Anti-virus programs have been the backbone of home security for decades. What used to be exclusively available on your local hardware and software store is now readily available through the World Wide Web via your browser of choice. Even better, we are now spoiled with plenty of free options that provide a great first line of defense against viruses and malware.
Presented with a slew of free options, it becomes quite the challenge to actually pick which among the available free antivirus software should you pick to be your vanguard in the war waged for security and privacy.
To celebrate the New Year and to give people a hand, we scoured the web to find the 5 best free antivirus software for 2017.
Our Simple Methodology
We’d like to keep things straightforward so we chose the five entries below by looking for top 10 or top 5 lists of free antiviruses for 2017. We evaluated the number of times they were mentioned across 4 different sources who already had lists ready for late 2016 or 2017 – PC Advisor (UK), PC Magazine, Tom’s Guide, and Techradar; all of which have been published in November 2016.
We are a security software developer/vendor ourselves but we’d like to think of any of these entries as a powerful companion to the free SecureAPlus rather than a competitor. We have many a user who have been using these as well as other free antivirus software to protect their PC so our interests really lie on finding out the bests to consider for 2017.
Rundown on the Bests for 2017
So now without further delay, in alphabetical order, the 5 best free antivirus for 2017:
Avast! Free Antivirus
Avast! Free Antivirus is easily one of the most open free antivirus software available in the market, a quick visit to their homepage and you’ll get a good sense that they want you to install their free anti-virus instead of tiding you over to the paid version.
Under scrutiny of testing, Avast performs very well in testing by SE Labs and AV-Test particularly in terms of detection. It managed to garner a perfect protection score from the latest results from AV-Test.
While sporting a friendly interface that belies its wealth of customization options and generally light due to its use of cloud engines in scanning, it did however perform relatively slower than the other top performers in this list and AV-Test rates it at 3.5/6.0 in terms of how it influences computer speed in daily usage.
What all who included it on their top antivirus for 2017 lists agree on is that Avast! Free Anti-Virus is probably the most feature-packed when considered among its free contemporaries. Its included system cleanup (ala CCleaner), Boot Time Scan, Rescue Disk, Network Scan, and Password Manager are among the most useful extras you could get for investing $0 an a security software.
AVG Antivirus Free
AVG Antivirus Free performs really well on lab tests especially against malware blocking and phishing. A common observation by the 2017 best antivirus lists that mention it is that it has a very speedy full system scan and considering that its antivirus engine enjoyed a 5.5/6.0 rating from the Q3 results from AV-Test users will be confident that AVG is not skimping on detecting threats.
Much like the free antivirus from Avast, AVG also includes extra features in its free package like web URL ratings, email attachment checking, file shredder, and more.
What might turn off some users however is how pushy it can get with regards to upgrading to the paid version and how it pushes other elements like the WebTuneup browser extension as well as changing the user’s homepage and default search engines.
Avira Free Antivirus
Frequently on the top of many a top paid and free antivirus lists, Avira Free Antivirus has also enjoyed a perfect Protection score on the Q3 2016 AV-Test results, in fact it got perfect scores in the Performance and Usability tests as well. Depending on whom you ask and while it is by no means sporting perfect detection; it’s probably a top choice against widespread and zero-day malware as a first line of defense.
It’s also worth mentioning that like Avast and AVG, it also has a wealth of extra features like VPN, browser protection plugins for Chrome and Firefox, but doesn’t install these right away but easily makes them available for install should users choose to do so.
It has been observed by Tom’s Guide that it does slow down on older hardware, something worth considering if your computer hardware hasn’t been upgraded in years.
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is a bit of an oddball in that its user interface seems to have not been updated for years, an observation made by Techradar. Yet the virus definitions are definitely updated and result in a lightweight, and strong antivirus solution that’s less intrusive due to its minimal amount of popups, something evident to its engine’s near perfect performance in the latest AV-Test. PCAdvisor even notes that you could go so far as to forget about it being installed on your system until it actually detects a threat, something that couldn’t be said for the rest of the entries on this list.
However, PC Magazine notes that the bare-bones interface is difficult to figure out and has little customization options compared to its contemporaries. It’s also not very fast in scanning as noted by Techradar but benefits from very low system performance impact.
Note however that a recent search on the Bitdefender Free Edition shows a much updated interface but is currently in Beta.
Panda Free Antivirus
Panda Free Antivirus touts itself as the lightest AV due to its use of cloud engines to do its scanning but observations made by Techradar place it slightly slower than contemporaries like Avira, a notion shared on the Q3 2016 results from AV-Test results.
However it makes up for this by perfectly scoring in Performance criteria of the same test. Tom’s Guide points out that it has arguably the best user interface for it’s fresh and customizable look that some may find fun to delve into.
It also contains extras like a rescue disk feature, USB vaccination, and its own process monitor that some may find very useful.The software does tend to show lots of ads and makes attempts to hijack browser settings, so users who choose this free antivirus should be wary of this.
Comodo Free Antivirus – PC magazine lauds it for its inclusion of advanced features but also notes that it might be too complex for casual users. While it performs well against zero-day threats using the combination of cloud scanning, default-deny and whitelisting, Techradar notes that the interface is a mess and that users can’t miss whenever it’s installed due to frequent popups in navigation and everyday use.
Qihoo 360 Total Security – Techradar notes that the choice of using either Bitdefender or Avira as its primary engine, as well as other scanning engines means good detection rates on lab tests at the expense of slower performance. PC Magazine concludes that it has plenty of features but the core protection pales in comparison to other options.
Zone Alarm Free Antivirus+ - Primarily a firewall combined with an AV component powered by Kaspersky, PC Magazine notes that it’s a good option if full security suite is not an option. Techradar notes that lab results have not been updated since 2015 but the software itself and virus signatures are constantly updated by its creators.
Staying Protected in 2017
Regardless of which free antivirus protection you choose for the year, it’s always good to have multiple layers of defense in place. Relying on detection-based protection just doesn’t cut it anymore considering how fast new malware is created and how existing ones adapt to become undetectable.
Anti-virus creators know this which is why more and more of them are starting to include complimentary ways of defending a PC into their paid solutions, some have crept over to the free version much like the ones listed here.
But layering your defenses doesn’t necessarily have to come from the same vendor, while your go-to antivirus may be Avira, you can have your on-demand scanner be Malwarebytes or Herdprotect, whilst also getting Application Whitelisting and Second Opinion Scanning from the free SecureAPlus.
Whichever combination floats your boat, a multi-layered approach to PC security is certainly possible without compromising performance and you might not even have to spend a single dollar to get the best protection available.