best free antivirus

Here are some of the best antivirus protection for your computer All Windows machines want one of the first-class antivirus programs. To hold your PC free from infection, the built-in Microsoft Defender antivirus might also be enough. But it can not match the more features that come with the best-paid antivirus software.

Most top-rate or mid-range safety suites consist of parental controls, VPNs, password managers, or identity-theft protection all for much less than if you bought every feature on its own.

Each brand’s Windows antivirus programs share a malware-detection “engine,” however it is the features that justify exclusive prices.

An antivirus company may additionally provide a free program, a simple paid one, a midrange software with parental controls, and in the end a top-end product with all bells and whistles. You often additionally get Mac antivirus software, Android antivirus apps, and iOS security apps.

The top best antivirus brands

Norton packs in everything but the kitchen sink
Norton’s antivirus products offer a password manager, unlimited VPN data, identity theft protection, parental controls and even online storage. If you’re willing to pay full freight, you’ll get almost every kind of digital security you could ever need.

Bitdefender offers the best value in antivirus software
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus combines great malware protection with an assortment of useful features and an easy-to-use interface, all at a very affordable price.

McAfee offers bargains for big families
McAfee’s Antivirus Plus and Total Protection Plus bundles protect up to 10 devices at a reasonable price, while its Total Protection Ultimate has every feature you’d want.

What is the best antivirus software?

Our top choice is Norton 360 Deluxe, which offers excellent malware protection and a ton of extra features, including unlimited VPN service and LifeLock identity protection. Right behind that is the entry-level Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, the best bargain in antivirus software. 

Kaspersky Total Security also offers top-notch malware protection, a full complement of extra features and an easy-to-use interface. But given the war in Ukraine, we’ve stopped doing business with Russian companies. You can still download and use Kaspersky software if you choose.

Any of these three would serve you well, but the ideal choice depends on your circumstances. See our section on how to choose the best antivirus software below, or our stand alone antivirus buying guide.

The best antivirus software

1. Norton 360 Deluxe


Anti-theft: NoBackup software: YesFirewall: YesGame mode: YesHardened browser: NoParental controls: YesPassword manager: YesRansomware rollback: NoWebcam protection: YesVPN: Unlimited

All of Norton’s antivirus products provide excellent malware protection, and the once-heavy system-performance load is an awful lot lighter. The number of greater features every program has varies, however the sweet spot in the lineup is Norton 360 Deluxe.

It consists of a password supervisor that works on all major platforms, unlimited VPN service, dark-web personal-data monitoring, parental controls and up to 50GB of on-line storage space. Two different offerings, Norton 360 Premium and Norton 360 Platinum, supply you greater on-line storage and increase the antivirus and VPN coverage to 10 and 20 devices, respectively.

If you choose full-on identification protection, Norton offers three bundles with varying degrees of LifeLock provider and even greater on line storage. Their subscription prices run nicely into the triple digits, however nonetheless value much less than if you have been to purchase the identification protection, password manager, cloud-backup storage and antivirus software program separately.

Unlike some of the different first-class antivirus software program makers, Norton does not provide a file shredder, file encryption or secure web browser with any of its products. Yet each and every different digital-protection provider you should possibly ask for is included with at least some of its bundles.

2. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus


Anti-theft: NoBackup software: NoFirewall: NoGame mode: YesHardened browser: YesParental controls: NoPassword manager: YesRansomware rollback: YesWebcam protection: NoVirtual keyboard: YesVPN: Limited upsellWi-Fi scanner: Yes

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is our top choice amongst entry-level antivirus products. It has very good, if now not perfect, malware-detection scores. Its energetic scans do not add an awful lot to the background system impact, however that background load is a bit heavy.

It additionally presents the most value, with an unlimited (but Windows-only) password manager, a secure browser with a virtual keyboard, a Wi-Fi network scanner, a file shredder, safety against encrypting ransomware and Bitdefender’s new web-privacy software program features often observed solely with pricier antivirus packages.

The midrange Bitdefender Internet Security provides parental controls, webcam safety and a two-way firewall, whilst Bitdefender Total Security tops off the lineup with an anti-theft feature for laptops, a system optimizer and licenses for Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac and Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android.

A fourth product, Bitdefender Premium Security, is essentially Total Security with unlimited VPN usage, a cross-platform password manager and precedence tech support. (The different programs limit you to 200MB of Bitdefender VPN usage per day.)

But the nice deal is the Bitdefender Family Pack, which places Total Security on up to 15 devices for (a frequently discounted) $120 per year.

Kaspersky Total Security

The best antivirus protection


Anti-theft: YesBackup software: YesFirewall: YesGame mode: YesHardened browser: YesParental controls: YesPassword manager: YesRansomware rollback: YesWebcam protection: YesVirtual keyboard: YesVPN: Limited upsellWi-Fi scanner: Yes

Kaspersky’s Windows products have excellent malware-detection scores and a light-to-moderate system-performance impact, the two most important criteria in our rankings. 

The entry-level program, Kaspersky Anti-Virus $29.99 US, has dedicated ransomware protection, a virtual keyboard and a convenient online account portal. But it’s beaten by Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, which has even more features.

Kaspersky Internet Security $39.99 US is our top choice among midrange packages. It has a secure browser, anti-theft protection for laptops, webcam protection and a limited-use VPN client that kicks in when you connect to an open Wi-Fi network. It also includes software for macOS, Android and iOS.

The premium antivirus suite, Kaspersky Total Security $44.99 US, adds backup software, parental controls, file encryption, a file shredder and an unlimited password manager.

McAfee Internet Security


Anti-theft: NoBackup software: NoFirewall: YesGame mode: YesHardened browser: NoParental controls: NoPassword manager: YesRansomware rollback: YesWebcam protection: NoVirtual keyboard: NoVPN: No

McAfee’s malware detection has improved greatly in the past couple of years, but it’s still not quite top-of-the-line. 

Despite that, the entry-level McAfee AntiVirus Plus is a bargain: $60 per year buys software for up to 10 (in practice, unlimited) devices, whether they run Windows, macOS, iOS or Android, and the software comes with a file shredder and a two-way firewall. 

To get parental controls or one of the best password managers in the business, you’ll have to spring for McAfee Total Protection or its sibling McAfee LiveSafe, which comes pre-installed on many new PCs. 

The multi-device licenses of those two security suites also come with an identity-protection service. But none of the McAfee products have a secure browser or webcam protection, which you often get with other premium antivirus programs.

At the top is McAfee Total Protection Ultimate, which adds unlimited VPN service with no strings attached. Hardcore PC gamers may consider McAfee Gamer Security, which for $60 per year offers low-overhead protection for a single rig.

Trend Micro Maximum Security


Backup software: NoFirewall: NoGame mode: YesHardened browser: YesParental controls: YesPassword manager: YesWebcam protection: NoVirtual keyboard: NoVPN: Yes

Trend Micro provides very good protection, however its malware-detection engine creates a heavy system load throughout scans and returns a fair variety of false-positive results.

The brand’s entry-level program, Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security, has basic equipment however does have a secure web browser. Parental controls, a system optimizer and a file shredder are bundled into the mid-range Trend Micro Internet Security.

Trend Micro Maximum Security provides a password manager, a secure browser and file encryption, whilst the new Trend Micro Premium Security adds a VPN and dark-web monitoring of personal data.

However, none of Trend Micro’s programs include a two-way firewall or webcam protection, popular with different brands’ midrange offerings. Nor does the top class product have the cloud storage or backup software program that some of the best antivirus brands add as enticements to their flagship packages.

ESET Smart Security Premium


Anti-theft: YesBackup software: NoFirewall: YesGame mode: YesHardened browser: YesParental controls: YesPassword manager: YesRansomware rollback: NoWebcam protection: YesVirtual keyboard: NoVPN: No

ESET is one of the biggest antivirus names in Europe, with a very small system-performance load and fast scans. Its malware-detection rate used to be kind of meh, but has improved markedly in recent lab tests. 

The entry-level ESET NOD32 Antivirus is easy to use, but has few useful extra tools. ESET Internet Security adds webcam protection, parental controls and a browser-hardening extension, as well as ESET security-software licenses for Mac, Android and Linux devices.

The top-billed ESET Smart Security Premium tosses in file encryption and a password manager. However, there’s no VPN client, backup software or file shredder.

Sophos Home Premium


Anti-theft: NoBackup software: NoGame mode: NoHardened browser: NoParental controls: YesPassword manager: NoRansomware rollback: YesWebcam protection: YesVirtual keyboard: NoVPN: NoWi-Fi scanner: No

Sophos Home Premium does its job economically, offering reasonable protection from malware at an affordable price.

Because it’s spun off from Sophos’ enterprise software for business clients, Sophos Home Premium lacks many of the bells and whistles other security suites offer, such as a password manager, identity theft protection service or VPN service.

What Sophos Home Premium does have is the essentials: ransomware rollbacks, webcam defenses and protection against keyloggers, malicious websites and boot-sector and fileless malware. It also has a web-filter system for parents and an online management console from which you can tweak most of the settings.

The best free antivirus software

Windows Defender Antivirus


Email scans: NoGame mode: YesHardened browser: Edge & IE onlyPassword manager: Yes, with other Microsoft appsRansomware reversal: YesScan scheduler: YesSupport options: 24/7 phone, email supportUpsell nag factor: Nonexistent

Microsoft’s built-in antivirus software is now a heavy hitter. While Windows Defender, aka Microsoft Defender Antivirus, doesn’t quite beat Norton or Kaspersky in malware-protection lab tests, it comes out ahead of Avast, AVG and most other free antivirus products while operating almost entirely behind the scenes.

You won’t be getting many extra features with Windows Defender itself, yet Windows 10 does have parental controls, a gaming mode and protections for its own Edge and Internet Explorer browsers. There’s no built-in VPN, but you also won’t be bothered by pop-ups trying to upsell you to paid antivirus software. 

As for a password manager, there’s a stealth one built into the Microsoft Authenticator app for Android and iOS that syncs with the Edge browser, as long as you’re signed into your Microsoft account on all devices.

We still recommend going for Kaspersky Security Cloud Free, which has even less of a system impact, better malware protection and more useful extras, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using Windows Defender as your primary antivirus solution.

Kaspersky Security Cloud Free

The best free antivirus software


Email scans: YesGame mode: YesHardened browser: NoPassword manager: LimitedRansomware reversal: YesScan scheduler: YesSupport options: FAQs, forumsUpsell nag factor: Moderate

Kaspersky Security Cloud Free is the best free antivirus product we’ve ever tested. We’ve never seen such a combination of excellent protection and extra features in a free antivirus program. 

It’s got a bright, comprehensible interface, a lot of customization potential and Kaspersky’s unbeatable malware protection. The program also lets you schedule scans, and its performance impact was so small that it actually sped up our test machine a bit. 

Kaspersky’s useful extra features include a file shredder, an on-screen keyboard and an email scanner. The password manager and VPN service are fairly limited, however, unless you pay.

As mentioned above, Kaspersky is a Russian company, although it has many operations around the world. We don’t yet know whether the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting economic sanctions on Russia will affect the operations of Kaspersky software. For more on this issue

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition


Email scans: NoGame mode: NoHardened browser: NoPassword manager: NoRansomware reversal: NoScan scheduler: NoSupport options: FAQs, forumsUpsell nag factor: Minimal

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition offers nothing but the basics. There’s no password manager, no gaming mode, no quick scans and no scan scheduling. You can manage the software from the program’s System Tray icon, but you don’t really need to interact with Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition after its installation. 

Yet Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition has the excellent Bitdefender malware-detection engine, which sits just below Kaspersky and Norton in the lab-test rankings. 

It’s the best free antivirus software if you want a security solution that you can set up and then forget about. It’s also perfect if you need to protect the computer of an elderly relative but don’t have time to manage antivirus software from afar.

Avast Free Antivirus


Email scans: Separate toolGame mode: YesHardened browser: Separate toolPassword manager: Not any moreRansomware reversal: Shield onlyScan scheduler: YesSupport options: : FAQs, forumsUpsell nag factor: Omnipresent

Avast Free Antivirus has the best assortment of extra goodies of any free antivirus program, including a hardened browser, a gaming mode, a Wi-Fi network scanner and a recently added ransomware shield. (Unfortunately, the unlimited password manager has been discontinued.)

The program is also very customizable, letting you tweak its appearance and functions to suit your style. It even offers limited access to Avast’s VPN service. 

However, Avast Free Antivirus caused a pretty heavy system load in our testing and its scans took a long time. It also kept nagging us to upgrade to Avast’s paid antivirus protection, and played bait-and-switch with features that looked like they were free but weren’t. 

AVG AntiVirus Free


Email scans: YesGame mode: YesHardened browser: NoPassword manager: NoRansomware reversal: NoScan scheduler: YesSupport options: FAQs, forumsUpsell nag factor: Inescapable

AVG shares a decent, if unspectacular, malware-detection engine with its corporate sibling Avast while having a much lighter system-performance impact. 

But AVG AntiVirus Free also has far fewer useful extra features than Avast Free Antivirus. While the latter is almost a free security suite with lots of bells and whistles, AVG AntiVirus Free is the quiet, neglected child that gets the hand-me-downs.

The good news is that AVG’s wide range of customization options and its file shredder and system optimizer are still available, and its interface is open and easy to use. The bad news is that like Avast Free Antivirus, AVG AntiVirus Free constantly bugs you to upgrade to paid antivirus software. 

Malwarebytes Free, formerly called Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, is not antivirus software. Instead, it’s a very useful malware-removal tool. 

What’s the difference? Unlike antivirus software, Malwarebytes Free can’t prevent a PC from being infected. But it does an excellent job of cleaning out malware that’s already on your system, as well as removing (legal) adware and potentially unwanted programs that antivirus software often ignores. 

Malwarebytes Free doesn’t interfere with any antivirus software that’s already installed, so it’s perfectly safe to install it alongside one of our recommended brands. (Just don’t upgrade to the paid Malwarebytes Premium, true antivirus software that does poorly in lab tests and which will conflict with other AV programs.)

Antivirus pricing and features

Antivirus makers also hope you’ll spring for extra options, whether you need them or not. The one thing you can’t trade up to is a bigger engine: All the Windows antivirus products in a given brand’s lineup will use the same malware-detection engine and provide the same level of essential protection.

Basic paid antivirus software is usually just called “Antivirus” or similar, and yearly subscriptions start at $40-$60. The software will have essential malware protection and maybe a password manager or a two-way firewall.

Midrange antivirus software packages are frequently nameplated as “Internet Security” and start at $60-$80 yearly. They generally add parental controls, some of which are very good, plus a few other features such as webcam protection. They often include multi-device licenses and antivirus software for Mac and Android devices.

At the top are the premium “security suites,” which toss in all the extra security tools an antivirus brand can offer, such as password managers, VPN client software, backup software, online storage and even identity-protection services. 

List prices start at $80-$100 per year, but make sure you really need those extra tools you’re paying for. The password managers are often quite good, but the online storage can be paltry and the VPN services often don’t give you unlimited data.