Smart & Connected Life Working From Home 409 409 people found this article helpful The 11 Best Free Antivirus Software of 2020 Protect your Windows computer with a free antivirus program by Tim Fisher General Manager, VP, Lifewire.com Tim Fisher has 30+ years' professional technology support experience. He writes troubleshooting content and is the General Manager of Lifewire. our editorial process Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Tim Fisher Updated on September 11, 2020 reviewed by Michelle Adeola Adelufosi Lifewire Tech Review Board Member Michelle Adeola Adelufosi is a marketing consultant with 9 years' experience working for a variety of clients. Her expertise includes social media, web development, and graphic design. our review board Article reviewed on Feb 20, 2020 Michelle Adeola Adelufosi Working From Home The Ultimate Guide to Shopping Online The Ultimate Guide to Online Learning at Home The Ultimate Guide to Skype Tweet Share Email A good antivirus program is essential to a secure system, and you most definitely do not have to pay for one to get great protection. Below is our hand-picked list of the 11 best free antivirus programs that you can download for Windows today. All of these programs perform definition updates automatically, are always running to make sure your files are protected from malware and your personal information remains private, and can start scans on-demand whenever you like. However, each of them do have a few prominent differences that make them stand out, so pay attention to those as you decide which one to use. If you just need a spyware cleaner and need it right now without waiting for one of these full AV programs to install, use one of the (preferably portable) applications from our Best Free Spyware Removal Tools list. There are also free on-demand virus scanners you can install. Also, consider using a Windows Firewall alternative from this Free Firewall Programs list. If you can't even log in to Windows to install an antivirus tool, access a computer that does work and then use it to make a free bootable antivirus tool that you can then run on the infected computer. 01 of 11 Avira Free Security What We Like Password manager included. Optional additional downloadable protection layers. In-the-cloud antivirus process. What We Don't Like Additional features can be annoying. Only protects Chrome and Firefox browsers. Add-on components often require fee to be fully functional. Our Review of Avira Free Security The main component in Avira's free software suite that makes it stand out is the optional "in-the-cloud detection" feature called Protection Cloud. This scanning method lets Avira's antivirus tool identify and stop threats before they get out of hand. This is how it works: When a suspicious file is detected on any computer running Avira, a fingerprint of that specific file is generated and uploaded anonymously to Avira so that they can scan it and report its status (whether it's safe or dangerous) back to every Avira user so that the program can take appropriate action. Avira can scan and remove existing threats as well as automatically detect and stop new ones. It protects you against ransomware, Trojans, spyware, and other kinds of malware. You can even choose which ones to actively watch out for, and disable others (though it's not recommended) like dialers, jokes, adware, etc. Avira Free Security can also: Scan on a scheduleCheck files with any file extension or just the ones you manually choose fromDisable the ability to stop active scans (so that viruses can not stop the program from finding them)Adjust the scanner's priority levelScan primary boot sectorsFollow symbolic links to scan the actual filesSearch for rootkits before starting a scanScan the Windows RegistryIgnore files on network drivesAutomatically repair, rename, quarantine, delete, or ignore threats when they're foundUse heuristic scanningAdd files, folders, and processes to the ignore listManage Windows Firewall settingsPassword protect the program's settingsBlock autorun on removable devicesMake the hosts file read-only The Avira program offers more than just a very extensive antivirus application. It includes several other "layers" of security that will install automatically, and they might take a while to download since there are several. However, you don't have to use them and they won't bother you unless you open them. These separate modules include a VPN that encrypts all your traffic (up through the first 500 MB each month); password manager to securely store complex passwords; and software updater that identifies outdated programs and gives you the download links to update them. In addition, Avira can speed up your computer and reduce boot time with its tune-up tool, help you find the best deals as you shop online, and warn you of malicious websites or software bundles before you download them (with its SafeSearch add-on). These extra features can be annoying if you're strictly after an antivirus solution, but again, you don't have to use them; just keep them tucked away where they are and you won't have to worry about them. Avira Free Security is intended to run on computers with Windows 7 and newer, including Windows 10 and Windows 8. There's also Avira for macOS. Download Avira Free Security 02 of 11 Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition What We Like Drag-and-drop file and folder scan. Minimal, uncluttered design. Simple to set up and run. What We Don't Like Limited customization if you're looking for that. Takes a while to install. Our Review of Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition If you want an antivirus program that's not only free but easy to use and not cluttered with lots of buttons and menus, you should definitely try the free version of Bitdefender Antivirus. You not only get instant protection against viruses, worms, rootkits, spyware, and other threats, but also anti-phishing and anti-fraud protection to carry security with you when you're browsing the internet and entering passwords. It's remarkable how well Bitdefender runs despite its minimal design. Drag and drop folders and files directly into the program to run a scan against them, as well as start a full system scan or scan select objects from the right-click context menu—all of which can run at the same time. Regardless of how they're started or how many scans are running simultaneously, a history of those scans are recorded for you on the primary window of the program as well as within the Events area of the settings. The obvious downside to a program that lacks many customization options is that there isn't much you can change about it. That might be something you want but it might not be available—all you can do with this edition of Bitdefender is start and stop scans. Another downside to this software is how long it takes to become ready for you to use. The initial installer for Bitdefender is quite small but that's just what's used to then download the full program, which is hundreds of megabytes and could take a while if you have a slow internet connection. It's also unfortunate that you can't pause scans (it just lets you stop them) or set up file and folder exclusions before starting scans like some AV programs allow. With Bitdefender, you can only mark files or websites as safe after they've been identified as potentially malicious. Ads asking you to purchase Bitdefender's professional programs and scheduled scans not being supported (but they're not necessarily needed since Bitdefender is always checking for new threats) are a few other not-so-greats. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition runs on Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7. Download Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition 03 of 11 Adaware Antivirus Free What We Like Lightweight antivirus program. Can run as a supplement to other antivirus programs. Silent mode mutes notifications and limits resource use. What We Don't Like Some useful features are only usable with paid version. Limited configurability. Real-time email scanning not included. Our Review of Adaware Antivirus Free Adaware Antivirus installs in minutes, is light on system resources, and can be used in one of two ways. The first is in regular mode where it checks for threats as they happen, but the other lets you use it in addition to your primary antivirus program. What this so-called "second line of defense" does is disables real-time protection but still lets you use Adaware Antivirus to manually scan for existing threats. This feature is helpful if your primary AV software doesn't seem to find malware that you know is infecting your computer. Whichever way you use it, Adaware Antivirus provides a defense against ransomware, spyware, viruses, and other forms of malicious software. You can find those threats through a quick, full, or custom scan. Daily, weekly, and monthly scheduled scans are supported, and you can even run a scan to just check certain things, like only rootkits or just tracking cookies and boot sector viruses, for example. Adaware Antivirus also lets you choose a custom performance setting to use more system resources to run the scan (to make it faster), exclude files/folders/file extensions from scans, and decide how often to check for new definition updates (every 1/3/6/12/24 hours). For real-time protection, you can toggle on or off the following options: Scan archive filesScan email databasesDeep scan that checks CHM files and executable filesSmart scan that skips previously checked filesScan boot sectorsScan files as they move throughout the networkSkip scanning files that exceed a custom file size (e.g., 10 MB to skip video files) You can also protect the program's settings with a PIN as well as enable gaming/silent mode to suppress notifications. Adware Antivirus definitely has its advantages but because there's also a non-free version you can upgrade to, many additional options are not supported. For example, parental controls and advanced network, web, and email protection are only available in Adaware Antivirus Pro. These options are visible within the free edition but they're not actually clickable/usable until you enter a Pro license key. Adaware Antivirus Free works with Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7. Download Adaware Antivirus Free 04 of 11 Avast Free Antivirus What We Like Add-ons allow you to increase protection. Great customizability. What We Don't Like Password manager and some other tools included are trial only. Additional features require purchase. Our Review of Avast Free Antivirus Avast is used by hundreds of millions of people and ranks high in nearly every "best list" of antivirus programs, and for good reason. If you want a solid program that is sure to block new threats but is still easy enough to customize, you should consider using it. Avast Free Antivirus is similar to Avira; supplemental modules enhance the virus shield and provide additional services related to security and privacy. The antivirus portion has lots of options you can change but it's still easy enough for anyone to use since there are information blurbs next to most items so you're not left wondering what will happen if you enable them. Plus, both definition and program updates are performed automatically (a manual option is available, too), meaning you can install Avast and let it do its thing without worrying whether you're running the latest and greatest version. Avast is customizable and lets you make changes to everything from whether to make a sound when threats are detected and how long notifications should remain on the screen, to the kinds of file extensions that should be scanned. Here are some more features supported in this program: Scheduled scansCustom scans that can check only the memory, rootkits, auto-start programs, etc.Checking all files or just certain file extensionsProtecting against ransomwareIdentifying files by their content instead of their suffixFine-tuned heuristics sensitivityScanning for potentially unwanted programsFollows shortcuts to scan the real fileCan scan within lots of archive file formats like self-extracting DOS and Win32 executables, CHM, ACE, 7Z, RAR, TNEF streams, Mac archives, ISO, and moreWindows Explorer context menu integrationFolders, HDDs, and URLs (but not specific files) can be excluded in advance from scansCustom scans are easy to save for use in the futureA Rescue Disk utility lets you use the Avast scanner even if you can't start your computerParticular areas of the program can be protected with a passwordEnable Do Not Disturb Mode to deny notifications from other apps while you're using one in full-screen mode Before Avast is installed, you have the option to include over a dozen different tools: file, behavior, web, and mail shields; software updater, browser cleaner, rescue disk, Wi-Fi inspector, security and SafePrice browser extensions; password manager; junk file cleaner; and Game Mode. Technically, if you only want the antimalware protection, you can install just the shields from the start of that list; the others are add-ons that aren't necessary but could be helpful at some point. For example, the software updater is a nice tool that will not only check for and report outdated software but also install the newer versions for you (even in bulk). Wi-Fi Inspector scans the network for devices that could be vulnerable to attacks. For instance, it might identify that a computer is running a file sharing service that has been known to facilitate the spread of a certain kind of worm. You can install these tools (it takes less than five minutes) and then disable or completely remove them later. Or, you can ignore them during setup and just install them later, or not at all. However, the password manager and Cleanup tools are only trial versions that will expire after a time-limited trial. There's also a firewall, file shredder, and sandbox feature that's unusable in this free version. Avast Free Antivirus is compatible with Windows 10, 8, and 7. There's also a Mac and Android version. Download Avast Free Antivirus See our comparison between Avast and Bitdefender to see which one might be better for you. 05 of 11 Panda Dome What We Like Light impact on system resources. Minimal, uncomplicated design. Security news about the latest reports of breaches and threats. What We Don't Like Resets browser home page and default search engine unless specifically deselected during installation. Contains advertisements. Our Review of Panda Dome Panda Security's free antivirus program, Panda Dome (previously called Panda Free Antivirus), installs in minutes and has a minimal design like Bitdefender. However, even though it's not a CPU or memory hog, and doesn't appear to be customizable, all of its many options are tucked away in the program's settings. From there, you can do things like set up both on-demand and automatic scans to check compressed files and scan for potentially unwanted programs. The automatic, permanent scanner includes some additional options, too, like behavioral and analysis scanning options, the ability to ask you before neutralizing a virus, and blocking files from running for so-many seconds until results on whether it's safe or harmful are obtained from the cloud. Something entirely unique to Panda Dome is its security news and alerts sections that can show you critical, warning, and informational messages like when a popular vendor experiences a data breach that could affect your personal information. You can, however, turn those off if you want to. Complete a scan in just a few minutes if you only want to check for actively running threats, like browser cookies, processes, and things currently loaded in memory. However, there's also, of course, an option for a full system scan or a custom scan. Here are some other things you can do with Panda Dome: Password protect the entire applicationHave the quarantine emptied every three days, every week, every month, or neverA gaming/multimedia option disables all notifications if you're using a full-screen applicationExclude particular files or folders from scans, as well as specific file extensions of your choosingEnable USB protection to scan removable devices as they're attached, to make sure that they don't spread anything to the computerMonitor running processes as well as any URLs accessed by them, and have them terminated if Panda Dome deems them a threatRecord everything in event reports that you can browse through and even print or export to a TXT or CSV fileOptionally install Panda Safe Web during setup to protect you from malicious websites The Panda Dome antivirus software does a really good job at keeping the important buttons up front and hiding the additional options within menus so that you're not constantly bombarded with options or alerts. However, the program will change your home page and the search provider in your web browser, unless you uncheck those options during the initial setup. Panda Dome works in all versions of Windows from Windows 10 through Windows XP. Download Panda Dome 06 of 11 AVG AntiVirus Free What We Like Installs in a few minutes. Choose what to enable during setup. Updates automatically (definitions and the program). You have full control over how things work. What We Don't Like Shows features you can't enable in the free version. Always advertises AVG Internet Security. Doesn't officially support Windows Vista or XP. Our Review of AVG AntiVirus Free AVG's free antivirus program is easy on the eyes and even easier to use. The scan button is right in the middle of the screen, turning features off is dead-simple, and all the advanced options are tucked away from view in the settings. Like most antivirus tools, this one lets you schedule scans, check for threats in archives, remove viruses right when they're found, scan USB drives, exclude files/folders/websites from scans, and run boot-time scans. AVG AntiVirus Free is highly customizable. You can either install it and leave the settings alone to have regular protection, or go into the settings and make adjustments to nearly anything. Choose how to scan files— include only content that might include malware (like executable data), only files that use a file extension considered potentially dangerous (like EXE), or all files regardless of content type or file extension. Enable rootkit detection, hardcore mode, and CyberCapture technology, which helps detect threats in unrecognized files. During setup, you have full control over which components should be enabled or disabled after AVG is installed. Options include File Shield, Behavior Shield, Web Shield, Email Shield, SafePrice browser extension, File Shredder, Cleanup, and Do Not Disturb Mode. AVG AntiVirus Free includes a file shredder tool as well, which you can use from the right-click context menu to overwrite files using the Random Data, Gutmann, or DoD 5220.22-M data destruction method. Windows 10, 8, and 7 are supported. It also runs on Mac (10.10 Yosemite or above) and Android. You're asked during setup to also install AVG's web browser, AVG Secure Browser, but you can uncheck that option if you want. Download AVG AntiVirus Free 07 of 11 COMODO Antivirus What We Like User interface can conform to your comfort level. Lots of settings can be customized. Run programs virtually. Automatic updates for the program and virus definitions. What We Don't Like Settings sometimes don’t save after editing them. Includes other programs and tools you might not want. Our Review of COMODO Antivirus COMODO Antivirus excels in a few ways: it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be depending on your experience level with antivirus tools, it supports cloud-based scans to detect new threats, and the built-in sandbox technology can isolate programs so that they can’t affect your files even if they do turn out to be malicious. Right after installing this free antivirus program from COMODO, a scan starts to make sure your computer is safe. You can also run scans at any time, either quick scans, full scans, scans of commonly infected areas, and custom scans. A custom scan in COMODO Antivirus lets you choose which files or folders to scan and enables a host of other customizations like whether to decompress and scan archives, use cloud scanning, automatically delete threats, enable heuristics scanning, check for threats running in memory, skip files over a maximum size, run the scan with full system resources, delete PuPs, and more. The basic view for the program's settings runs scans, unblock applications, updates the program, and runs software in a virtual mode, while the advanced view reports more details about those areas of the program and displays logs as well as toggles various things like HIPS and VirusScope. Check out the virtualization feature in COMODO Antivirus. You can run any program you want in a virtual space completely separate from the rest of your files. It’s an opportunity to test out an application to ensure that it’s real and not just a trick to get you to install a virus. Launch programs in this protected container from inside the COMODO program or by right-clicking an executable file and choosing the option in the menu. Here are some other features worth mentioning: Password protect the programShow a floating desktop widgetHide the upgrade advertisementChoose which archive file types to unpack and scanEnable real-time scanning of files on the networkDefine heuristics scanning level (low, medium, high)Schedule scans as frequently as every hour to as infrequently as once a monthCustomize the HIPS rulesTurn on Silent ModeForce the auto-containment of suspicious or malicious filesUse a unique password for the Virtual Desktop feature COMODO Antivirus officially supports Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7. It's also available for macOS. Download COMODO Antivirus The COMODO Dragon web browser automatically installs during setup unless you tell it not to. After installation, pay close attention to the options you’re given—you can change your DNS servers to be the COMODO Secure DNS servers (which presumably improve security and speed up browsing), enable Cloud Based Behavior Analysis, send anonymous program usage to COMODO, and change the home page and default search engine to Yahoo. 08 of 11 FortiClient What We Like Automatically downloads and installs updates. Lots of control over the settings. Simple user interface. Comes with an application firewall. What We Don't Like Requires the internet during setup (it’s not an offline installer). Slow to download and install all the components. Unable to pause scans (only stop). Lacks helpful documentation. The FortiClient free antivirus program is unique for several reasons. Unlike many of the other AV programs on this page, this one includes parental control features, manually checks your programs for vulnerabilities, functions as a VPN client, and includes a firewall. Installing this program lets you block websites by URL and site category, such as bandwidth-consuming sites, illegal sites, and ones flagged as including content relating to hacking, discrimination, erotica, games, advertising, shopping, child abuse, and plagiarism. Sandbox files opened from a web download, email attachment, removable drive, or network drive. This feature is great if you’re cautious about opening those types of files, because they’re the primary entry points for malware. Here are some other FortiClient features you’ll like: Scan on a daily, weekly, and monthly scheduleLock down the program with a passwordManually check for application vulnerabilitiesAntiExploit is enabled for all your programs automatically, but you have the freedom to disable the feature on any of them The program interface itself is easy to read, but it might be a bit too much for a novice user. There’s hardly any information regarding what each component and setting does when it's toggled, and a few of the features are really only useful if your computer is being managed remotely by an administrator. Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7 are supported. You can also get this free antivirus program on Linux and macOS (but with fewer features). FortiClient has a similar tool for web filtering and VPN access, too, for Chromebook, the Chrome browser, iOS, and Android. Download FortiClient During setup, you’re asked if you want to enable the following along with the antivirus program: SSL and IPsec VPN, FortiSandbox detection and quarantine features, and Additional Security Features which include Antivirus, Web Filtering, Single Sign On, and Application Firewall. You can turn them on during setup or later once FortiClient is fully installed. 09 of 11 Immunet AntiVirus What We Like Tons of customizable options. No ads. Automatic updates. Helpful information built-in. Small setup file; installs fast. What We Don't Like Runs on Windows only, and probably only newer editions (not XP). Our Review of Immunet AntiVirus Immunet offers real-time protection for Windows. It has a bit of an outdated interface but the software is still current and even connects directly to the cloud for updates. There are lots of options you can toggle on or off to customize how the software works, but you can also leave all the defaults and it will still check your computer for threats in real time. Here are some other features you get with Immunet: Detects and removes bots, viruses, worms, Trojans, keyloggers, and spywareThree scan modes let you check just running processes (Flash Scan), any location of your choosing (Custom Scan), or the entire computer (Full Scan)Schedule any scan type daily, weekly, or monthlyStart scans directly from Explorer on any folder or fileA timeline shows the history of threats on the computer, to 30 days in the past. There's also an extremely detailed history of events that have happened in the program that you can filter by date, keyword, and type (such as quarantines, cleanings, blocked processes, etc.)Lets you run a FlashScan right after installation to check the registry and running processes for threatsIncludes a special blocking mode that prevents all programs from being installed unless they first pass a security scanGaming Mode prevents notifications from the program while you watch movies or play games.Automatically excludes certain folders and file types from scans, including temp folders and certain system32 foldersManually exclude any file, folder, or threat (by its name)Toggle scanning for archives and packed filesRuns alongside many other antivirus programs, such as security software from Comodo, Avira, AVG, and Norton. Immunet AntiVirus has been tested on Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7, as well as Windows Server 2016/2012/2008 R2. Download Immunet AntiVirus 10 of 11 Kaspersky Security Cloud Free What We Like Clean user interface that’s easy to understand. Unique features not found in other programs. Protect your email. Lots of options you can customize. Set up a scanning schedule. What We Don't Like Must create a user account to activate the software. Several features you see in the program aren’t free. Can’t exclude scans by file extension. Slow install. Must renew the free license every year. Kaspersky Security Cloud Free is a good choice for a free antivirus program if you want a simple program that boasts lots of features. It’s easy to use and offers many advanced options if you care to look into them. This free AV program is also useful if your computer is low on system resources. Kaspersky Security Cloud Free can automatically postpone scans and reduce display animations if the CPU runs too high. It supports idle scans for when you’re away and lets you favor performance over protection by altering the overall security level. It includes Self-Defense, which is a function that blocks all attempts to change or delete Kaspersky’s processes, registry items, and installation files. Other details worth mentioning: Searches for rootkits and can delete malicious tools, adware, auto-dialers, and suspicious packagesCan password protect the program to protect its settings from being changed or to stop it from being uninstalled or shut downIncludes a file and web scanner as well as Network Attack Blocker, System Watcher, and Mail Anti-VirusSupports gaming mode to suppress notifications while using any program in full screen modeThe antivirus scanner auto-pauses when specific applications start up or during certain times of the dayChoose what happens when a threat is detected: notify, disinfect, delete if disinfect doesn’t work, or deleteAuto-scan external drives or prompt you to scan them when they’re insertedSchedule quick or full scans for every day, every weekend, every weekday, weekly, or monthlyChoose what gets scanned in a full, quick, and selective scan. Can include any of the following: system memory, startup objects, disk boot sectors, system volume information, email, all hard drives, all external devices, all network drives, any folder.Skip items if the scan takes too longSpeed up antivirus scans by checking only new and changed filesExclude files and folders from scans, and even prevent the scanning of specific threatsDefine trusted applications so that they're not scanned Kaspersky's free antivirus program runs on Windows operating systems. It's said to be compatible with Windows 10 and 8 on Windows-based tablets, as well as Windows 7 and newer on desktops and laptops. Download Kaspersky Security Cloud Free 11 of 11 ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus What We Like Updates automatically. Includes a free firewall. Can run scheduled scans. What We Don't Like Heavy on system resources. Slow installation. ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus, also called ZoneAlarm Security and ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall, is just what you think: antivirus software with a firewall tool built-in. You not only have protection against threats like spyware, viruses, Trojan horses, and bots but there are also firewall shields to block intruders from reaching your computer files. Here are some other important features in this free antivirus tool: Real-time, cloud-based security updates that rely on millions of other users to stop threats quicklyGamer Mode blocks interruptions while gaming, such as scans, updates, and alerts; you can set all alerts to be automatically denied or allowedLock down ZoneAlarm's configuration with a password to protect its settings from being changedBack up the program's security settings and restore them laterRun quick or full scans on a scheduleThe network firewall can screen every single program with "suspicious behavior" alerts that you have to explicitly allow or denyThe firewall lets you block fragments, trusted servers, and public servers, as well as enable ARP protection, filter IP traffic over port 1394, allow/block VPN protocols, and lock the hosts fileSet up notifications for suspicious credit activity ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall works on Windows 10, 8, and 7. Download ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus Other Antivirus Solutions If you're looking for protection on your other devices, check out our best free antivirus apps for Android and best Mac antivirus lists, too.