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10 Best Free Windows Antivirus Software for 2019

10 Best Free Windows Antivirus Software for 2019
Felicity Kay
Posted: July 12, 2019

Your Windows device isn’t as protected as you think it is. That and, you shouldn’t have to pay for your device to be protected. Our top 10 free Antiviruses for Windows guarantee to keep your device protected, even better than with the free Windows Defender.

There are no hidden costs, although you should always remember that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and you always will end up paying, in one way or another: with free Antivirus programs for Windows, you can expect a side-helping of ads, spyware, malware, and unwanted junk.

While most of the 30 free antivirus tools reviewed managed to effectively protect against malware, we found that Norton Security Free Antivirus had the most steadily effective malware detection of any free products we’ve tested while also having very little impact on our system’s performance.

Quick Links: 10 Best Free Antivirus Programs for Windows

  1. Panda Free Antivirus
  2. Total AV Free Antivirus
  3. Norton Security Free Antivirus
  4. McAfee Free Antivirus
  5. Avira Free Antivirus
  6. Intrusta Antivirus
  7. CYLANCE Antivirus
  8. Heimdal Antivirus Free
  9. Webroot SecureAnywhere Free
  10. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

Why Your Free Version of Windows Defender Isn’t Enough

If you’d rather stick with Windows Defender – it’s installed automatically on any new Windows device, and seems pretty similar to any other free antivirus on our list – you’ll be somewhat protected.

We were impressed by Windows Defender’s on-demand scanning, online malicious URL blocking, as well as its anti-ransomware protection with Controlled Folder Access.

But – you need a free antivirus that blocks most, if not all threats, and Windows Defender’s firewall and exploit protection just isn’t as strong as other free antiviruses on our list. Its virus definition database also leaves a lot to be desired compared to other best free antivirus software.

That and, with other free antiviruses (even free-trial antiviruses) you can expect plenty of extra features, such as a password manager, a VPN, and robust web filtering, that you won’t get with Windows Defender.

The True Price of a Free Antivirus

Can you really expect all-around protection at zero cost? Not quite – after all, these businesses have to make money somewhere. 

Free antiviruses are definitely better than nothing at all, but actually, most can end up doing more harm than good, thanks to some serious security limitations. 

Free antiviruses will only give you basic protection, but won’t do much in an actual emergency, including serious threats like rootkits, keyloggers, phishing domains, botnets, viruses, and trojans.  

What’s worse, most free antiviruses’ manufacturers will report back to its manufacturer when it finds anything it hasn’t seen before – both suspicious activity or not. This is the dirty little secret that free antiviruses manufacturers use to keep their virus databases up to date. 

Otherwise, you can expect to be pushed to upgrade to a paid version, and quite often. Or, you’ll find that some of the best-looking (or most needed) features are only available to paid users. All in all, you should expect (at the very least) annoying adverts, and at the worst, reporting back to the free antiviruses’ manufacturer on your security activity. 

How We Tested Our Recommended Free Antiviruses

We double-checked each of our recommended free antiviruses to see – 

  • Are they really free? 
  • How effective their malware detection was
  • Their impact on our device performance
  • How easy each free antivirus was to use

We then cross-referenced each of the AVs with several different consumer complaints websites and picked the top 10.

Here are our results. 


1.  Panda Free Antivirus – Best with a VPN

The developers of Panda have made sure to “cover all the bases.” The free version is easy to use yet still one of the most accurate anti-malware, anti-ransomware, anti-spyware, and anti-Trojan programs out there.

Free Version Feature

  • VPN client software
  • Gaming mode
  • Full, critical or custom scans
  • Scheduled scans
  • Safe Web URL scanner for Explorer, Firefox and Chrome
  • PC clean-up tools
  • Process monitor
  • USB and SD protection
What we liked:
  • Compatible with Windows XP through to 10
  • Reliable virus detection with very few false positives
  • Light impact on performance
  • User-friendly interface
  • USB and SD card scan

What we didn’t like:
  • Only the basic features are offered with the free version
  • No direct technical support
  • VPN only has data allowance of 150 MB per day
  • No automatic scanning
  • Requires an account
  • Average malware protection

Why the Paid Version is a Better Option

  • Privacy protection
  • Unlimited VPN
  • Safe payment protection for shopping and banking
  • The ability to protect up to five devices
  • Parental controls, password manager and file protection (Total Security)

Bottom Line:

For a free option, Panda ticks all the boxes. It’s quick, accurate and reliable, and has stripped away many unnecessary and unwanted features. But if you want stronger malware protection, you may have to look elsewhere.


2.  TotalAV Free Antivirus – Best for Phishing Protection

TotalAV is another free antivirus that delivers what it promises on the tin. It performs admirably on Windows and effectively eliminates malware with little to no impact on PC performance. Although the free version may be limited, scans are fast and reliable.  The antivirus also provides several handy tools designed to declutter your computer so that it runs better.

Free Version Features:

  • Phishing protection
  • Disk cleaner and system boost
  • Safe Site browser extension for Chrome and Edge
  • Browser manager – Cleans browser data for improved security and speed
What we liked:
  • Compatible with Windows, Android and Mac devices
  • Finds and removes duplicate files
  • Very fast with no impact on performance
  • Detected 90 per cent of verified phishing samples

What we didn’t like:
  • Lacks real-time malware protection
  • Several false positives
  • Bonus features require upgrading or paying
  • No control over the weekly scan, and no daily scan option

Why the Paid Version is a Better Option:

  • Advanced ransomware protection
  • VPN protection
  • ID protection
  • Extra features like a web shield, Smartphone optimizer and remote firewall
  • 24/7 technical support
  • 30-day money back guarantee

Bottom Line:

TotalAV Free is a decent antivirus if you’re just looking for quick protection, but if you’re looking for more advanced features such as a remote firewall or password vault, you’re probably better off upgrading to the premium option. Thanks to the 30-day money back guarantee, you can try their service before you buy.


3. Norton Security Antivirus – Best for Clean-Up & Boost

Norton Security is a leading antivirus that protects your Windows machine against just about every threat, including ransomware, unsafe websites, Trojans and more. Norton is one of the few free options that offer full-scale virus protection robust coverage against all malicious attacks.

Norton Security is lightweight and keeps your computer operating at optimal speeds. The provider offers an amazing 30-day free trial allowing you to test their service risk-free

Free Version Features:

  • 24/7 support
  • Automatic scanning
  • Robust parental control settings
  • Protection against malware, spyware, adware and phishing
  • Firewall
  • PC tune-up
What we liked:
  • 30-day free trial version
  • Ultra-fast vulnerability scanning alerts on risks
  • The gamer mode that halts notifications and scanning temporarily
  • Family safety features for kids

What we didn’t like:
  • The high number of false positives
  • No password manager

Why the Paid Version is a Better Option:

Norton Security free trial offers all the features of the of Norton Security Deluxe and Norton Security Premium plans. However, this is only for a period of 30 days after which you’ll need to get the full version to continue enjoying premium features.

Bottom Line:

Norton Security protects your Windows machine against just about all types of threats, including rootkits, malware, and phishing scams. While experienced users can tweak the features as needed, lightweight beginners can safeguard themselves with a single click.


4. McAfee Free Antivirus – Best for Online Banking Protection

McAfee is one of the more intuitive antivirus software to use, and one of the few programs to offer solid protection against zero-day attacks – new unknown threats that antivirus programs haven’t been programmed to catch yet. Impressively, McAfee managed to protect against 100% of all zero-day attacks in a recent test.

We, however, noticed a few lags when using the antivirus and as such, we wouldn’t recommend it for low-end devices. If that’s not an issue for you, expect comprehensive anti-malware and virus protection from McAfee Security.

Similarly to Norton Security, McAfee offers a 30-day free trial allowing you to access premium antimalware and privacy for your PC.

Free Version Features

  • On-demand and real-time scans
  • Web and email protection
  • Browser plugin
  • Secure browser for banking and shopping
  • File Lock for keeping your files private
  • McAfee True Key password manager which secures your passwords and instantly logs you into apps.
What we liked:
  • Compatible with a host of platforms, including Windows XP to Windows 10
  • Do not disturb feature
  • User-friendly interface

What we didn’t like:
  • Constant ads and pop-up notifications
  • Limited password manager features (it doesn’t have a password reset or multifactor authentication)
  • Slower launch time of other software while McAfee was running
  • Lack of privacy options or ransomware protection
  • Average anti-phishing protection, so precaution is needed

Why the Paid Version is a Better Option

  • A firewall
  • Ransomware protection
  • McAfee Safe Connect VPN
  • A permanent file shredder
  • Security for more devices

Bottom Line:

McAfee is the best choice for gamers in particular because it not only offers a dedicated gaming mode but also provides a free Trojan remover tool that’s great if you regularly download files and games.

Still, even non-gamers will appreciate the top-of-the-line zero-day attack protection and extra features over and above what’s offered with other free antivirus programs. For those who want to avoid annoying pop-ups and ads, we’d suggest going for the premium version as a more suitable long term solution.


5. Avira Free Antivirus – Best for Online Shopping

Avira has significantly improved since its 2018 redesign. It now offers much less impact on system performance while running, and it comes with a cleaner, more user-friendly interface.

What sets it apart is its comprehensive range of protection against anything from malicious viruses to the most dangerous Trojans. Plus, its heuristic engine allows it to detect zero-day viruses (unknown threats) – a feature not commonly found with free antivirus software.

This well-rounded and versatile antivirus also comes packed with many extra features to sweeten the deal.

Free Version Features

  • Firewall Manager
  • Browser extensions
  • Quick, full and custom scans
  • Scheduled scans
  • Privacy Pal for online ad tracking
  • System speed-up tools
  • A price comparison feature which saves you money while you shop.
What we liked:
  • Compatible with Windows Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10
  • Lots of customization and new features
  • Protects from viruses as well as malware (excellent virus detection rating, proven to remove 99.7% of threats according to antivirus tests)
  • Accurate detection with few false positives (virus definitions are updated continuously)
  • Can download the free security suite for a VPN and password manager
  • Free rescue disk

What we didn’t like:
  • There’s no XP or Vista support
  • Heavy on system resources
  • Most free tools are limited trials
  • Constant pop-ups and ads for other Avira products
  • Wants to install a toolbar on setup

Why the Paid Version is a Better Option

  • USB protection
  • Ransomware protection
  • Online shopping and banking browser
  • Software updater to patch your programs

Bottom Line:

The new and improved Avira free antivirus is a fantastic all-in-one solution due to its long list of advanced features you usually don’t get with free software. However, it does come with ads and pop-ups, so for a long term solution, the paid version may be more appealing.

 


6. Intrusta Antivirus – Best for Adware Prevention

A relative new AV solution, Intrusta has grown leaps and bounds and now features among the best antivirus for web surfers. The antivirus comes with a secure firewall and performed incredibly well in our malware prevention tests.

Intrusta has a robust anti-adware engine that prevents ad-tracking and stops stealthy advisors on their tracks. The antivirus software has a simple interface making it an ideal choice for beginners and seasoned users alike. Currently, the antivirus has an amazing 7-day free trial – no credit card needed.

Free Version Features

  • Anti-malware scanner
  • Anti-ransomware
  • Anti-adware
  • Web security
  • Simple user interface
What we liked:
  • Compatible with Windows or higher
  • Excellent malware detection rates
  • Easy to customize and configure
  • Fast installation
  • Automatic updates
  • Stellar customer support

What we didn’t like:
  • Limited scan options
  • No real-time protection
  • No VPN encryption
  • Basic phishing protection

Why the Paid Version is a Better Option

Intrusta does not have a free version but has a 7-day free trial that lets you try all their premium features.

Bottom Line:

Intrusta works well overall and offers all the core features you need to stay safe and secure. The VPN is quite easy to use and is a reliable choice if you browse the web a lot.


7. Cylance Antivirus – Best Zero-Day Threats

Cylance is a lightweight AV solution that uses AI to detect and prevent malware infections. The antivirus delivers robust zero-day threat prevention and actively safeguards against script-based and fileless attacks. Cylance Smart Antivirus is simple to use and runs continuously in the background without you having to do anything.

Free Version Features

  • AI malware detection
  • Real-time download and email scanning
  • Protection for up to 10 devices
What we liked:
  • Compatible with Windows 7 SP1, 8/8.1, 10, Vista SP2, XP SP3 (other free versions available for Mac and Android)
  • Excellent anti-malware performance
  • Ultra-fast response times
  • Predicts and prevents threats
  • Little system impact
  • 30-day money back guarantee

What we didn’t like:
  • Few features
  • Tricky to use

Why the Paid Version is a Better Option

We were disappointed to find out Cylance does not offer a free but that aside, there isn’t much else to complain about. The company offers a standard 30-day free trial on all their pricing plans after which you can subscribe to your preferred plan. All pricing plans offer the same features with the only difference being the number of devices you can protect.  

Bottom Line:

Cylance is best suited to users who want a silent and subtle antivirus without many frills. The program runs transparently in the background with little effect on system performance. If your job requires that you open various email attachments, the email attachment scanner will help immensely.


8. Heimdal Antivirus Free– Best for online banking

Heimdal is another fantastic AV solution that offers proactive, multi-layered PC security. The antivirus uses advanced machine learning and cloud scanning to detect and eliminate threats in real-time. The antivirus effectively gets rid of viruses, ransomware, APTs, Trojans, and actively blocks malicious websites.

Free Version Features

  • File-based scanning
  • Behavior-based scanning
  • Secure web browsing
What we liked:
  • Compatible with Windows 7 and later
  • Simple and easy to use interface
  • Low system impact
  • Includes a 30 day free trial of the premium version

What we didn’t like:
  • Doesn’t support older Windows XP or Vista machines
  • Basic parental filters
  • Few options for more advanced users
  • No VPN

Why the Paid Version is a Better Option

  • Unique traffic-based malware prevention
  • Real-time cloud scanning
  • Firewall integration
  • Automatic updates
  • Multi-layered AI protection
  • Phishing protection
  • Exploit protection

Bottom Line:

Overall, Heimdal is a top security solution for Windows PC users that has unique network monitoring capabilities. It blocks malware before it reaches your PC and is perfect for online banking.


9. Webroot SecureAnywhere Free– Best for Gamers

Webroot is unique since it’s optimized for multiple machines and runs using cloud-based protection, keeping system slowdown to a minimum. It is an excellent option for gaming and supports play at warp speed while also protecting against the loss of personal data.

Free Version Features

  • Real-time protection
  • Phishing protection
  • Protect up to five devices
  • Wi-Fi security
What we liked:
  • Compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 and 10.  
  • Fast scans
  • Supports scheduled scans
  • Protection for up to 5 devices
  • Few pop-ups and alerts
  • Low system impact
  • 14-day free trial of the premium version

What we didn’t like:
  • Clumsy interface
  • Lacks VPN encryption
  • Limited customizations

Why the Paid Version is a Better Option

  • Advanced ransomware protection
  • Identify theft prevention
  • Banking protection
  • Password and login protection
  • System optimizer
  • Automatic backup and online storage

Bottom Line:

Webroot is a great family antivirus as it protects up to three devices. Homes with several computers and children will benefit from Webroot’s parental controls and multi-PC protection.


10. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition – Best for Ransomware Protection

Bitdefender is one of the top free antiviruses in 2019. The antivirus features a robust antivirus engine and offers ultra-fast scans with minimal impact on computer performance. The free AV consistently ranks at the top of antivirus tests and is an ideal shield against malware.

Bitdefender combines a robust antivirus engine with a vast collection of advanced security and privacy features. The software acts as a shield against computer infections and performs admirably against viruses, ransomware, and spyware.

Free Version Features

  • Phishing protection
  • URL blocking
  • Browser extension tool
  • Anti-ransomware tool
  • Home scanner tool
What we liked:
  • Compatible with Windows 7, 8, and 10
  • On-demand & On-access scanning
  • Minimalistic approach
  • Excellent accuracy in detecting viruses (and viruses’ definitions are constantly updated in the background)
  • Low system impact (doesn’t slow down your computer while it’s running)
  • Can use Bitdefender free tools, such as a browser extension, anti-ransomware, and home scanner

What we didn’t like:
  • Vulnerability scan missing
  • Cannot schedule or customize scans
  • Lacks multi-layer ransomware protection
  • Zero-day attack protection is below average (protects against known threats, but new and unknown threats are still a risk)
  • No parental controls
  • No file encryption

Why the Paid Version is a Better Option

  • 24/7 technical support with FREE phone calls
  • Advanced ransomware protection
  • A firewall
  • Parental control tools
  • A VPN
  • Secure banking browser
  • Password manager

Bottom Line:

Bitdefender is a strong contender for users who just want an install-and-go antivirus. Although Bitdefender Free Edition doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles of a paid version, it covers the basics exceptionally well. It’s a powerful antivirus that runs on autopilot for the most part requiring little user intervention and adding very little extra “bloatware”.


Wrap Up

If you’re looking to get rid of threats from your PC or device quickly, these free antivirus programs offer a reliable solution. However, it’s worth remembering that free antivirus programs have their limitations. Many have weak antimalware capabilities and can compromise your privacy and security.   

So if you’re looking for a long term solution with real-time protection again viruses, ransomware, and spyware, you may want to consider upgrading to a full-scale paid antivirus. 

Check out our top ranking programs. 

  Bitdefender TotalAV Norton McAfee Avira
On-Demand Malware Scan
On-Access Malware Scan
Malicious URL Blocking
Phishing Protection  
Behavior-Based Detection  

 

  Panda Intrusta Cylance Heimdal Webroot
On-Demand Malware Scan
On-Access Malware Scan
Malicious URL Blocking      
Phishing Protection  
Behavior-Based Detection    

About the Author

Felicity Kay
Felicity Kay

Stay up to date on the latest cybersecurity software by following SafetyDetective's own Felicity Kay.

Transparency and Trust – We pride ourselves on being the only site where users can freely contribute and share their reviews on any antivirus with other community members. When you visit an antivirus site we link to, we sometimes get affiliate commissions that support our work. Read more about how we operate.