There is no debating the fact that you need antivirus protection on your computer. Without it you risk picking up a virus, malware, or other unwanted software on your device. But you don’t have to spend a fortune to get protection. In fact, you don’t have to spend anything. These free antivirus programs can provide you with all the protection you need.
Keep in mind though, many of these free programs exist because they are advertisements for bigger, more comprehensive programs. But for the average user, the free versions will be plenty. The free programs listed below will help you detect and eliminate any potential threats.
- Avira Free Antivirus – Avira consistently lands at the top of free antivirus lists, and for good reason. It has only very slightly less protection than heavy hitters like AVG, and it comes in a slick, clean package that is also easy on your system. It doesn’t slow your computer down and it’s not in your face every two minutes when you’re online. Avira doesn’t install other things like a VPN or safesearch plugin by default, although it’s available should you choose it.
- AVG AntiVirus Free – AVG’s free version scored at 100% for protection in independent tests, so you can be sure your device is safe if you’re using it. It’s also quick to scan and very easy to use. You can even set it to scan and clean out a device without having to be near it, thanks to the mobile app. There are only a couple things to be wary of – for one, this version is essentially an advertisement for the full, paid package. This can be slightly annoying, but the protection you get with the free version will be more than sufficient for most people. It also asks for a host of permissions on the AVG Web Tune Up extension, but fortunately this is an optional part and doesn’t need to be used.
- Comodo Free Antivirus – This software features a ‘default deny’ mode, which basically will block every single program that you haven’t white listed. So if you have it running and something gets through and infects your computer, you have only yourself to blame. It has cloud scanning, so in theory it keeps up with the latest threats out there and will automatically update users with that info. It scored very high in independent testing. It’s design can be a bit daunting, opening window after window on your device, so you’ll never forget that it’s there. One perk – it includes a game mode, so when you need max performance you can scale the program back.
- Panda Free Antivirus 2016 – Panda claims to be the world’s lightest antivirus because most of the processing work is done in the cloud rather than on your computer, but it scored a bit slower than Avira in some tests. It’s at the industry average when it comes to virus detection, at about 98%. Panda is good software, just remember to deny it permission to change your browser’s home page and search engine when you install it. It scans quickly, and is user friendly enough that it’s not intimidating to the average user. You can switch on its automatic USB vaccination to make sure you don’t get an infection when you insert something into your USB ports.
- Zone Alarm Free Antivirus + Firewall – Zone Alarm was the leading free firewall back in the internet’s early days. So it’s no surprise that this free software includes a firewall by default. This is a rare feature, and a big benefit to you. It’s easy to configure and will show you data on traffic coming to and from your computer. But fair warning – seeing what it deflects might be unnerving. If you want a firewall along with your antivirus protection be sure to give Zone Alarm a look.
- Immunet AntiVirus – Immunet is unique in that it is exclusively cloud based, and it’s designed to run either independently, or alongside your existing antivirus software. Because Immunet has yet to go through comprehensive testing, it’s probably best to use it side-by-side with another software. It is, however, a great complement to other programs, and it’s worth trying out. And the longer it’s out there, and the more it’s used and receiving feedback, the stronger its protection will get. It doesn’t noticeably slow down your computer. But design lovers be warned – it’s not a pretty program to look at.
- Qihoo 360 Total Security Essentials – Qihoo uses third party engines to scan your device. Both Bitdefender and Avira are there, plus 360 provides a couple of its own engines on top of them. Because it’s such a big package, it eats more system resources than the other software packages we’ve recommended, but it passed independent tests with fantastic scores. Avira on its own is a bit simpler and just as effective though, so if you’re looking for simplicity stick with Avira.
There you have it. Any of these free antvirus software packages can help protect your computer from all the nasty programs out there just waiting to take over your machine.