Almost every day we hear about new viruses or malicious software attacking computers and doing all sorts of horrible things: encrypting files and asking money for decryption keys, stealing your identity and credit card data, blocking networks, and erasing data. Luckily, the Internet has become a much safer place than it used to be, thanks to the wide range of protection/security software and antivirus programs.
However, the majority of serious antivirus programs are not free and not every user is ready to pay for it. Paid or subscription antivirus programs like Norton antivirus, Bitdefender, McAfee and Kaspersky lab were very popular years ago when paying for computer protection was the only choice. Lately though, some of these products have come under fire for wasting computer resources (and thus reducing PC performance). Luckily, some simple and popular antiviruses are free and do not require a subscription, but users must understand that in most of cases, a free antivirus lacks the features and functionality that you may find in more expensive antiviruses. Comparing free antivirus applications to paid ones could be it’s own article, so today we will look at the four of the more popular free antivirus programs: Avast, Avira, Panda and AVG.
Overall, these four are the best free antivirus programs available. Our recommendation is the two we’re most familiar with: AVG and Avast. Of course, even with the best antivirus protection it is still recommended to keep backups of your important data. See our earlier post on Backup Methods and Destinations.
Avast! Free Antivirus
- Rootkit real-time protection
- File system and email screen
- Web screen
- Antivirus and Antispyware core
- Community IQ antivirus database
- Intelligent Scanner
- Intelligent database update system
- Auto/Game mode
- Green mode
- P2P and instant messages screen
- Network screen
- Behavior screen
Avast! Free Antivirus is a simple and user-friendly tool for protection against viruses, spyware, rootkits and other malicious software and intended only for home and non-commercial use. The program does not consume a lot of system resources and has a remarkably high scanning speed that can be done either on demand or according to preset schedule. Actions that should be taken in case of virus detection can be pre-configured in the settings.
It has a stylish interface, but is overloaded with advertisement for other AVAST Software products. As a result, some menus do not contain any useful features and are created specifically to attract the user’s attention to the products of the company.
Overall detection performance of the program is good, but it tends to overlook some Trojan malware.
Avira Free Antivirus
- Real-time protection
- AntiRootkit protection
- AntiPhishing protection
- AntiSpyware protection
- NetbookSupport for laptops with low resolution
- Avira heuristic analysis system
- Expert settings mode
Avira Free Antivirus is a full-featured tool for protection against most kinds of malware: viruses, Trojans, spyware, rootkits and unwanted software. It has multiple scanning modes – fast and full system check, Windows folder scanning, running processes scanning, search feature for rootkits and active malicious software. Any type of scan can be performed either on demand or can be scheduled. Reaction to detecting threats can be configured in settings, for example real-time protection simply blocks any access to a detected threat and asks permission to delete it.
The program interface is elegant and very well organized, however, there are many features that are grayed out and only available in paid versions of the software. Overall detection performance is superb – one of the best free antivirus programs available.
- Automatic updates during all usage time
- AVG Resident Shield
- AVG On-demand Scanner
- AVG E-mail Scanner
- Built-in PC Analyzer
One of the oldest antivirus programs, dating back in 1992, AVG is a very simple and effective antivirus program that protects computers against viruses, spyware and rootkits. It detects known threats by signature databases and ensures real-time protection against new or unknown threats. It protects users while surfing the Internet and detecting web sites containing malicious code, phishing and cracked web sites, as well as scans incoming and outgoing mail. AVG is not only able to delete the infected files, but also to cure them.
The interface is quite simple and easy to navigate. Scanning takes little time and utilizes a small amount of system resources. For those users who prefer to control all aspects of protection, an adjusted settings mode is available. Overall detection performance is quite high, although the number of false detections is also high.
PANDA Cloud Antivirus
The world’s first free antivirus that works from the cloud. PANDA detects all kinds of viruses, spyware, trojans, and other malicious software, neutralizes them and ensures real-time protection. It is based on the Collective Intelligence System that detects and viruses and other threats by using a knowledge base of millions of users. Panda Cloud Antivirus also has a special web filter that allows it to block suspicious web sites before they would able to use vulnerabilities and harm your computer.
It has a minimalist style interface which allows users to enable or launch any feature with just one click. The settings menu is quite limited – there are only a few scanning and blocking options and exclusion lists. System requirements are minimal and scanning speed is high. One of the interesting features is the ability to make decisions independently without disturbing the user in case of threat detection , which can be disabled in the settings menu. Overall detection performance is good, but false alarms for harmless software happen often.
The key takeaway here is that everyone should be using an antivirus for their computer, however the free versions of antivirus programs are good enough for most people. Sure they may not have all the features the paid versions do, but they’ll still use an up-to-date virus definition database. Whether you’re protecting your parents’ computers as the family IT expert, or keeping your gaming computer secure, an antivirus, will safeguard your PC and personal information therein. If you’re running any kind of business we recommend you look into paid antivirus options. Otherwise we recommend Avast or AVG. As we move more towards mobile devices with information stored in the cloud, malicious attacks will change too. Hopefully antivirus developers will be able to keep up. Regardless of what kind of device you are protecting, a backup strategy and proactive education on safe web browsing habits, combined with an up-to-date antivirus, will provide the best defense.