Many people fall into online scams with scammers who pose as anti-malware protection companies. I know people who have thought they were signing up for anti-malware, only to have their computers infected with malware and other viruses.
That’s why it’s important to only download legitimate antivirus programs with credibility and customer reviews behind their names. Today we are talking about Windows, specifically because Windows can be an easy target for scammers.
There is no such thing as a 100% free antivirus with no strings attached, but there are legitimate antivirus brands out there that offer free plans to protect your PC. They are generally simple, without the bells and whistles, but they are worth trying out.
I will also mention that Windows Defender is the default protection included with Windows. While this software has its perks, some of our recommendations today will protect your PC better than Windows Defender will.
Top Virus Protection Gratis (Yes, Absolutely Free!)
As I mentioned, many “free antivirus programs” are not legit; some even turn out to be scams, while others will scan your system for viruses but ask for payment to remove it. To make our top five free antivirus software list, we have the following standards:
Actually Free: Our recommendations are 100% free. There are none included that will trick you in any way to pay for their products.
Straightforward: No one likes to be surprised in thinking they will be getting something from a product when in reality, that doesn’t happen. The brands here are straightforward in their promises, and they don’t hide anything or mislead you into paying money.
Good Overall Protection: The protection offered in these five antivirus software programs provides good protection for your devices.
Positive Customer Reviews: If you want to know the value of a product, check out the customer reviews! The products we recommend come complete with positive customer reviews.
Extra Features: Now, you won’t get a lot of additional features in a free plan, but for the company to add something extra in there is pretty sweet!
Now that you know how we rated the best free antivirus software for Windows users, check out our top choices, but first read well-known brands that did not meet our criteria:
Well-Known Antivirus Companies that Are Not Free
While these brands have perks and can offer great protection, they did not make our cut, because the free versions are not truly free:
Kaspersky is a great antivirus program if you pay for it. The free version doesn’t perform as well as our five recommendations. However, they do have a low-cost premium plan that is well worth the price. Just don’t bother with the free version.
Norton is hands-down one of the best antiviruses for protecting PCs, but unfortunately, they don’t even offer a free version. The good news is that they do offer low-cost, full version plans that offer high-quality protection.
Most people love Bitdefender, and for good reasons. However, the free version isn’t even worth downloading as it is only scans for viruses and doesn’t remove them. Some customers say that Bitdefender slowed down their systems significantly as well. They do, however, offer a free 30-day trial, so that may worth checking out.
OK, now what you’ve been waiting for. Based on our extensive research, here are the five best free antiviruses for Windows in 2020. Best of all, they are actually free, with no hidden agendas or pressure to buy anything.
Best Free Antivirus Software for Windows in 2020
Avira believes that “privacy isn’t a privilege. It’s your right,” and we agree. That’s why Avira Free Antivirus tops our list. This company provides Avira’s legendary German-engineered antivirus technology, including a safety browser that you can download as an extension for Firefox and Chrome, which protects against malicious websites.
Avira’s antivirus operates in the cloud, meaning that most of the work doesn’t take place on your PC at all. The cloud-based technology means that Avira can fight malware on its own servers. This puts Avira ahead of hackers since hackers won’t know what Avira knows.
Another benefit of cloud-based technology is that Avira can maintain a “low profile” online since it doesn’t require many system resources. In fact, Avira has one of the smallest and lightest impacts on your system of all the major antivirus brands.
If you have an older Windows PC, you’re in luck if you use Avira because your system will not be impacted by Avira.
Here’s what we know: if you’re looking for a completely free, solid protection against malware, then Avira Free Antivirus is what you want. If you want more features and security, you can always upgrade to Avira Prime, but that is a decision for you to make, with absolutely no coercion.
Panda Free Antivirus offers award-winning antivirus technology, it’s easy to use, and it features a slick, attractive user interface. It also includes an additional benefit: a virtual private network (VPN).
A VPN protects your data when you sign into public Wi-Fi networks. It reroutes your internet connection to a secure server and encrypts all data coming to and from your device so hackers cannot access any of your information. There is one limitation, and that is that the free version is limited to 150 MB per day.
The free version is so easy to use. Some customers say they downloaded the software and then forgot about it (in a good way!) There are no continual product updates or complicated settings. It’s also easy on your system, and you probably won’t even notice it’s there.
If you want to upgrade, Panda Dome Advanced, the full version, gives you advanced threat protection and more VPN data; however, there is no pressure to do so. Panda Free Antivirus offers great malware and internet protection and is worth checking out.
If you have kids who frequently get online (and let’s be honest, they all do!) then Sophos Home Free is worth checking out. It not only protects your computer from malware and viruses, but it also protects your kids from coming across anything they shouldn’t see online.
The perk of Sophos Home Free is parental controls, which is a feature that usually comes in paid internet packages. Parental controls allow parents to monitor how their kids use devices and restrict websites they shouldn’t see.
Sophos Home Free also includes real-time malware protection and a browser extension to protect against malicious websites. Also, you can install the free version on up to three devices, which is generous for a free version.
The interface is simple, and the software is super easy to install. If you want to upgrade at any time, Sophos Home Premium is a great option for overall protection plus extra safety features. (Oh yeah, and allows up to ten users!)
AVG Antivirus Free is also a great free antivirus. It has a solid track record of detecting viruses and then removing them, but here’s also something that sets it apart: it protects against malicious websites and phishing scams.
AVG’s Secure Browser blocks ads, hides your information from hackers, and prevents you from clicking on and accessing dangerous websites. Another cool perk is that it forces unsecured sites to upgrade to a secure connection so third parties cannot intercept and steal your data. Secure Browser uses Chromium, Google’s open-source web browser, which is similar to Chrome.
AVG Antivirus Free also provides malware detection technology, which monitors your system for anything suspicious. If it detects a virus, it transfers the data back to AVG’s virus database.
Overall, AVG Antivirus Free is light on features, but it does protect against phishing and scams. The paid plan, AVG Internet Security offers more, of course, including ransomware protection, mobile protection, and even webcam protection, so you can always upgrade if you wish.
You probably expect that a free antivirus would only include the most basic protection without advanced security features. Most of the time, this is true. Avast Free Antivirus is the same company as AVG, by the way, and it offers solid, comprehensive protection all for free! Seriously, the amount of extra features this company offers is impressive.
Of course, you will get anti-malware protection, but you will also get the Avast Wi-Fi Inspector that tests your network’s security to make sure it is protected from hackers. You will also get Avast Passwords, which is a password manager that keeps your passwords strong and your accounts detailed and secure.
We should note that Avast is only free for personal use. If you want to use Avast for your workplace or business, you need to upgrade to Avast Premium Security.
Avast Free Antivirus offers generous perks for being 100% free. This antivirus will take good care of your devices, your networks, and your online data.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can’t I just use Windows Defender for my PC?
Windows Defender is the default antivirus for Windows users, and it is a good product for the basics. While it does protect against viruses and includes a firewall, it doesn’t protect you against other cybersecurity issues like phishing scams or ransomware.
That’s why it’s important to look at the whole picture and protect yourself as best as you can with Windows Defender in conjunction with another antivirus protection plan.
Are free antiviruses really free?
Some are, like the five we reviewed today. Most antiviruses offer premium versions of their apps and offer basic protection for their free versions, which leaves some issues in your computer’s protection. The company hopes you will realize you need more protection, so they will try to get you to update to the paid, full version plan by sending you tons of advertisements.
If you’re using your device for online browsing or word processing, you should be fine with a free antivirus. However, if you have any private data stored on your Windows device, you should invest in a top-notch premium antivirus.
What are the most common viruses that affect Windows 10 computers?
Trojans, for sure. Trojans are viruses that mimic other files, and they have extensions like .exe or .doc. Once downloaded onto your Windows, they could totally wipe out your machine while compromising your personal information. If you have a good antivirus, it will protect you from trojans.
Hackers also develop fake Windows updates with hidden ransomware. If you get an email that tells you to install urgent Windows OS updates, you may be a victim. The emails trick users into installing the latest Windows updates, which in actuality, are ransomware .exe files.
What’s the Bottom Line?
We are not trying to scare you, but you should be aware of all the cyber threats out there. As a Windows user, you should have antivirus protection in addition to Windows Defender, and since our top five recommendations are truly free with no strings attached, download one today and stay protected online.