If you’re working on a tight budget, but need to safeguard your devices from the latest malware and ransomware, free antivirus software is an excellent option. Free software uses the same malware-scanning engines that their paid counterparts. However, they aren’t equipped with additional tools that provide online protection such as VPN, password manager, parental controls and more.
The most effective free antivirus programs will provide real-time malware detection and protection. This means that the application actively detects and blocks threats when they attempt to download or sneak onto your computer. In the past, this type of protection was only available to premium subscriptions, however it’s now common among free outliers.
Additionally, the top free antivirus programs should also include an easy password manager and a VPN at a minimum on an initial trial basis. McAfee, for example, provides a free trial for 30 days to its top-tier plan. This includes all premium features like security for the web and ID theft protection.
The best free antivirus software should be simple to use. The majority of the brands on our top picks have user-friendly dashboards, intuitive features, and decent customer service. Some brands also provide mobile apps to help you to scan and protect Android or iOS devices. The most effective free apps can be used on one device. Paid versions offer family-friendly plans, as well as tools for business.