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.