Best free antivirus software for 2022
Investing in a threat protection tool is not for everyone’s budget, so a free antivirus software is a good option to get at least some level of security. But why do we need an antivirus when modern operating systems have built-in malware protection tools?
You see, solutions like Windows Defender provided in Windows 10 and 11 typically offer mediocre security. Not only are threat protection rates lower than those of third-party antivirus products, but the tool also lacks extra security features.
Meanwhile, a good free third-party antivirus can ensure top-notch security approved by independent laboratories. Unlike built-in protection tools, if you choose the right antivirus, you can get additional features such as identity theft protection, a password manager, or even a VPN. Sadly, most top-of-the-line antiviruses aren't free.
Yet, if you’re thrifty, sometimes a free of charge protection service is the only thing you need. So, we compiled a list of the best free antivirus suites, regardless of what type of device you're using.
Best free antivirus software – quick list:
- TotalAV – the most extensive free antivirus scanner
- Norton Antivirus – state-of-art free antivirus
- Bitdefender – a super secure free antivirus
- Avira – the best free antivirus for families
- Sophos Home – best antivirus for multiple devices
Free antivirus vs. paid antivirus
When it comes to free and paid antivirus programs, the latter option is usually the better one. For example, when you get a paid antivirus tool, you can be sure that it will protect your computer from online threats as you’re browsing the web. Also, paid applications will always offer customer support like live chats, while their free versions will only let you use their knowledge bases.
In addition, paid antivirus tools (like those from our Best antivirus in 2022 list) pack a lot of useful features that can improve your online experience. Built-in VPNs, parental mode, and various browser extensions can be of great use for both beginners and advanced users.
However, when chosen carefully, even a free antivirus program can be enough. Take the free version of TotalAV as an example. It uses the same advanced technologies as the paid version to protect you from malware. The only thing the free option lacks is some extra features.
So, if you only need basic protection against malware, a free antivirus software can be enough – but only if it is chosen wisely.
Best free antivirus services – our detailed list
Finding a quality antivirus with excellent malware detection rates without having to pay a penny is quite hard. Not to mention finding one that includes an additional feature or two. Here are some of the best free antivirus services on the market:
1. TotalAV – most extensive free antivirus scanner
|Platforms:||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android|
|Current deal:||Get TotalAV, now 84% OFF!|
TotalAV might not yet be a household name, but if you need a free antivirus for personal use – this is easily the top option to choose. It offers all the right essentials in one easy-to-use package.
Although a real-time scan is only available for paying users, TotalAV provides a comprehensive Smart Scan. It goes the extra mile beyond checking for malware. The tool also goes through startup programs, finds junk and duplicate files that are clogging your system, even evaluates browser safety.
To compensate for the lack of real-time protection, they're offering Safe Site extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge browsers. It blocks known harmful URLs, which should prevent malware from even appearing on your device – limiting the necessity of a real-time scan altogether!
Independent malware labs widely praise the service. AV-TEST certified it as a top product and gave the maximum score in the performance category. So, you can be sure that you're getting the best possible performance.
With the free version, you can even take a peek into the paid version. After installing the free edition, you can try the Pro version for free. This unlocks all the features you need in your antivirus, including real-time, ransomware protection, and many other additions. More on what TotalAV has to offer – in our TotalAV review.
- Smart Scan
- Safe site extension
- Pro version free trial
- Good lab test scores
- No real-time protection
2. Norton Antivirus – state-of-art free antivirus
|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS|
|Current deal:||Get up to 83% OFF Norton Antivirus!|
After Norton 360 teamed up with Avast, its antivirus software has become a cybersecurity beast. Even though after the free 14-day trial it costs quite more than we would love to pay – it’s completely worth it. With Norton, you will receive all the essential tools to fight back infections on your devices.
No doubt, there you will find AI-powered real-time protection that prevents viruses, malware, spyware, and ransomware from damaging your gadgets. A two-way Firewall is also included. It will not only monitor received network traffic but also sent one as well.
There are also other fantastic features such as parental control that allows you to limit online access for your children on different devices. Or a dark web monitor for your own safety – with it, you will know whether any of your credentials have been compromised on dark websites and forums.
In addition to all the essentials, Norton offers extra security features, such as a built-in VPN, password manager, and encrypted storage. Meaning, you wouldn’t need to bother getting additional security services.
Although it’s quite unfortunate that Norton Antivirus doesn’t offer a free version of its software, it’s undeniable that this antivirus is a trustworthy and powerful security tool.
You will learn more about Norton security in our Norton Antivirus review.
- One of the richest feature suites
- Built-in VPN and password manager
- 100% protection against all forms of malware
- Great for mobile devices
- No free version
- Quite expensive
3. Bitdefender – a super secure free antivirus
|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS|
|Current deal:||Get all Bitdefender plans at 60% OFF!|
As one of our top overall best antivirus services, Bitdefender also offers a very solid array of free features.
On Windows, it has Bitdefender Shield – real-time protection against a broad scope of cybersecurity threats. It ensures file and email protection in real-time with minimal impact on system performance.
However, the service doesn't only rely on database data. Their Advanced Threat Defense uses machine learning to detect behavioral threat-like indications. Suppose a software is accessing too much data, making background data changes or uploads. In that case, it will get flagged well before the database entry as a new form of malware.
Bitdefender also has measures against various phishing websites. Every website you visit is thoroughly checked for phishing indications, ensuring your data doesn't end up on dark web marketplaces. To learn more, read our Bitdefender review.
Bitdefender offers the best customer support for non-paying customers. If you run into any issues, you can contact their support agents via live chat, phone, email, or community forums. When it comes to free antiviruses, almost no services have as many options.
The main downside of this service is that the Mac version doesn’t have a free option. It only has a separate Virus Scanner for malware removal. The iOS app offers minimal features, too.
The base version is free forever, but if you'd like to test the premium ones, you can try all versions (including the most expensive ones that include better features for macOS) for free for 30 days without providing your card information.
- Superb malware protection
- Limits scans if you’re actively using your device
- 30-day free trial of all premium versions
- Sophisticated phishing filters
- Not great for macOS or iOS users
- Lengthy initial scans
4. Avira Free Security – best antivirus for Apple users
|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS|
|Current deal:||Get 1 year of Avira at 40% OFF!|
Successor of previous Avira Free Security Suite, the current tool combines the features that it used to have and sprinkles new additions keeping the service capable and competitive. It feels like a slightly limited, but still excellent version of their paid software.
Although you'll find many great antiviruses regardless of your device type, support is a key area that distinguishes this service from all the others. Avira has a great free version available for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS. So, it covers all the bases and delivers comparable performance across the board.
On independent tests, Avira gets the highest grade score for macOS protection, which is very impressive. It's an industry staple to overlook Apple users because they traditionally have been safer when it comes to malware. Meanwhile, Avira even has real-world test data to back up its strength.
If you’re a Windows user, they’re scoring just as high on PC. So, whichever system you’re using, you’ll get a quality antivirus. The installation process is simple, and Avira will update automatically, so you won’t have to work for your security.
As a free user, you get system, web, and ransomware protection. However, the latter will be available separately via the Browser Safety add-on. Even the free version will detect all known ransomware threats, so you're getting the full suite. More details on all the features this software has to offer – in our Avira Antivirus review.
Overall, addons like Browser Safety and Safe Shopping do contribute to your safer browsing. Whether you’re worried about intrusive trackers or someone stealing your data, they have uses. There is even a VPN, but with a cap of 500 MB/month, it can hardly be considered a useful feature.
- Includes password manager
- Supports many operating systems
- Safe shopping suite
- Adds up to your browser protection
- Reliable malware removal
- Lacks features
- Lengthy full system scans
5. Sophos Home – best free antivirus for families
The main reason you may not have heard of Sophos is that they mostly cater to businesses. Naturally, Sophos Home Free edition retains some of the features that seem directly ported from their business version. Even as a free service, you can manage three devices remotely from a single console. This is perfect for small groups of friends or families.
Sophos Home Free has two main features: Malware Protection and Web Protection. You won't get any tools against ransomware or real-time monitoring, so you should be extra careful about downloading a suspicious file or email attachment.
Sophos Malware Protection primarily relies on scanning. Sadly, there's no room for customization here – a full scan is the only option. This means that if you want to scan through some key places on your storage quickly, you'll have to wait until the full scan completes. Hardly a time-efficient approach.
Web Protection focuses on preventing access to suspicious URLs, including phishing sites. When you're trying to access a sketchy webpage, you get a High-Risk Website Blocked warning. In cases when the website isn't blocked, but your download contains malicious code, Download Protection kicks in. It evaluates the file based on the data shared from other computers, the hosted website's reputation, and displays the appropriate warning.
There is also a Parental Controls tab. There, you can customize what types of content you'd like to block. Considering that you can manage the antivirus remotely from a second device, it's a good option for parents. It includes alerts about filters some content has triggered and will work with most modern browsers.
Overall, Sophos Home has a basic package that can truly become a handy addition to your family's security. Suppose you're the one in your household who's managing everyone else's devices. In that case, Sophos Home can make these tasks a lot easier. And it won't cost you anything at all.
For more detail, read our Sophos antvirus review.
- Parental controls
- Remote management capabilities
- Lightweight antivirus software
- Locks out many features
- No customisation for scan options
6. Panda Free Antivirus – best free antivirus for Windows
|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Android|
|Current deal:||Get Panda Dome, now 50% OFF!|
If most antivirus software interfaces evoke existential dread, Panda Free Antivirus is an outlier. Their apps use nature scenes with a stylish UI, which is one of a kind. Yet, despite their unconventional taste for color palettes, background images, and the strange name choice, it's one of the most capable free antivirus options you will find.
Of course, when I say capable, I only have Windows and Android in mind. MacOS and iOS users will need to look elsewhere because the only versions that are available to them are paid ones.
However, the features list for Windows is a lot longer than you'd usually find. There's real-time malware protection, you can schedule periodic system scans and blocks against automatic malware execution from USB devices. You can also create a partition on your USB drive for extreme cases when your PC doesn't boot up due to malware.
If you're an Android user, you also get real-time scanning not only for your internal storage but for SD memory cards as well. One of the most useful features, however, is the Privacy Auditor. One of the most prominent ways Android apps get malware is in the form of sketchy apps that steal your data due to granted permissions. This feature checks which apps have access to which features so you can remove the ones that are asking for access where they don’t need it.
There are other helpful features as well like battery optimization, and device tracking helps you find lost phones.
Usually, the most prominent groups that need such security software are Windows and Android users. And for those people, Panda is a great free choice.
- VPN capabilities
- Good protection against malware
- Protection against infected USB drives
- Limited support for macOS and iOS
- Frequent false-positives
7. Malwarebytes – best free lightweight antivirus
|Platforms:||Windows, Android, macOS, iOS|
|Current deal:||Get Malwarebytes, now 25% OFF!|
Sometimes when looking for a good antivirus option, you might feel that your pick isn't light enough. This is especially the case with providers that have the same apps as their premium versions, full of features you can't use unless you opt for a subscription. The Malwarebytes Free version is nothing like that.
If you only need an antivirus to clean up your PC every once in a while, Malwarebytes is an exceptional tool. However, users usually employ Malwarebytes as an additional antivirus, because it can remove threats that go undetected by other scanners. For example, the program examines your system's boot records using a rootkit scanner – so it operates even in the deepest layers of your system.
Sadly, this means that you won't find things like firewall protection, a VPN, or a password manager. Malwarebytes Free is a by-design lightweight solution that takes up little system resources and sacrificing additional features in favor of efficiency. So, suppose you have an older or weaker machine. In that case, you should take note because you'll get a much lower startup impact with Malwarebytes when compared to other options on the market.
The main problem is that it doesn't have any web protection features. It does block dangerous URLs from the web, but this doesn't apply to email attachments. So, the malicious files that you get via other sources will find no resistance and will end up on your system. This is a concern, so you should use some real-time protection measures like the default Windows Security.
You'll be able to install Malwarebytes on Windows, macOS, ChromeOS, Android, and iOS devices. As is often the case, the iOS version is a laughing stock as it provides protection against malicious URLs only.
If you're using the free version and later decide that you need a bit more, you can get a 14-day free trial for Malwarebytes Premium. It adds features like ransomware protection, anti-phishing measures, and a solution against crypto-jacking. Learn more in our Malwarebytes review.
- Works well with weaker devices
- Detects malware hidden in deep layers
- Good malware labs results
- No real-time protection capabilities
- No additional features
How we selected and tested these free antivirus services
Ranking the best antivirus programs is quite a tedious task. We test a bunch of different antivirus services before selecting the ones that deserve a spot on our list, paying utmost attention to their usability, intuitiveness, and virus detection rates.
We also gather data from respectable anti-malware labs like AV-TEST and AV-Comparatives. Then, we draw conclusions for the best ratio between safety, performance, and other additional benefits like customer support and extra features.
How to choose the best free antivirus
There are not a lot of things to consider when choosing a free protection tool because they’re usually pretty limited. However, here’s what to keep in mind when searching for the best free antivirus available:
- Malware protection rates. Even if an antivirus is free, it’s supposed to be effective at finding cyber threats on your device. That’s why it’s best to look at such independent laboratories like AV-TEST or AV-comparatives and check how they evaluate protection rates of free antivirus services.
- Real-time protection. While not all free antivirus software solutions offer real-time protection, it’s better to find one that does. That’s because it helps prevent malware from being installed on your device.
- Extra features. There aren’t many extensive free antiviruses, but you can look for providers that offer at least some of the features that you’d find useful. Perhaps you need a password manager to securely store all of your login credentials? Or maybe you’d rather make use of a browser extension that would help you stay safe online? Evaluate what you need and try to choose a service accordingly.
To conclude, picking a free antivirus can be quite difficult, as they don’t offer much. But, on the bright side, you can always uninstall the program you don’t like and try another one. After all, they’re free!
Video review: best free antivirus in 2022
Is it safe to use a free antivirus?
A free antivirus solution is the bare minimum, but it’s better than no protection. Sometimes it may be comparable or better than built-in antivirus apps. For this reason, it’s essential to be picky and learn what you actually get – if you install an antivirus, it will likely disable other built-in options.
However, you should keep in mind that free antivirus tools sometimes don’t have an essential feature called real-time protection. This means that a free app will only eliminate the existing threats - it won’t stop new malware from entering your system.
Is it worth it to pay for antivirus?
Yes, if you want the best possible experience, it’s worth it to pay for an antivirus. That’s because, depending on the service that you choose, you’ll get more features and better customer support.
When it comes to features, you get many more if you get a paid antivirus. That includes freebies for extra security, such as webcam and identity theft protection, a password manager, and a VPN. If you have kids, a paid antivirus option can even keep your children secure from age inappropriate websites. For the smoothest experience with all of these features included, I recommend Norton.
As for customer support, you can definitely receive better service with a paid antivirus in most cases. You see, most providers don’t include human assistance options for free users, such as live chat or email. All that you can do is depend on the FAQs on their website. But, if you decide to invest in an antivirus, depending on which one you choose, you can receive 24/7 live chat, email, and phone support. In fact, such services as Norton and Bitdefender provide all of these options.
Overall, whether you should get a paid antivirus depends on the level of security and comfort you want to receive. A free plan is great for basic protection. But, if you want to ensure top-notch security, get additional freebies, and quality customer support, then you should consider looking into our best antivirus services of 2022.
More Anti-Virus guides from CyberNews:
Best free antivirus apps for Android: protect your Android device against viruses
Best antivirus for Chromebook: increase your online safety with these ChromeOS antiviruses
Best free antivirus protection: free protection that includes real-time malware scanning
How can I get free antivirus?
Usually, getting a free antivirus is as simple as going to the provider's website and downloading an app. In other cases, you might need to go to the dedicated app store like Google Play or Microsoft Store to download the app. Most free antivirus services don't require registering, so you should be able to use them from the get-go. Usually, it makes more sense to register because that way you can get a free trial of the premium version.
Is it safe to use a free antivirus?
Yes, it's safe to use a free antivirus if you're sticking with respectable antivirus suite providers. Usually, it will just be a bit limited when compared to the paid version, but you'll feel safe using it.
What is the best free antivirus in 2022?
As of today, the best free antivirus is TotalAV. This software offers excellent malware detection rates and a few essentials included.
Will my computer become slow if I install an antivirus?
No, your computer won't become slow if you install a fast antivirus. These days, computers have a lot more resources than before, so the impact on performance should be minimal. Of course, if you're using an older device, it may have a harder time complying with some antivirus demands.