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5 Best FREE Antiviruses for Computers & Smartphones in 2023

Updated on: September 22, 2023
Fact Checked by Katarina Glamoslija
Kate Davidson Kate Davidson
Updated on: September 22, 2023

Short on time? Here’s the best free antivirus in 2023:

  • 🥇 Norton: Flawless virus and malware protection, plus heaps of useful extra features like an unlimited-data VPN, password manager, dark web monitoring, and parental controls. While it’s not 100% free, there’s a generous 60-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it risk-free for 2 months.

Finding an antivirus that’s actually free is difficult. Many “free” antivirus programs are just unsecured premium versions, leaving you widely exposed to malware. And many deceptive online reviewers include “free trials” on their lists of free products. But once the trial is over, you’ll need to pay.

The truth is, free antivirus software can’t always 100% protect your device against cyber attacks. However, some free antivirus software can act as a decent layer of protection if you don’t need a high level of security. Personally, I carry a lot of sensitive data on each one of my devices, so I always use a low-cost premium antivirus like Norton and skip the hassle of using a free antivirus.

That said, I found a few good options after testing over 40 genuinely free antiviruses for virus and malware protection, internet security, and additional features. While most of them were pretty bad, I found a few that actually worked pretty well. Any of the products on my list below will do a decent job of protecting you against online threats in 2023.

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Quick summary of the best free antivirus software in 2023:

Best Free Antivirus for Windows — Bitdefender Antivirus Free

Best Free Antivirus for Windows — Bitdefender Antivirus Free

Bitdefender Antivirus Free is the best free Windows antivirus in 2023. Its malware scanner is super lightweight (it’s based in the cloud) and offers flawless malware detection without slowing down your system or consuming too much battery life.

When I tested Bitdefender, it was able to detect every single piece of test malware I installed on my Windows PC, making it one of the most impressive free antiviruses out there. And I didn’t notice any impact on my computer at all, even during full scans.

Bitdefender Antivirus Free also offers:

  • Real-time protection.
  • Anti-phishing protection.

Bitdefender is way better than Windows Defender, Windows’s built-in antivirus — Bitdefender is easier to use and offers more effective protections. I also love Bitdefender’s layout and ease of use — it’s perfect for non-tech-savvy users.

I’m a big fan of Bitdefender’s free anti-phishing protection. I tested it against various malicious sites that had managed to get past Chrome and Firefox’s built-in protections (and past several other antiviruses too). Bitdefender was able to block every single site.

What’s more, Bitefender offers high quality real-time protection for free. Most free antivirus software, including TotalAV’s free PC antivirus, requires users to upgrade to access real-time protection. That said, I would like to see the company offer a couple of other free features with the Antivirus Free app, like a VPN and PC optimization tools.

Bitdefender’s Windows-only paid plans are also super affordable. Starting at just $14.99 / year, Bitdefender offers comprehensive protection for up to 10 Windows devices, including camera and microphone protection, parental controls, device optimization, identity protection tools, and a VPN. If you are also looking for affordable mobile protection, Bitdefender Mobile Security offers an additional feature for Android called App Anomaly Detection, which continuously monitors downloaded apps for any suspicious activity. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans, giving you plenty of time to try Bitdefender out and decide whether it’s for you.

Bottom Line:

Bitdefender’s free Windows antivirus does a great job protecting your Windows PC against malware and web-based threats. Its lightweight scanner scored a perfect 100% for malware detection in my tests, and I was impressed with the anti-phishing protections too. While there are other free antiviruses out there with more features, Bitdefender keeps it simple and does the basics extremely well.

Try Bitdefender for Windows Now

Read the full Bitdefender review here

Best Free Antivirus for Mac — Avira Free Antivirus

Best Free Antivirus for Mac — Avira Free Antivirus

Avira Free Antivirus for Mac has a good malware scanner and a great range of features. The Mac scan took less than 90 minutes to complete, which is pretty good. During the scan, Avira detected all of the malware files installed on my Mac, and it stopped me from launching malicious .dmg files — instantly moving them to the quarantine folder.

The free plan comes with:

  • Real-time macOS protection.
  • Phantom VPN (500 MB/month).
  • Performance optimizer.

I really like how Avira Free for Mac includes real-time protection, which Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac doesn’t. However, one minor downside to Avira Free for Mac is that you need to upgrade to access USB scanning, so you can’t ensure your external drives are malware-free unless you pay.

Avira’s Phantom VPN includes 500 MB of free data every month on the free plan. Although this isn’t a huge amount — not enough for you to binge-stream Netflix — it’s great for anyone occasionally using public Wi-Fi connections. The VPN doesn’t offer super fast speeds like Bitdefender’s VPN, and it doesn’t allow you to choose your server location. However, while it’s not the best antivirus-bundled VPN, it is truly 100% free and it works pretty well.

Avira’s free Optimizer — which comes as a separate app — is a really good Mac cleaning tool. Its initial device scan was super fast, and it found a huge number of junk files (almost 3 GB), which I could then remove from my hard drive. Optimizer’s layout is really clean and straightforward to navigate, and it’s a nice addition to Avira’s free product range.

While the Avira’s free version offers a good range of features, its premium plans offer even more features, including its premium password manager and a VPN without data limits. The most popular plan, Avira Prime, costs just $59.99 / year and also comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee.

Bottom Line:

Avira for macOS is the best free Mac antivirus out there. I love the range of features and additional free features that help with Mac optimization. The fact that Avira offers real-time protection for free is the biggest selling point for me. Although the VPN isn’t as good as some other antivirus-bundled VPNs, it’s good enough for browsing while protecting your data when you’re on public Wi-Fi. Avira’s premium plans offer a great range of feature for a reasonable price. All paid plans include a 60-day money-back guarantee.

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Read the full Avira review here

Best Free Antivirus for Android — Avira Antivirus Security

Best Free Antivirus for Android — Avira Antivirus Security

Avira’s free Android app is just as excellent as its desktop antivirus when it comes to malware detection and removal. Plus, the app is super straightforward to use, making it a great choice for non-tech-savvy users. I was able to easily run a Smart Scan, which scanned my entire device for malware and other security issues, including privacy settings that need reviewing.

Avira’s free features for Android include:

  • Permissions manager.
  • Network scanner.
  • VPN (100 MB daily limit).
  • Data breach scanner.
  • App lock.
  • Device optimizer.

I really like Avira’s permissions manager, which was able to quickly analyze all the apps on my Android and tell me which ones had access to things like my images and my browsing data. This is super helpful, as you’ll often find that apps you haven’t even thought about for ages have unnecessary access to your data, whether you’re actually using them or not!

Avira Antivirus Security also includes a VPN, which comes with a 100 MB per day limit rather than a 500 MB per month limit like on Windows and Mac. While this isn’t heaps of data, it’s fine for light web browsing and a lot more that most other providers — competitors like Trend Micro don’t offer a VPN at all with their free Android apps.

One downside of Avira’s free plan though is that it doesn’t offer anti-phishing protection or microphone and camera protection, but you can access those features by upgrading to Avira’s premium Android app, which is available as a standalone purchase for 1 device or as part of the Avira Prime plan ($59.99 / year) that covers multiple devices.

Bottom Line:

Overall, Avira’s free antivirus for Android is great. The malware scanning is fast, thorough, and scored a 100% detection rate in my testing. I also love how simple the app is to use, and the fact it offers an app permissions manager and device optimization tools. Although the VPN isn’t as good as some others, it’s great for people who occasionally use public Wi-Fi connections on their Android devices.

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Read the full Avira review here

Best Free Antivirus for iOS — Avira Mobile Security

Best Free Antivirus for iOS — Avira Mobile Security

Avira Free Mobile Security isn’t an antivirus app per se — it doesn’t scan your iOS device for malware (because Apple doesn’t allow it). However, it does offer a powerful range of free cybersecurity tools for your iOS device, and its layout is nice and easy to use, just like all other Avira products.

Avira’s free iOS app includes:

  • Anti-theft protections.
  • Privacy Manager.
  • Network scanner.
  • Call blocker.
  • VPN (100 MB/day limit).

My favorite feature is the Privacy Manager. It enabled me to download a “profile” that blocked my Siri voice command data and location data from being sent to Apple’s servers for analysis. Privacy is something I genuinely care about, so this feature made me feel safe when using Siri — which I’d avoided previously due to privacy concerns.

The anti-theft feature is super easy to set up, and I love how you can view the location of multiple devices all from the Avira Connect online dashboard. The Network Scanner told me exactly who was using my Wi-Fi network, and I was reassured to find that no one was using it without my permission.

Avira Mobile Security also includes VPN with a 100 MB per day limit. This isn’t heaps of data (it wouldn’t be enough to stream shows or movies), but it’s fine for browsing while you use public Wi-Fi in a cafe for example.

Unfortunately, Avira’s web protection tools for iOS are only available on the premium version. I was slightly disappointed to see this, as many other free mobile antivirus apps, such as TotalAV and Kaspersky, offer these tools — or at least limited versions — for free. That said, it’s very cheap to upgrade to the premium version of Avira, especially if you upgrade via Avira’s Prime plan, which costs $59.99 / year and covers multiple devices including iOS, Mac, Windows, and Android devices.

Bottom Line:

Avira’s iOS app offers a great range of free features and a clean, easy-to-use design. The Privacy Manager is a standout feature that fully protects your data from being sent to Apple’s servers — giving peace of mind when using Siri. I was slightly disappointed that I had to upgrade to access the identity protection and web protection tools, but the cost of upgrading is very minimal.

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Read the full Avira review here

Best Free Antivirus for Chromebook — Bitdefender

Best Free Antivirus for Chromebook — Bitdefender

Bitdefender’s Mobile Security app (the same one for Android device) is the best free antivirus for Chromebooks. It include solid malware protection — its scanner managed to detect all of the malware sample on my Chromebook and provides low-impact real-time virus scanning. Not only is the app very easy to setup and use, it’s also lightweight — I hardly noticed impact on my Chromebook’s performance when running a full system scan.

However, aside from malware protections, Bitdefender’s free version for Chromebook doesn’t include any other extra features. To gain access to its VPN, web protections, and device optimization tools, you’ll need to upgrade to Bitdefender’s premium version (luckily, it’s one of the most affordable antiviruses on the market).

While Bitdefender is an excellent antivirus, Norton is my favorite choice for Chromebooks, as it includes flawless malware protection, advanced dark web monitoring, a VPN (with unlimited data), and more. That said, Bitdefender’s malware detection rating is on par with Norton, so they’re both great options.

You can access Bitdefender’s premium version via a standalone purchase or its most popular plans, Total Security and Premium Security, which start at $35.99 / year. All Bitdefender plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Bottom Line:

Bitdefender offers excellent free malware protections for Chromebooks. It’s Chromebook app (the same as the Android app) is very easy to use and doesn’t impact system performance. However, it doesn’t offer many extra features, like web protections and a VPN, unless you upgrade to its premium version. Bitdefender’s premium plans are low-cost, and they all come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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Read the full Bitdefender Review

Best Free Antivirus for Linux — ClamAV

Best Free Antivirus for Linux — ClamAV

ClamAV is the best free antivirus for Linux users. It’s open source, just like Linux itself, and its huge virus directory is constantly updated by users around the world. When I tested ClamAV, it detected a perfect 100% of my test malware files.

While ClamAV is a bit tricky to use, it’s worth doing the work to get to know it. If you’re a beginner, you can start with ClamTk. It’s a user-friendly version of ClamAV with a simple Graphic User Interface (GUI) and on-demand scanning.

However, if you’re a more advanced Linux user, I recommend trying ClamAV’s command-line scanner. The tutorials provided are good, and after I’d read a few, I was able to schedule scans of specific folders, whitelist software that I knew was safe, and configure ClamAV to delete suspicious files.

You can also configure ClamAV to scan your mail server, which is really useful, particularly if you’re in a network with Windows and Mac users. I tested ClamAV by scanning for PC and Mac-specific malware in my emails, and I was then able to delete anything risky before it could spread to others in my network.

Overall, I really like ClamAV, and it’s a great tool if you’re willing to do the work. However, if you’re happy to spend a bit of money on more intuitive and full-featured Linux protection, it’s worth looking at Bitdefender’s GravityZone plans. They’re designed for business, but the flexible pricing means that they’re a good option for home users who want protection for multiple Linux devices too.

Bottom Line:

ClamAV is the best free antivirus scanner for Linux. It’s open-source, and its massive malware directory is being constantly updated by users across the world. I had to work on my command line knowledge to get the most out of ClamAV, and it’s certainly not very beginner-friendly. But for more advanced users, ClamAV offers a lot of control. If you’re a beginner or you just want a quick and easy Linux tool, ClamTk is a user-friendly version of ClamAV with most of the same functionality.

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Best Antivirus Overall (Premium) — Norton 360

Best Antivirus Overall (Premium) — Norton 360

Norton 360 is the best antivirus of 2023 without a doubt. It doesn’t offer a free plan, but its excellent malware protection and additional features are worth paying for, and its plans are pretty reasonably priced.

There are many reasons why I use Norton’s paid antivirus:

  • Advanced AI-powered malware and virus scanning.
  • Dark web monitoring.
  • Password manager.
  • External device and USB hard drive scans.
  • VPN with unlimited data.
  • Parental controls.
  • Cloud backup storage.
  • Cross-platform compatibility.

Norton’s range of additional features are impressive. Its VPN is very good, with fast speeds, a number of server locations, unlimited data, and a no logs policy (it doesn’t track your browsing data). Its dark web monitoring tool is one of the best on the market — it tracks a wide range of personal information, including addresses, credit card numbers, email addresses, ID documentation, and more.

Norton is without question the best antivirus for most people, especially those with PCs. If you’re a Mac user, Norton is still good, but I’d also recommend you also take a look at Intego’s Mac-only antivirus.

While Norton doesn’t have a completely free version of its software, it offers a 60-day money-back guarantee on all of its 360 packages, so you can try it risk-free for 2 months to see if it works for you.

Bottom Line:

Norton offers the best protection of any antivirus on the market in 2023. It has powerful security features, and its additional features such as an unlimited-data VPN, parental controls, and cloud-based storage just can’t be offered by a free antivirus. While Norton isn’t free, its plans are reasonably priced, and it offers a generous 60-day money-back guarantee so you have plenty of time to try it out risk-free.

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Read the full Norton review here

Comparison of the Best Free Antivirus Software

Antivirus 100% Free Version? Best Premium Plan Malware Scanner Real-time Protection Web Protection Firewall VPN System
Optimization Tools
Best for Windows: Bitdefender Antivirus Free Bitdefender Total Security ($35.99 / year)
(premium version only)

(premium version only)
Best for Mac: Avira Free Antivirus Avira Prime ($59.99 / year)
(500 MB/month)
Best for Android: Avira Antivirus Security for Android Avira Prime ($59.99 / year)
(premium version only)

(100 MB/day)
Best for iOS: Avira Free Mobile Security for iOS Avira Prime ($59.99 / year)
(premium version only)

Best for Chromebook: Bitdefender Mobile Security Bitdefender Total Security ($35.99 / year)
(premium version only)

(premium version only)

(premium version only)
Best for Linux: ClamAV N/A (ClamAV is 100% free)
Best Overall: Norton 360
(but it has a 60-day money-back guarantee)
Norton 360 Deluxe ($49.99 / year)

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How to Choose the Best Free Antivirus in 2023

  • Pick an antivirus that is 100% free. A free antivirus should offer full protection against malware for free — there shouldn’t be any hidden costs such as an additional fees to remove malware. All of the antiviruses on my list include a free malware scanner with no limitations.
  • Look for full malware scanning. To be worth downloading, a free antivirus has to at the very least offer strong virus and malware detection. I personally tested each of these antiviruses’ virus and malware scanning engines, and I’m pleased to say that every product on my list passed with a flawless 100% detection rate.
  • Choose a antivirus that’s ease to use. There’s no point in downloading a free antivirus if you’re not going to be able to use it. It’s important for technical software (like an antivirus) to be easy to use for non-technical users too. Products like Avira Free Antivirus and Bitdefender Antivirus Free are super sleek and intuitive, with all their features clearly laid out. ClamAV is a more difficult product to use, but it is the best free option out there for Linux, and if you’re an experienced Linux user, you should be able to get to grips with it.
  • Assess the impact on system performance. To be worth using, a free antivirus has to work well both with your device and with your operating system. I tested each program on my list for speed and CPU usage, and am happy to confirm that they all worked efficiently and didn’t slow my devices down too much during scans.

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Risks & Disadvantages of Using a Free Antivirus

Free antivirus tools offer some protection, but they fall short compared to premium solutions like Norton. Features such as parental controls and dark web monitoring are typically reserved for premium versions.

Many “free” antivirus tools either underperform or compromise user data. That’s why I think it’s better to consider premium antivirus solutions.

My list includes some of the best free antivirus products available. You can get good basic malware protection from the products I’ve listed above, and some even provide helpful extras like system optimization tools and effective web protections.

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Affordable Antiviruses

Bitdefender’s free version is pretty good (which is why it made the top spot as the best free antivirus for Windows).

However, Bitdefender also offers super affordable paid plans that give you more useful features for a really low cost. I love the Bitdefender Total Security plan, which covers up to 5 Windows, Mac, iOS or Android devices and includes parental controls, a password manager, webcam protection, and much more, all for $35.99 / year.

Norton’s plans are also really affordable, and they all include an unlimited-data VPN and the best dark web monitoring on the market. My favorite is the Norton 360 Deluxe package, which covers up to 5 devices and offers 50 GB of secure file storage for just $49.99 / year.

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Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut

Many brands offer free versions or free trials of their paid software. But oftentimes, they can be limited or add nothing of value to your device’s built-in security tools (like Windows Defender and Apple’s native security system). Here are a few reputable antiviruses that just fell short of making it my list.

  • Webroot. Webroot offers great malware protection and additional security features. However, it’s free version is limited and doesn’t offer many extra tools.
  • TotalAV. TotalAV’s free antivirus is pretty good, but I had to pay to access additional features such as real-time protection and an ad blocker — I can get these features from other free antivirus software.
  • ScanGuard. ScanGuard offers a feature-rich antivirus suite, but it’s free version is limited and isn’t as good as the products I’ve included in my list.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a free antivirus going to keep me protected from malware?

Yes and no. All the free antivirus software listed here will give you a good basic level of security, including malware protection. But if you’re looking for anything other than malware scanning and real-time threat protection, you’re going to need something more advanced, like a low-cost premium antivirus that includes a wide range of security tools to keep your devices protected.

Are there any free antiviruses without ads?

There are, but companies need to make money somehow. If they aren’t showing you ads, they’re probably limiting features with the hope that you’ll purchase a premium upgrade. And that’s the best case scenario!

My favorite free antivirus with no ads is Bitdefender. Avira also doesn’t have ads, but the company is a bit more blatant about trying to get you to upgrade to the paid version. Still, both of these apps are among the best free antiviruses on the market.

Which is the best free antivirus for me?

It’s true that there’s a lot of free antivirus software out there. But the majority is ineffective, and some may actually be malware disguised as legitimate antivirus software!

The first thing you need to do is choose an antivirus that has been optimized for your operating system e.g. Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux. Next, you need to see if the free antivirus will offer you all of the features you need to stay protected. Some offer a VPN, while others offer phishing protection, ransomware protection, or optimization tools. There are so many choices out there, but again, it’s crucial that you only download legitimate and trusted software.

For more information on the best free antiviruses of 2023, check out our top free recommendations for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux.

If your device’s security is important to you, check out SafetyDetectives’s best premium antiviruses for 2023:

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About the Author
Kate Davidson
Kate Davidson
Chief Editor
Updated on: September 22, 2023

About the Author

Kate Davidson is a Chief Editor at SafetyDetectives. She has many years of experience as a journalist and communications professional, and has worked for media organizations, government agencies, and NGOs in multiple countries. Kate has always had a deep interest in cybersecurity, which has — together with her passion for crafting quality content — allowed her to bring complex topics about antiviruses, password managers, and overall online security closer to our readers. In her spare time, Kate enjoys spending time with her family, cooking Italian food, and doing yoga by the sea.