High Performance Freeware Antivirus Software

There's freeware antivirus software and then there's the best free anti virus software. What's the difference? Much of the freeware stuff will do an okay job... but then there is free anti-virus software that will hold its own against even the better performing paid antivirus programs! So, let's just look at the best!.

How many of us get persuaded by the sales and marketing hype of the internet security software companies or the analysis by technical articles -- or even friends -- that this is the product to have? How can we really know which product will really best protect us, our computers and our data from the malware and crimeware that's there as soon as we connect to the Internet?

Well, little known to the general consumer are the Independent Certification and Testing organizations, which put groups of security software through rigorous testing procedures and report on the results. By analyzing these reports, it is clear which products are at the top in detection and removal of malware!

So, here, we'll talk about which freeware antivirus software is consistently at the top of these independent organizations.

First off we'll look at,

The Downsides of Free Anti Virus Software

  • The old adage, "You get what you pay for", can be applied to antivirus programs, to some extent. Unless you have a free antivirus download that's in the same league as the best performing antivirus programs, then using this less effective software obviously increases the risk of infection by a virus, worm or Trojan.
  • A free antivirus download won't provide all the bells and whistles of commercial products. The frequency of updates of virus definitions is less than with the best software and generally there is no support.

    Not having support isn't going to be a problem for most of us; however, the lower frequency of antivirus updates can lower our protection.

    When there are over 4,500 new threats each day, you need to have protection against them as soon as they are identified. Many top, pay antivirus software providers update these new signatures on an hourly basis, whereas freeware antivirus software will be every 24 hours or longer!

  • We need to bear in mind that 95 percent of viruses are delivered by email. So, if you have a computer that's rarely use for email or connecting to the Internet -- a backup PC, for instance -- a free antivirus download will be fine.
  • However, if you are running a home or small office business, do NOT rely on a free antivirus download... you are not taking either your security seriously, or that of your customers, if you do. It really is worth investing in a program that gives you the best protection -- see The Best Antivirus Software.
  • Whichever, freeware antivirus software you go for, augment your protection with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free -- and this applies to commercial AV, too. No antivirus software will detect and get rid of 100% of malware all of the time. But you can increase the chances significantly by using this free, award-winning software in conjunction with your AV. It utilizes powerful technology to detect and remove malware, including worms, trojans, rootkits, rogues, dialers, spyware and more.

The Top Freeware Antivirus Software

The Testing Bodies Used

The Testing and Certification bodies used are covered in some detail in my article Learn About Independent Security Testing Organizations and The Top Antivirus

In summary, I've used....

  • ICSA Labs, West Coast Labs Checkmark and Virus Bulletin VB100 Awards for certifications.
  • For the testing comparatives I've used the reports from...

    AV-TEST who score products out of 6 for each of Protection, Repair and Usability and AV-Comparatives, using their 'The Real World Protection Tests', 'File Detection' and 'Malware Detection' tests.

    Test data is only available for three freeware antivirus software programs. Fortunately, they are well-known brands from top security developers...

    1. ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus and Firewall

    The scores from AV-Test were 5.5/4.0/5.0 (out of 6.0)
    The software was not tested by AV-Comparatives.

    Here's what you get...

    ZoneAlarm uses the Kaspersky Antivirus/Anti-Spyware Engine and will explain why it performs so highly, detecting and blocking viruses, spyware, Trojan horses, worms, bots, and rootkits.

    The great part is that ZoneAlarm also offer the free AV with a two-way Advanced Firewall, which also monitors programs for suspicious behavior. There is no support and updates are every 24 hours, rather than hourly.

    This package offers functionality like a Security Suite and really is a serious contender to the pay-for equivalents.

    ZoneAlarm Internet Security - Rated #1 by AV-Test.org

    2. avast! Free Antivirus

    The scores from AV-Test were 5.0/4.0/5.0, which is good, with a slightly lower Protection than ZoneAlarm.

    AV-Comparatives ranked this freeware about average (e.g. for malware removal, a score of 59 versus Kaspersky at the top with 94).

    The software blocks viruses and spyware and there is some remote assistance. This is powered by avast's own engine and is usually updated twice per day.

    avast! Free Antivirus. Download here!

    3. AVG Anti-Virus Free

    Most of us would expect this to be number 1 of the free antiviruses because it is the most prevalent -- and we all get those emails telling us at the bottom that the email has been scanned by AVG!

    However, in all respects, this is not the best free anti virus software...

    The scores from AV-Test were 4.5/3.5/4.5 -- lower than both ZoneAlarm and avast!

    The scores from AV-Test were about average (but poor for file detection).

    Some of its features are...

    • Free for home use only and for a single computer.
    • Does one scheduled scan a day
    • Low priority updates
    • Adds a small ad to your email messages, stating it has been scanned by AVG
    • No support

    Download AVG AntiVirus 2013 Free


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