Viruses and malware are bad news; they can slow down your PC by ramping up CPU usage, modifying important files, and messing with the way your system behaves. If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re making an effort to avoid these infections–or looking for a way to exterminate them. Luckily, there are a host of free, high-quality programs built specifically to keep your PC safe from all manner of viruses and malware. Better yet, these free options are often just as good, and in some cases better, than premiums apps that offer similar functionality and features.
To help you find the best option and avoid potential dangerous downloads, we’ve assembled this list of the best free antivirus software available for Windows 10, whether you prefer innate utilities like Windows Defender, or quality third-party alternatives. For Mac-specific security apps, try these antivirus downloads.
In terms of basic protection, Avast is one of the best antivirus programs available, scoring a 5.5 out of 6 in in AV Test’s protection test. The latest free antivirus suite from Avast! is an impressive package. Aside from the usual virus and malware protection — including anti-rootkit and anti-spyware capabilities — the software comes with a slew of customizable options you can toggle at installation, including protection for your Android devices through Avast mobile Security & Antivirus. The 2017 version of Avast goes the extra mile when it comes to making sure you feel safe using the program; at installation, a very clear breakdown shows exactly how Avast! uses your private information.
The company gets out in front of potential malware attacks by initiating scans before an unknown file opens, and will prevent it from doing so should it cause any red flags. The software is good at protecting your PC while online, blocking malicious URLs and stopping auto-downloads from occurring. The 2017 version watches the behavior of specific apps to see whether they are doing anything suspicious, as well.
As a free program, you’ll be missing out on some features exclusive to the paid package, of course, including auto-scans and auto-updates. Those wanting such upgrades will need to opt for a subscription plan, which ranges from $10 to $180 per month. Still, sticking with the free version will keep you well-protected.
Comodo’s free download, available for both Windows and Mac, includes antivirus and firewall capabilities designed for small businesses but available to private users at no cost (with no limit on how long you can use it). The interface is sharp and task-oriented, the options for control are diverse, and Comodo has a great suite of tools for sole proprietors and busy personal computers alike.
Comodo has also done an impressive job keeping up on the latest security options, including cloud-based whitelisting for service providers; auto sandboxing, so that unknown programs are run in a safe environment before integrating with the rest of your OS; and a customized scanning schedule. There are also new additions, like game mode designed for at-home computers, making this software even more versatile.
Sophos Home is a free version of the Sophos security program for Mac and PC. It’s a particularly good choice for families, with the ability to manage up to 10 computers on a single browser and block unwanted websites. It also includes classic abilities like antivirus and anti-malware protection and scans.
Otherwise, the Home version of Sophos is simple and uncluttered, with basic alerts, browser controls, and scanning functions that anyone can figure out. It’s an ideal choice for those who want to focus on parental controls while still getting the benefit of firewalls and scans. Currently, the software works with Edge, IE, Safari, Chrome and Firefox. Parents seeking more help keeping their kids safe should browse our full list of free parental control software.
The 2018 version of Avira received a significant interface update that vastly improved the user experience: There’s a clean, easy-to-use design that works equally well on PCs and mobile devices. Avira offers cloud scanning, which means file information is sent to the Avira servers where it is examined, and the result is then passed back to the software. This both helps keep the program’s digital footprint light and makes it easier for Avira to update its scanning parameters as needed. Plus it keeps more of your information private. These features put Avira ahead as one of the best free security downloads around.
360 Total Security gets high marks for its sheer volume of choices. Antivirus, anti-malware, and anti-ransomware protection are backed up by multiple engine protection, including cloud scan, system repair, QVMII AI, Avira, and Bitdefender – in other words, it’s even compatible with other antivirus software if you prefer their scans more than 360.
But the choices don’t end there. System protection includes USB drive, network, file system, and registry defenses, as well as options to scan files at download or on opening. Internet security options include online shopping protection and malicious site blocking. If you want even more options, consider upgrading to the next tier, which is currently also free but includes more options for patching Adobe and Microsoft products, Wi-Fi security checks, and tools to clean out unnecessary files and improve internet speeds.
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition revels in a minimalist design that makes it low-maintenance. Though the application features no configurations of any kind, it automatically scans your machine in the background using cloud-based detection, subsequently performing a deeper scan if it comes across any malicious software or red flags.
The bundled, real-time virus shield additionally blocks malicious URL and uses behavior-based detection, protecting against potential threats. Newer features include anti-fraud options that uses more advanced filters to warn you away from any sites that have been known to try to steal identities.
Aside from commendable malware blocking and removal, the lightweight program doubles as an excellent anti-rootkit and anti-phishing utility, the latter detecting and blocking fraudulent sites through HTTP-based scanning.
Now boasting a whopping 300 million downloads worldwide (and counting), Malwarebytes provides some of the best and most comprehensive virus-removal software available, frequently making it one of the first go-to sources for tech agencies and support groups alike.
The program uses Chameleon technology to get the application running on already infected systems, triggering the “mbam-chameleon” app when necessary and helping install and update any required drivers crucial to the software’s functionality. Options are divided into four different modules. Anti-malware protects against and removes malware with automatic scans, while anti-ransomware helps shield files from ransomware attacks. Anti-exploit helps protect against any known vulnerabilities discovered in your system or apps, while malicious website protection keeps you away from fake or malicious sites.
Two things recommended AVG. First, it has an impressively broad reach: The software will not only search for viruses and malware, but also helps block suspicious links, prevent suspicious downloads, and keep suspicious email attachments from being used. That makes the app a better choice for family or elderly user protection on a budget. The second benefit is AVG’s affinity with Google platforms: It has one of the better Android downloads and can work well on Chrome, too (check out more Android security apps here).
ZoneAlarm provides firewalls and antivirus scanning, but then goes a step further to address two growing security concerns: ID theft and data loss. Identify theft is prevented by daily credit monitoring tools and a “credit education specialist” to help you work through any alerts or problems. ZoneAlarm also provides its own cloud backup service for backing up your data and encrypting it for online protection. If you don’t already have a service that helps protect your identity and data, this could be the option for you.
This article was updated on October 11, 2017 by Tyler Lacoma. Added Avira 2018, AVG, and ZoneAlarm.