laptop security

Best Free Antivirus Software

Which is the best free antivirus software? It depends on your requirements:

  • Do you need protection from viruses carried by emails?
  • Do you need real time virus protection?
  • Do you need help from a support desk?
  • Do you need malware protection, not just virus protection?
  • Do you need protection from hackers?

All free antivirus software options are incomplete in some way, that's why they're free. To get the whole package or at least more of it, one needs to become a paying customer.

The trick is to identify each product's missing bits, then match them with your requirements to get the best fit.

Many of us don't need the whole package, so why pay for things we don't need? Software is now loaded with functionality that isn't used, i.e. bloatware. Antivirus products are also victims of this trend. The consequences include big overheads and a sluggish PC.

In the case of the best free antivirus software shortlist it's more complicated because the missing bits are more than decorative. They're things that users of commercial products would consider essential.

There is also the issue of intrusiveness. In exchange for using these products some companies feel the need to gently remind one (every 2nd heart beat) that you're non-fee paying and life will get better when things are put on a commercial footing ? i.e. no more intrusive messages.

Before downloading any of the options it's worth reading the information on their web sites. In particular the comparison between free and paid versions will help in identifying the features that are not included.

The Gaps

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition
  • Some non-essential features de-activated.
  • Very compact code and low on overheads.
  • User interface is awkward.
  • Virus detection capabilities ordinary.
BitDefender 8 Free Edition
  • No email scanner or resident virus guard.
Avira AntiVirĀ® PersonalEdition Classic
  • No email scanner.
avast! 4 Home Edition
  • Some non-essential features deactivated.
  • Virus detection capabilities ordinary.

A critical point to be aware of is that none of the options provide a fully integrated shield against malware.

What is malware?

Malware is a term that encompasses not only viruses, but also worms, Trojan horses, Spyware, Adware, Rootkits etc. Anyone visiting a social networking site is going to be exposed to all forms of malware and will be infected unless they have some form of protection.

Virus repair has become increasingly tricky with the evolution of ever more sophisticated strains that are capable of self concealment and lying dormant until the occurrence of a trigger event. It's no longer enough to simply run a scanner and expect to clean up.

Similarly, even the best of the free antivirus software options is not integrated with a decent firewall. A level of protection from hackers can be achieved by downloading a free firewall option from ZoneAlarm, Comodo or Kerio to provide a mix and match solution.

Mixing and matching of security products is time consuming and inevitably leads to incomplete protection. The solution is to install a comprehensive internet security suite, not to install multiple antivirus products or software firewalls.

Commercial Limitations

Common denominators that characterize all members of the best free antivirus software shortlist is that they are intended for personal, not commercial use. That should be a clear warning to anyone looking to use them to protect their financial or customer records.

These products provide adequate not excellent virus protection and don't expect any support other than access to a user forum.

The target market uses PC's for social networking, gaming and personal entertainment. It's a group that is regularly exposed to malware through social networking sites that are spawning grounds for viral infection.

It's a market segment that is aware of virus infection and wants to reduce exposure to it, but if it happens the consequences are shades of inconvenience rather than financial or business disaster.

In Summary

Our nomination for best free antivirus software goes to AVG. It provides protection in 3 critical areas of exposure.

  • Resident Shield: operates in the background, checking files and file types (including floppy disk, CD content etc.) for viruses.
  • Email Scanner: works with Microsoft Exchange and Outlook.
  • Boot-up Scanner: operates at start-up, and checks vital areas before allowing the PC to be used.

AVG's virus protection can be comprehensively configured via the Control Center.

At installation there's an option to create a rescue disk for use in the event of infection. Critical files can be backed up and restored from this disk. It's an excellent feature and should be a standard on all antivirus products.

Following closely behind, we nominate Avast! for 2nd best free antivirus software.

Avast! covers the most common areas of infection and regular updates are available to keep it current. Protection is provided via 3 central components:

  • On Access Scanner: scans files as they are opened, read and written in real time. Includes a behaviour blocker for analysing and preventing any unusual behaviour.
  • On Demand Scanner: used to selectively scan drive(s) and files if an infection is suspected.
  • Email Scanner: integrates directly with many email clients. Operates on a heuristic model, learning from experience.

If like us you're mainly concerned with laptop security rather than mixing and matching the best free antivirus software, anti-spyware, firewall ... then consider "investing" in an integrated suite of software that covers all the bases. The best 5 internet security suites can be found here.

Surf The Internet At Work?


Windows and other software programs store history about the different activities that you have performed on your computer and on the Internet. This information is stored in the system areas of your hard disk and the built-in Windows functions like 'Clear History' offer little protection as they can only partially delete this data. Anyone can take a look at your history and find out what you have been doing on your computer, and this raises serious privacy concerns.

Save your privacy now with this...

Free Download!


Spyware and Adware is software made by publishers that allow them to snoop on your browsing activity, invade your privacy, and flood you with those horrible popups. If you are like most users on the internet, chances are you are probably infected with these applications. That is why we have designed our revolutionary product.

The SecSoftware Team is dedicated to the production and development of highly reliable and trusted Security Software Programs.

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