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7 Best Free Windows Antivirus Software for 2019

7 Best Free Windows Antivirus Software for 2019
Felicity Kay
Posted: August 19, 2019

UPDATE: One of our top recommended free antiviruses, Norton Security, recently removed its 30-day free trial, so we’ve removed it from this list. We’re currently reviewing other free trial and free antiviruses to add to our list, but for now, here are the top 7 we recommend.

Your Windows device isn’t as protected as you think it is. That said, you don’t necessarily need to pay for your device to be protected. Our top 7 free antiviruses for Windows are guaranteed to keep your device protected, even more than you’d get with the free Windows Defender.

But, 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 we reviewed managed to effectively protect against malware, we found that Panda Free Antivirus had the most steadily effective malware detection of any free products we’ve tested. It also had very little impact on our system’s performance.

Download The 7 Best Free Antivirus Programs for Windows:

  1. Panda
  2. TotalAV
  3. Bitdefender
  4. McAfee
  5. Avira
  6. Intrusta
  7. Heimdal

Why Your Free Version of Windows Defender Isn’t Good Enough

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

We were impressed by Windows Defender’s on-demand scanning, online malicious URL blocking, and 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 when compared to other best free antivirus software.

Plus, with other free antivirus programs (even free-trial antivirus software) you can expect plenty of extra features, such as:

  • A password manager.
  • A VPN.
  • Robust web filtering.

You won’t get any of that with Windows Defender.

How We Tested Our Recommended Free Antiviruses

We checked over 30 different antiviruses (AVs) – including Panda and BullGuard – and found that the following AVs provided the most effective free service. We then double-checked each of our recommended free antiviruses to answer some basic questions:

  • Are they really free?
  • How effective is their malware detection?
  • What’s their impact on device performance?
  • How easy are they to use?

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

Then we picked the top seven.

Here they are:

1. Panda Free Antivirus – Best with a VPN

Panda Free Antivirus – Best with a VPN

The long-standing Panda Free Antivirus is a solid choice for free antivirus protection of home devices, whether you’re using a PC or mobile device.

Known for its user-friendly interface, Panda offers barely any extras, focusing almost exclusively on virus detection.

That said, this free antivirus comes with a VPN. The catch is that there’s a data allowance of 150 MB a day.

When it comes to running a scan, you can choose between full, critical, custom, or scheduled. Furthermore, you can exclude selected folders, files, and file extensions. You can also confirm whether or not you want a virus removed.

Weirdly enough, when you go to download Panda’s free antivirus, you’re redirected to CNET’s download page. We get it… Panda needs to make money somehow, but it seems a bit careless to be sending its users to a third-party page.

What We Like:

  • Works well with all versions of Windows.
  • Lightweight software.
  • Real-time antivirus tool.
  • Gaming mode disables notifications when using a full-screen application.
  • Cloud querying configuration for unknown files.
  • A built-in monitor protects against dangerous links.
  • USB key vaccination protects against auto-run malware.
  • USB recovery drive.
  • Monitors processes and URLs.
  • Security news and alerts.
  • Email and phone support.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Ads for other Panda products.
  • Limited feature set.
  • Technical support isn’t great.
  • Ransomware protection not included.

Should You Go Premium?

To access additional features, such as an unlimited VPN, parental controls, and a password manager, you’ll need to go Premium.

But beware that Panda’s pricing is well above the industry average. Luckily, you can try any plan for free for the first month.

Bottom Line

Panda Free Antivirus offers basic protection that doesn’t require much effort. As such, it’s best suited for novice users.

If you’re seeking more control, you’re better off choosing another free antivirus.

2. TotalAV Free Antivirus – Best for Phishing Protection

TotalAV Free Antivirus – Best for Phishing Protection

TotalAV is a free antivirus program with support for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. As a relatively new player on the market, TotalAV lacks performance data since most independent lab tests haven’t yet evaluated the program.

However, in our experience, the scans (quick and full system) are both fast and reliable. Furthermore, the software gives you the option of placing perceived threats into quarantine.

The biggest downside? TotalAV free antivirus lacks real-time protection. You have to be a premium user to take advantage of this feature.

What We Like:

  • Compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 10.
  • Easy to install.
  • Clean interface.
  • Safe Site browser extension blocks phishing URLs.
  • Video tutorials.
  • 24/7 live chat and email support.
  • 7-day free trial of the premium version.
  • Steep discounts for first-time buyers.
  • Pro-rated refund.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Narrow feature set.
  • No real-time protection.
  • Phone support reserved for billing queries.

Should You Go Premium?

Real-time protection isn’t the only thing you’re missing out on when using TotalAV’s free antivirus.

Premium gives you:

  • System Tune-Up (which removes unnecessary files).
  • Disc Cleaner (which locates duplicate and junk files).
  • Web Security Suite (comprising of a VPN, Web Shield, AdBlock Pro, and Firewall).
  • Password Vault (securely store all login info).

As a free user, you can actually use some of the advanced features for a limited time. But the software will continuously prompt you to update to a paid plan.

Bottom Line

As far as free antivirus programs go, TotalAV is as limited as they come. While capable of detecting malware, it doesn’t include real-time protection.

On the bright side, the free antivirus uses minimal CPU. Unlike some antivirus programs, TotalAV won’t slow down your device while scanning for threats.

TotalAV free antivirus is a good option for users of lower-end machines, but for advanced features, you should go premium.

3. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition – Best for Ransomware Protection

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition – Best for Ransomware Protection

Thanks to its minimal design, Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is incredibly easy to navigate. It boasts no advanced features or impressive add-ons, but that’s precisely the reason it’s so simple to use.

Bitdefender Free safeguards you against viruses, spyware, and other threats. You can run a full system scan. But you can also drag and drop specific files directly into the program to see whether they’re infected or not (if they are, they’ll be quarantined).

Conversely, if there are specific files, folders, or URLs you don’t want the system to scan, you can easily exclude them. If you’re a web developer, this feature could save you a ton of time.

While that’s about it for the program itself, you can also download free add-ons such as Traffic Light and Home Scanner from Bitdefender’s website. Traffic Light is a useful tool that protects you against phishing attacks, whereas Home Scanner defends your home network.

What We Like:

  • Runs on Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10.
  • Uncluttered design.
  • On-demand scanning.
  • Simple to set up.
  • Real-time threat monitoring.
  • Runs in silent mode.
  • History of all scans.
  • Low system impact.
  • Email, chat, and phone support.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Limited customization.
  • Necessary account creation before installation.
  • Can’t schedule scans.
  • No way to pause a scan, only stop it.
  • Zero-day attack protection is below average (protects against known threats, but new and unknown threats are still a risk).

Should You Go Premium?

By switching to the paid version, you’ll gain access to:

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

Bottom Line

Bitdefender is the definition of ‘free antivirus’. The scans are quick, and the free add-ons are useful, but not necessary.

If you’re after a free antivirus with no frills but a lot of power, Bitdefender is a natural choice.

4. McAfee Total Protection – Best for Online Banking Protection

McAfee Total Protection – Best for Online Banking Protection

Like most security companies, McAfee offers a no-cost version of its software. But while the free plan comes with essential safeguards against malicious software, it fails to provide round-the-clock protection.

McAfee free antivirus won’t perform scans unless specifically told to do so. Furthermore, when it comes to scanning for viruses, McAfee free relies heavily on other resources, such as alternative antivirus programs running on your device.

But don’t write off McAfee just yet, especially if safe browsing is your top priority. McAfee offers WebAdvisor, a free internet extension that keeps you safe from malicious threats and phishing attempts as you search the web.

Furthermore, McAfee gives you the option of downloading True Key, a password management system that stores up to 15 logins for free. When combined, the two plug-ins make for a much safer browsing experience.

What We Like:

  • Compatible with Windows XP through Windows 10.
  • Speedy installation process.
  • WebAdvisor protects against typos, scans downloads, and ensures antivirus is activated before you surf.
  • Minimalistic interface.
  • Free anti-malware tools such as Trojan-remover.
  • Virtual assistant for guided solutions.
  • Phone support.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Restricted feature set.
  • Limited password manager features.
  • Lacks ransomware protection.
  • Inconsistent performance.
  • A fairly high false-positive rate.

Should You Go Premium?

Hands down the most significant disadvantage of McAfee Free is that it gives you no option of removing a virus.

Instead, the program redirects you to a paid McAfee product page, which kind of defeats the purpose of having a free antivirus in the first place.

Luckily, you can try the premium plan for free for 30 days, no credit card required.

In addition to giving you better protection, McAfee’s paid products come with optimization tools such as a vulnerability scanner and a file shredder.

Bottom Line

McAfee Free lacks essential security functions, such as the ability to remove perceived threats from your device.

Nevertheless, if online security is your main concern, McAfee has you covered with free tools such as WebAdvisor and True Key.

5. Avira Free Antivirus – Best Overall Solution

Avira Free Antivirus – Best Overall Solution

Avira free antivirus is an efficient piece of software, protecting its users from everything malicious, be it viruses or Trojans.

With Avira free antivirus, you can schedule personalized scans, choose specific malware to watch out for, and restore, delete, and quarantine threats.

Avira’s most impressive feature is the Protection Cloud, an ingenious scanning method that identifies and stops threats before they can harm your device.

As soon as a suspicious file is detected, a fingerprint of it is automatically (and anonymously) sent to Avira. Avira then scans it and reports back on its security, notifying all users so that the software can take proper action, especially if the file is harmful.

In addition, this free antivirus also comes with optional extras, such as a 500 MB VPN, a password manager, and software updater for identifying outdated programs.

Furthermore, Avira’s Tune-Up tool speeds up your computer, whereas its SafeSearch plug-in warns you of dangerous websites before you visit them. Its Privacy Pal feature gives you the option to protect your digital privacy and shred unwanted files.

If you’re solely after an antivirus solution, you can ignore all the add-ons. They’ll always be there if you decide that you need them, but they won’t bother you or slow you down until you activate them.

What We Like:

  • Compatible with Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10.
  • Option to secure your mobile by scanning a QR code upon installation.
  • Low impact on system load.
  • Simple design.
  • Easily customizable.
  • Creates bootable rescue disc.
  • A low false-positive rate.
  • Phone support.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Chrome and Firefox are the only two browsers protected.
  • Relatively high impact when downloading files.
  • Wants to install a shopping extension upon setup.
  • Some features are premium-only.

Should You Go Premium?

Avira’s free antivirus offering is impressive. However, the free antivirus doesn’t come with ransomware protection, nor does it have USB protection. It also lacks web protection and mail protection tools.

If those tools are important to you, you might want to upgrade to a premium plan. Luckily, there’s a 30-day free trial available, which means you don’t necessarily have to commit to a service you’re not 100% sure about.

Bottom Line

Avira free antivirus is a great all-in-one solution that goes well beyond the necessary antivirus detection tools. It offers its users advanced add-ons that can’t be found in most other free antivirus software programs.

However, bear in mind that Avira free doesn’t get you ransomware protection, one of the main reasons why you should consider switching to a premium plan.

6. Intrusta Antivirus – Best for Adware Prevention

Intrusta Antivirus – Best for Adware Prevention

Intrusta Antivirus hasn’t been around for all that long. And yet it has already earned the trust of countless users across the globe.

Before we launch into all of the features that Intrusta offers, we’d like to note that this antivirus isn’t completely free. You get a seven-day free trial, but after that, you’ll need to switch to a premium plan.

Most users don’t mind the upgrade, though. The software is fairly priced, especially when you take into account that its features aren’t limited to anti-malware capabilities. Intrusta also serves as anti-spyware, anti-ransomware, and anti-adware.

Once you install Intrusta, you can take advantage of three scanning modes: Smart/quick scan, full scan, and scan only files and folders. All perceived threats are quarantined, and you have the final say in what happens to them.

What We Like:

  • Available for Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10.
  • Real-time protection.
  • Log of system notifications.
  • Scan history log.
  • Automatically searches for updates.
  • Email, phone, and chat support.

What We Don’t Like:

  • You need to create an account before installation can begin.
  • Only 7-day free trial.
  • No advanced features.

Should You Go Premium?

Because Intrusta isn’t 100% free, you’ll need to upgrade to a premium plan as soon as your seven-day free trial is up.

However, new customers get a pretty generous discount. The cost per package increases the following year (the plan auto-renews), but the company is transparent about its pricing.

Bottom Line

Intrusta may be a newcomer, but it’s wasting no time in making a name for itself among industry giants. Its product is straightforward, and its customer support is unparalleled.

However, Intrusta’s feature set is relatively narrow, so if you’re used to more advanced add-ons, this antivirus software may not be for you.

On the other hand, Intrusta is one of the few antivirus providers focusing not only on protecting its users against malware, but also against adware.

7. Heimdal Thor Free – Best for Multi-Layered Security

Heimdal Thor Free – Best for Multi-Layered Security

Even though Heimdal Thor Free is limited, it offers proactive, multi-layered PC security.

Heimdal’s virus scanner is more than a little basic (the scan lasted less than 10 seconds, which makes us doubt its reliability). But the program also comes with a software update add-on.

To make use of the latter, all you have to do is choose the applications you want Heimdal to monitor and update automatically for you.

The program will then scan your PC every few hours, installing new updates whenever they become available.

What We Like:

  • Supports Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10.
  • Low system impact.
  • Simple interface.
  • Switch between dark and light mode.
  • 30-day free premium trial.

What We Don’t Like

  • Doesn’t support older Windows XP.
  • Few advanced options.
  • Phone support only for paid plans.

Should You Go Premium?

Premium will give you:

  • Traffic-based malware detection.
  • Advanced web scanning engine.
  • Anti-phishing protection.

The service offers its users a 30-day free trial. You can always try it and ditch it if it doesn’t live up to your expectations.

Bottom Line

Heimdal Thor Free is little more than a marketing tool for its paid plans. The feature set is severely limited, with only a mediocre scan and a software update add-on available to free users.

To make the most out of Heimdal, you’ll probably need to go premium. The good news is that the price tag is definitely worth it.

Heimdal’s use of advanced machine learning and cloud scanning to detect and eliminate threats in real life makes it a top security solution for Windows PC.

BONUS: Webroot SecureAnywhere Free – Best for Gamers

BONUS: Webroot SecureAnywhere Free – Best for Gamers

Webroot SecureAnywhere isn’t necessarily a free antivirus, although the software company does offer potential customers a free system scan.

PC scanner aside, the program also gives you access to other PC security features (a real-time shield, web shield, and firewall), identity protection (an identity and phishing shield), and a password manager.

It also allows you to keep a log of all scans and control what happens to identified threats. The program’s anti-malware tools are also pretty handy and give you the option to reboot in safe mode, set system policies to default, and remove threats manually.

Because Webroot is optimized for multiple devices and runs using cloud-based protection, it keeps system slowdown to a minimum.

Consequently, Webroot antivirus is an excellent option for gaming. Not only does Webroot Secure Anywhere support play at warp speed, but it also protects against the loss of personal data.

What We Like:

  • Compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, and 10.
  • Low system impact.
  • Relatively fast scans.
  • Scan log.
  • Email and phone support.
  • Few pop-ups.
  • 14-day free trial of the premium version.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Cluttered interface.
  • Limited customization.

Should You Go Premium?

Webroot’s free scan expires in just one day. Nonetheless, you have more than 24 hours to decide whether or not you want to upgrade to Webroot’s premium plan. The company offers a 14-day trial of all its premium plans.

In total, Webroot has three paid versions of its software. All of its plans are pretty much the same, although the more you pay, the more advanced features you’ll get.

For example, its most costly plan eliminates all traces of your online activity and gets you 25 GB of secure online storage.

Bottom Line

Webroot doesn’t have a free, no-strings-attached antivirus. However, it offers a free scan and a 14-day free trial which is more than what some purportedly free antivirus programs get you.

Webroot can support up to three devices even with its most basic plan, so it’s a great family antivirus program.

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 somehow.

Free antiviruses are definitely better than nothing at all, but sometimes, they 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 identifying and neutralizing serious threats like rootkits, keyloggers, phishing domains, botnets, viruses, and Trojans.

What’s worse, most free antivirus manufacturers record your data, especially when they find a new potential threat – both suspicious activity or not. This is the dirty little secret that free antiviruses manufacturers use to keep their virus databases up to date.

If they don’t do this, you can expect to be pushed to upgrade to a paid version quite often. You’ll also 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, monitoring by the manufacturer on your security activity.

Wrapping Up

If you’re looking to get rid of threats from your PC or device quickly, these free antivirus programs offer a reliable solution.

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

Check out our top ranking antivirus programs.

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.