Best free anti-virus apps

Make sure your PC is pro­tected without pay­ing for the priv­i­lege

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1 Bit­de­fender An­tivirus Free Edi­tion www.bit­de­­lu­tions/free.html

Es­sen­tially con­sist­ing of the AV sec­tion of the full prod­uct, Bit­de­fender An­tivirus Free Edi­tion’s light, well-con­structed scan­ning mech­a­nisms – which are al­most uni­ver­sally faster than the in­dus­try av­er­age – and un­ri­valled virus def­i­ni­tions mean it’s back at the top of the tree. AV-TEST’s De­cem­ber test­ing round did pick out a few flaws in its han­dling of zero-day threats, how­ever.

The free ver­sion’s in­sis­tence on run­ning in au­topi­lot mode is a dou­ble-edged sword, mak­ing the process of virus man­age­ment easy while also tak­ing it out of your hands; while we’re in­clined to trust it, there have been cases in the past of au­to­matic sys­tems go­ing slightly rogue, such as the in­ci­dent a few years back when Panda An­tivirus iden­ti­fied it­self as a virus and locked up a large num­ber of Win­dows sys­tems.

While Bit­de­fender An­tivirus Free Edi­tion isn’t ex­actly popup-free – it can be quite an­noy­ing, in fact – it’s clean, clever, and ef­fi­cient enough to take our top spot this time around.

2 Avast Free An­tivirus­tivirus-down­load

Avast and AVG haven’t yet fully merged, de­spite the for­mer for­mally ac­quir­ing the lat­ter in mid-2016. The newly com­bined com­pany says the two free anti-virus prod­ucts will re­main sep­a­rate, al­though there’s a joint AV pack­age on the way soon. Ob­vi­ously, though, Avast now has a lot more data to work with, hav­ing ex­panded its ef­fec­tive user­base to 400 mil­lion users.

The lat­est edi­tion of Avast Free An­tivirus adds an au­to­matic gam­ing mode to mute pop-ups and re­duce sys­tem load when you’re fir­ing up a pro­ces­sor-hun­gry game, and the in­ter­face has been given an over­haul. There’s a pass­word man­ager, too, which is an un­de­ni­ably good ad­di­tion to your se­cu­rity port­fo­lio.

It scores well on AV-TEST’s wide­spread mal­ware bench­mark and con­tin­ues a clean sweep against zero-day at­tacks. Less im­pres­sive is the slight neg­a­tive ef­fect Avast has on soft­ware launch times.

3 Sophos Home

Mar­ket­ing it­self as ‘busi­ness-grade se­cu­rity’, Sophos Home does a lit­tle more than most free anti-virus soft­ware, and ac­tu­ally seems bet­ter suited to fam­i­lies.

You get stan­dard anti-virus and anti-mal­ware pro­tec­tion, along with browser tools such as anti-phish­ing and, most im­por­tantly, con­tent con­trol. Com­bine this with cen­tral man­age­ment for up to ten PCs, and you can ef­fec­tively lock down your kids’ brows­ing op­tions – giv­ing you slightly less things to worry about.

Al­though AV-TEST hasn’t for­mally as­sessed Sophos’ skills, fel­low lab AV-Com­par­a­tives of­fers a de­cent rat­ing of its anti-virus abil­i­ties. Desk­top no­ti­fi­ca­tions can be a bit in­tru­sive, al­though since Sophos Home isn’t a di­rect ad­vert for an­other con­sumer-level prod­uct – the com­pany mainly deals with busi­ness soft­ware – you’re not con­stantly bad­gered with re­quests to up­grade.

4 Kasper­sky Free www.kasper­­tivirus

The paid-for ver­sion of Kasper­sky’s Win­dows se­cu­rity soft­ware fre­quently tops charts of best anti-virus so­lu­tions and AV-TEST once again gave it full marks across the board in its lat­est round of test­ing.

As you would ex­pect, Kasper­sky Free is a scaled-down ver­sion, ditch­ing ad­di­tional fea­tures such as pri­vacy pro­tec­tion and safe pay­ment sand­boxes to con­cen­trate on pow­er­ful, no-frills and – most im­por­tantly – free pro­tec­tion for your PC. The re­sult is a tremen­dously easy to use and nav­i­gate bit of soft­ware that does an ef­fec­tive job of keep­ing you pro­tected from viruses.

Us­ing the nuts and bolts real-world scan­ning en­gine of the paid-for suite, Kasper­sky Free is fiendishly hard for viruses and tro­jan horses to break down. And we love that it doesn’t con­stantly pester you with nudges to up­grade to the full ver­sion.

Fol­low­ing its takeover of AVG, Avast now ben­e­fits from a much larger user base.

Bit­de­fender An­tivirus Free is the best free se­cu­rity soft­ware you can get to­day.

Kasper­sky has fi­nally launched a free ver­sion of its hugely suc­cess­ful AV soft­ware.

Sophia Home of­fers en­ter­prise­level anti-virus pro­tec­tion for home users.

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