Free antivirus software is extremely popular – I mean, they’re free, right? These utilities are odd things that people need but seldom have to use in a “hands-on” manner. Because they work silently behind the scenes, we’re often more reluctant to pay for them.
If you’re looking for free antivirus software to replace an existing brand, the good news is that many options are available. Let’s take a look at some of the top free antivirus software available for download today.
Before we head into the list, note that most free antivirus options aren’t “crippled” in the vital sense of the word. They all offer core features of protection against viruses – but may not come with more advanced features. They will still keep you safe.
1. Avast Free Antivirus
Avast is a Czech cybersecurity company that has held a substantial share of the antivirus market. A big part of its dominance is Avast Free which offers users robust protection at no cost. It’s one of the free brands I’ve used and have never had problems with in the past.
Avast Free includes virus and malware protection as well as scans WiFi networks for vulnerabilities. It also has a password protection system and safeguards against ransomware as well.
Unfortunately, Avast came under the spotlight for the wrong reasons lately. The company sold user data via a subsidiary – which it now claims to have divested. That’s a risk prevalent in many free software and services, though.
2. AVG Free Antivirus
AVG has been another big name in the free antivirus space for years, but they now belong to the same parent company as Avast. The two brands are still available separately, though, so there’s no need to be concerned about the brand disappearing.
The free version of AVG does its core job and offers a basic level of Internet protection. For instance, it helps block unsafe links, downloads, and even email attachments. What it doesn’t do is protect online shoppers or provide phone and chat support.
There is also a mobile version built for Android that has similar features but includes mobile-specific benefits. For example, it protects WiFi connections, safeguards photos, and advises on app permissions.
3. Avira Free
I had a bad experience once with Avira – it let a virus through that wreaked havoc on my system. That was a long time ago, though, and today, it’s beefed up security and is rated highly in independent technical tests.
The company is based in Germany and boasts a high trust rating from many users. You can get their free antivirus for many device types, including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. Aside from the main feature, Avira Free also blocks spyware, adware, and ransomware.
Avira’s user interface is similar to most others today. It hides comprehensive options behind a simplistic main display to ease the learning curve. Essentially, you install it and just let it do the job with no intervention.
4. Kaspersky Security Cloud Free
Kaspersky is one of the only free antivirus software we’ve seen that seems keen on the “Cloud” label for its solution. The name “ Kaspersky Security Cloud Free” is a rebrand of their initial Kaspersky Antivirus Free.
While the name is somewhat globally recognized, it is unfortunately of Russian origin. That makes it somewhat anathema for anyone who needs to work with or is associated with U.S. federal agencies.
Still, for the rest of us, it’s an entirely viable option. If you’re looking for solid antivirus – this is the right tool to use. Just don’t expect anything else unless you plan to upgrade to one of Kaspersky’s premium range of products.
5. Bitdefender Antivirus Free
For a company that has a free product, Bitdefender sure likes to hide it. You won’t find Bitdefender Free easily on their home page – it’s easier to access via Google search. Perhaps that is one of the ways they force people to buy premium products instead.
If you can get to it, Bitdefender Free seems pretty robust. It claims to offer better infection protection than Kaspersky or Symantec (the latter does not have a free antivirus solution).
Compared to many other brands, Bitdefender Free also includes more features relevant to home users. For example, web attack prevention, anti-phishing, and anti-fraud. Network-level protection will require a paid subscription, though.
6. Panda Free Antivirus
Panda Free Antivirus is not a Chinese brand – it originates from Spain (where there are no Pandas). The company has been active in the cybersecurity market for over three decades now, so they must be doing something right.
I first came across panda almost 20 years ago, and while it was fast and lightweight, I never really took to it for some reason. Returning to it this year – much has changed. It retains a lightweight architecture but is far more comprehensive.
Panda Free interestingly highlights USB protection, which I would assume other brands do as well. More importantly, they offer the Panda Rescue Kit that will help users recover systems if anything goes wrong.
7. Adaware Antivirus Free
Adaware is another long-ago name that I’ve used in the past. As you might guess, I first used it as a means of blocking adware. Today it has morphed into something more fully-fledged; hence, you can use it as an antivirus solution.
As with Panda, there’s nothing remarkable about Adaware Free. You get real-time virus and malware protection, but nothing else that’s of note. However, the premium version offers a whole lot of goodies – so consider upgrading.
8. Microsoft Defender Antivirus
For out last on this list, we come to a global brand that sometimes seems like an April Fool’s joke. Microsoft makes the operating system with a stranglehold on the world but has yet to perfect keeping them safe.
Windows Defender is their attempt at rectifying this – one that has been, well, somewhat successful. If you’re looking for basic cybersecurity that’s native to Windows, won’t keep bugging you to upgrade, and doesn’t even need to be installed – this is the only option.
As to how effective Windows Defender is, independent tests have shown it to be pretty good. Honestly -just give it a try. It’s already sitting on your computer anyway.
How Badly Do You Need Antivirus Software?
In 2020 the world spent over one trillion dollars due to cybercrime. That’s a sum that can build almost 9,000 hospitals in the U.S. – assuming an average cost of $112 million each. And this is not even considering the longtail cost of cyber attacks – which is hard to estimate.
From the early years that saw the Ping-Pong virus, computer viruses have been similar to their biological counterparts. They have evolved significantly and pose an ever-growing threat to businesses and individuals.
What used to be scripts of code intended to destroy, malware today has taken on sinister undertones. There are variants in the wild designed to steal personal information, financial data, or even sit quietly, just waiting for anything good to fall across the path and simply grab.
So the short answer is: You NEED antivirus software – and very badly so.
The longer answer is that while free antivirus fills a gap for those who can’t afford anything more, it only offers fundamental protection. Given the complexity of cybercrime today, more advanced solutions are necessary for adequate threat prevention.
What Makes Premium Cybersecurity Solutions Different
While core virus protection capabilities are general the same in free and premium versions, paid solutions will offer more comprehensive features. The exact features will differ depending on the solution you choose, but here are some general guidelines –
Most premium cybersecurity solutions will include defense against web-based threats. We often don’t think about our actions online, and tools like this protect us against our stupidity, such as clicking that dubious-looking hyperlink.
Data integrity and privacy
An increasing number of premium antivirus solutions now include Virtual Private Network (VPN) services. Although this is an essential factor in privacy and data integrity, I highly recommend you opt for a dedicated VPN service instead.
The average household today has multiple devices. Unless you plan on signing up for a different free antivirus application for each of them, you need a premium plan. Most premium antivirus solutions will cover multiple devices under a single license.
We often repeat similar and simple passwords since we have to use them for many devices and services. This dangerous habit costs many people dearly. Premium antivirus solutions today often include password management features, so we can easily keep track of complex passwords.
Yes, free antivirus solutions are a great thing, and using them will protect your device – to an extend. Honestly, though, there are many reasonably priced premium solutions around. The question you need to ask yourself is how much is your peace of mind worth.
Oh, and one final thing. For those who have never used free antivirus solutions before, they will constantly bug you to get an upgrade. It’s annoying as heck and one of the reasons why I paid for Norton 360 Deluxe in the first place.