What's the best free antivirus?

How can you tell if a free anti-virus is any good?

No anti-virus (AV) will be perfect and detect everything, so no individual product is better than the rest. I've never felt paid-for solutions are really necessary for ordinary home use. In fact, a lot of free AV programs are only intended for home users. Off course, if after trying, you want to upgrade to the paid-for version, then that's your choice. But don't doubt that there are some adequate free AV programs.

How much a free AV does or does not slow your system down, usually becomes apparent with use, as does the extent and methods of advertising, but, without downloading lots of infections and viruses (that's if you know where to find them!), how can you tell if an AV program is any good at it's principle job? And, how do you go about choosing one?

Top three AV for windows downloads on CNET

You could try asking friends and colleagues for their opinions and recommendations. Their technical knowledge, computer/internet usage, and computers will differ from yours, though. What's good for one operating system may not be so good for another, for example.

Looking on the net for recent reviews or posts comparing free AV software and checking out recommendations on favourite tech sites is another approach. Looking at the top ranking products for "free AV" on a popular download site such as CNET, and reading some reviews there, can help get a feel for how different programs integrate on people's systems, their best features and their user-friendlieness. But that's not telling you how good the AV is at detecting infections, repairing sytems, not reporting false positives etc. That's where the AV-comparitives organistaion comes in. AV-Comparitives perform "real world" style testing of AV programs and offer freely accessible results to all.

AV-Comparatives is an independent not-for-profit organization offering systematic testing that checks whether security software, such as PC/Mac-based antivirus products and mobile security solutions, lives up to its promises. Using one of the largest sample collections worldwide, it creates a real-world environment for truly accurate testing. AV-Comparatives offers freely accessible results to individuals, news organizations and scientific institutions.

So to determine what's the best free AV for your situation, consider friends and collegues recomendations, read around, see what the most popular downloads are, and check out the reviews-reports on AV-Comparitives.org. Finally, if you find out a program doesn't suit you, don't be afraid of moving to another free AV. Just make sure you have thoroughly removed the old program before installing the new - check with the manufacturers website how to do this. Always remember to download from a site you know you can trust too!

My personal favorites? For Windows, at the time of writing, for real-time monitoring I like Avast or Bitdefender (you only want one of these types of AV on your machine or you will encounter problems!) I often have a copy of malwarebytes' anti-malware (for on demand scanning). There are also free, on-demand, online scanners: HouseCall by Trendmicro and Panda Activescan to name a couple. These provide a useful additional alternative if you believe your machine may be compromised and your installed AVs are not identifying the malware.

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