Your antivirus should certainly have the ability to root out existing malware, but its ongoing task is to prevent ransomware, botnets, Trojans, and other types of nasty programs from getting a foothold. All the free antivirus programs we've selected here offer real-time malware protection. Some take the fight to the browser, working to ensure you never even browse to a malware-hosting site or get fooled into turning over your credentials to a phishing site.
Avast has been supplying antivirus protection for as long as there's been an antivirus industry. With Avast One Essential you get award-winning antivirus protection for free, and much more besides. All four of the independent testing labs we follow include Avast in their reporting, and it aces almost every test. It also takes high scores in our own hands-on testing. Other protective services include a permission-based ransomware protection system, a basic firewall, and a bandwidth-limited VPN.
Many free antivirus utilities work only on the Windows platform. Avast has varying degrees of protection for macOS, Android, and iOS. Its macOS edition earns high scores from the labs, and its ransomware protection, browser trace cleanup, and VPN work just as they do on Windows. On Android you get antivirus, VPN, junk cleanup, and privacy protection, among other features, though anti-theft is noticeably absent. As is common, protection under iOS is limited, but it does include VPN, filtering fraudulent and malicious websites, and extra protection for your photos.
If you spring for the commercial antivirus, you get vastly more features, more features than found in some security suite products. Among these are a basic password management system, a hardened desktop for secure browsing, a Rescue Environment to recover from malware that disables Windows, and a Wi-Fi security analyzer. None of these come for free.
Kaspersky Free is the free anchor for the new Kaspersky line; the not-free Kaspersky Standard, Plus, and Premium all build on the same antivirus engine. Kaspersky's antivirus prowess generally awes the independent testing labs, who routinely assign it perfect or near-perfect ratings. Unfortunately, we can't recommend it anymore. Here's why.
If free antivirus tools are so good, why should anybody pay? For one thing, many of these products are free only for noncommercial use. If you want to protect your business, you must pony up for the paid edition. At that point, you should probably consider upgrading to a full security suite. After all, it's your business's security on the line.
Any antivirus should eliminate spyware along with other types of malware, but some products include features designed specifically for spyware protection. Features like encryption to protect your sensitive data and webcam control to prevent remote peeping typically show up in commercial products, not free ones. But some free products include features like a simple on-screen keyboard to foil keyloggers.
One easy way to keep your PC protected is to install all security updates, both for Windows and for browsers and other popular applications. Windows 11 makes it easier than ever to stay up to date, but there are plenty of security holes in older Windows versions, in popular apps, and in add-ons. Scanning for vulnerabilities in the form of missing updates is a feature most often found in commercial antivirus products, but it does turn up in some free ones. In the list below you can see which products include these useful features.
Numerous free utilities devoted entirely to ransomware protection have come on the scene in the last few years. Alas, many of those have fallen by the wayside, among them Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware, Cybereason RansomFree, CyberSight RansomStopper, and Heilig Defense RansomOff. In any case, these are useful companion products, but they don't do the job of a full-scale antivirus utility.
There are also numerous free antivirus utilities that work solely to clean up existing malware infestations. You bring out these cleanup-only tools when you have a nasty malware problem. When the malware's gone, they have no further use since they offer no ongoing protection. Our favorite in this category is Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, and it's one you should try if you've got a malware problem. But since they're free, you can keep trying others if the first one doesn't do the job. When the scare is over, you'll need a full-blown antivirus for ongoing protection.
Avast One Essential takes the place once held by Avast Free Antivirus as Editors' Choice for free antivirus utility. It appears in lab reports from all four labs we follow with almost universally perfect scores, and it includes many suite-level features. If you do have a little cash in your budget for security, the best paid antivirus software does offer more and better protection. If not, try a few of these free tools and see which one you like best.
The best premium antiviruses include all of the features you need to secure your PC, including anti-malware engines that use AI and machine learning to detect both known and unknown viruses, as well as malicious website protection and identity theft monitoring tools.
Yes, free antiviruses can offer some good protection, but users looking for complete online protection should consider a paid antivirus (most of which are low cost, especially with our promotional coupons and discounts).
Yes. There are antivirus programs that are 100% free. However, while decent free antiviruses can offer full virus protection, they are usually missing important features which are offered by premium antiviruses to fully protect your PC and personal information, like identity theft protections, VPNs, password managers, and more.
Its free antivirus software comes with a VPN, alerts when intruders access your Wi-Fi, anti-malware technology, and web and email shields. It not only blocks threats, it scans your computer for existing threats to eliminate them.
When analyzing the best free antivirus software options, Forbes Advisor considered many factors. We looked at dozens of data points, such as the various features each option offers, as well as how easy they are to use. Real user experiences were taken into account, too, to see if marketing promises match actual experiences.
If you don't want to install a full antivirus program, there are also several other kinds of free virus and security-related scanning tools we recommend: on-demand virus scanners, spyware removal tools, online virus scanners, and firewall programs. If you can't even log in to your computer to install one of those, there are free bootable antivirus apps instead.
We're here to help you find the antivirus software that best fits your needs. These picks of the best antivirus programs are a combination of recommendations from independent third-party labs AV-Test, AV-Comparatives and SE Labs, as well as CNET's own hands-on testing. We regularly research and test software to determine which product leads the pack, and we update this list periodically based on those tests.
Whether you're looking for free antivirus protection or are willing to pay for a program that offers more security features, we have you covered. Here's where to start when looking for the best antivirus software for your specific needs.
Honestly, if you practice safe computing -- you keep your software up to date, you use strong passwords (with the help of a password manager), you steer clear of unexpected emails and you don't click suspicious links that may be phishing attempts -- you probably can avoid zero-day attacks and ransomware attacks. And with the free Microsoft Defender Antivirus software running on Windows 10, you have a malware protection safety net if you do let your guard down. In fact, it is one of the best antivirus software options.
(Note: Microsoft changed the name of Windows Defender to Microsoft Defender and has expanded the service to other platforms.) This free antivirus program is built into Windows, and it's turned on by default, the antivirus engine does its thing, and this antivirus solution will cover the basics of internet security. Microsoft pushes new updates frequently. Defender also lets you tune the level of protection you want, giving you control over blocking potentially unwanted apps and protecting folders and files from a ransomware attack.
For a long time, Norton Security -- now called NortonLifeLock, and no longer part of Symantec -- has earned high marks from AV-Test, AV Comparatives and SE Labs for virus and malware detection. Norton antivirus provides industry-leading security software for PC, Mac and mobile devices. Their products include Antivirus Plus, Norton Secure VPN, Norton 360 for Gamers, Norton 360 with LifeLock Select and more. A five-device subscription for Norton 360 with LifeLock Select is normally $180 per year, but you can get your first year for $80 off. In addition to malware and virus protection for your computer and mobile device, this antivirus suite provides 100GB of backup to the cloud, safe-browsing tools, a secure VPN, password manager, parental controls and LifeLock identity theft protection and fraud alert. While not all of those services are necessarily best in their respective class, getting them all in one package is a compelling option.
If you'd like to take a step up in securing your PC without taxing your wallet, it's hard to beat Bitdefender's free antivirus software for Windows 10 and 11. The Windows security software offers real-time monitoring for viruses, malware, spyware and ransomware protection. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is easy to set up and stays out of your way until you need it. And the protection this antivirus product offers is solid. Bitdefender antivirus software consistently earns top marks for its antivirus protection and usability from the respected AV-Test independent testing lab. The free antivirus version covers one Windows PC. For broader protection, you can choose Bitdefender Total Security or Bitdefender Antivirus Plus. The subscription antivirus suite lets you protect five devices (Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android), set up parental controls on a kid's computer and run a VPN. 2b1af7f3a8