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Free antivirus software can be an excellent defense against viruses and other malware. However, free antivirus protection often means limited features, making you wonder if it's worth it.

Finding a reliable antivirus can be challenging, so we've rounded up the top eight tools worthy of your time. Before exploring the best free antivirus software in 2023, let's see whether you should rely on free apps or opt for premium solutions.

In this article
    1. Bitdefender
    2. Malwarebytes
    3. Avira
    4. Avast
    5. AVG
    6. McAfee
    7. Microsoft Defender
    8. Kaspersky

Should You Use Free Virus Protection Software?

premium vs. free antivirus protection

Most free antivirus tools have limited functionalities. Some don't provide real-time protection, others have no virus removal tools, and some advertise as free-of-charge but offer only a free trial.

Some antivirus solutions are even misleading, letting you think you'll download free virus protection only to see all features locked behind a paywall.

The most significant downside of many free antivirus tools is no protection against unknown threats. They can detect and (sometimes) remove known viruses, but new malware will stay under the radar.

Should you use free antivirus software, considering these drawbacks? Absolutely! You only need to pick a trusted provider.

Many free antivirus tools stand out for robust protection, including flagging emails with malicious Image names and blocking suspicious websites and downloads. They may have fewer features than their premium counterparts but can prevent you from inadvertently infecting your device with malware.

Let's now explore the best solutions according to free antivirus software reviews and our team's expertise.

Best Free Virus Protection Software

You can get the following antivirus software for free, so check out what each is best for, who should use it, and what deals they offer.

Antivirus softwareBest forWho should use it?Deals
BitdefenderReal-time PC and Android protectionWindows and Android users looking for a fast, lightweight solutionBitdefender Antivirus Free for Windows and Android
MalwarebytesMalware removalWindows users who want to clean infected devicesMalwarebytes Free Antivirus for Windows
AviraMulti-layer securityAnyone looking for features beyond virus protectionAvira Free Antivirus
AvastNetwork security and malware detectionUsers seeking comprehensive free antivirus toolsAvast Free Antivirus
AVGReal-time malware protectionAnyone looking for advanced free malware protectionAVG AntiVirus Free
McAfeeAll-around protectionFamiliesMcAfee Total Protection free trial
Microsoft DefenderStandard virus protectionWindows users who don't want to download additional softwareFree, built-in Windows utility
KasperskyStalkerware detection and malware protectionWindows and smartphone users seeking excellent free protectionKaspersky Free

Let's dive deeper into each free antivirus software to help you make an informed decision.

1.Bitdefender

bitdefender free antivirus software

Bitdefender is the fastest antivirus software, primarily because its virus scanner is cloud-based. That means no slow performance, even during full-system scans (although the initial scan will take a while).

This free antivirus software is excellent at blocking online threats, including zero-day and older malware from apps or suspicious websites. It uses real-time monitoring and anti-phishing tools to detect and isolate viruses, ransomware, rootkits, spear-phishing, cryptojacking, and other potential attacks while running in the background.

However, it doesn't let you schedule scans, check your system, apps, and network for vulnerabilities, or reverse ransomware damage. Those are premium features, including a password manager and VPN (among others).

Key Features

Bitdefender Antivirus Free includes the following features:

  • Cloud-based virus scanner;
  • Online threat prevention;
  • Malware identification and isolation;
  • Malicious URL blocking.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Real-time protection;
  • Excellent malware defenses;
  • Fast virus scans;
  • Behavior-based detection;
  • Low CPU usage;
  • Live customer support.
Cons
  • No firewall;
  • No vulnerability scans;
  • No ransomware remediation;
  • No scheduled scans;
  • No advanced features like a VPN or password manager.

Supported OS

The free Bitdefender version is available only on Windows and Android.

Final Score

According to the latest testing results from four independent labs (AV-Comparatives, AV-TEST, SE Labs, and MRG Effitas), Bitdefender has a perfect score of 10 regarding malware protection.

Bitdefender might be the best free antivirus in 2023, so consider its paid options for the ultimate protection. You can get Bitdefender Antivirus Plus for Windows for $21/year, Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac for $28/year, or Bitdefender Total Security for $59.49/year (available on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android).

2.Malwarebytes

malwarebytes free antivirus software

Malwarebytes isn't antivirus software for preventing viruses from infecting your device. It's a malware removal tool. It offers a free anti-malware download for Windows to help eliminate viruses, spyware, ransomware, and other malware after an attack.

That means Malwarebytes has no real-time protection, including virus scanning or safeguarding your network with a firewall. Still, Malwarebytes is fantastic at detecting and removing viruses. It also offers a browser extension, Browser Guard, for blocking ads, trackers, and phishing attempts (although it could be more reliable).

Key Features

The most notable features of the Malwarebytes free antivirus are:

  • On-demand virus scanner;
  • Free malware removal;
  • Ransomware protection;
  • Browser Guard extension.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Fast scanning;
  • Removing malware for free;
  • No false positives;
  • Scheduled scans;
  • Low CPU usage.
Cons
  • No firewall;
  • No advanced security tools like a VPN or password manager.

Supported OS

Malwarebytes offers a free antivirus for Windows, but you can get a paid antivirus for macOS, ChromeOS, and Android and an iOS mobile security tool with anti-malware features.

Final Score

Malwarebytes boasts a 9.0 score in malware removal, so download the malware removal tool for free to see how it fits your needs. You can also get real-time protection and a VPN with Malwarebytes Standard or Plus (starting at $44.99/year and $79.99/year, respectively).

3.Avira

avira free antivirus software

Avira's free antivirus goes beyond detecting and isolating viruses (including Trojans), ransomware, spyware, worms, rootkits, and other malware. Besides real-time protection, it offers features for optimizing app performance, cleaning junk files, and removing potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) from your system.

However, it doesn't offer free malware removal. It only quarantines infected files, letting you delete them yourself.

Additionally, it has a built-in VPN, password manager, and browser extension (Avira Browser Safety) for safe shopping and blocking adware, browser trackers, and phishing attempts.

Don't worry; this sea of features doesn't mean it slows down your device. It consumes minimum CPU resources.

Key Features

The most notable features of Avira Free Antivirus include:

  • Malware scanner;
  • PUA shield;
  • Spyware cleaner;
  • Ransomware extortion;
  • Avira Browser Safety extension;
  • Built-in VPN;
  • Password manager.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Real-time protection;
  • Vulnerability scans;
  • Phishing protection;
  • Scheduled scans;
  • Automated virus definition updates.
Cons
  • No firewall;
  • Limited functionality for many free features;
  • 500 MB/month VPN bandwidth cap.

Supported OS

Avira Free Antivirus is available on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.

Final Score

Avira Free Antivirus has a 9.5 malware protection score. However, Avira Antivirus Pro for Windows and macOS offers even higher security. Some features include email protection, a malware scanner for removable devices, a firewall, and behavior-based detection for blocking new ransomware. The pricing starts at $16.95/year.

4.Avast

avast free antivirus software

Avast offers a fantastic free antivirus with many valuable features. It's surprising more of them aren't behind a paywall. It scans your device and network for viruses, ransomware, and other malware, isolating infected files. It even sends malicious files to the cloud with CyberCapture before pushing a cure to you and other Avast users.

Additionally, Avast Free Antivirus protects you on public Wi-Fi networks, blocks intruders, unsafe downloads, and malicious sites, and alerts you of compromised accounts.

However, the built-in Avast SecureLine VPN isn't free forever—you can try it for 30 days.

Key Features

The top features of Avast Free Antivirus include:

  • Virus scanner and quarantine;
  • Multiple shields (file, behavior, botnet, ransomware, web, and mail);
  • Wi-Fi network scanner;
  • Remote access shield;
  • Advanced firewall;

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Real-time, proactive protection;
  • Behavior-based detection;
  • Sound virus scans.
Cons
  • High CPU usage;
  • Limited free functionalities;
  • No ransomware reversal;
  • No free virus removal.

Supported OS

Avast offers free virus protection for your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, or Android.

Final Score

Avast Free Antivirus has a 9.6 virus protection score. Get more robust defenses with Avast Premium Security for all supported operating systems (starting at $39.99/year) or Avast Ultimate (starting at $69.99/year) for Windows and macOS.

5.AVG

avg free antivirus software

AVG and Avast are nearly identical, which isn't surprising since the same company owns them. Avast Software acquired AVG Technologies in 2016. Both solutions use the Avast detection engine, which the company enhanced with AVG capabilities, making it a well-rounded solution for anyone.

AVG AntiVirus Free is excellent at blocking known and new malware, including viruses, ransomware, rootkits, and spyware. It prevents you from downloading malicious apps, loading unsafe websites, and clicking phishing email Image names.

Like Avast Free Antivirus, this free virus protection software doesn't remove malware. However, it quarantines infected files so you can delete them. The best part is its compatibility with other antivirus tools; you can use it as an extra security layer.

Key Features

The best features of AVG AntiVirus Free include:

  • Malware scanner;
  • Phishing protection;
  • HackCheck;
  • Email shield;
  • System scanner.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Excellent, real-time malware protection;
  • Phishing prevention;
  • Behavior-based detection;
  • Advanced firewall;
  • Scheduled scans.
Cons
  • No vulnerability scans;
  • Slow full-system scans;
  • No free virus removal.

Supported OS

AVG AntiVirus Free is available on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.

Final Score

Like Bitdefender, AVG AntiVirus Free boasts a perfect score of 10 regarding virus protection. However, its paid solutions provide a more sophisticated firewall, VPN, and advanced protection against ransomware, hacking attempts, and webcam threats (among other features). The pricing starts at $46.68/year for AVG Internet Security and $46.68/year for AVG Ultimate.

6.McAfee

mcafee free antivirus software

McAfee offers one of the top free antivirus solutions, but there's a catch. It isn't entirely free. You can download a free trial to see how it suits your needs before upgrading to premium.

Why is it on our list of free antivirus tools? Because it unlocks all the premium features for up to five devices for 30 days. That's miles away from any free-of-charge solution.

We also think it deserves a spot in this review because its lower-tier plans are more affordable than most of its premium counterparts.

McAfee Total Protection uses AI to block malicious websites, ransomware, viruses, and other online threats (new and known), remove malware from your devices, and prevent risky outbound connections. It's an all-in-one shield for a secure online experience.

Key Features

The most notable features of McAfee Total Protection include:

  • Antivirus;
  • Advanced firewall;
  • Web and scam protection;
  • ID theft prevention;
  • File shredder;
  • Bank and credit card transaction monitoring;
  • Password manager;
  • VPN with unlimited bandwidth.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Access to all premium features;
  • Superb real-time threat protection;
  • Free virus removal;
  • Virus protection guarantee;
  • Behavior-based detection;
  • Multi-device support.
Cons
  • Slow scans;
  • Limited functionalities in lower-tier plans.

Supported OS

McAfee is available on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and ChromeOS.

Final Score

McAfee Total Protection has a 9.6 malware protection score. You can enjoy a 30-day free trial. Its pricing for one device starts at $29.99/year, while family plans start at $69.99/year. The best part is that McAfee+ Premium and McAfee+ Advanced support unlimited devices, while the latter leaves little to be desired regarding online security.

7.Microsoft Defender

microsoft defender free antivirus software

Microsoft Defender (formerly Windows Defender) is a free built-in antivirus for PC users. Every Windows device has it, helping you block suspicious and malicious websites, apps, and files.

You can enjoy isolated browsing, firewall on multiple networks, and account security. Additionally, you can monitor your computer's health and performance and your children's online activity.

Microsoft Defender's device security includes core isolation for blocking malware and a secure boot for preventing malware from loading at startup. There's also a security processor or trusted platform module (TPM) for encrypting your computer. No malware can tamper with it.

Key Features

Microsoft Defender's top features include:

  • Virus and threat protection;
  • Account and device security;
  • Firewall and network protection;
  • Device security;
  • App and browser control;
  • Device performance and health reports;
  • Parental controls.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Built-in Windows utility;
  • Real-time firewall protection;
  • Scheduled scans;
  • Ransomware protection.
Cons
  • No behavior-based detection;
  • No vulnerability scans;
  • Unreliable results;
  • No advanced features like a VPN or password manager.

Supported OS

Microsoft Defender is a free, built-in Windows utility. However, the new premium, cross-platform version extends Windows protection to macOS, iOS, and Android devices for Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers.

Final Score

Microsoft Defender has the lowest virus protection score on this list—8.8. If you're looking for the best free virus protection software with the most robust defenses, you might want to consider our other recommendations.

Still, Microsoft Defender is a solid choice if you need standard Windows protection for free. You can enhance it with Microsoft Defender for Individuals and extend it to other operating systems. It's available for $69.99/year with a Microsoft 365 Personal plan or $99.99/year with Microsoft 365 Family.

8.Kaspersky

kaspersky free antivirus software

Kaspersky offers a bare-bones antivirus solution for detecting stalkerware and preventing viruses, ransomware, and other malware from infecting your device. However, its free virus protection doesn't extend to removing malware or preventing phishing attacks.

Still, it warns you about suspicious apps tracking your activity and prevents malware from wreaking havoc on your computer, tablet, or mobile phone. It's ideal if you don't need or want to pay for advanced features because it does its job exceptionally.

Key Features

Kaspersky Free includes only two features:

  • Malware scanner;
  • Stalkerware detection.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Excellent real-time malware protection;
  • Behavior-based detection;
  • Virus database updates;
  • Scheduled weekly scans;
  • Low CPU usage.
Cons
  • No web or phishing protection;
  • No firewall;
  • No free virus removal;
  • No macOS support;
  • Limited free features.

Supported OS

Kaspersky Free is available on Windows, Android, and iOS. Mac users can get a premium version.

Final Score

Kaspersky Free has a 9.8 virus protection score. That's nearly perfect, but you can enhance your security with a premium version that offers virus removal.

Additionally, the premium edition has a password manager, VPN, data leak checker, online transaction protection, performance optimization, system cleanup, and other features. Get Kaspersky Standard or Plus, starting at $44.99/year and $55.99

Scoreboard

  • 🥇Top 1: Bitdefender & AVG 10/10
  • 🥈Top 2: Kaspersky 9.8/10
  • 🥉Top 3: Avast 9.6/10

Bonus: How to Recover Data Deleted by Viruses

Computer viruses are notorious for modifying and deleting data by injecting malicious code into various programs. Fortunately, that damage is reversible.

You can restore deleted files with trusted data recovery software like Wondershare Recoverit. This prominent solution has a 95% success rate in 500+ data loss scenarios, including viruses and other malware. Moreover, it supports 2,000+ devices and 1,000+ file types, making it perfect for anyone.

Free Download
Free Download

Once you remove the virus from your system, download Wondershare Recoverit from the official website, install it on your device, and follow these steps to retrieve deleted data:

  1. Go to Hard Drives and Locations, click Start, and choose the desired storage.
    storage units for data recovery
  2. Use search filters like file type and time while the program scans for lost data to accelerate the process (unless you wish to retrieve everything). You can pause or stop the scan anytime.
    scanning for lost files
  3. You can preview your recoverable videos, photos, presentations, documents, and other files.
    a preview of a recoverable video
  4. Browse your device for a safe location (preferably different from the original) and hit Recover.
    a file path to save data

Conclusion

You can use the best antivirus software for free without worrying about malware creeping into your system. Malwarebytes is your go-to solution for free malware removal, while Microsoft Defender is already in your system if you're a Windows user. Bitdefender, Avira, Avast, AVG, and Kaspersky are excellent for real-time protection, while McAfee offers only a free trial but unlocks all premium features.

Try them for free to get a feel of the features and see how they fit your needs. Once you pick your favorite, we recommend upgrading to premium for maximum protection. Moreover, you can also keep Wondershare Recoverit in your toolbox to retrieve your vital files which may be deleted by virus.

Free Download
Free Download

FAQ

  • Are free virus protection tools safe?
    Free antivirus software solutions from trustworthy providers are perfectly safe. All the tools on our list come from prominent companies famous for reliability and credibility; we wouldn't recommend them otherwise. Multiple independent labs like AV-Comparatives and AV-TEST regularly test their features and performance and publicly report on the findings. You can rely on them when choosing free antivirus software.
  • Is free antivirus software enough?
    It depends on your needs. It's enough for standard malware protection, including blocking malicious Image names. However, many free antivirus tools have no firewall (Avast, AVG, and Microsoft Defender do) or advanced features like a VPN, web protection, password manager, and ransomware protection. That's where their premium versions come in handy.
  • Can I run multiple antivirus software simultaneously?
    Multiple antivirus tools in one system can interfere with one another, potentially letting malware slip through the cracks. Additionally, your device might freeze, slow down, or crash. However, some solutions play well with others. AVG and Microsoft Defender let you install another antivirus software without causing interference. The latter will even suspend its operations while your other antivirus runs, which is perfect since it leaves much to be desired.
Alex Nappi
Alex Nappi Feb 28, 24
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