Avast Academy Security Security Tips The Best Free Antivirus Software in 2024

The Best Free Antivirus Software in 2024

Every computer needs strong antivirus protection, and we’ve put together a list of the best free antivirus software for Windows 10 and Windows 7, based on recommendations by leading independent experts. Keep reading to learn about the best internet security, the best free malware protection, and the best free virus scanners for your PC.

Editors' choice
Top Rated
Written by Ivan Belcic
Published on February 2, 2022

Top Picks

  • Avast One

  • AVG AntiVirus FREE

  • Avira Antivirus

  • Bitdefender Antivirus Free

  • Kaspersky Security Cloud – Free

  • Microsoft Defender Antivirus

  • Sophos Home Free

Other Options

  • Malwarebytes Free

  • Panda Free Antivirus

  • ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus

Avast One

As cybersecurity experts since 1988, Avast — that’s us — knows a thing or two about keeping you safe. We’ve been defeating viruses since the days of floppy disks, and over the years we’ve become recognized industry leaders. That’s why our antivirus software is trusted by millions of people all around the world.

Avast’s core threat-detection engine consistently outperforms the competition in leading security tests. Our free security solution was selected by AV-Comparatives as the Product of the Year in 2018 and again as a Top Product of 2019 and Top Product of 2020. Independent reviewers are also taking notice — PCMag handed Avast One its coveted Editors’ Choice award for 2021, highlighting how it “incorporates all the powerful virus-fighting technology that’s made Avast famous.” Plus, we constantly update our software to make sure you stay protected, regardless of whatever threats emerge.

Core protection capabilities: Our powerful anti-malware capabilities are praised by CNet as “the best protection you'll find that comes without a price tag.” PCMag emphasizes the strength of Avast One’s security engine, noting its “many excellent antivirus lab scores” and “very good scores in our hands-on tests.”

If Avast One detects a brand-new threat to your device (known as a zero-day threat), it’ll forward the files to our threat labs for analysis, at which point we’ll send out a patch (cure) to protect our millions of users. And while Microsoft no longer offers security updates for Windows 7, Avast continues to protect its users with a Windows 7 version — making Avast One one of the best antivirus solutions for Windows 10 and Windows 7.

Features you’ll get: TechRadar notes that Avast One is “stuffed with features: antivirus, ransomware protection, anti-phishing and a simple firewall, with apps for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS.” And PCMag points out that Avast One “incorporates all the powerful virus-fighting technology that’s made Avast famous, and adds many components drawn from the feature-rich Avast One suite.”

Antivirus protection is just the beginning with Avast One. In addition to a comprehensive set of security features, you’ll enjoy VPN access, data breach countermeasures, performance optimization tools, and so much more.

Avast One is a comprehensive and free cybersecurity solution designed to keep you safe against a wide range of internet threats, not just viruses — it’s got everything you need to keep your devices secure, private, and fast. Plus, we’re always updating our software to make sure you stay protected against any emerging threats.

Don’t take our word for it: Praising Avast's strong virus detection score, Mashable says, "you get what you pay for is a concept that Avast completely ignores." And with Avast One, this is more true than ever. Get the best free virus protection with Avast One.

AVG AntiVirus FREE

Another well-established name in the cybersecurity space, AVG has expanded from offering free antivirus software into a suite of privacy, security, and performance products. As AVG’s flagship offering, AVG AntiVirus FREE was named a Top-Rated Product of 2019 and Top-Rated Product of 2020 by AV-Comparatives by AV-Comparatives.

And just like Avast, AVG maintains support for Windows 7 computers, despite Microsoft no longer offering security updates to that older operating system (OS). The best free antivirus for Windows 10 should protect older versions as well, and you get that with both Avast and AVG.

Core protection capabilities: AVG’s award-winning security engine scans your device to detect and remove malware such as viruses and worms, but also hard-to-spot spyware and troublesome ransomware. TechNadu crowned AVG AntiVirus FREE as “the best free-of-charge protection,” citing its “incredibly effective malware protection” and overall ease of use as two of its biggest benefits.

By scanning for performance issues as well as malware, zero-day threats, unwanted browser add-ons, and other risks, AVG AntiVirus FREE is much more than just a simple antivirus tool.

Features you’ll get: In DigitalTrends’ roundup of the best free antivirus tools for 2022, they note the “impressively broad reach” of AVG AntiVirus FREE’s feature set. In addition to world-class anti-malware prevention, you’ll also benefit from protection against malicious links and files hiding in emails and websites you visit.

A home network scanner will let you know of any vulnerabilities in your network that hackers could exploit, and it’ll also detect when new devices log on — great for spotting potential cybercriminals or freeloading neighbors. And AVG AntiVirus FREE also now provides top-class ransomware protection, previously offered only as a premium feature.

Don’t take our word for it: “Navigating around the AVG antivirus user interface could hardly be easier,” says TechRadar. They also praise AVG AntiVirus FREE for the “great scan customization options” provided in the Schedule Scan feature, which lets users create custom scanning options on multiple devices for total control over their security. Protect your devices with one of the best free antivirus software tools available.

Avira Antivirus

Avira is another long-time player in the antivirus game, with their antivirus product in development since 1986. Avira Antivirus received perfect scores in the December 2020 AV-Test roundup.

Core protection capabilities: SafetyDetectives highlights Avira as having “one of the best anti-malware engines on the market.” Tom’s Guide is a bit less effusive, noting that Avira “eats up too much of your system's performance without delivering top-shelf malware protection.”

Features you’ll get: Safety Detectives also likes Avira’s Safe Shopping browser extension for Firefox and Chrome, which blocks phishing sites, web trackers, and online ads while uncovering hidden deals. Avira’s “comprehensive manual protection options and scans” allow for a great deal of customization, notes TechNadu, though they also point out that many of Avira’s additional features are locked behind a premium upgrade.

Don’t take our word for it: Noting its high scores in independent lab tests, PCMag bemoans Avira’s inability to deliver similar results in their own tests. And while TechRadar recognizes the strength of Avira’s detection engine, they also point out that its protections don’t extend to email attachments or web downloads — a feature now standard in several other products on this list.

Bitdefender Antivirus Free

Bitdefender was AV-Comparatives’ choice for the best free antivirus of 2019 and ranked as an Outstanding Product in 2020. It offers strong anti-malware protection, though you’ll find little in the way of additional features.

Core protection capabilities: Bitdefender Antivirus Free is a lightweight and unobtrusive malware scanner, working quietly in the background and piping up only to alert you to a potential threat. “Bitdefender’s antivirus scanner is both thorough and lightweight,” says Safety Detectives, describing it as “one of the best on the market.”

Features you’ll get: Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition may be short on features, but it gives you the same core antivirus engine as the commercial packages, says Tom’s Guide. Safety Detectives points out that Bitdefender Antivirus Free now includes ransomware detection, whereas it was previously a premium-only feature.

Don’t take our word for it: “If you just need the basic security capabilities, [Bitdefender’s] free version is a good option,” says Cloudwards. You’ll get “almost bulletproof” security protection, though you’ll need to navigate its “confusing pricing tiers” if you want anything beyond straightforward malware detection.

Kaspersky Security Cloud – Free

Editors' note: Some governments have warned against using (or even banned) Moscow-based Kaspersky over fears the company's network could be exploited by the Russian government. Kaspersky has denied these allegations and concrete proof has yet to emerge publicly, but if you are concerned about the potential security risks associated with using Kaspersky, consider switching to a trustworthy Kaspersky alternative.

Along with Avast and AVG, Kaspersky ranked as a Top-Rated Product of 2019 in the AV-Comparatives roundup — and it’s their 2020 Product of the Year. Kaspersky received strong scores in AV-Test’s evaluations as well.

Core protection capabilities: Kaspersky’s security tools are consistently noted for their reliable malware prevention — “one of the best malware-detection engines of any consumer antivirus maker,” according to Tom’s Guide. But if you want to help Kaspersky research new malware on their cloud-based security network, Safety Detectives points out that you’ll need to hand over a surprising amount of data, including the websites you visit and all the apps you’ve installed.

Features you’ll get: Kaspersky’s “free version ditches additional features such as privacy protection and safe payment” that you get with their premium security products, says TechRadar. And PCMag notes that phishing protection won’t kick in unless you accept Kaspersky’s Security Network data-sharing agreement. But among the set of additional features that you do get are a VPN (capped at 200 MB per day), a password manager, and a simple dark web scanner.

Don’t take our word for it: Kaspersky is ideal for users with older or less-powerful computers, notes Lifewire, because it lets you postpone scans and tweak functionality to reduce its demand on your computer’s resources. “It’s easy to use and offers many advanced options,” Lifewire says, pointing out that it supports Windows 7 as well as newer versions of the OS.

Microsoft Defender Antivirus (Windows Defender)

Built by Microsoft and included on any computer with Windows 10, Microsoft Defender — previously known as Windows Defender — has come a long way since its humble beginnings. It’s a comparable anti-malware solution to many of the free third-party tools you’ll find, even earning top scores in its latest AV-Test evaluation.

Core protection capabilities: While PCMag highlights Windows Defender’s strong performance in anti-malware tests, they found the program’s anti-phishing protections lacking. It offers a variety of malware scanning options and can protect selected folders and files against ransomware and other unwanted access. “Windows Defender has improved to the point where it now offers malware protection as good as almost any free or paid antivirus program,” says Tom’s Guide.

The consensus seems to be that Microsoft Defender offers enough basic protection to defend you in most routine situations, but for optimal security you should pair it with a dedicated, more robust third-party tool. And, unfortunately, it’s not available for Windows 7.

Features you’ll get: Microsoft Defender integrates with the Windows Security interface, letting you set up firewalls, recover corrupted files, and set up parental controls — though all of this is available to anyone using Windows 10. But, as Lifewire points out, some of these features are restricted to Microsoft’s Edge browser only.

And if you’re using Windows, you’re automatically protected by Windows Defender whether you like or not, unless you install a third-party option.

Don’t take our word for it: “Microsoft Defender isn't as accurate as the top antivirus competition,” says TechRadar, “but it still outperforms some big-name commercial products.”

Sophos Home Free

Sophos offers a different approach than the other products on this list. Rather than manage each device separately, you can remotely configure Sophos on up to three devices from one central monitoring app. It’s a solution that makes a lot more sense when you consider Sophos’s position as an enterprise cybersecurity provider. But how does it hold up to the competition?

Core protection capabilities: Sophos hasn’t recently submitted their products for independent testing with AV-Comparatives, AV-Test, or the other premier testing agencies, making actual third-party evaluations hard to find. That aside, SafetyDetectives found that Sophos’s browser extension successfully identified and blocked all the phishing websites in their internal test. And PCMag reported strong performance in their own lab tests as well.

Features you’ll get: Sophos’s remote administration is great for parents — or for anyone trying to help someone with limited tech skills. One free subscription lets you install and manage Sophos Home Free on up to three additional devices. But TechRadar notes that many of the additional features, such as ransomware protection, aren’t available to free users, and that the parental controls are “basic [and] easy to bypass.”

Don’t take our word for it: DigitalTrends describes Sophos Home Free as “one of the most hands-off antivirus apps on the market,” making it an attractive choice for the “set it and forget it” market. But Cloudwards states that “Sophos Home Free is lacking too many features” to be a worthwhile security solution. And Lifewire complains about “the lack of independent testing and the number of missed malware threats Sophos allowed onto our system.”

Other options

If you’re still not convinced that any of the products above offer the best free antivirus for Windows, the following solutions are still strong players in the fight against all kinds of malware, not just viruses.

Malwarebytes Free

Malwarebytes Free isn’t a full-scale cybersecurity solution so much as a dedicated malware detector and remover. For this reason, Malwarebytes Free is best used as a backup plan to your primary antivirus product.

Core protection capabilities: With no real-time detection, Malwarebytes Free isn’t going to prevent you from getting malware on your computer. But if and when that happens, “the free version of Malwarebytes is effective at rooting out all types of malware that have already infected your system,” says Lifewire.

The glaring hole in Malwarebytes Free’s protection is ransomware. Malwarebytes Free won’t detect and prevent ransomware before it lands on your system. And once the ransomware reaches your computer and encrypts your files, it’s too late for a cleanup application to do anything about it. Malwarebytes Free is “more of a remediation tool than a live, protective shield,” notes DigitalTrends.

Features you’ll get: If you’re looking for a wide feature set, including not only real-time detection but also network security, password management, and parental controls, Malwarebytes is not the product for you. “Think of it as an extra layer of protection,” says Tom’s Guide, noting its ability to catch potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) that your primary antivirus might miss.

Don’t take our word for it: “With ransomware on the rise, a cleanup-only antivirus tool like Malwarebytes Free can't possibly be your first line of malware defense,” says PCMag. But as a backup plan, it’s worth considering: “Bring out Malwarebytes when your regular antivirus slips up.”

Panda Free Antivirus

Panda’s free antivirus program offers real-time scanning and protection with an attractive design and easy-to-use interface. But it’s not going to provide you with the strongest protection available when compared to other free options.

Core protection capabilities: Panda performed adequately when evaluated by AV-Test and AV-Comparatives, but it lagged behind the competition in both tests. And it hasn’t featured in an AV-Test evaluation since 2018. Panda’s download button also redirects to CNET, rather than offering the download straight from the developer — not a great look.

“It's a likeable product, but some recent testing lab scores suggest it only offers average accuracy,” concludes TechRadar. But SafetyDetectives notes that “Panda’s antivirus scanner detected significantly more adware, spyware, and ransomware files than Windows Defender.”

Features you’ll get: While its anti-malware protection is debatable, Panda’s feature set is admirable. The standout feature is the USB “vaccination,” which preemptively protects your computer against any USB-borne malware before it loads. And the Rescue Kit lets you recover a computer rendered unbootable by malware. There’s also a free VPN, but with a 150 MB limit.

Tom’s Guide notes that you can’t opt out of Panda’s data collection — a big strike for privacy advocates. Panda will collect and analyze your computer’s data use whether you like it or not.

Don’t take our word for it: Despite several innovative features, Panda’s protection factor just isn’t up to par. There’s no network security or anti-phishing protection in Panda Free Antivirus. “You can do a lot better in the free antivirus realm,” says PCMag’s Neil J. Rubenking.

ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus

Promising “the world’s best firewall,” ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus is a combination antivirus and firewall tool based on Kaspersky Lab's highly regarded malware detection engine.

Core protection capabilities: As mentioned above, Kaspersky’s malware protection is some of the best out there. But don’t make the mistake of assuming that with ZoneAlarm, you’re getting everything Kaspersky gives you. “ZoneAlarm doesn't offer real-time cloud-based protection, nor does it block Web threats,” observes PCMag.

And since ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus only updates daily, you’re missing the comprehensive degree of protection you’ll find with a tool that updates more frequently. For example, ZoneAlarm’s premium product updates every hour.

Features you’ll get: The premiere feature is, as you might guess, ZoneAlarm’s firewall. ZoneAlarm is a longtime firewall provider, and their firewall performs as well as you’d expect. And you’ll find basic anti-phishing countermeasures and identity theft protection, as well as online cloud data storage. “If you don’t already have a service that helps protect your identity and data, this could be the option for you,” says DigitalTrends.

Don’t take our word for it: You can run ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus as a backup security tool — it’ll detect any other antivirus programs and deactivate its own real-time protection. “Its protection is excellent for all purposes other than phishing, and it especially shines against zero-day exploits,” says Cloudwards.

Don’t wait another day — get free antivirus protection now

What’s the best free antivirus? One that protects against a whole lot more than malware. Avast One is a comprehensive digital security tool that goes beyond conventional ideas of an antivirus app. Detecting, removing, and preventing malware is just the beginning.

In addition to Avast One’s security features, you’ll get VPN access to keep your online activity private from hackers and eavesdroppers, along with data breach countermeasures in case your personal data is ever leaked. Rounding out the package is a suite of performance-optimization tools to keep your devices in top shape. And it’s all 100% free.

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Security Tips
Ivan Belcic