Best Free Antivirus Software

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Introduction

To begin with let me say this: there is no best antivirus out there. Why do I say this? Any product that you take will behave differently against various virus samples since the AV engines and other components incorporated in them are of different technologies.

While one product might have higher detection ratio, another might have better malicious URL blocking or virtualization techniques, yet another might have lesser impact on system performance and so on.

Antivirus Engine:

It is used for Real Time malware protection of files and is the core component to scan data on your PC for detecting and removing malware from hard disk, memory, boot sectors, network drives, removable disks, or from external network traffic (internet).

  • How does an antivirus detect malware:

Firstly you got the signature-based detection which contains an offline database of known patterns of malware downloaded from the internet which can identify specific malware codes or family of malware. Then you have heuristic based detection that identifies pieces of code that are unlikely to be found in legitimate programs and hence is prone to false positives depending on the sensitivity of heuristics. Virtualization and sandboxing unpacks or executes unknown programs in an isolated secure environment so that their behaviour can be analysed and scanned using the antivirus engine. The latest one is cloud based detection that requires a reliable internet connection and sends the suspicious scanned file over the internet and the analysis is done by the vendors' machine running the cloud engine.

  • Scanning for viruses:

Most antiviruses include these basic scan types: On-demand scan/manual scan is initiated by the user from right click context menu or from within the software. On-access scan is initiated when the resource is being accessed like running an executable, copying files from external drives etc. Scheduled scan periodically ensures that the system is free from malware by setting the time and frequency for scanning. Startup scan/quick scan checks most important locations like running processes, startup items, system memory and services, boot sectors and so on.

To be Continued in the next update....... Firewall, Proactive protection, Web protection components and more.

Honorable Mention:

 

Discussion And Comparison

1. Qihoo 360 Total Security

The Good:

  • Totally free, light on resources, extremely fast scan times and pre-configuration protection modes
  • Smooth running installer with no adware, pleasing UI and comes with many themes
  • Fast updates/fixes and excellent customer service with immediate replies
  • Great signatures with multiple engines and in-house cloud protection
  • Web protection addon, browsing locking, webcam, sandbox and usb protection modules
  • Online shopping protection, malicious URL protection and network threat blocking
  • Includes Glasswire Firewall and Windows patch-up components 
  • Great detection rates, with very high zero day protection
The Bad:
 
  • Speedup and clean-up tools might not be for everyone (not present in Essentials version)
  • Bitdefender or Avira engines not enabled by default 
  • Might encounter few false positives
  • PUP [Potentially Unwanted Programs] detection needs to improve
The Ugly: 
 
  • Nothing for the moment
The Truth: Rating 10 of 10 5/5 stars
 
 Home |  Download |  v8.2 |  bit version |  Fully freeware |  41.6MB |  Win XP-10, Mac OSX
 

2. Avast Free Antivirus

The Good:

  • Extremely light on the system with a modern and clean UI
  • The only antivirus with a fully customizable installer, selection of user preference components
  • Works best in hardened or lock-down mode, which blocks all unknown programs (medium-expert users only)
  • Top notch detection capability, many secondary components to offer variety to a wholesome software
  • Excellent malicious URL blocking, network protection, outdated software checking, integrated password manager, and comes with a rescue disk.
  • Deep screen technology that includes Sandbox and Safe machine components for protection
The Bad:
 
  • Bloated default setup, some ads and pop'ups
  • Account creation for further protection after a month
  • Lack of an anti-ransomware module, and Deepscreen disabled by default
  • Cloud reputation, Malware signatures and HIPS module needs improvement
The Ugly:
 
  • Offers Google Chrome and various bloated secondary components during install [Choose custom install]
The Truth: Rating 9 of 10 4.5/5 stars
 
 Home |  Download |  v11.1 |  bit version |  Feature limited freeware |  193 MB |  Win XP-10, Mac OSX
 

3. Comodo Internet Security Premium

The Good: 

  • Feature-rich with lots of options for customization along with setting tolerance against prompts
  • Tweaked settings gives the best 0-day protection among the pack
  • Multi-layered protection scheme with HIPS, Sandbox, Antivirus and Firewall
  • Industry grade firewall with options for learning and behavioural blocker
  • Low on resources with various graphical skins available and a clean user interface
The Bad: 
 
  • Painful for beginners to use it, not very newbie friendly 
  • Av-module is a bit weak especially the signature based detection
  • Auto-sandboxing happens for various legitimate files, troubles with FPS games
  • Too many tweaks needed for better protection
  • Buggy software and updates are released slow.
The Ugly: 
 
  • Chromodo browser, Yahoo search engine, custom DNS and Geek Buddy offered during default install. [Click customize installation during install]
The Truth: Rating 9 of 10 4.5/5 stars
 
 Home |  Download |  v8.2 |  bit version |  Unrestricted freeware |  208 MB |  Win XP-10, Linux, Mac OSX
 

4. AVIRA Free Antivirus

The Good:

  • Pretty light on the system and runs smooth without system slow-downs
  • Clean ad-free GUI, Ad-free installer, No pop-ups or ads
  • High quality signatures, very fast updates, excellent detection on non-zero day threats
  • Deep file scans with very less false positives
  • Avira Protection Cloud makes for an excellent cloud engine
  • Browser safety Add-ons available for major browsers
The Bad: 
 
  • Zero day protection (heuristic & behavioural shield) is very weak. 
  • Ineffective Browser launcher which is a memory hog (can be uninstalled)
  • Painful removal for detected files. Repeated scans from Luke Filewalker increases CPU & RAM usage. 
  • Multiple file exceptions needs to be added (real-time and on-demand)
  • No firewall/sandboxing/web shield technologies
The Ugly: 
 
  • Nothing for the moment
The Truth: Rating 8 of 10 4/5 stars
 
 Home |  Download |  v15.0 |  bit version |  Free for private use |  200 MB |  Win XP-10, Mac OSX
 

5. Panda Free Antivirus

The Good:

  • Low memory & CPU usage thanks to cloud protection 
  • Tiled UI with customizable interface and nicely rendered Settings interface
  • Collective intelligence cloud security - Downloading virus definitions is history
  • Good detection rates and behavioural analysis program
  • Fairly good web protection and hardware resource handling

The Bad: 

  • Dependant on internet connection leading to weaker offline protection
  • Slow scanning speed, no fingerprinting (successive re-testing same files) and at times issues with virus removal
  • Not really light, performance impact in web browsing, installation and copying
  • Certain false positives despite the information available at cloud

The Ugly: 

  • Watch out for Panda security toolbar during install
The Truth: Rating 8 of 10 4/5 stars
 
 Home |  Download |  v16.1.1 |  bit version |  Free for private use |  61.4 MB |  Win XP
 

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Comments

There is more to this than which engines are used by default. From the report:

On requesting an explanation from Qihoo 360 for their actions, the firm confirmed that some settings
had been adjusted for testing, including enabling detection of types of files such as keygens and cracked
software, and directing cloud lookups to servers located closer to the test labs. After several requests for
specific information on the use of third‐party engines, it was eventually confirmed that the engine
configuration submitted for testing differed from that available by default to users.

I hope AV Comparatives check only for those keygens and cracks that are malicious - as in having a unwanted effect on the OS and user software/connections - many keygens/cracks are actually clean.

More info at their FB page. 
Qihoo: " many popular software add-ons in China that are flagged as malware by the AV-C definition are in fact performing proper functions and not malicious ... (they) are flagged as malware by the AV-C definition ... To satisfy the security needs of both the domestic market and the need for foreign lab testing, all Chinese security product vendors make modifications to standard domestic versions for foreign lab testing to showcase the effectiveness of the basic protection capabilities of these products"
My thoughts about this: If AV-C even all considers keygens and cracked softwares as malicious, and Qihoo tweaked the settings for the lab results to find them as malicious, I'm personally offended by the first statement. Many of these cracked softwares aren't infact malicious. They are just pieces of reverse engineered code to revoke the licensing of the softwares. We're talking about ethics here, but definitely not malware. On many torrent sites popular uploaders specifically state the fact that if you certainly like a product, you should go and buy the product and the ones that they have uploaded are basically for testing the software for longer periods of time.
 
In my own testing Qihoo's own engine is extremely good if you are connected to the internet. When BitDefender's engine built into Qihoo is enabled, I've found that it detects patches, keygens as malicious among the one's which actually aren't malicious. However when disabled, the same isn't the case. This means that although these files can be considered safe in an average amount of cases, doing so would cost them a place at these lab results. This leads to more false-positives when BitDefender's engine is enabled, hence the reason why Qihoo hasn't turned on these engines by default during installation. They have no choice but to enable them for the lab results.  
We should add this isn't just an ethics argument. No matter what the intention or purpose of the act, it is illegal to alter the software code of copyright material where this is not permitted in the EULA and it is illegal to download it. MC - Site Manager.

I too can understand why this was done by Qihoo although many will still make an argument for it being wrong. There is also a danger that this sort of issue diverts users from the real reasons why they get infected and towards complicit reliance on test results.

When I first began servicing live customers, the folks that could afford to pay for these services were at least 75% installed with the “leading” :D commercial antivirus products, so why were they infected? The reasons of course were as diverse then as they are now but the bottom line is folks still think they can install security software and then surf the internet with impunity. Naturally they seek guidance about these products and use test results as a basis for choice. It's a pity therefore that next to no effort is made to research the methodology of individual tests to see how these might apply to their own usage habits. Take the following for instance which is an extract from one of the much lauded PC Mag tests.

“FortiClient is only the sixth product I've put through this particular test, so I can't say precisely what its score means. Still, having another product block nearly twice as many suggests that 40 percent isn't great. Do note that of necessity the products aren't tested using precisely the same samples. Rather they're all tested with samples detected no more than a day earlier—the newest samples I can get”.

Really? So car “A” fails the crash test but the wall it was driven in to was different to that used for cars “B” and “C”.

At the extreme end of this mess are the YouTube garbage in, garbage out tests where amateurs chuck a handful of URL's at something and then rate it based on the results. YouTube is entertainment folks, not a consumer testing authority.

If people believe Qihoo's actions were a deliberate attempt to deceive, they are free to use another product. I have Panda on both of my dual booted desktops and nothing nasty has bothered me yet. MC - Site Manager.

Odd, the AV comp. report stated: "As part of the investigation into Qihoo 360, counter‐accusations were levelled by the company against
two fellow Chinese security firms, Baidu and Tencent.".

"Investigations by the three labs found that all products submitted for testing by Qihoo had one of the
product’s four available engines, provided by Bitdefender, enabled by default, while a second, Qihoo’s
own QVM engine, was never enabled."

Default public AV engine is Qihoo's own, version submitted used BitDefender's = apples vs. oranges. In my book, that's cheating - entering a tweaked version of 'their' AV to be compared to stock versions of other AVs.

Not too sure if this is the right place to ask this question but here goes.

I recently downloaded the free version of "Malwarebytes Anti Exploit free" purely because of the good reputation of their free "Malwarebytes Anti Malware" which we are all familiar with.

This new offering, "Anti Exploit" is working as an add-on with my SRWare Iron (Chrome) and the only time I know that it's working is when I open my browser, a small window on the task bar tells me that it's operating.

Do any of you have experience with this ? .... and if so, can you tell me how it works ?

To me, it doesn't seem to be doing anything at all and I'm left wondering if it's smoke & mirrors.

https://www.malwarebytes.org/antiexploit/

Pleast post such queries in the freeware forum, which is the suitable place for such discussions and queries.

After your query has been answered here satisfactorily, will delete the comments, as they are out of topic.

Thanks Anupam !

Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Free (MAEF) provides protection from exploits in the main web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera) and their add-ons and in the Java engine that is the basis for much web technology. The paid version extends this to other popular products and technologies including PDF files, media players, Microsoft office, etc.

I have been using MAEF because it provides a layer of protection that will supplement many antivirus products. The basis for much anti-virus protection is detecting known signatures whereas zero-day exploits have, by definition, no known signature so monitoring the behaviour of program code is a better way to detect new exploits that have not previously been detected.

I'm actually a low-risk Web user so I will be surprised if MAEF does detect anything. I would probably be better of using other products to harden my computer, Sandboxie and EMET are two good examples. But I am using MAEF because I wanted to see how it operates. Other products I have tried recently have been disappointing for not being unobtrusive (e.g. Kaspersky Software Updater) whereas MAEF's lack of visible effectiveness is reassuring given the excellent reputation of their other products. It also doesn't appear to use a lot of resources. Later in the year, I will probably give it a good run on my test system by comparing performance with and without MAEF running, and  going to websites with known exploits.

For those who aren't familiar with the terminology. Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Free is designed to defeat exploits. An exploit is program code that has been written to make malicious use of design flaws and other vulnerabilities in computer systems so as to defeat your computer's security. The worst exploits are those that make use of flaws that are not known to the developer/vendor of the software. The vulnerabilities are unknown so the developer/vendor has no time to remedy the situation hence the use of the term zero-day.

I think here is three of the best free antivirus software for multi-platform, including Windows, Mac OS X, Android and iOS.

- Avast
- AVG
- Avira

The RogueKiller website has a well structured and comprehensive article that goes into a lot more detail but is relatively easy to read if you bypass the programming examples: Making an antivirus engine : the guidelines.

I recently dumped Avast after many years simply because of the annoying advertising pop-ups. After reading the recommendations by Chiron for Comodo, I installed it and have had it running for a few days now. No problems with it except for the deceiving tactics by Comodo during the install process.
Despite selecting "custom install" and unchecking the boxes that I didn't want, Comodo ignored that and installed everything.... I had to manually get rid of geek buddy and the Comodo browser.
How can this forum recommend software that continually breaks the rules ?

Were you that annoyed with the pop-ups? I have Avast on my system, and I think the pop-ups occur only when the definitions are updated. Although their size has increased, still, I do not find them annoying. It's something I can do with, considering the fact that the antivirus is great, and free.

G'day Anupam,

When I first installed Avast about 3 years ago, everything was good.... it was quite unobtrusive and yet quick to strike on any bad guys.

In the past year or so, with the regular updates from Avast, it seems to have become bloated and whilst I was still very happy with the protection it provided, it did become intrusive , the constant pop ups telling me that there were X amount of problems/issues with my PC seemed like a ploy offered by many shonky software programs that diagnose your PC, find many problems and then offer to fix them for a fee of course !
The Avast pop up invited me to click on a button to fix the issues with my PC and instantly I was greeted with a new message advising me that it would cost for the premium features to carry out this task.
Doesn't matter how many times I declined, the pop ups kept coming.
Bottom line ?..... yes, the pop ups did start to annoy me.
I know that Gizmos site does not endorse any paid-for commercial product and I believe that the free version of Avast is pushing the boundaries here with its constant nagging to upgrade to the premium version.
Meanwhile, I have Bitdefender free version running..... it's so unobtrusive and sometimes I wonder if it's doing anything but it has detected and quarantined 6 items since I installed it about a week ago. The only thing missing from it is email scanning but that doesn't bother me.

Good day terrawarra :). The issues you post about, I haven't encountered on my system. I do get the popups though, and I simply close them.

Avast Free nowadays comes with several components/tools, like updater, etc, which perform extra work. I do not install any of these. I suspect that you have some or all of these installed, and the popups you mention, are occurring because these components are installed. In future, if you install Avast, deselect the unncessary (or all) components, and just select the shields that you want, and it should be fine.

Thanks Anupam,
I may try Avast again sometime in the future and give it another chance.
In the meantime, I'll give BitDefender a fair trial, assess the results and decide which one I want to go with.

We are indeed quite spoilt with so many quality freeware anti virus products out there.

cheers

Yes, there are good free antivirus nowadays. But, I guess it depends on individual taste, which antivirus you install on your system. I occasionally try different antivirus, but I keep returning back to Avast, since it is what best suits me. It is lightweight, provides good protection, and has boot time scan. All other antivirus that I tried, I had some issues with them, big or small. Avast suits me best.

With so many choices, you can always try different ones and settle on one which suits you most.

I dont' use Avast anymore but while I used it in the past, I don't think I had the pop-up troubles that you experience. The way you say it, it's what I feel about Avira in the past, but Avira has stopped with it's ads and stuff, and is a clean product today.

I have switched to Qihoo 360 since an year or two, and one thing I feel great about a totally freeware product like this is that, not only you get all the features for free, you don't get reminders to switch to the commercial version. 

I downloaded the installer today from the link on our page. The file was: cav_installer_3272_7b.exe (204.1 MB). I selected the language and unticked the options for cloud based behavioural analysis and anonymous usage statistics. I then chose "customize installation" and unticked the options for GeekBuddy and the Comodo browser (Comodo Dragon was already installed on my system which is why it appears in the program list) Proceeding with the installation I also unchecked the options for using Comodo DNS and the search engine change. The result was a clean install with nothing else added or changed. http://i.imgur.com/1meMBnK.png If you research this properly you will find that GeekBuddy can also be included with a third party wrapped installer, so if you obtain the program from a different source, it is still possible for this to be installed even though this option in the Comodo install process was denied. MC - Site Manager. http://malwaretips.com/blogs/comodo-geekbuddy-removal/
This happened to me once in the past, even after choosing custom options, GeekBuddy still got installed.

Thanks George and MC.... it's obvious that we don't live in a perfect world so I can cop the odd glitch from software that's free.
cheers

About two months ago, I had to wipe my computer and reset to factory specs, after a virus-related issue I just couldn't get rid of. (Happens about once a year for me. Means I'd like to see the death penalty for all virus writers.)

For the last two months I have been letting the built in trial version of one of the companies that doesn't have a free virus option cover my system, while backing it up with Spybot (for the immunization protection), Ad-Aware (just because it has been one of my back-up options for ages) and MalwareBytes because it cleans up almost anything.

Today, the trial software (which still had four days left) turned itself off, and turned off my firewall, too. I did scans with all four products, none finding anything, removed the trial virus program, and installed BitDefender as my 'active' program, with the other three still being regularly used manually to scan for problems.

Considering adding Avira as just another 'try it once a week or so, looking for any problems.'

Since MalwareBytes is almost always my first thing to throw at anything that acts weird, most of the others never get a chance to find anything, but I still lake the extra options to try and make sure everything is good.

Any thoughts or comments?

It is never advisable to install more than one antivirus program. There are umpteen posts from reputed sources on the web about this, these being just a few. http://www.pcworld.com/article/2034141/one-antivirus-program-is-better-t... http://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch001136.htm http://blogs.microsoft.com/cybertrust/2014/08/05/can-i-run-more-than-one... Secondary scanners that are designed for this purpose are fine, but there are also risks associated with installing a second real-time product and then disabling the active protection. In any case, it is always better to prevent infection rather than trying to clean up after one. The best strategy therefore is to understand how and where from you became infected previously and then tailor your PC usage to avoid further repetition. Having 10 scanners on board still won't help if there is an underlying usage trend to become infected. You might find these articles of interest. MC - Site Manager. http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/what-else-have-you-just-download... http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/safe-computing-under-hour.htm http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/introduction-light-virtualizatio...

I have been using Panda for some months without issues, but yesterday it updated itself to a new version with a different name. After this, my Privatefirewall could not start anymore, even after a new install (PrivateFirewall Ndis Filter Installer - Install Error 0x80870002).
Looks like the new Panda is incompatible with Privatefirewall.
After removing Panda, Privatefirewall is working fine.
I'm posting this information in case it can be useful to someone else with the same problem.

You could have tried shutting Panda down while installing or move the new PF installer to a folder that you can exclude from Panda.

Have you reported this issue to Panda so that they can investigate and fix it?

Which acceptable av uses the fewest resources, especially memory?

The differences between them might alter every time a new program update is issued.

It also depends on whether you use all of the offered components, I don't.

Last time I checked, BitDefender Free had the lowest usage but it was also the least configurable. My choice is a custom install of Avast Free, I just select the parts I need and then configure it to my needs.

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