Best Free Antivirus Software

HomeBest Free Antivirus Software

No free trials here! We researched the best free antivirus software so you don’t have to.

Best overall

Bitdefender
Detected 99.7% of threats
Protects against zero-day exploits
Isn’t iOS compatibleView on BitdefenderRead review

Best for real-time protection

AVG
Detected 100% of threats
Many extra protection features
Available on all platformsView on AVGRead review

Best no-frills

Malwarebytes
Detected 99% of threats
Only protects from viruses and malware
Available on all platformsView on MalwarebytesRead review

Best for iPhones

Kaspersky
Detected 99.7% of threats
Scans for data breaches
Isn’t Mac compatibleView on KasperskyRead review

Best for computer cleanup

TotalAV
Detected 99.2% of threats
Real-time protection
Only available on WindowsView on TotalAVRead review

By

Alina Bradford

Jun 21, 2024

5 min read

SafeWise experts have years of firsthand experience testing the products we recommend. Learn how we test and review. 

After hours of hands-on testing and research, we found that Bitdefender is the best free antivirus software for virus protection and so much more. It’s aggravation-free and protects against viruses, malware, ransomware, zero-day exploits, and malicious websites. It’s also reliable.
Don’t miss out on our other picks, though. Each one has great features that may fit your needs.

Best free antivirus software

Bitdefender: Best overallAVG: Best real-time protectionMalwarebytes: Best no-frillsKaspersky: Best for iPhonesTotalAV: Best for computer cleanup

How we reviewed

Compare top free antivirus software brands
Product Best for PriceProtects againstCompatibilityVirus Detection Test ScoreLearn moreBitdefenderBest overall$0.00Viruses, malware, ransomware, zero-day exploits,
malicious websites
Windows, Mac, Android99.7%View on BitdefenderRead ReviewAVGBest for real-time protection$0.00Viruses, malware, ransomware, real-time protection,
email protection,
scans for data breaches
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS100%View on AVGMalwarebytesBest no-frills$0.00Viruses, malware Windows, Mac, Android, iOS99%View on MalwarebytesRead ReviewKasperskyBest for iPhones$0.00Viruses, malware, ransomware, malicious websites, scans for data breachesWindows, Android, iOS99.7%View on KasperskyTotalAVBest for computer cleanup$0.00Viruses, malware, ransomware, malicious websites, real-time protectionWindows99.2%View on TotalAVInfo current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

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Best free antivirus software reviews

1. Bitdefender: Best overall

Best overall

Bitdefender
$0.00

View on Bitdefender

Bitdefender has some of the best protection out of all the free virus protection  and malware protection software we researched. Its free antivirus protection  software includes protection from viruses, malware, ransomware, zero-day exploits, and malicious websites. That’s a lot of great antivirus support from a free piece of software.

Pros

Website protection

Ransomware protection

Fast, light, and easy-to-use

Cons

No VPN

No iOS version

The features are great, but how well does it protect your devices? Well, Bitdefender antivirus won independent tester AV Test’s top honors in 2021 for best protection.¹ In a 2022 test, independent testers AV-Comparatives found that Bitdefender caught 99.7% of real-world threats.² Bitdefender more recently was named a Visionary in 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Endpoint Protection Platforms, too.
During our hands-on testing, we found that Bitdefender antivirus ran quickly in the background without causing our test computer to lag. Its initial scan took just over four minutes. The dashboard is also clean, easy to use, and simple.
While this free antivirus software offers a lot, it does have a major drawback. You can use it on your Mac, but not on your iOS phone.
For more protection than the Bitdefender antivirus free edition,  Bitdefender Total Security adds real-time protection and a VPN to the security mix — you can even get it on your Apple phone. Read more in our Bitdefender Total Security review.

2. AVG: Best for real-time protection

Best for real-time protection

AVG
$0.00

View on AVG

AVG is one of the two free antivirus software options we found that offers real-time protection. Real-time protection means that it’s working in the background, constantly protecting your computer from threats instead of just doing a daily scan. This proactive approach catches threats before they have time to cause trouble.

Pros

Real-time protection

Email protection

Data breach scanning

Cons

No web protection

Iffy practices

AVG antivirus also scans for your information in data breaches and notifies you if it’s found. Another cool feature is that AVG offers email protection. It will scan emails to ensure your computer doesn’t get an infection from contaminated email attachments.
While AVG has great features and blocks 100% of the threats it was tested against by AV-Comparatives, it still has some problems.² First, its parent company, Avast, was caught selling its customers’ anonymized data through its subsidiary Jumpshot in 2019. While Avast cut ties with Jumpshot, it makes you wonder if they may do the same thing again in the future.
Second, AVG antivirus is a little more difficult to use than the other internet security software options on this list. You have to make sure all the settings you want are turned on — many aren’t turned on by default.
Third, I feel misled. AVG is the only free antivirus software we found that offers firewall protection. Heck, some paid versions don’t even offer that. So, I was excited. Imagine my disappointment when the software told me I would need to upgrade to a paid plan to get full firewall protection.
Learn more in our AVG review.

3. Malwarebytes: Best no-frills

Best no-frills

Malwarebytes
$0.00

View on Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes is a no-frills antivirus tool, but it gets the job done without any annoying pop-ups or ads.

Pros

Easy to install

Easy to use

Works on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android

Cons

No added protection

During my years of testing Malwarebytes’ free software on both my computer and phone, I’ve never had a problem. It’s so easy to use that even my tech-illiterate daughter can keep her phone malware- and virus-free.
That said, it is bare bones. It doesn’t have some of the extra features like AVG’s data-breach scanning or the anti-phishing and anti-fraud protection that Bitdefender boasts.
If you want easy protection with a few more features, go with Malwarebytes Premium. For just a few dollars a month, it gives you real-time protection, website protection, ransomware protection, and much more. Read about it in our Malwarebytes review.

4. Kaspersky: Best for iPhones

Best for iPhones

Kaspersky
$0.00

View on Kaspersky

Unlike our two top picks, Kaspersky has a version for iPhones. So if you’re looking for the best way to protect your Apple phone for free and need more features than Malwarebytes, this pick is for you.

Pros

Ransomware protection

Works for iPhones, Windows, and Android

Data leak checker

Cons

No Mac version

During our testing, one thing that stood out was the download process. Kaspersky’s free antivirus program uses a chatbot to guide you through the installation process and what to expect. It even gives you a QR code so you can easily download the internet security software onto your phone. The initial scan took just over three minutes and didn’t slow down our test computer at all.
Another neat feature is that it includes a data-leak checker that scans to see if your data has been involved in recent security breaches, much like the one AVG offers.
It’s dependable too. Like with Bitdefender, independent testers AV-Comparatives found that Kaspersky caught 99.7% of real-world malicious threats.²
While all of this is great, if it’s going to have an iPhone version, it should also have a version for Mac. They’re missing out on providing protection for the entire Apple experience.
Need more? Kaspersky Premium offers you all the perks of the free version but also adds real-time protection, identity protection, and a VPN.

5. TotalAV: Best for computer cleanup

Best for computer cleanup

TotalAV
$0.00

View on Total AV

TotalAV’s standout features, for the most part, revolve around cleaning up your computer beyond malware and viruses.

Pros

Real-time protection

Cookie clearing

Security breach scanning

Cons

Only works with Windows

Annoying popups

My particular favorite cleanup tool is the duplicate file search tool. I tend to save the same photos repeatedly, so this tool helped me clear out my computer’s memory quickly.
Another standout feature is that TotalAV checks how many tracking cookies are on your computer and lets you delete them with the click of a button. This feature is great if you don’t want advertisers and websites tracking you.
Like with Kaspersky, you can also check if your email has been involved in a data breach. Unlike Kaspersky, though, it won’t automatically scan for breaches. You have to put in your email address and hit the scan button.
What I didn’t like about TotalAV was that there were constant pop-ups. It repeatedly reminds you every few minutes that it thinks you should upgrade to one of the paid versions. It was an annoying distraction (to say the least).

Final word
Bitdefender Antivirus is the most well-rounded free antivirus software in the bunch, making it our top pick. It’s easy to use, dependable, and doesn’t have annoying pop-ups.

FAQ

Expand All

Is there a 100% free antivirus?

Yep! Bitdefender, AVG, Malwarebytes, Kaspersky, and TotalAV all have 100% free antivirus versions. They’re not free trials, either. You can download them without having to pay or enter any payment information.

Can free antivirus software be trusted?

Free antivirus software can be trusted. The free versions use the same technology as the paid versions, they just have fewer features.

Is free antivirus better than paid antivirus?

The best antivirus software is the one you use. If you can’t afford to purchase antivirus software, go for the free versions. Free versions just have fewer features.

What is the safest free antivirus download?

The free versions of Bitdefender, AVG, Malwarebytes, Kaspersky, and TotalAV are all safe to download.

Does Windows 10 need free antivirus?

Microsoft Windows 10 comes with Windows Security, so you don’t need to add any other antivirus software unless you want added protection like a VPN or identity theft protection.

How we reviewed free antivirus software

Image: SafeWise. 

To write this best free antivirus review, I tested the software candidates one by one. I tried their features and even timed their scans to ensure they were as quick as advertised. I also studied each one’s testing scores from independent researchers and considered the opinions of other reviewers.
For more on how we review products and services, head over to our methodology page.

Related articles

Best Identity Theft Protection
Best Antivirus for Android Devices
Best VPN Services
How Do I Report Online Scams?
How to Avoid Online Scams
Keeping Your Computer Safe While Working from Home
What to Do If Your Identity is Stolen

Sources

AV-Test, “AV-TEST Award 2021 for Bitdefender,” March 1, 2022. Accessed June 21, 2024.
AV-Comparatives, “Real-World Protection Test July-October 2022.” Accessed June 21, 2024.

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Written by

Alina Bradford

Alina is a safety and security expert that has contributed her insights to CNET, CBS, Digital Trends, MTV, Top Ten Reviews, and many others. Her goal is to make safety and security gadgets less mystifying one article at a time. In the early 2000s, Alina worked as a volunteer firefighter, earning her first responder certification and paving the way to her current career.
Her activities aren’t nearly as dangerous today. Her hobbies include fixing up her 100-year-old house, doing artsy stuff, and going to the lake with her family.

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