Best free antivirus in 2018
When you get a new PC the first thing you should do is install some decent security software, and so why not make it the best antivirus possible? The good news is that top quality protection can be completely free, but with so much choice, picking the right one can be difficult. So we’ve updated our guide to getting the best free antivirus to narrow down your choice.
Windows has come a long way in terms of security, but it’s still fair to suggest that Windows 10’s built-in antivirus solution, Windows Defender, is the last free AV app you should trust to keep your system clean. Not that it’s overtly bad, although it does tail behind just about every third-party antivirus solution, but because its widespread adoption has a big target painted on it for attackers. Windows users who haven’t installed something hardier are the perfect hosts for viruses; attack the weak links, attack through the chinks in the one piece of software armor these weak links have by default, and you’re in.
According to Tech Radar, these are the most effective virus protection. Free antivirus downloads do come with a cost though, they serve as an advert for many vendors’ more premium offers and the data collected helps them to boost security for all of their products.
1. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
Essentially consisting of the AV section of the full product, Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition’s clean, light, well constructed scanning mechanisms, which are almost universally faster than the industry average, and unrivaled virus definitions mean Bitdefender is back at the top of the free tree.
The free version’s insistence on running in autopilot mode is a double-edged sword, making the process of virus management easy but taking it out of the user’s hands; while we’re inclined to trust it, there have been cases in the past of automatic systems going slightly rogue, such as the incident a few years back when Panda Antivirus identified itself as a virus and locked up a large number of Windows systems.
AV-TEST’s December testing round did pick out a few flaws in its handling of zero-day threats, however. And it’s worth pointing out that for you can currently get our top rated paid-for antivirus solution – Bitdefender Antivirus Plus – for the equivalent of $1.66 per month. That’s a tiny amount to pay for a tonne of extra features, such as online banking protection, integrated password manager, permanent file shredder and free online 24/7 support.
2. Avast Free Antivirus
Avast and AVG haven’t yet fully merged, despite the former formally acquiring the latter in mid-2016. The newly combined company says the two free antivirus products will remain separate, although there’s apparently a joint AV package on the way soon. Obviously, though, Avast now has a lot more data to work with, having expanded its effective userbase (and, therefore, its threat detection network) to a whopping 400 million users.
The latest edition of Avast Free Antivirus adds an automatic gaming mode to mute popups and reduce system load when you’re firing up a processor-hungry game, which is very handy indeed, and the interface has been given a clean new overhaul. There’s a password manager, too, which is an undeniably good addition to your security portfolio.
It scores well on AV-TEST’s widespread malware benchmark and continues a clean sweep against 0-day attacks – presumably that expanded detection network is really helping. Less impressive is the slightly negative effect Avast has on software launch times, and its slightly popup-heavy attitude.
3. Sophos Home
Marketing itself as “business-grade security”, Sophos Home does a little more than most free antivirus software, and actually seems better suited to families.
You get standard antivirus and anti-malware protection, along with browser tools like anti-phishing and, most importantly, content control. Combined with central management of up to 10 PCs, this means you can effectively lock down your kids’ browsing options.
Although AV-TEST hasn’t formally assessed Sophos’ skills, fellow lab AV-Comparatives offers a decent rating of its antivirus abilities.
Although Sophos Home has always had desktop notifications, there was no premium version of the software for it to encourage an upgrade to. That changed in February with the launch of Sophos Home Premium.
4. Kaspersky Free
The paid-for version of Kaspersky’s Windows security software frequently tops charts of best virus prevention solutions and AV-TEST once again gave it full marks across the board in its latest round of testing.
As you would expect, Kaspersky Free is a scaled down version of the full program – an antivirus download that we really like (more on which below). The free version ditches additional features such as privacy protection and safe payment sandboxes to concentrate on powerful, no-frills and – most importantly – free protection for your PC. The result is a tremendously easy to use and navigate bit of software that does an effective job of keeping you protected from viruses.
Using the nuts and bolts real-world scanning engine of the paid-for suite, Kaspersky Free is fiendishly hard for viruses and trojan horses to break down. And we love that it doesn’t constantly pester you with nudges to upgrade to the full version.
But, ironically, we will just for a moment, because Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2018 isn’t expensive to buy and yet affords much better protection to your PC (or PCs). The standard price is $29.99 to protect three computers and includes more muscle when it comes to preventing ransomware, spyware, and Trojans.