Best Free Antivirus Software

No free trials here! We researched the best free antivirus software so you don’t have to.
Best overall
Bitdefender Antivirus Logo
Bitdefender
  • pro
    Detected 99.7% of threats
  • pro
    Protects against zero-day exploits
  • con
    Isn’t iOS compatible
Best for real-time protection
AVG Antivirus Free
AVG
  • pro
    Detected 100% of threats
  • pro
    Many extra protection features
  • pro
    Available on all platforms
Best no-frills
Malwarebytes
  • pro
    Detected 99% of threats
  • con
    Only protects from viruses and malware
  • pro
    Available on all platforms
Best for iPhones
Kaspersky logo
Kaspersky
  • pro
    Detected 99.7% of threats
  • pro
    Scans for data breaches
  • con
    Isn’t Mac compatible
Best for computer cleanup
TotalAV
  • pro
    Detected 99.2% of threats
  • pro
    Real-time protection
  • con
    Only available on Windows

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 better.


Best free antivirus software


Compare top free antivirus software brands

Product
Best for
Price
Protects against
Compatibility
Virus Detection Test Score
Learn more
Best overallViruses, malware, ransomware, zero-day exploits, malicious websites Windows, Mac, Android99.7%
Best for real-time protectionViruses, malware, ransomware, real-time protection, email protection, scans for data breaches Windows, Mac, Android, iOS100%
Best no-frillsViruses, malware Windows, Mac, Android, iOS99%
Best for iPhonesViruses, malware, ransomware,malicious websites, scans for data breachesWindows, Android, iOS99.7%
Best for computer cleanupViruses, malware, ransomware, malicious websites, real-time protectionWindows99.2%

Info 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 has some of the best protection out of all the free virus protection and malware protection software we researched. It includes protection from viruses, malware, ransomware, zero-day exploits, and malicious websites. That’s a lot for free software.

pro
Pros
pro Website protection
pro Ransomware protection
pro Fast, light, and easy-to-use
con
Cons
con No VPN
con No iOS version

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

During our hands-on testing, we found that Bitdefender antivirus ran quickly in the background without lagging down other applications. 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. And 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 is one of only two free antivirus software we found that offers real-time protection. This 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.

pro
Pros
pro Real-time protection
pro Email protection
pro Data breach scanning
con
Cons
con No web protection
con Iffy practices

AVG antivirus also scans for your information in data breaches and notifies you. 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-Comaritives, it has some problems.² First, its parent company, Avast, was caught selling its customers’ anonymized data back in 2019 through its subsidiary Jumpshot. 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 on this list. You have to make sure certain settings are on. They 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. 

Let's go ahead and link to it, and I'll add it to the content plan for a rewrite next month! It has high SV, so it would be smart to give it a refresh and make sure these are linked together. Thanks for the heads up on the rewrite need :)

Learn more in our AVG review.

3. Malwarebytes: Best no-frills

Best no-frills

Malwarebytes is no-frills, but it gets the job done without any annoying popups or ads.

pro
Pros
pro Easy to install
pro Easy to use
pro Works on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android
con
Cons
con 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 antivirus 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, but 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

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 more features than Malwarebytes, this pick is for you.

pro
Pros
pro Ransomware protection
pro Works for iPhones, Windows, and Android
pro Data leak checker
con
Cons
con No Mac version

During our testing, one thing that stood out was the download. 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 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 VPN.

5. TotalAV: Best for computer cleanup

Best for computer cleanup

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

pro
Pros
pro Real-time protection
pro Cookie clearing
pro Security breach scanning
con
Cons
con Only works with Windows
con 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 zippy quick.

Another standout feature is TotalAV checks how many tracking cookies are on your computer and lets you delete them with the click of a button. This is a great feature 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 is the constant popups. It repeatedly reminds you every few minutes that it thinks you should upgrade to their 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

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

Sure can. The free versions use the same technology as the paid versions, they just have less features.

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

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

Microsoft Windows 10 comes with Windows Security, so you don’t need to add any other antivirus software unless you want added protection like 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 on over to our methodology page.

Alina Bradford
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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