The Best Free Antivirus Software 2023

Learn how the top free antivirus products compare when it comes to ease of use, features offered, level of protection, and overall value.
We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Best Overall Value

Learn More
On Avast's website

  • Firewall included
  • Network security and safe browsing features
  • No phishing protection

Best Real-Time Protection

Learn More
On AVG's website

  • Simple, easy-to-use interface
  • Excellent protection scores
  • Favors Windows for features

Best for Extra Features

Learn More
On Avira's website

  • Lots of features
  • Free VPN available
  • Some free features are limited

If you're a frugal value hunter, nothing sounds better than free. Fortunately, many leading antivirus products offer a free version of their software for all you bargain shoppers searching for quality, zero-cost cybersecurity.

But really, how effective is free software when it comes to virus and malware protection? Are any of them worth trusting when your device and web security are on the line?

Glad you asked, because we researched and graded some of the top free antivirus software offerings based on four critical factors: ease of use, number of features offered, degree of protection provided, and overall value delivered.

The results were pleasantly surprising, as we found three strong, closely matched free antivirus products (and two runner-ups) worthy of consideration if you're looking for maximum security value with zero cost. Avast Free Antivirus proved the best overall value by combining many free features and highly rated protection with more compatibility. AVG ran simple yet strong Windows-centric virus protection while offering fewer features. Avira offered more features in their full security suite but often lacked full functionality and only provided device protection with their free offering.

In this article
The best free antivirus software 2023
Avast Free Antivirus: Best overall value
AVG AntiVirus Free: Best for real-time protection
Avira Free Antivirus: Best for the number of features offered
Antivirus programs that didn't make the cut
Best free antivirus apps FAQs
Bottom line: The best free virus protection software
How we tested the best free antivirus software

The best free antivirus software 2023

Top 3 free antivirus products compared

Best Overall

Avast Free Antivirus

AVG AntiVirus Free

Avira Free Antivirus
Compatibility Windows, macOS, Android, iOS Windows, macOS, Android, iOS Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
Firewall Limited
Malware scan
Details Learn More Learn More Learn More

Should you upgrade to a paid antivirus plan?

While free antivirus software is better than nothing, paying for security software gets you a lot more in terms of security and protection. These additional features can include parental controls, a file shredder, more system scan options, and even webcam protection. On top of that, paying for an antivirus solution often gives you more protection against online threats like spyware, adware, and other types of malware.

AVG is the Best Antivirus Overall
Learn More
On AVG's website

  • Free version comes with malware, spyware, and ransomware protection
  • Includes unsafe email attachment blocking
  • May detect .exe files as malware, causing software issues

If you're looking for improved malware detection and features, we recommend AVG antivirus as the best overall, with TotalAV, McAfee, Bitdefender, and Avast rounding out the top five.

Avast Free Antivirus: Best overall value

Avast Free Antivirus includes a full system scan

Who it's best for

Avast Free Antivirus is an excellent selection if you want the most secure, feature-laden free antivirus option that works across multiple device types. While all three top choices have strengths and weaknesses, Avast's free software appears to be the most balanced considering the number of free features you get and the quality of their performance. It also comes with fewer drawbacks compared to other free antivirus software products.

What we liked

Avast Free Antivirus gives you more free features than most antivirus software, starting with the protection offered by an industry-leading, machine-learning-supported antivirus engine. Avast delivers real-time virus protection that includes malware and ransomware scanning. The free version provides six layers of antivirus security including Smart Scan, Cybercapture, Behavior Shield, File Shield, Rescue Disk, and Quarantine features.

Avast Free Antivirus also provides added bonus protection with a data leak alert, Wi-Fi network security, and a safe browsing and emailing feature.

Avast had perfect scores across the board in protection, performance, and usability in AV-TEST’s latest round of testing, and also scored well in SE Labs testing.[1,2]

If you need flexibility when it comes to which devices you install antivirus on, Avast is your best option. Its free software is compatible with Windows PCs, macOS, Android, and iOS devices — though certain feature functionality is more limited with macOS, Android, and iOS.

What we didn't like

A drawback of Avast's free antivirus is that some features require a paid plan, including resolving some issues flagged during the scan.

Unfortunately, while offering more compatibility than most free antivirus software, many of Avast’s free features were limited. When we tried to resolve issues found in our antivirus scan, the antivirus directed us to purchase Avast Premium Security.

Also, the free version lacks phishing protection, which only comes with the paid versions of Avast, and advanced firewall features are also absent on the free software.

Avast Free Antivirus specs

Free plan compatibility Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
Firewall Yes
Malware scan Yes
Phishing protection No (only with paid plans)
Ransomware protection Yes
Learn more Read Our Avast Review

AVG AntiVirus Free: Best for real-time protection

AVG's free antivirus offers no-frills protection, including antivirus scans.

Who it's best for

Avast acquired AVG in 2016, so it makes sense to expect some of Avast’s free product quality in AVG’s free antivirus. And AVG AntiVirus Free doesn’t disappoint.

AVG AntiVirus Free is perfect for anyone seeking the top-notch antivirus protection of Avast but in a smaller, simpler, no-frills package. It comes with a high level of antivirus protection for your PC and email.

What we liked

It's hard not to like a lifetime of free antivirus protection that requires no account to set up and installs in roughly three minutes.

AVG’s free antivirus doesn't stop there. It shines with outstanding real-time security protection capable of stopping viruses, malware, and ransomware. AVG’s paid version achieved perfect scores for usability, performance, and protection in recent AV-TEST reports.[3]

We like that AVG's free antivirus includes protection from PUPs and scanning network connections.

AVG uses artificial intelligence technology to detect malware on your devices and while you browse online, then it quarantines affected files and keeps you up to date with real-time alerts and analysis of current malware threats. We also liked that it includes web and email shields that alert you to potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) that might get installed without you knowing.

AVG AntiVirus Free matches Avast with convenient Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android compatibility.

What we didn't like

AVG's free antivirus comes with a lot to like but also has some drawbacks, starting with a website that's not easy to navigate and compatibility that tends to favor Windows users regarding feature functionality.

Despite excellent overall protection, the free AVG version lacks full firewall and phishing protection (you get limited protection with AVG AntiVirus Free).

AVG AntiVirus Free specs

Free plan compatibility Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
Firewall No, paid plans only
Malware scan Yes
Phishing protection Limited
Ransomware protection No
Learn more Read Our AVG Antivirus Review

Avira Free Antivirus: Best for the number of features offered

Avira's free antivirus comes loaded with more features than we expected in a free program.

Who it's best for

Do you like to get a lot for your money (or free service)? Avira Free Antivirus might make you smile if you enjoy a truckload of added features.

That's right, Avira users get an entire security suite with its free antivirus software. Even though many of the features come with limited functionality, you’ll still feel spoiled with all the options. Simply put, Avira Free Security far exceeds the bare-bones offerings of most free antivirus products.

What we liked

Avira Free Security provides a suite of convenient features, including a free VPN with a 500 MB per month bandwidth limit, password manager, file quarantine, safe shopping tool, and device optimizer, to name a few.

The Avira free antivirus has an easy installation and setup, making it the perfect first experience for an antivirus beginner. Avira offers free versions for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices.

Avira offers real-time malware protection for your devices using the same powerful detection software as the paid versions. We liked the excellent scores the paid version of Avira antivirus achieved on the AV-Lab and SE Labs testing platforms.

What we didn't like

While Avira Free Antivirus lists tons of features on its side navigation, many of those require a paid plan.

Avira Free Security undoubtedly wows you with extra features, but unfortunately, many of those come with limited functionality or are simply teasers to get you to pay for Avira Prime. Even some of the lower-tier paid versions of Avira aren't fully functional, and only the most expensive Avira Prime plan comes with complete access to all features.

Our initial Avira free antivirus scan noted our email wasn't monitored, but when we tried to fix that issue we were asked to upgrade to a paid plan.

Like we mentioned, Avira Free Security only protects your devices from malware, and offers no web or email protection from these infections. Our initial scan noted our email wasn’t monitored, and when we tried to fix the issue we were asked to upgrade. This means free users miss out on phishing and ransomware protection and lack an additional firewall service.

Avira Free Antivirus specs

Free plan compatibility Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
Firewall No
Malware scan Yes
Phishing protection No, paid plans only
Ransomware protection Yes
Learn more Read Our Avira Antivirus Review

Antivirus programs that didn't make the cut

After we selected the top three free antivirus products, a couple of worthy runner-up choices remained. Both Bitdefender Antivirus Free and Microsoft Defender Antivirus can provide robust features and legitimate security benefits a frugal value hunter shouldn't overlook.

Let's take a moment and explore both of these "very close but not quite" free antivirus products.

Bitdefender Antivirus Free

Bitdefender's free antivirus software provides an excellent level of automatic "set and forget" protection without any extras. 

But don't let Bitdefender's bare-bones minimalist approach to security fool you — the free product uses the same core antivirus protection as the paid version, which achieved a perfect 100% score on new and widespread malware in AV-TEST reports from 2022.[4] Bitdefender's achievement is noteworthy because this perfect score came without recording any false positives in November.

Bitdefender's advantages don't stop there, as the software runs fast and offers automatic software product updates, provides an excellent anti-phishing feature, and uses behavioral detection to monitor threats on active apps in real-time. Bitdefender also breaks a free antivirus software trend by offering free online support which many paid antivirus products don’t even offer.

This free version is for Windows 7 and above, and there's also a free app for Mac requiring at least macOS 10.10 or later as well as one for Android version 5.0 and later.

Why didn't Bitdefender Antivirus Free for Windows crack our top three free antivirus products? It's hard to overlook its top-notch protection, but as previously mentioned, it's a stripped-down, bare-bones version of the paid Bitdefender product. Another possible annoyance is the need to create a Bitdefender Central account to access and install the software.

Microsoft Defender Antivirus

For PC users who know they need antivirus protection but squirm at the thought of having to choose one, Microsoft Defender Antivirus has your name all over it. This free antivirus product comes with no installation or setup required and is built right into your Windows operating system.

It provides a basic level of adequate protection that will automatically cover you as a reliable safety net if another antivirus subscription expires or fails. This free antivirus software includes firewall protection and generally scores well in antivirus testing. 

In a recent AV-TEST test from November and December 2022, Microsoft Defender Antivirus scored 100% for preventing malware, viruses, and Trojan horses.[5] However, it only scored 5 out of 6 points due to performance issues that slowed down the device used for testing.

Microsoft Defender Antivirus provides a solid level of basic antivirus protection but came up short because it's only available for Windows customers. It also lacks helpful security features that come with other free antivirus programs, like Avira’s free VPN and password manager.

Two of the antivirus industry's most prominent providers, Norton and McAfee, don't offer free versions of their software but offer free trials of their full antivirus products. McAfee offers a free 30-day trial for up to 10 devices, while Norton offers a free 7-day trial on all four antivirus and identity theft protection products.

Best free antivirus apps FAQs


What is the least annoying free antivirus?

The answer may be a matter of opinion, depending on what you find most annoying as an antivirus user. Still, it's safe to say the two top choices, Avast Free Antivirus and AVG AntiVirus Free, are both considered user friendly.

Neither requires an online account to install, and both offer more compatibility than many other free antivirus options while achieving perfect usability scores on the AV-TEST antivirus protection reports.


Can free antivirus be trusted?

Avast Free Antivirus, AVG AntiVirus Free, and Avira Free Antivirus all achieve respectable, if not excellent, lab testing scores on security performance and protection, as do Bitdefender Antivirus Free and Windows Defender. 

Many free antivirus plans run the same powerful malware scanning and protection features as the paid plans, so you can feel as secure as if you paid for the service.


Is Windows Defender enough, or do I need an antivirus?

The answer depends on the level of antivirus protection you desire, but the free Microsoft Windows Defender is considered an adequate default antivirus product capable of providing a generally acceptable level of basic protection.

For the belt-and-suspenders types using a Windows device, consider installing one of the top free antivirus selections like Avast or AVG for better protection while allowing Microsoft's free antivirus software to run as an emergency backup option.

Bottom line: The best free virus protection software

Avast, AVG, and Avira products all had excellent scores in the AV-TEST categories of usability, performance, and protection. Our two runner-up finalists, Bitdefender and Microsoft Defender Antivirus, aren't far behind, offering many advantages to the frugal value hunter.

Ultimately, your choice of free antivirus software will come down to individual priority. AVG AntiVirus Free could be your ticket if you want a slightly higher degree of protection. For those desiring a security suite of added features, Avira Free Antivirus is tough to beat.

How about the most balanced choice? Avast Free Antivirus is an excellent option for those wanting to maximize their overall value with a bit of everything in one package.

3 best free antivirus software 2023

Antivirus Free plan compatibility Best for Learn more
Avast Free Antivirus Windows, macOS, Android, iOS Best overall value Get Avast Free Antivirus
Read Avast Review
AVG AntiVirus Free Windows, macOS, Android, iOS Best for real-time protection Get AVG AntiVirus Free
Read AVG Review
Avira Free Antivirus Windows, macOS, Android, iOS Best for number of features offered Get Avira Free Antivirus
Read Avira Review

How we tested the best free antivirus software

We selected the top three free antivirus products (and two runners-up) based on four critical criteria: ease of use, number of features offered, degree of protection provided, and the overall value delivered to the user.

We chose the first three criteria because we believe they’re primary factors contributing to the fourth criterion of overall value delivered. The product's overall value depends on how easy it is to use, how many relevant features it provides, and ultimately the degree of success protecting your devices, email, and online presence.

  • Ease of use, including simplicity of installation, degree of compatibility, website and support access, and whether an account is required.
  • Number of features offered, including how many additional add-on security features are available as well as the degree of each feature’s functionality.
  • Degree of protection provided, including lab testing scores, firewall protection, ransomware and phishing protection, plus any other functions that improve the user’s cybersecurity protection.
  • Overall value delivered, including consideration of all the above criteria as well as the overall ease of use.
Author Details
Mark Knowles is a freelance tech content writer specializing in cybersecurity. His expertise includes DevSecOps, cyber risk management, and Zero Trust model security. Mark has completed numerous case studies, blog articles, and e-books for leading technology companies over the last eight years, with a focus on the cybersecurity vertical over the last five years. When not interviewing experts in the field or creating fresh cybersecurity content for organizations, Mark enjoys pushing the limits of fitness and personal growth while planning his next traveling adventure.


[1] Test Avast Free Antivirus 22.10 & 22.11 for Windows 10

[2] Endpoint Security Home Protection Avast Free Antivirus

[3] Test AVG Internet Security 22.10 & 22.11 for Windows 10

[4] Test Bitdefender Internet Security 26.0 for Windows 10

[5] Test Microsoft Defender 4.18 for Windows 10