Antivirus protects against various cyber attacks, from malware to online threats. While advanced antivirus can cost a company several hundred dollars annually, some free options are available for office or home use. This article discusses the top 10 free antivirus software in 2022.
Key Must-Have Features for Antivirus Software
A computer virus refers to malicious code capable of replicating itself, possibly evolving and causing unwanted effects on the computer. It attacks the computer much in the same way that a biological virus will attack the human body. Computer viruses are now grouped under a family called malware which encompasses every other form of malicious programs such as spyware, worms, Trojans, etc.
Key Must-Have Features for Antivirus Software
Malware typically comprises code created by programmers for criminal reasons like holding organizational data for ransom, stealing financial information, etc. The good news is that there is also computer antivirus software to combat these viruses, and many of these applications are available for free.
Computer antivirus software is software programs designed to protect a computer system or any other electronic device from the effects of malware. Antivirus can also be seen as a class of computer programs used to scan, prevent, find and eliminate viruses from a machine. Every individual or organization owning computer devices also needs antivirus software. The following key features enable the antivirus software product to protect your systems:
1. Real-time scanning
Real-time scanning is an essential feature of antivirus software. When scanning, antitrust software searches for any unusual activity or signature. Scans can be automatic and continuous – they occur in real-time. They can also be scheduled or manual. However, real-time scanning is more proactive and protects your computer from perceived threats when surfing the net, downloading files, etc. This makes real-time scanning a huge plus for any antivirus software.
2. Performance friendliness
The performance friendliness of antivirus software denotes how easy it is for any user to leverage daily. This includes both the simplicity of the user interface (UI) design and, even more important, the ability of the program to run in the background without negatively impacting the system’s performance. Good antivirus software should not take up too much RAM space or slow down the computer during scanning.
See More: Top 10 Threat Modeling Tools in 2021
3. Automatic updates
Automatic updates are a feature every antivirus software should possess. For an antivirus to be very effective, it must be aware of all the existing viruses and malware making rounds across the internet through regularly updated threat intelligence. This means that it still has to be updated with new information after delivery and installation. When these updates are manual, the user might update the software too late after being exposed to the virus. Automatic updates help to avoid this.
4. Operating system compatibility
Good antivirus software should be able to run effectively on multiple operating systems. Users often want to leverage one antivirus program across all of their devices. Be it a PC, Macbook, iPhone, or Android device. The best antivirus are those capable of working across the board and remain a preferred option. This feature also reduces the learning curve and effort duplication.
See More: Top 10 Anti-Spyware in 2022
Top 10 Free Antivirus Software in 2022
While antivirus software can be free or paid, several top cybersecurity companies provide free solutions to address fundamental requirements. These are often backed by powerful and time-tested technologies, benefitting users with no added costs. Here are the 10 best antivirus software, arranged in alphabetical order.
Disclaimer: These listings are based on publicly available information and include vendor websites that sell to mid-to-large enterprises. Readers are advised to conduct their final research to ensure the best fit for their unique organizational needs.
Overview: Avast free antivirus is a complete and reliable software program by Avast. With over 30 years of experience and over 400 million monthly users, its core cyber protection services are now free.
Key features: The key features of Avast Free antivirus include:
- Real-time scanning: Avast free antivirus scans and fixes security lapses on your device. It also offers real-time protection and thus prevents malware from getting to you.
- Performance friendliness: Avast has a welcoming, user-friendly interface. But beyond that, it has a passive mode for running in the background without slowing down the device.
- Automatic updates: Unfortunately, Avast free antivirus has to be manually updated to stay abreast of all threats. You can address this by upgrading to paid versions.
- Operating system compatibility: The Avast free antivirus is developed for Microsoft Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. You can download the software for each device from their website.
USP: Avast free antivirus significantly boosts device security with added WiFi network protection, which scans home WiFi for threats or intruders.
Pricing: Avast is available as free antivirus software. Users can upgrade to a paid version for $49.99 per year.
Editorial comments: Avast free antivirus helps individuals worldwide access one of the best protections for free. However, the boot time of the software can be pretty slow.
2. Adaware Antivirus
Overview: Adaware is among the pioneer privacy protection and anti-spyware companies. It is award-winning software that offers free protection from all forms of online and offline threats.
Key features: The key features of Adaware antivirus include:
- Real-time scanning: The free version comes with a built-in smart scan that immediately responds to threats coming to your computer.
- Performance friendliness: Adaware free antivirus runs in the background, allowing the user to seamlessly access any app to program.
- Automatic updates: With Adaware, you can enable automatic updates, equipping your antivirus with the ability to detect the latest threats.
- Operating system compatibility: Adaware antivirus was created from Windows PC and can be used on Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, and the latest Windows 11.
USP: Adaware free antivirus offers a unique advantage, allowing the user to customize the program to specific preferences.
Pricing: Adaware is available as free antivirus software. Users can upgrade to Pro for $29.99 per year.
Editorial comments: The Adaware free version protects your computer from threats in real-time and can function as baseline security. However, it is limited to only Windows devices.
Overview: AVG antivirus is software that protects you and allows you to enjoy the internet safely. Its free version, available for personal and family use, comes with all the necessary features.
Key features: The key features of AVG include:
- Real-time scanning: This free antivirus automatically detects and blocks any perceived threat from the internet or already on your device.
- Performance friendliness: AVG’s free antivirus is a lightweight program designed to work on old and new devices without slowing down the system’s performance.
- Automatic updates: The free version of AVG has outdone itself by offering real-time updates with its virus database. This means constant protection from new malware.
- Operating system compatibility: AVG has an inclusive system requirement and is compatible with Android, iOS devices, and PCs with Windows and macOS.
USP: AVG antivirus free is among the best products you can have, and comes with an email security shield and anti-phishing protection for all-around security.
Pricing: AVG is available as free antivirus software. Users can upgrade to AVG internet security for $46.68 per year.
Editorial comments: AVG antivirus FREE has great performance scores in independent testing labs. It gives users basic security on their devices. However, AVG Internet Security is a good choice for more advanced threats.
Overview: With billions of stolen passwords and thousands of malware popping up, Avira antivirus is a safe bet for your maximum security. It focuses primarily on password-based security.
Key features: The key features of Avira include:
- Real-time scanning: It includes real-time scanning and protection against any possible threat the computer might face.
- Performance friendliness: Avira’s free security tool comes with inbuilt performance optimizers. With Avira, users can enjoy a better battery span and smoother running of their computers.
- Automatic updates: The software protects you from existing cyber threats. It does not offer automatic updates and has to be done manually.
- Operating system compatibility: The free antivirus version was built for just Windows devices and did not support mobile phones.
USP: Avira is a three-in-one combination of capabilities that offers you threat protection, system optimization, and online privacy.
Pricing: Avira is available as free antivirus software. The paid internet version costs $18.99 for the first year.
Editorial comments: Avira, with its password manager and limited virtual private network (VPN), options come as an excellent deal. However, this is limited to users of Windows 7 and beyond.
Overview: Kaspersky is a global leader in internet security. The company caters to the cyber security needs of individuals, homes, small businesses, and large enterprises. Kaspersky’s free, cloud-based offering has several features.
Key features: The key features of Kaspersky include:
- Real-time scanning: Kaspersky free version does not offer real-time protection and requires the user to scan the device for threats frequently.
- Performance friendliness: The antivirus software is designed to stay out of the way, allowing you to interact and use your computer or mobile efficiently.
- Automatic updates: Kaspersky’s security cloud platform, including the free version, receives automatic updates on all threats. This keeps the antivirus always up to date.
- Operating system compatibility: Kaspersky is designed to work on more than one operating system. It supports Windows, Android, and iOS devices efficiently.
USP: The free version of Kaspersky is more than a basic security tool. It also comes with some level of password protection and VPN coverage required by an average user.
Pricing: Kaspersky cloud security is available for free. The paid version costs $89.99 on an annual basis.
Editorial comments: Kaspersky gives your device total protection from malware. However, it has limited real-time protection and no built-in password manager.
See More: Top 10 Firewall Hardware Devices in 2021
Overview: Malwarebytes is a top-rated internet security company. Multiple labs have tested and verified the company’s products as practical anti-malware tools. Malwarebytes also offers free antivirus software.
Key features: The key features of Malwarebytes include:
- Real-time scanning: The free software has a powerful scanner to detect and remove malware. But it only offers real-time protection on the paid version.
- Performance friendliness: Malwarebyte has a user-friendly and performance-friendly interface with its quick, fast scan.
- Automatic updates: Malwarebytes free version can be updated manually, but the program does not auto-update itself.
- Operating system compatibility: Malwarebytes free antivirus is compatible with many devices and operating systems.
USP: Malwarebytes free antivirus is a very effective anti-malware program. In addition to its features, it has a browser guard extension that has proven effective and useful.
Pricing: Malwarebyte is available as free antivirus software. You can get the paid version for $49.99 per year.
Editorial comments: Malwarebytes helps users to safeguard their devices against the most rudimentary threats. However, the rise of ransomware puts it at a disadvantage because the free version does not have anti-ransomware protection.
7. Microsoft Defender
Overview: Operating system provider, Microsoft, has developed another subset product, the Microsoft Defender. This is an anti-malware component that comes as part of Windows built-in security.
Key features: The key features of Microsoft Defender include:
- Real-time scanning: Windows Defender has excellent real-time protection and continuously scans for malicious software, viruses, and other threats.
- Performance friendliness: Because it is an inbuilt program, it supports system optimization and offers quick scans. It simply blends in with other software applications.
- Automatic updates: With Microsoft Defender, your device is always protected from new threats. Updates are automatically downloaded whenever the system is connected to the internet.
- Operating system compatibility: Microsoft Defender is custom-made for PCs running Windows and built into the operating systems. It does not run on other devices.
USP: Microsoft Defender is unique in that it is always present and automatically protects your device in the absence of any other antivirus software. It requires little to no effort from users.
Pricing: Microsoft Defender is available as inbuilt, free antivirus software.
Editorial comments: The Microsoft Defender is a good tool providing both active and passive protection. However, it has sub-optimal protection from phishing sites and is challenging to schedule scans.
Overview: Panda Antivirus is a cloud-based antivirus software developed by Panda Security. It is available in free and paid versions and ranks among the best antivirus software.
Key features: The key features of Panda antivirus include:
- Real-time scanning: Panda’s free antivirus offers real-time protection against all malware. It also allows for manual and scheduled scans.
- Performance friendliness: Panda antivirus is cloud-based, meaning all work is done outside your computer processing system. This gives you very light, performance-optimized software.
- Automatic updates: After installation, the software runs in automatic mode. Every new update is immediately reflected on your device without your intervention.
- Operating system compatibility: The free version of the Panda antivirus software is compatible with Windows and Android devices, protecting them from online and offline threats.
USP: Panda’s free antivirus is cloud-based, making it easy to use, automated, and storage-friendly. Also, it scans any external memory devices connected to the computer.
Pricing: Panda antivirus is available as free software. You can get the paid version for $32.89 for the first year.
Editorial comments: The Panda antivirus is a top-notch protection system with a USB protection and rescue kit which is not found in most antivirus. However, advanced features are available only in the paid versions, locking out many users.
Overview: TotalAV is a security suite used by over 25 million users. It is an award-winning software with available options for both free and premium services.
Key features: The key features of TotalAV include:
- Real-time scanning: TotalAV free antivirus does not cover real-time protection against malware but can run scans to detect existing threats on your computer.
- Performance friendliness: This antivirus is an ultra-fast, smooth-running program that also eliminates junk files and proactively optimizes application performance.
- Automatic updates: TotalAV free antivirus does not run automatic updates, but the feature is available in the paid version.
- Operating system compatibility: The TotalAV antivirus boasts 100% compatibility across various devices, from Windows and Android to Apple products.
USP: As part of its unique feature set, TotalAV alerts you of possible data breaches or password compromises. This provides reassurance and confidence, ensuring you do not have to look at scan results.
Pricing: TotalAV is available as free antivirus software. You can get the paid version at $29 for the first year.
Editorial comments: Total AV is a good antivirus option for most user environments. However, the free version lacks real-time protection and has limited features.
Overview: ZoneAlarm antivirus is a robust solution created by Check Point Software Technologies. ZoneAlarms’ recently updated version is new and exciting to try out, with several features available for free.
Key features: The key features of ZoneAlarm include:
- Real-time scanning: With a built-in firewall setup, ZoneAlarm offers real-time scanning and protection from malware. It also provides scheduled scans.
- Performance friendliness: ZoneAlarm initially takes an extended period to scan your device. There are a few complaints of reduced speed if running concurrently on your computer.
- Automatic updates: An excellent feature of ZoneAlarm is that users enjoy regular automatic updates. This gives all-around malware protection.
- Operating system compatibility: ZoneAlarm’s free version is available only on Windows 7, 10, and 11 PCs, which should provide coverage to most individual users.
USP: ZoneAlarm comes with a free two-way firewall that protects your public and private network from spies and other attacks. This is a rare feature of free antivirus.
Pricing: ZoneAlarm is available for free. You can get the paid version at a year discount of $44.95.
Editorial comments: ZoneAlarm is a free antivirus plus firewall tool. However, it comes with limited features and lacks ransomware protection in the free version.