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As one might assume from its name, McAfee doesn’t actually have a free antivirus available but it will let you play around with one of its premium packages for 30 days before asking you to pay for it, which makes it free in a way.

McAfee is a strong competitor when it comes to internet security and prides itself on the fact that its entry-level product offers much more than free antivirus software. Bearing in mind that you’ll get a 30-day free trial, McAfee Antivirus is certainly easy on the pocket and definitely in the budget zone compared to more comprehensive packages.

Having said that, the level of protection McAfee offers with its basic antivirus isn’t exciting enough for us to want to pay for it. McAfee claims to have a range of features not offered by the leading free antivirus packages and, while true, it isn’t quite as impressive as it sounds.

There are certainly some features there that you won’t find with Avast Free Antivirus or AVG’s free product. Exactly what features you get depends on what license you opt for so, if you opt to protect just a single device, the tools are somewhat more limited than if you opt for a 10-device license.

The main benefits include free customer support which is often lacking with free antivirus products; cross-platform compatibility; encrypted storage; identity theft protection and parental controls and a secure storage vault. Not bad for the price and if you’re looking for effective malware protection for 10 devices then McAfee is certainly worth considering. After all, you can test drive it for 30 days and get the benefit of free antivirus protection before making a financial commitment.

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What Is Free Antivirus?

It can be difficult to grasp precisely why any company would put so much time and technology into producing software it’s then going to give away for free, but for antivirus developers, it makes good sense.

For one, the more products there are being used, the more information the company has access to regarding the latest viruses and attacks, enabling them to develop their products faster and further. Secondly, they get to inundate their non-paying customers with advertisements and pop-ups tempting them into investing in one of their paid, premium products.

While there are benefits for the developers, there are also some serious plus points for the consumer as well. Not only does free antivirus software provide excellent malware protection, but the best operate quietly in the background, only suggesting premium upgrades when a problem arises.

The best free antivirus software will detect and destroy malware, prevent malicious downloads from infecting your device and scan for performance issues. In fact, most of them utilize exactly the same detect and destroy technology as the best antivirus software around. Lightweight and effective, they offer good, basic protection without impinging on your device’s speed or operation.

Free vs Fee: Why Antivirus Protection is Worth Paying For

Although we’ve talked at length about the strengths of free antivirus software and the benefits users can get from it, the bottom line is premium protection is worth paying for but not worth wasting your money on. When you start comparing the leading antivirus software developers’ free offerings with their premium packages, you begin to understand that there’s a lot more to security than just stopping viruses and malware.

Take Avast Ultimate, for example. Not only will this give you the same level of malware protection as the free version, but it will top that up with 11 additional features and tools. Extra online protection comes in the form of a VPN and safe browsing mode that will warn you about potentially malicious sites.

A password manager will keep track of your sensitive login information while another tool ensures all your apps are patched and up to date.

This collection of tools combined creates a comprehensive internet security suite that will protect you on every level from every possible known and unknown cyberthreat. Although the Ultimate package may seem a little excessive, for those that want an all-in-one solution to their digital security, it’s not a bad option.

For most of us, a more conservative internet security suite, along with a reliable VPN, is more than sufficient for our needs. In fact, some users may prefer to select their own password manager as well, rather than just accept whatever comes bundled with the antivirus software. Under such circumstances, a more versatile package where the user can opt to include certain features or live without them is preferable.

Avast Internet Security is highly adaptable and before signing up, users can choose to add on a password manager or VPN as they see fit. Although this will inevitably push the price up, if you’ve already tried Avast Free Antivirus and likes the way it works, there’s no reason not to invest in more of the same company’s products.

At the end of the day, the decision to pay for antivirus protection or take what you can get for free is in your hands but without comprehensive protection, including one of the best VPNs, you run the risk of losing a lot more than just the dollar or two you would have shelled out on a monthly antivirus subscription.

According to the 2019 Official Annual Cybercrime Report, not only are cyber attacks the “fastest growing crime in the US”, but they are also increasing in sophistication, size, and cost. Another report suggests that the average cost per stolen record per person is over $200 – more than double what you’d pay for a mid-range internet security suite.

Conclusion

If you think of cyberspace like England in the pouring rain and compare your antivirus software to a raincoat, your free antivirus products are more like the throwaway ponchos you buy in desperation when caught in a storm, while your premium packages are more like a hi-tech North Face alternative. Having said that, the very best free antivirus software will give you a hood and pair of wellies as well as the poncho.

Given that it takes only a few minutes to sign up for free antivirus protection and a few more to download and install it, it makes sense to go ahead and secure your device and your sensitive data against the increasingly prevalent threat of cyber attack. Products like Avast and AVG are compatible with the main operating systems and are extremely effective when it comes to detecting and blocking malicious or suspicious apps, links, emails, and websites.

Some free antivirus software includes additional features like password managers that add another layer to your defense and help to simplify your life online. While a free antivirus won’t protect you against everything, it does give solid basic protection which, if coupled with additional security tools like a VPN, can prevent the majority of nefarious online threats from penetrating your device and your files.