Best Free PC Antivirus Software

Windows PC users need a good antivirus program to ward off malware attacks, to keep their computers running efficiently and to safeguard their online identities and personal information. Paid antivirus suites have many features to protect children online, manage security on mobile devices, and monitor a computer's firewall, software updates and other features. But some users just don't want to — or can't — pay a yearly subscription fee for those extra features.

If that describes you, you've come to the right place. We've evaluated the most widely used free antivirus programs based on malware protection, system impact, ease of use and useful extra features.

So which free PC antivirus product is right for you? After reviewing six free antivirus programs, Avira Free Antivirus came out on top. It offers excellent malware prevention and the ability to  fine-tune the product to your exact specifications. And, with free add-on software, it has features that rival mid-priced paid antivirus suites. If you'd rather not fuss with settings, then try Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition, which has equally good malware protection but doesn't let you adjust much.

How We Tested

To evaluate installation, ease of use, interface and performance impact, we installed each AV program on the same Asus X555LA laptop, which had been upgraded from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 and featured an Intel Core i3-4005U processor, 6GB of RAM and 36GB of data on a 500GB hard drive.

We conducted our own tests on how much each antivirus product affected our laptop's performance, using our custom OpenOffice benchmark. We timed how long it took to run a quick scan and a full scan while the laptop crunched numbers in the background.

We also assessed how easy each program is to use, the number of useful extra features it offers (including with free add-on software), and, finally, how insistently each program nags you to upgrade to paid software from the same company.

Our malware-detection data comes from two independent evaluation labs, AV-TEST in Germany and AV-Comparatives in Austria. Each regularly tests major antivirus products for their abilities to detect zero-day malware and other threats.

Honorable Mention

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  • bought the bitdefender one for 25ish pounds.

    Got a non working activation key in return. And i had to delete my free 1 years trail of Kaspersky which worked just fine!
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  • Comodo Internet Security seems to work well with little system slowdown compared to most products. Offers FREE antivirus and firewall which beat the Microsoft and most paid programs. Has caught virii & blocked malware that other products would have allowed. I do supplement the anti-malware scans for peace of mind sake, but then I haven't found products with the others that weren't already identified by Comodo.
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  • Here is a critical test that I think should be included in every antivirus program test: Impact on TimeMachine. I had Avira installed on my computer - and as a result, a backup of 20GB of data with TimeMachine would take more than three days. I had to uninstall Avira - and now my backup is back to normal.
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  • What is "normal"?
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  • I think you may want to check out ESET AV.
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  • Originally Avira Free didn't bug you to upgrade as I have used it for years. Now it does.
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  • No mention of QuickHeal ? or it wasn't tested ? I heard it;s pretty good with excellent Customer Support.
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  • Sandboxie was an excellent addition to your internet security but it seems to crash my PC now, have not found a good alternative yet.

    I also use Malwarebytes anti exploit (protection against zero day attacks) and Zemana anti logger to minimise effectiveness of key loggers in case they get through the defence. All of these programs are free.

    I would not pay for AV and find there is no need to pay as long as you have a good backup strategy in place just incase you get something nasty on your PC. Another couple of things that will reduce your chance of infection are:

    1. Install adblock plus on your browser.

    2. Disable javascript on your browser (you can switch it on briefly if there is something on a site you really need to see)

    3. Uninstall Java from your computer, this is known to be the biggest vulnerability that hackers use.

    4. Uninstall adobe reader and flashplayer as they also contain vulnerabilities that hackers use.

    5. Make sure your windows and all other programs are upto date with patches and that you are running the latest version.
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  • I still use Norton Internet Security and it works like a charm
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  • I will suggest you to go with norton security. this is the best security to use.
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  • We uses AVIRA from all our software house outlets its very very good, our employee's are also satisfied ! Thumb(s) Up !!
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  • Kaspersky Total Security provides best protection for your Computer. It's good, but the competition is better and cheaper.
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  • The only problem I found with Avira is that is made Time Machine an my iMac terribly slow.After removing Avira the backup speed was back to normal again. I hope Avira will tackle this problem soon.
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  • I am using Avira Free version. It apparently is regarded as the best, free or paid. HOWEVER, it is almost impossible to set up unless you are an MIT PhD in IT. And maybe not even then. The "scan" takes almost 3 days and slows and almost stops you from working on your PC. There is apparently no choice of scan option although it hints to a "quick" scan but good luck in finding how to set it up for running on a schedule. I allow the scan to run for a day then stop it so I can have the use of my computer back. There is no support for the free version and attempting to use the "forum" or "community" help it very close to useless. I had purchased the paid version a year ago, found it even more complicated than the free version and as a result cancelled it. Now how's this for being ironic: I had Microsoft Windows Defender (free, along with Malwarebytes free) for over a year and experienced NO problems whatsoever. And it was so very easy to use. Go figure. If you go to Avira be ready to deal with the frustrations and aggravation.
    PS: The upshot is I Googled "Top Rated Antivirus Programs" and found this article expounding on Avira. What's a body to do? I think that I will keep my Malwarebytes and go back to Windows Defender as Avira is just so difficult.
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  • I am using Comodo Free Antivirus for my Windows PC. It's provides complete virus protection & working perfectly. But here this product is missing. why?
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  • 2155242 said:
    I am using Comodo Free Antivirus for my Windows PC. It's provides complete virus protection & working perfectly. But here this product is missing. why?
    Thanks for your reply JohnRose. I have replaced Avira as what good is the best if you can't understand how to use it? AND it takes 3 days to complete a scan stopping the use of your computer during that time? Malwarebytes, Ccleaner and Microsoft Window Defender work easily and just fine. As they say: "KISS". (Keep It Simple, Stupid).
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  • I started with Norton in 2006, back when it was a resource hog. Later in 2009 I switched to McAfee for a year, and then back to Norton. I dropped off Norton and used free AVs like Avira and Comodo Internet Security for a while, before switching to Kaspersky in 2013.

    Have been using Kaspersky ever since, and it has never let me down. Plus it is very cheap where I live, I got an Internet Security license 3 years, 3 PCs for $25.
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  • 1764766 said:
    I started with Norton in 2006, back when it was a resource hog. Later in 2009 I switched to McAfee for a year, and then back to Norton. I dropped off Norton and used free AVs like Avira and Comodo Internet Security for a while, before switching to Kaspersky in 2013. Have been using Kaspersky ever since, and it has never let me down. Plus it is very cheap where I live, I got an Internet Security license 3 years, 3 PCs for $25.
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  • Tks for ur reply Rishabh, as I noted I have given up and dropped Avira in favor of MS Windows Defender with Malwarebytes and Ccleaner. Worked before so why not now? AND it's EZ.
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