You don’t have to pay for antivirus software

You don’t have to pay for antivirus software

Best free antivirus software

Pay for antivirus software from biggies like Norton and Kaspersky and it’ll cost around £30 per year. Yet you can get free software which, while not quite as effective or full of features as paid-for programs, still keeps on top of threats. Regardless of which route you take, remember:

Hackers develop new bugs constantly. All these free antivirus programs offer regular updates, so make sure you get them.

It’s not just about how up-to-date your software is though. If you’re not using it, what’s the point? Try to fit in a full ‘on-demand’ scan once a week, where the virus scanner goes through all the files on your hard drive. That should make sure nothing slips through the net.

Something to bear in mind. The software listed below will protect your computer from viruses, but it won’t generally offer the same level of functionality as paid-for internet security software. While some free software does include extras, if there’s a specific feature you want such as Wi-Fi protection or secure shopping, it’s worth checking both free and paid-for options before making a choice.

Antivirus: Free PC software downloads

There are plenty of free downloads available for Windows – here we separate the wheat from the chaff.


Windows Defender comes pre-installed on all ‘genuine’ versions (ie, not installed on more than one computer or counterfeit) of Windows 8 and later.

It runs in the background and tells you when you need to take specific action. You can use it anytime to search for malware if your computer isn’t working properly, but reviews are mixed on how thorough the scans are.


Microsoft’s Security Essentials antivirus package is completely free to users of ‘genuine’ Windows machines, so it’ll verify yours. As newer versions of Windows use Windows Defender, Microsoft Security Essentials is only for Windows 7 (XP, and more recently Vista, are no longer supported).

The software’s unobtrusive and provides quick and comprehensive protection from viruses, trojans, and spyware. For casual Windows users, it feels and runs like part of the regular operating system rather than an added extra. But some experts say it’s not as good as it used to be.


The company behind Avast Antivirus Free boasts hundreds of millions of users. And because it’s such a well-reviewed and feature-rich piece of software, it’s leapfrogged Avira’s Antivirus in our rankings.

It’s also added a feature called CyberCapture, which detects unusual files based on the firm’s huge database collated from its millions of users.


The free antivirus software of choice for many techies,  Avira topped many tech publications’ free antivirus round-ups by providing the most thorough and fastest protection.

If you have the know-how, it’ll do everything you want it to, but it’s best for those that know their way around a PC.


Panda Security’s free antivirus software has been praised by reviewers for its detection rates, and has scored better than paid-for programmes in independent tests. Plus it includes features not often found in (free) antivirus software.

For example, it prevents USB drives running software automatically when inserted into your computer – as well as vaccinates your own USB sticks against infection from other PCs – and a monitoring function to highlight security information about current running applications.


Acquired by Avast in 2016, antivirus stalwart AVG is still available as a separate piece of software.

The protection provided by AVG AntiVirus Free, is reasonably thorough but doesn’t offer any real tech support.

AVG is unobtrusive, doesn’t use too many resources, and will regularly auto-update. It includes LinkScanner, a real-time threat detector which checks links out when you’re surfing the web (on Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Operaonly), and marks unsafe threats with red flags.

Antivirus: Free Mac downloads

There aren’t as many options for OS X as there are for Windows, though the general consensus is Mac users are at less of a risk.

It’s still worth protecting yourself though, as recently there’s been an increasing number of viruses for Macs circulating the web.


Simple to use, Sophos Home Free runs in the background while you work, scanning files for threats whenever your Mac opens them.

It’s had decent reviews in techie publications, although it has been found lacking when it comes to options and settings.


Avast Security for Mac is also available for Mac users (as well as on Windows), and, given its significant market share, is definitely worth considering.

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