The best free antivirus 2021: Keep your PC safe without spending a dime

We spend a lot of time looking at the best paid antivirus suites, but we don’t talk much about free antivirus solutions. Part of the reason is that the free versions are based on their paid counterparts.

If you see a paid version you like that offers a free alternative, you can safely assume the antivirus protection level is similar, save for any specific malware types the free version doesn’t cover.

To create this list of the top free AV programs we looked at the top mainstream antivirus suites for Windows 10 and selected the ones that offer a free version, as not all of them do. After that, we looked at how well these suites performed in third-party detection tests. We also made sure they weren’t resource hogs, because the last thing you want is a piece of free software slowing down your PC while running in the background.

In the end, our selection came down to these five antivirus suites.

Avast Free Antivirus

avastfree2021 IDG

Avast Free Antivirus

IDG

Avast Premier is a very highly rated antivirus program. With the free version of this suite you can run all the various virus scans. Most of the key Avast protections are also available, such as scanning new files added to your system, watching for malicious behavior from installed programs, a web browsing shield, and an email shield.

Avast Free even allows you to inspect your network and see the devices currently connected to your home router. 

Avast Free uses a so-called smart scan to look for a variety of problems including browser threats, outdated apps, viruses and malware, and “Advanced issues” such as whether your webcam is protected from hijacking and the status of your firewall. The trick with those advanced issues, however, is that to supposedly fix them you need to start paying for Avast Premium Security for about $36 per year.

What you don’t get for free is the phishing protection, the sandbox to separate suspicious files from your system, the Avast firewall, webcam shield, password protection, and a sensitive data shield. It does, however, provide basic ransomware protection.

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