Best Antivirus for Netbooks and Older PCs

AV Programs for Windows 7, Vista, XP and Older

Some of the most at-risk systems are older computers that are running outdated versions of unpatched software, and particularly those that are vulnerable to exploits. However, older and slower computers can't usually run newer AV software because the programs use up too many system resources.

The recommended antivirus programs below have low system impact and are cost effective (some even free), making them an ideal choice for older, slower and low budget computers. However, all of them work with newer operating systems too, like Windows 10, and of course systems with up-to-date hardware.

Tip: Since you're dealing with an older system that is most likely already void of fast hardware, consider doing some things to speed up the software so that these programs will run as smoothly as possible.

Baidu Antivirus
Baidu Antivirus. Baidu Antivirus

Baidu Antivirus is more than just an antivirus program, and it does it all without using up much of your memory. You can install Baidu in seconds and let it run without ever experiencing its impact.

This program protects your files as you download them and scans your existing data to look for Trojans, worms, viruses and other kinds of malware that could damage your files. There's also a firewall, USB protection and a browser scanner that monitors pages for phishing attempts.

What's more is that Baidu Antivirus includes a malicious browser plug-in cleaner, various tools for repairing common computer issues and a network traffic monitor that lets you end programs and even prevent software from accessing the internet. More »

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition. BitDefender.com

It's easy to correctly assume that Bitdefender's antivirus program is good for older computers when their website states that they've "engineered our free antivirus solution to be light on system resources."

The minimal resources needed to run Bitdefender are reflected in the fact that the program itself is very small. It basically runs in a small window just above the notification area, near the clock.

However, just because Bitdefender Antivirus is small and uses fewer resources than lots of other anti-malware programs, it doesn't mean its features are lacking too.

This is a full-blown AV program with phishing and fraud protection as well as behavioral detection so that suspicious programs don't take over your computer or infect your files.

You need 1.5 GB of free RAM and 2 GB of hard drive space to use Bitdefender Antivirus. It works with Windows 7 and newer versions of Windows. More »

Panda Security logo
Panda Security

Panda Protection used to be called Panda Free Antivirus, and is available free for users running Windows XP or newer versions of Windows.

If you want more with this program, you can upgrade to the professional edition for a nominal fee.

Either way, the system impact is quite low (it only needs 256 MB of RAM). In fact, most of the magic happens in the cloud on Panda's own servers, not on your computer. More »

Norton AntiVirus Basic
Norton AntiVirus Basic. Norton.com

Sometimes, a company has several options with the basic/simple edition having the least amount of features, with the tradeoff being that you can pay less. Another benefit is that performance isn't as easily affected.

That's the case with Norton AntiVirus Basic. It's good for only one computer but is half the price of the premium version of the same program.

With it, you get malware, spyware and virus defense as well as protection for your online transactions and identity.

This antivirus program works on Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 and 10. More »

F-Secure Internet Security
F-Secure Internet Security. f-secure.com

F-Secure Internet Security has a slim footprint that's ideal for netbooks and older PCs. Adjuncts such as behavior-based protected and exploit detection make this full-fledged internet security suite an even safer bet.

This program is not free but there is a trial you can take part in. There's also the F-Secure Anti-Virus tool that works in a similar fashion but with different features, that can be had for a little less every year.

Tip: If you'd rather have a similar product that's equally easy on performance, but isn't a full-fledged antivirus program, consider F-Secure Online Scanner. More »

ZoneAlarm Extreme Security
ZoneAlarm Extreme Security. zonealarm.com

More suited to newer netbooks, ZoneAlarm Extreme Security isn't necessarily the lightest in terms of system performance, but additional features make it ideally suited for mobile users.

Full hard drive encryption and automated online backups help ensure data is both safe and recoverable should a laptop be lost or stolen. It also features a virtual sandbox to isolate email attachments, a full firewall and browser protection.

You can run ZoneAlarm Extreme Security so long as your computer has 1-2 GB of RAM and 1.5 GB of free hard drive space. More »