Best free antivirus software for 2023
With cyber criminals improving daily, built-in antivirus suites aren’t enough to stay secure at all times – they lack multiple protection tools, resulting in worse malware detection. On the contrary, dedicated free antivirus programs offer top-notch and crucial anti-malware features. It can fully secure you from threats while browsing in cyberspace, and their performance is audited by independent laboratories.
Yet, the market is quite flooded with tempting free antivirus choices. Moreso, it’s worth noting that a casual free virus protection won’t offer as comprehensive security suite as a paid antivirus plan would.
That’s why we have tested over 20 robust providers and selected only the top free antivirus software in 2023 that offer excellent performance securing your devices against various viruses. And they also come with features that can’t be found in built-in antivirus protection.
Top 5 free antivirus protection in 2023
- TotalAV Free Antivirus – best free antivirus for Windows PC in 2023
- Norton 360 – robust antivirus with extra security tools
- Bitdefender Antivirus Free – antivirus for PC with advanced threat protection
- Surfshark Antivirus – all-around virus protection for all devices
- NordVPN Threat Protection – malware prevention tool with a market-leading VPN
📢 LIMITED OFFER: Only now, get 1 year of TotalAV at 84% OFF!
The best free antivirus 2023 – our detailed list
Finding a quality antivirus with excellent malware detection rates without having to pay a penny is quite hard. However, we researched and tested various free services that we found. Here are some of the best free antivirus protection on the market:
1. TotalAV Free Antivirus – best free antivirus software for Windows
|Platforms:||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android|
|Current deal:||🔥Get TotalAV, now 84% OFF!🔥|
TotalAV Free Antivirus is the best free antivirus program for Windows and other platforms. It offers all the right essentials in one package. During our in-house tests, the free version scored the highest 100 score in defeating various zero-day and 4-week-old threats.
Security performance: TotalAV is pretty much unmatched – independent malware labs widely praise the service. During the January-February tests of 2023, TotalAV blocked 99.9% of widespread malware and 98.6% of zero-day threats on AV-TEST. Meanwhile, when testing the service in-house, all 10 given malicious file samples were successfully blocked.
Features: the free version provides you with a comprehensive Smart Scan. It doesn’t just check various types of malware. It also goes through startup programs, finds junk and duplicate files that are clogging your system, and even evaluates browser safety. There’s alsoSafe Site extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge browsers. It blocks known harmful URLs, which should prevent malware from even appearing on your device! Additionally, you can use a free ad blocker and avoid adware altogether.
Free version cons: first things first, TotalAV Free Antivirus is more frugal with protected devices number compared to the paid version, as you can only connect one device. Furthermore, the free version excludes important features like real-time protection, cloud-based malware scanning, VPN, password manager, and more.
All in all, TotalAV Free Antivirus is user-friendly and reliable free antivirus software. However, if you want ultimate protection for your Windows PC, Mac, or smartphone, it’s worth upgrading to the premium version TotalAV Pro for $19.00/year.
Find more on what TotalAV has to offer in our TotalAV review.
2. Norton 360 – free antivirus with advanced security features
|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS|
|Current deal:||🔥Get up to 66% OFF Norton Antivirus🔥|
Norton 360 is by all means one of the most popular antiviruses on the market, as it strongly focuses on functional all-around online security. The provider is available for free for 30 days, but even within that time, it can seemingly improve your time online, as for us, it has stopped all threats within seconds.
Security performance: during AV-TEST independent testing, Norton blocked 100% of both widespread and zero-day malware. Likewise, the program hadn’t missed a detail when it was put to the test by our researchers. So whatever infects your device, Norton will take care of it effortlessly.
Features: Norton offers AI-powered real-time protection that prevents viruses, malware, spyware, and ransomware from damaging your gadgets. In terms of scans, you get a smart, quick, full, and custom scan. There’s even Norton Insight for suspicious files. The provider also includes a two-way firewall that monitors sent and received network traffic. There are also parental controls that allow you to limit online access for your children. 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.
Free version cons: the first downside here is that Norton 360 doesn’t offer a forever-free version. Instead, you get a month of a premium service free of cost. To get the free trial, you need to provide your payment details but don’t worry, the provider itself warns you about the mid of the trial so you can decide whether to stay or not.
If you need free antivirus protection temporarily, Norton is an excellent solution. If you get tempted to stay, the price of Norton 360 AntiVirus Plus is $19.99/year. The price goes up to $49.99/year with more exclusive plans, including Norton 360 Standart and Deluxe.
You can learn more about Norton security in our Norton Antivirus review.
3. Bitdefender Antivirus Free– feature-packed completely free AV for Windows
|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS|
|Current deal:||🔥Get Bitdefender for up to 62% OFF!🔥|
Bitdefender offers a top-notch forever-free version for Windows users and a 30-day free trial of Bitdefender Total Security for other platforms too. While the free Windows version is already mind-blowing, the malware detection results are even more impressive, not going for less than 100% success.
Security performance: during independent lab tests, Bitdefender blocked 100% of threats, be it zero-day or older malware. This provider is well-known for its exceptional malware detection rates, and our tests have proven it once again, seeing all malicious file samples were blocked. So you know you’re in good hands.
Scanning: Bitdefender offers a free version with comprehensive scanning options, including quick, system, vulnerability, and custom scans. Bitdefender offers real-time protection completely free. It ensures file and email protection in real time with minimal impact on system performance.
Features: Bitdefender Antivirus Free for Windows includes a number of advanced features. Starting with Complete Real-Time Data Protection and continuing with Advanced Threat Defense which is a behavior-based technique to prevent ransomware and other threats. Plus, Bitdefender takes measures against various phishing websites, ensuring your data doesn't end up on dark web marketplaces. And you are also fully protected from phishing scams as well as online frauds.
Free version cons: although the free version of Bitdefender for Windows is great, it’s undeniable that other OS need as good protection too. So, if you’re a Mac user, better opt for TotalAV. Other than that, the free version excludes a VPN, anti-tracker, Safe Online Banking, and a number of other useful tools.
Considering it all, Bitdefender presents quite an unusual approach to free protection for different devices. Lucky Windows users get a forever-free version, while other device owners can use the paid plan for free for 30 days and then consider staying with the antivirus for at least $23.99/year.
To learn more, read our Bitdefender review.
4. Surfshark Antvirus – all-around and intuitive antivirus software
|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Android|
|Current deal:||🔥Get Surfshark Antivirus - 76% OFF!🔥|
Surfshark Antivirus is an advanced online security provider that focuses on protecting you from malware, adware, data breaches, and other threats. While there’s no unlimited free version, you do get a 7-day free trial with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Most importantly, the provider reach the heights at blocking various types of malware.
Security performance: Surfshark antivirus is genuinely seriously good when it comes to protection. During AV-TEST testing, it blocked 91.9% of zero-day threats and 100% of widespread malware. all threats it was tested with. While our in-house tests met no flaws in malicious file detecting and we were happy about the low CPU usage.
Features: The antivirus itself is a lightweight software that offers full or quick device scans and fully functional real-time threat protection that is able to catch 70% of threats within less than 2 minutes. Although the overall antivirus security suite seems small compared to others, Surfshark offers outstanding additional features. These include a next-gen VPN service that uses an unbreakable encryption cipher. Plus, you can benefit from a safe and ad-free search engine that won’t collect your data and data breach monitoring.
Free version cons: we are anticipating for the day when Surfshark Antivirus and VPN releases a forever-free version. But today isn’t the day. So, the only downside of the provider is its limited period of time to use the service for free. On the other hand, you get the access to all premium features.
Overall, Surfshark Antivirus could use some antivirus-specific features, yet it still offers a well-rounded security suite for free for 37 days. So if you decide to stick with it, it will cost from as low as $41.88/year, which is one of the lower prices on the market.
Find out more in our Surfshark antivirus review.
5. NordVPN Threat Protection – top VPN with antivirus features for free
|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS|
|Current deal:||🔥 Get NordVPN Threat Protection – 63% OFF + 3 months FREE! 🔥|
NordVPN Threat Protection is a free malware security software that comes with a market-leading VPN service. It comes free for each NordVPN user and is designed to keep your devices safe from malware, trackers, and malicious ads. With a free 7-day NordVPN Android trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can use it entirely free of charge.
Security performance: NordVPN hasn’t been tested by independent labs since it’s not a traditional antivirus program but rather a malware removal tool that comes in a VPN package. During our in-house tests, however, it blocked 8/10 threats with a basic scan and 9/10 with a deep scan. So, there's still where to improve but the protection is already worth your trust.
Features: NordVPN Threat Protection doesn’t have malware scans like Bitdefender or other traditional antivirus programs. Instead, it works in the background, similarly as real-time protection. Also, it acts as a download scanner that checks whether the files you want to install on your computer are not infected with viruses. Other than that, Threat Protection tool helps users avoid visiting dangerous and malicious websites by blocking access to them. There are also solid features helping you deal with annoying adware and trackers to improve your browsing experience and protect against potential dangers that advertisements can carry.
Free version cons: it’s a pity that NordVPN Threat Protection is available for free for such a limited time. However, technically, the feature comes for free as a part of a NordVPN suite. Consequently, the virus protection suite lacks crucial features, like real-time protection, firewall, or customizable malware scans.
NordVPN Threat Protection is great if you’re looking for a quick virus protection solution. But the lack of features and limited free trial period hardly fades away against the pros. If you decide to continue using the services after the free trial, the prices start from as low as $3.29/month.
Read more about this product in our NordVPN review.
6. Avira Free Security – best antivirus for Apple users
|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS|
|Current deal:||🔥Get 1 year of Avira at 40% OFF!🔥|
Avira Free Security is a free antivirus for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS with a selection of advanced features that don’t cost a penny. It covers all the bases and delivers comparable performance across the board. And the tests have only confirmed it, showing 100% success.
Security performance: on independent tests, Avira gets the highest grade score for both Windows and macOS protection, which is very impressive. On macOS, the antivirus blocked 99.3% of threats in December tests, while on Windows – 100%. And our in-house tests challenged the program with 10 malicious file samples – 9 of them were quickly caught by Avira.
Features: this free antivirus offers three types of scanning – quick, full, and smart. So whether you need a simple checkup or a full-on inspection, you’ll be able to do it all. Plus, while there’s no web or email protection, you are given real-time protection for free as well. With Avira Free Security, you can expect to get quite a few extra features too. For instance, although with 500MB/month only, you get a VPN service. You can also make use of a file shredder, device optimization file quarantine, and a limited password manager.
Free version cons: even though more extensive than other free antiviruses on the market, Avira Free Security lacks one or two things. That said, you can only protect one device, there are no automatic software and driver updates, and customer support is also excluded.
If you’re in need of a free and feature-rich antivirus, Avira is a great choice. But if you wish to also enjoy such features as web and email protection as well as software and driver update, you’ll have to upgrade. The prices start at $30.99/year.
You can find all features that this software has to offer in our Avira Antivirus review.
7. ESET NOD32 – multi-platform free antivirus
|Platforms:||Windows, Linux, macOS, Android|
|Current deal:||🔥Get ESET, save up to 30%🔥|
ESET is a reliable free antivirus service for various platforms, as a single license activates products for different OS. With it, you get to use an advanced security suite for free for a month. In that time, you will be fully protected from all types of malware.
Security performance: during independent testing, ESET scored a whopping 100% in terms of widespread malware detection rates. And as for the zero-day threats, it managed to reach 98.6%. That’s an excellent solution if you’re looking for an antivirus that could detect even the newest malicious threats. Our in-house tests showed no worse results, making us believe that both free and paid versions are truly reliable.
Features: with ESET, you can scan your computer with a quick, full, custom, or removable drive scan. You can even schedule scans for later or automate them to be performed when you plug in your device, so you won’t have to deal with the antivirus interfering with your everyday tasks. The real-time protection feature is available as well. Moreso, ESET provides you with an anti-theft suite which allows you to check the location and the IP address of your device if it gets stolen or lost. Additionally, it’s possible to enable web filters that help to steer clear from phishing and malware websites. There’s even a separate payment protection function, which kicks in when you’re using banking apps.
Free version cons: even though the free trial unlocks all premium features, what it doesn’t give you is the ability to protect multiple devices simultaneously. That said, a free trial works on one device at a time. And, well, we are still hoping to get a forever-free version that perhaps could outrival the competitors. So, with ESET, you initially get 30 days of a free trial. But this term can be extended to 6 months, as each successfully invited member by you gives you an extra free month! After that, the pricing of ESET antivirus starts from $34.99/year.
For more information, check out our detailed ESET review.
Other free products we tested
What’s great is that the majority of reputable antivirus providers do offer either free versions or free trials. However, with this wide selection of them, they must outrival the market with a free set of features, reliable performance, and ease of use.
While the services above got to the list, we have a few other free antivirus software that are just as worth getting there:
- McAfee Plus trial: without a doubt, McAfee is one of the most reliable security providers on the market. Although it doesn’t have a free version to use, the month-long free trial allows you to protect up to 5 devices at a time, and the app works with Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android gadgets. You can use all the premium features, including antivirus, firewall, web protection, VPN, password manager, robust ID theft protection, and more.
- Malwarebytes Free antivirus: this antivirus offers a completely free version for PC, Mac, Android, and iPhone devices. However, PC and Mac owners can only use the free version to clean already infected devices. On the contrary, smartphone users get an ad blocker, app privacy audit, text message filtering, and malware removal.
How we selected and tested these free antivirus services
Not every free antivirus is trustworthy – you may end up getting a service that collects and sells your data. That’s why we researched and tested dozens of free antivirus programs to see which ones can do the job well. For this, we used the Virtualbox VM with Windows 11 installed on Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen 2 device with AMD Ryzen 5 PRO 5650U processor, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, with Windows 11 Pro operating system.
And here are all the factors we considered:
- Independent lab tests. Since free antiviruses don’t have much to offer aside from basic security, it’s best to opt for services that guarantee excellent malware detection rates. That’s why we researched independent lab tests, such as those of AV-TEST and Virus Bulletin.
- Features. We looked at what features free antiviruses include. While you shouldn’t expect a big feature array, you should at least get some features. This could be a browser extension or ransomware protection.
- Compatibility. We made sure that the services we include in the list are compatible with many different operating systems.
- Usability. We only included apps that are easy to get a hang of for beginners. We also made sure to provide you with free services that don’t clog the app with constant pop-ups urging you to upgrade.
Comparison of the best free antivirus software
If you feel overwhelmed with the amount of information found about free antivirus software, this comparison table with all the key aspects will help you out:
|TotalAV Free Antivirus||Norton 360||Bitdefender Antivirus Free||Surfshark Antvirus||NordVPN Threat Protection||Avira Free Security||ESET NOD32|
|Free version||Yes||Free trial||Free trial||Free trial||Free trial||Yes||Free trial|
|Firewall||Paid-only||Available with the free trial||Available with the free trial||No||No||Paid-only||Available with the free trial|
|Real-time protection||Paid||Available with the free trial||Available with the free trial||Available with the free trial||No||Free||Available with the free trial|
|Review||TotalAV review||Norton review||Bitdefender review||Surfshark AV review||NordVPN review||Avira review||ESET review|
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 are the main things to keep in mind when searching for the best free antivirus available:
Malware protection rates. Make sure you check how well your antivirus performs in independent lab tests, such as AV-TEST or AV-comparatives.
Real-time protection. With free antiviruses, real-time protection isn’t a given. However, it’s very useful considering it monitors for malware round-the-clock. So if a free antivirus offers this feature, consider it a huge plus.
- Device support. Make sure the antivirus you choose supports your device or operating system.
Extra features. Free antiviruses aren’t extensive in terms of features but they should offer at least some additional benefits. Be it a browser extension or a password manager – get a service that offers what you need.
Risks of using a free antivirus
Free never means free. That said, whenever you choose the service that comes for free, there’s always something you gotta sacrifice. It’s no secret that there are also some risks in using a free antivirus suite.
First of all, some free antivirus programs can be viruses themselves. If you find a less popular free-of-cost service and can’t find any reliable and extensive reviews about it, it’s most likely that the app is a scam. Hence, we suggest you choose a free antivirus from our recommended list, as they all have been thoroughly tested.
Another thing to consider is how limited the free version can be. As each security feature that a robust antivirus has adds up to a better protection layer, not having some of them, like a firewall, can lead to higher risks of getting infected with malware.
Finally, free antivirus versions usually protect only one device at a time. Consequently, your other home gadgets are left unprotected and are easily accessible to a hacker. So, although the free antivirus is a seemingly budget-friendly option, premium antivirus, like TotalAV, ensures long-time protection against various threats for all your 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 2023 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. For example, the free Norton antivirus trial allows you to enjoy all of its premium features for 7 days.
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.
Another option is Bitdefender – the free version includes virus scans, real-time protection, as well as blocks phishing and ransomware attacks. Of course, the paid version is richer in features offering network threat protection, usage profiles, a VPN, a password manager, and much more.
So, if you only need basic protection against malware, a free antivirus software can be enough – but only if it is chosen wisely.
Video review: best free antivirus in 2023
Is it worth paying for an antivirus?
Yes, you should really pay for an antivirus if you want the best possible experience. 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, we recommend TotalAV.
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 2023.
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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 2023?
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.
Is free antivirus enough for my computer?
Free antivirus software can be enough for basic protection only. That’s because they don’t include many extra or advanced security features. However, if you simply want to remove malware, free antiviruses usually have the same malware detection results as paid ones.
Is there a 100% free antivirus?
Yes, TotalAV is a 100% free antivirus program for basic security from malware. It offers excellent malware detection rates as well as a Safe Site extension that blocks harmful URLs.
Is it safe to use a free antivirus?
Yes, it’s safe to use a free antivirus if you get it from a trustworthy provider. However, free solutions can only provide you with the bare minimum. At the same time, it’s better than no protection at all. After all, free antiviruses, like TotalAV, may even be better than built-in antivirus apps.
What is the best free antivirus software for Windows?
TotalAV is the best free antivirus software for Windows. Although the service is free, the provider ensures you are 100% protected from infections and other threats. The PC app itself is beginner-friendly and intuitive at all times.
First, I understand that Bitdefender is the ultimate antivirus if you’re going to get the best protection, but it shouldn’t be left unsaid that it is indeed quite heavy on your computers resources, especially for lower end CPUs. Imo, Kaspersky is the choice if you want to avoid encumbering your system, since it impact on the speed of the computer is barely noticeable, and it also offers decent malware protection.
And second, I would really like seeing an article and perhaps a video on mobile antivirus, whether it is really necessary, and what are the best options for that.
That said, you could use open-source tools like ClamAV to scan your device. It has Linux support.
But their website (https://www.bitdefender.com/solutions/free.html) has an X mark for Network Threat Prevention for the free version compared to the paid versions.
When I had purchased it before, there was a year window. No one told me that they had changed that. They said that it was in the online documentation. I said, why wouldn’t they make that clear when they sold it to me? They said it was normally part of what was presented to customers. Like maybe I missed it.
I looked for the “documentation” for it and looked and looked. It wasn’t obvious, though I finally found something, buried deep in pages of documentation.
I complained again. And again. Finally a nice lady who worked for them said they would honor the purchase. I called them about six weeks later to get started, and they said, Oh no, you only had one month to use this one. No one told me that. I wrote the lady, and didn’t get a response.
Finally, she wrote back, about six months later (it seems they are under no time constraints) and said she could still get it honored.
Too late, I said, I finally went with another program.
NOW. Why in the world would companies only give their customers three months to use something they bought and paid for? Really? The only reason I can think of it that it gives them more opportunities to collect $100 for which they have to do nothing for. And it’s become more common. A year is reasonable. I mean, c’mon, why not a year?
I think they need to research the term “customer service”.
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