Best free antivirus software
By Andrew Laughlin
Equipping your computer with virus protection doesn't have to cost a penny – we've pinpointed the best free antivirus downloads that impressed us most in our lab tests. These free tools even outperformed a number of paid-for security suites.
Although these free security software packages are pretty basic, they will help you locate, prevent and remove malware and viruses. The best have extra features, such as a firewall or anti-phishing protection, although they may lack the breadth of features of the best paid-for antivirus software packages.
See the best free antivirus software package below.
Best free antivirus software
This antivirus software might not be from the best-known brand, but it managed to achieve top billing in our 2020 tests, beating even its paid-for sibling to the top-spot. This is due to it having a slightly different interface and thus being ever so slightly easier to use. This software comes with various extra features, some of which you have to pay for but isn't always obvious, and it can be a little naggy about getting you to upgrade. Nonetheless, protection is up there with the very best packages and it is well worth a look.
This package is up there with the very best of them thanks to excellent protection scores on ransomware and other viruses, and it has a very low impact on the speed of your computer. It's also improved since last year, with phishing protection added to the Edge web browser, along with Chrome and Firefox. We aren't big fans of the ever-present encouraging buttons trying to get you to upgrade to the paid-for product, but it's a small price to pay for such a good free product.
This is one of the best-known antivirus brands out there, and it comes in third-place in this year's free product testing. It's a fairly basic package, although one feature it has that other freebies lack is email scanning. Protection is excellent, with phishing threats and ransomware nipped in the bud. It's a great choice.
Does free internet security give enough protection?
Downloading free antivirus software is certainly tempting, and the options above will help to keep your computer free from malicious malware.
But you shouldn't regard paid-for packages as a waste of money – you can get Best Buy security software for around £30 per year, which isn't much to pay for the extra peace of mind it offers.
To help you decide whether or not to dig into your wallet for virus protection, check out our expert guide on how to choose the best antivirus software.
Is Microsoft Windows 10 Security (Defender) good enough to rely on?
Microsoft Security Essentials in Windows 7 was rightly criticised for its lack of effective protection. If you use Windows 7, we advise you to go with our Best Buy antivirus packages, including free options.
When Windows 10 launched, Microsoft introduced Defender, now called Microsoft Windows 10 Security, and after a fairly rocky start, it's now a viable line of defence against malware and other threats.
Microsoft Windows 10 Security (Defender) isn't quite good enough yet to trouble our Best Buy and top-scoring antivirus packages, however. It lacks effective protection against phishing attacks, where a cybercriminal sends a message with the intent of tricking you into revealing personal information, such as your password or bank details. It also doesn't have the creature comforts of a proper, full-blown antivirus suite. Our Microsoft Windows 10 Security (Defender) review has all the details.
To be sure of the top-notch, all round protection that you need, go for one of the free antivirus packages above, or browse the paid-for versions for extra features and functions.