There are several free antivirus suites available for Windows. But the question is which one is the best free antivirus for Windows? Each company claims their own product to be the best and lists several reasons for it. Today we put those claims to the test and list our findings of the five best free antivirus for Windows. All of these have a version that is also compatible with Windows 8.
Microsoft Security Essentials is a favorite of mine with great detection rates, particularly for rootkits. Even more impressive is the fact that Microsoft Security Essentials has very few false alarms, is light on resources and is good at removal of existing malware. MSE is a great choice for average users because of the minimal user interaction required. It automatically updates and removes threats. No registration is needed and there are no nag screens or advertisements. It is extremely small in size (approx 13MB) which means it is light on resources. But it did fail the most recent tests done by AV, the only AntiVirus to fail out of the 24 test, so that is a big negative for MSE. The full results can be checked here. MSE can be downloaded from here
AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition is also a decent choice for a free antivirus. Although this venerable antivirus has had some shaky results in detection in the recent past, it now offers a high level of protection. This is probably due to the inclusion of a fully-fledged behavioural blocker that is the “Identity Protection” protection. This provides a very important additional layer of protection, on the other hand though a similar protection level can be achieved by using one of the free antivirus above alongside a separate behavioural blocker. Unfortunately AVG free has grown considerably in size, has very slow scan speeds and also advertisements (but they can be disabled). It can be downloaded from here
Avast! Free Antivirus is a very strong contendor for the best free antivirus software in light of recent developments. Avast has steadily been improving its detection rates over the past few years and now ranks with the some of the best. Avast has the most features of all the free antivirus with full real-time capabilities including web, e-mail, IM, P2P and network shields, boot-time scanning, and a behavioural blocker. The new version 6 brings even more features including an internet site ratings plugin, script malware protection and a limited (non-configurable) sandboxing feature. Although the sandbox is a very useful semi-automated security feature, the default settings involves a pop up to ask whether a software should be sandboxed for not – for the typical average user this can be slightly confusing though it can set to sandbox the software automatically. Lastly Avast is relatively light on resources. Download it here.
Panda Cloud Antivirus is Panda’s successful attempt to jump on the free antivirus bandwagon. Along with MSE, it is an excellent choice for average users with a simple interface and completely automated features with automatic updating and removal of malware. The detection level is generally very high, but according to the latest test data, detection of zero day threats is slightly lower. PCA uses ‘cloud’ technology to provide for a much quicker release of updates as all definitions are stored in the cloud and thus the moment Panda updates their blacklist all users of PCA with an internet connection are protected from it. Download it from here.
Immunet Protect FREE is a unique, cloud-based antivirus program, much like Panda Cloud Antivirus. Immunet Protect FREE protects your computer from bots, worms, viruses, Trojans, keyloggers, and spyware. It works on Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP. One key drawback is that you must also be connected to the Internet at all times. I think Protect FREE from Immunet is one of the best free antivirus programs for several reasons: you never have to update it, it has completely free telephone based support, and it can be run alongside some of the other best free antivirus tools like AVG Anti-Virus Free, Microsoft Security Essentials, and avast! Free Antivirus, increasing your overall protection! Download from here.
The above are by no means the only free antivirus suites available and you may have been using one that has been doing a great job for you. Please do share your experience in the commetns below. I am personally using MSE on one PC and AVG on another. I find MSE to be extremely light, easy to use and does the job just fine.