Antivirus Is Your Final Layer of Protection
Techies rate free antivirus software
Forget falling for adverts when you surf the web—listen to the technologyexperts. These people live and breathe tech and highly recommend freeantivirus software.Avira’s Free Antivirus is loved by reviewers from technology writers due toits thorough offering, with Kaspersky’s free software liked for its ability tomonitor in real-time from the browser. If the experts think it’s okay forpeople to have free antivirus software, then it’s okay.
Best Overall: Avast Free Antivirus
Source: Avast Free AntivirusAvast is on the top of my list for the best free antivirus programs. It ischock-full of features that even basic paid antivirus software doesn’tinclude. This includes a VPN that blocks your computer’s IP address andlocation while you’re online. That makes it difficult for adware and internettrackers to target you with ads or sell your browser history. It also has apassword manager that keeps all your usernames and passwords secure. That way,they can’t be swiped by keyloggers as you sign into online accounts.My favorite feature of all Avast computer protection programs is the automaticgamer mode. When you visit a known gaming site, Avast places it on its gamerlist and automatically suspends all non-essential processes, so you have allthe resources you need while playing. This includes popup messages or othernotices that tend to interrupt gameplay. However, Avast will keep monitoringfor any malware trying to sneak in and stop it.Because it is a free program, Avast does have a lot of ads that try and enticeyou to upgrade to one of its paid programs. Unless you’re in gamer mode, theseads do become bothersome as they pop up and do create a bit of slowdown.
Avast Free Antivirus
So much protection in a free programAvast has a good number of security tools and stops most threats frominfecting your computer.
Best Basic Antivirus: Bitdefender Antivirus Free
Source: Nicole Johnston/ Windows CentralThe only reason Bitdefender doesn’t take the top spot is that this basicprogram doesn’t have the extra tools that make Avast the better pick. However,Bitdefender is very reliable and doesn’t use a lot of your system’s resources,so you won’t notice slowdown or drag while it is running. If you’re notworried about using a VPN or password manager or an automatic gamer mode, thenI highly recommend Bitdefender as the best, basic antivirus program.I’m always amazed at how well Bitdefender stops malware files before theystart the download process, and most threats get automatically scrubbed frommy computer without ever needing to hit the quarantine folder. It’s likeBitdefender knows a threat when it sees it and doesn’t bother me to double-check. Plus, there is hardly any effect on my computer. The only way I knew itcreated any slowdown is because I timed it, and the lag was less than a tenthof a second.As with all free antivirus programs, Bitdefender does have popup ads thatencourage you to purchase its paid security program. However, compared toother free software, I didn’t find it overly intrusive or annoying. Thebiggest frustration I discovered of all Bitdefender programs is virus scanstake a long, long time, nearly three times longer than other programs.Depending on what you have saved to your local drives, this can be well overan hour. One of my test computers that only had default programs installedstill took close to 45 minutes to complete.
Bitdefender Antivirus Free
Dependable, fast, secureBitdefender earned a high protection score and secures your computer withoutcausing drag.
Best with No Drag: Kaspersky Security Cloud
Source: Nicole Johnston/ Windows CentralKaspersky is another excellent antivirus program that I have no problemrecommending for home use. It runs quickly and doesn’t create any slowdownwhile installing or in use. Even during deep virus scans, I can easily keepworking without worrying about buffering or lag.In my tests, Kaspersky stopped every one of the malicious files trying todownload during the process and placed these threats into the quarantinefolder. It did have problems recognizing a couple of dangerous websites thateither are known to harbor malicious downloads or are a phishing scheme. Sincethe likelihood of most people purposely visiting these sites as I did, theprobability of you become infected while working online is pretty slim whileusing Kaspersky.In the past, Kaspersky has gotten a black eye for allegedly using its programsto tap into the U.S. government and its worker’s computers to gatherinformation for the Russian government. However, officials have never formallycharged that Kaspersky is guilty. In contrast, the company and its founderhave worked to repair its image by moving essential facilities and functionsout of Russia. If you’re a government worker, you may find peace using anotherprogram, but overall, it’s hard to beat the quick and highly effectivesecurity of Kaspersky.
Best Tandem Protection: AVG AntiVirus Free
Source: Nicole Johnston/ Windows CentralAVG is the most straightforward antivirus program to install and start using.Its dashboard has functions listed with icons used to describe what each isused for clearly. When a security feature isn’t in use, the icon image is red.Once enabled, it turns green. When I tested this antivirus program, it did anexcellent job of stopping most intern threats, including blocking phishingschemes and dangerous websites. One extra tool AVG Free comes with is a systemscanner. This looks for outdated software and gives you suggestions of whereto find a new version or link or prompts you to remove it altogether if youdon’t use it often.One great advantage of using AVG is that is works in tandem with otherantivirus programs. Where additional security software requires you touninstall any competitor programs, AVG lets you keep your primary application.Using smart technology, AVG knows when to step up to provide first responseprotection and when to step back.AVG does have some lag issues. During my testing, the initial deployment of aprogram, opening up a web browser, or navigating to a new site caused loadingto be noticeably slow. I noticed the same loading issues when opening bothonline and offline games, or when I wanted to watch a movie. Once the program,website, browser, or media was fully loaded, there wasn’t an issue with drag.
AVG AntiVirus Free
Works alongside other programs for double the protectionAVG works in tandem with other antivirus programs to provide a second layer ofsecurity.
Best Security Suite: Avira Free Security Suite
Source: Nicole Johnston/ Windows CentralAvira goes a step beyond basic antivirus and gives you a full suite for free.It has a VPN that encrypts your online data, a system vulnerability scanner tofind outdated software, and other holes in your system where ransomware couldsneak in, and adblockers to make your online experience more enjoyable. It hasa password manager to keep login credentials shielded while you sign intoonline accounts and will tag and help you update 200 privacy settings, both onyour computer and in your browser, to give you the best privacy protection.This isn’t an easy program to install, though. Nearly every tool in this Avirasuite must be individually downloaded and installed. When you first openAvira, you are shown a list of each tool or program. Clicking then takes youto individual dashboards. This is a lot of navigation, and it’s easy to getlost toggling back and forth. I also found that Avira created some of theworst slowdowns to my computers, especially home computers, where there aremore programs installed locally compared to the relatively bare testcomputers.
Avira Free Security Suite
Provides a full suite of securityAvira is an entire security suite with password protection, vulnerabilityscanner, and a VPN.
Antivirus and Data Collection
Source: Nicole Johnston/ Windows CentralThere have been some antivirus programs that have made it into the news withAvast being the most recent after admitting to collecting and selling userinformation to its partners. Just about every online website or softwareprogram gathers information on its users. Typically the information is usedfor research so companies learn how their programs are being used and whatimprovements should be made to retain and gain more clients. While this is acommon practice, it does make those using antivirus programs uneasy sincethese programs tout methods of blocking internet snoops and threats.One important use of data collection, especially among antivirus programs, isto learn and stop newly emerging malware, also known as zero-day threats.These files are so new that they haven’t been logged into malware databases.By watching similar movements founds in known threats, the best antivirussoftware can stop new threats before they can cause problems. But these newthreats must be properly cataloged so other antivirus programs can be awarethey exist and keep a lookout for them on other users’ PCs.In both of these cases, every antivirus software, both paid and free, givesyou the option to opt-out of data collecting programs. Some, like Kasperskyand Trend Micro, separate these programs so you can opt-out of one and agreeto another. But most programs lump all data collection under a singlepermission tab. You are asked to deny or give permission for data collectionthe first time you install an antivirus program. However, you can alwayschange your preferences by finding the permissions under your program’ssettings.If you are looking for some paid options, we’ve also rounded up all the bestantivirus software options money can buy right now.
Antivirus Is Your Final Layer of Protection
An antivirus is your final layer of protection. If a website uses a securityflaw in your browser or a plug-in like Flash to compromise your computer, itwill often attempt to install malware—keyloggers, Trojans, rootkits, and allsorts of other bad things. These days, malware is the domain of organizedcrime looking to gather financial information and harness your computer forbotnets.If a zero-day in a piece of software you use does give the bad guys anopportunity to get malware onto your system, an antivirus is your last layerof defense. It may not protect you against the zero-day flaw, but it willlikely catch and quarantine that malware before it can do any damage. Itshouldn’t be your only layer of protection (browsing carefully is stillimportant), but it absolutely needs to be one of your layers of protection.And there’s no good reason not to run an antivirus on Windows.