3 Best TRULY FREE Windows Antivirus Software (Tested 2022)
Microsoft Defender is the default antivirus for Windows, but its limited protection means it can’t keep up with the growing number of targeted cyberattacks. If you’re looking for increased security at no cost, I’ve found some 100% free antivirus brands that offer decent protection against threats. These antiviruses have powerful malware protection, system scans, optimization tools, and more.
To save you time, I tested and ranked the top free antivirus programs for Windows 11, 10, 8, and 7. Overall, Avira has the best free antivirus for Windows, with real-time scanning, ransomware protection, and other top-tier features. You can try Avira for free on Windows — it only takes a few minutes to set up and secure your device.
Quick Guide: Best Free Antiviruses for Windows in 2022
- Avira Free Security — #1 free Windows antivirus for protection against advanced malware. Includes bonus PC optimization tools for enhanced performance.
- Panda Free Antivirus — Free antivirus with configurable firewall and Game Mode, but no safe browsing feature.
- TotalAV Free Antivirus — Excellent antivirus engine, but leaves PC vulnerable due to no real-time or ransomware protection.
Update November 2022: Norton no longer has a free version, but it’s the best antivirus for Windows. You can still try Norton for free for 60 days with the money-back guarantee. In tests, my team and I found that Norton even blocks specific cyber threats targeting Windows.
Microsoft Defender is Good, But Not Enough Protection for Windows in 2022
Microsoft Defender (formerly known as “Windows Defender”) is the free default antivirus that comes with every Windows PC. It has basic malware protection, plus a few extra features:
- Scan scheduling options
- Game mode
- Cloud-based, low-impact scans
- Phishing protection for Chrome and Edge browsers
- Limited parental controls
However, after running extensive tests with my team, I was disappointed to discover that Microsoft Defender just doesn’t stand up to the competition. Even free antivirus brands often include key cybersecurity features like VPNs, parental controls, password managers, and PC optimization tools — none of which Microsoft Defender offers.
While Microsoft Defender can act as a basic firewall, that’s nowhere near enough to keep private data safe on your Windows device. I strongly suggest you combine Microsoft Defender with a free antivirus like Avira. This ensures you’ll have at least a minimum level of protection.
The Best Free Antivirus Software for Windows 11, 10, 8, and 7 (Updated November 2022)
- Real-time malware scanner detects the latest cyberattacks
- Bonus features include password manager, optimization tools, and file shredder
- Supports all versions of Windows
- Phone and email support available
- Use on up to 5 devices
Avira is the best free antivirus for your Windows device. Not only does Avira’s antivirus engine have near-perfect detection rates, but it also offers real-time and ransomware protection (which most brands make you pay for).
I was impressed by Avira’s high malware detection score during my tests. It scored an almost perfect rate of 99.9%, which is higher than many premium antiviruses available. There are 2 scan types available, and these are my results from testing:
- Smart Scan — Checked 58,000 items in around 2 minutes, looking for malware and ways to improve device performance
- Full Scan — Scanned over 850,000 items in 1 hour 45 minutes, checking every file and folder on my device
During tests, Smart Scan suggested I delete unnecessary registry entries to create more space on my PC. However, it wouldn’t do this for me unless I upgraded to the paid plan, which was frustrating.
Avira’s impressive malware detection results are due to its integrated cloud-based technology, which keeps real-time protection up-to-date. This means you need to be online for the best protection levels. Plus, cloud-based technology keeps system impact low — I didn’t notice a difference in my PC’s performance, even during a full system scan.
I was pleased to see that Avira only mistakenly flagged 5 safe files as dangerous (also known as a false positive), which is significantly below the industry average of 16.
I also like that Avira has a Safe Shopping browser extension. The browser extension works on Chrome, Edge, Opera, and Firefox, and it successfully detected phishing links and blocked trackers and ads. The file shredder is another great addition — it permanently deletes sensitive files, making them unrecoverable even with specialized software.
The only significant limitation is that the free plan does not give you access to its full customer support — you can only use the website. That being said, Avira’s premium support lacks 24/7 live chat, and response times for email and phone support are poor.
Avira’s free plan is good, but it lacks a few features you can only get with a premium plan. Here’s a look at how Avira Free compares to Avira Prime, which has access to all features:
|Avira Free||Avira Prime|
|Customer Service||Website only||Website, email, and phone|
You can try Avira’s premium plans risk-free, as they’re backed by a 60-day money-back guarantee. Plans are good value for money for the first year, although they rise significantly on renewal — and Avira is pricier than other premium options. However, if you change your mind, getting a refund is simple. I tested the process myself and was pleased with how quickly I had my money back.
- Strong real-time protection blocks 99.4% of zero-day threats
- Features include a firewall, Game Mode, and VPN (limited version)
- Compatible with Windows 7, 8,10, and 11
- 24/7 live chat, email, and phone support
- Protects 1 device
Panda’s free antivirus plan has several advanced features, including real-time protection, a firewall, Game Mode and a USB Rescue Kit. I was pleasantly surprised to see these features offered for free since many competitors usually restrict them to their premium plans. Panda’s real-time protection scored very well in recent tests, blocking 99.4% of zero-day threats. This is only topped by premium services like Norton.
The Game Mode prevents notifications from popping up when you launch a full-screen app, which is also useful for work presentations or watching movies. I found the firewall equally effective as it can be set up with a location-based filter. For example, I could customize the firewall specifically for public WiFi networks and home networks.
Panda’s free antivirus gives you access to all 3 of its device scans — Full, Critical, and Custom. During my tests, I got the following results:
- Full scan — Checked over 850,000 items in just under an hour, looking at every file and folder on my device
- Critical scan — Checked 95,000 files in 7 minutes, in the areas most likely to be attacked by malware (memory, running processes, cookies, and more)
I was also impressed by Panda’s Rescue Kit feature — you can use it to create a rescue USB for devices that are so infected with malware, they can’t download antivirus protection. It took less than a minute to create a USB with Panda’s easy-to-follow instructions, and it repaired my old Windows PC in just 20 minutes.
The downsides are Panda’s lack of ransomware protection (typical for a free antivirus) and limited VPN — it only has 150MB of free data every day, which is only enough for basic browsing. Panda also doesn’t offer the Safe Browsing feature on its free version, so you won’t be alerted in advance to phishing attacks until you’ve already downloaded the file.
If you want an unlimited VPN, ransomware protection, and top features like optimization tools, parental controls, and a customizable firewall, I recommend you try the Panda Dome Complete package risk-free. Here is a brief comparison between the free and Complete plans:
|Panda Dome Free||Panda Dome Complete|
|Devices||Unlimited||1 (with the option to upgrade at extra cost)|
Panda Dome Complete’s first-year subscription price is very affordable, and it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee if you change your mind.
- Advanced virus scanner that detects and quarantines malware
- Comes with optimization tools for PC
- Works on all versions of Windows
- Customer support available via 24/7 live chat, email, and phone
- 1 device license only
TotalAV has a decent free plan with excellent malware detection rates, although it’s missing real-time protection and ransomware protection. Without these, TotalAV’s free antivirus can’t protect you against the latest threats, leaving your Windows device vulnerable to zero-day attacks. However, it’s a top choice for detecting existing malware potentially hiding in your files and folders.
In tests, TotalAV detected 100% of malware during scans. The Smart Scan checked over 55,000 files, which only took about 5 minutes, while the Full Scan checked over 940,000 files in about 22 minutes. This was pretty impressive as it’s nearly as fast as some premium antiviruses like Norton.
I was impressed by the fact that TotalAV was able to detect tracking cookies, search history, duplicate files, and auto-run programs that slowed down my computer at startup. Even better, I didn’t notice any slowdown on the test Windows PC during the scan.
Unlike Avira, TotalAV doesn’t come with extra features on the free plan (like a VPN, password manager, or parental controls). I also found it difficult to figure out which features were actually free on the app. On the TotalAV dashboard, there are no labels indicating the free features, and I had to go through each feature individually. If a certain feature wasn’t free, TotalAV only alerted me after clicking and displayed an upsell message prompting me to buy the premium version.
If you do want to test out some of TotalAV’s premium features, it’s worth signing up for one of its plans. TotalAV’s Internet Security plan has real-time protection and security for up to 5 devices, plus an unlimited VPN feature. Here’s a look at the differences between TotalAV’s free and Internet Security plans:
|TotalAV Free||TotalAV Internet Security|
|Data Breach Monitoring||✘||✔|
Every plan has a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try TotalAV risk-free to make sure it’s right for you. I signed up for the premium plan to test its features and was impressed with its performance.
- Top-tier antivirus engine protects you against malware, phishing, ransomware, and more
- Features include webcam protection, VPN, password manager, and firewall
- Compatible with Windows 7, 8, 10, and 11
- 24/7 customer support through email, chat, and phone
- Coverage for up to 10 devices
Even though it’s not free, Norton deserves a mention as it’s the #1 antivirus for Windows in 2022. In tests, Norton achieved 100% malware detection rates in scans. Plus, Norton includes a huge range of premium features at an affordable price. This includes a VPN, webcam protection, smart firewall, password manager, parental controls, and encrypted cloud backup. It’s top value for money if you’re looking for maximum protection for your Windows device.
Don’t take my word for it though — you can try Norton risk-free with its 60-day money-back guarantee. I tested this myself by signing up for Norton, testing it for a few weeks, and requesting a refund through its 24/7 live chat. My refund was approved within 5 minutes and I had the money back in my account 5 days later.
Comparison Table: 2022’s Best Free Antivirus Software for Windows (All Versions)
|Virus Scanner||Real-Time Protection||Ransomware Protection||Firewall||Parental Controls||PC Optimization Tools|
Warning! These Free Antiviruses Aren’t Enough for Full Windows Security
1. Avast and AVG
Avast and its sub-company AVG used to be very popular antiviruses for Windows. Unfortunately, it was discovered that Avast was secretly collecting user data and selling it to major companies through its Jumpshot subsidiary. This includes browsing data and even visits to adult websites. Although Avast claimed all sold data was anonymous, it’s been proven that this data could be linked to specific users. Due to this breach of trust, I can’t include Avast (or its subsidiary AVG) even though both programs are free.
2. Microsoft Defender
Microsoft Defender is better than having no antivirus, but it’s just not powerful enough to rely on solely. While it did scan and flag existing malware in tests, Microsoft Defender failed to protect the test PC in real-time or against complex ransomware attacks. You’re better off with free antivirus from Avira, Panda, or TotalAV — you’ll even get features like a VPN, parental controls, and optimization tools at no extra cost. These are all features that Microsoft Defender fails to deliver on.
How I Rated the Top Free Antivirus Programs for Windows
I checked multiple free Windows antivirus products to narrow them down to the top 3 options. I used my Windows 11 64-bit computer to test each antivirus for the following criteria:
- 100% free — Many antiviruses claim to be free but are actually timed trials (or worse, still require your credit card information). I downloaded each Windows antivirus to ensure there are no hidden catches.
- Strong virus scanner — I ensured each free antivirus is capable of detecting and blocking viruses, trojans, worms, and other malware. A top-tier free service like Avira offers real-time protection against complex threats, such as ransomware.
- Fast scanning speeds — The best free antiviruses use cloud-based scanning to optimize scan speeds, ensuring all malware is detected and removed quickly, and with minimal effect on your Windows PC.
- Extra features — Many free antiviruses offer bonus features, such as a free in-built VPN, parental controls, and password managers. However, some have limitations (for instance, the VPN might have a data cap).
- User-friendly Windows app — Even though it’s free, the antivirus needs to be easy to operate on Windows 11, 10, 8, and 7, and with minimal system impact.
- Good upgrade prices — I researched pricing options for all antiviruses to ensure you get top value if you decide to upgrade to a premium option. Plus, all recommended services have a money-back guarantee so you can test the software risk-free.
FAQ: Using a Free Antivirus on Windows PC, Laptops and Tablets
Do Windows 10 and 11 really need an antivirus?
Yes, you really do need an antivirus on Windows 10 and 11. Windows is the world’s most popular operating system and it’s a huge target of many malware attacks. Although Windows 10 and 11 come pre-installed with Microsoft Defender, it’s only the most basic layer of protection and won’t protect you nearly as well as a dedicated antivirus company. Even many free antivirus brands perform much better than Microsoft Defender on its own.
Is Microsoft Defender good enough for Windows?
While it offers decent protection, Microsoft simply isn’t powerful enough to defend your Windows device against newly-released cyber threats. I’d avoid using Microsoft Defender as your primary antivirus since it’s missing a number of features that you can get with other free programs.
You can try Avira for free on Windows and still get plenty of features and a higher malware detection rate than Microsoft defender. It lacks a lot of features, but it’s still better than nothing (or just using Microsoft Defender by itself).
Which antivirus is best for Windows?
Norton is the best antivirus for Windows, based on recent tests. Norton offers powerful protection for Windows 11, 10, 8, and 7. It even comes with extra features, like a VPN with unlimited data, parental controls, a password manager, a firewall, and much more. Norton has a 60-day money-back guarantee, which allows you to test out the software risk-free and get a refund if you’re not satisfied.
Is free antivirus safe for Windows?
It depends. You can’t just download any free antivirus onto your Windows device — unfortunately, most of what’s available on the internet is malware in disguise.
However, I’ve personally vetted the best free antiviruses for Windows in 2022. Each antivirus is a legitimate program run by established companies — some even come with a VPN, password manager, and other tools at no extra cost. The free programs are supported by each company’s paying customers, so you should expect to see some restrictions or upselling attempts (although I think it’s worth it in return for a trustworthy free antivirus!).
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of restrictions or ads, you can always consider using a premium antivirus for Windows instead. For example, I put Norton through a number of tests and found out it has a perfect malware detection rate and multiple features such as parental controls, a VPN, firewall, password manager, and more.
Secure Your Windows PC With the Top Free Antivirus
Protecting your Windows PC against viruses, ransomware, and other malware is essential — and it doesn’t have to cost a penny. You can use the top free antiviruses in 2022 alongside Microsoft Defender to get a good level of protection. As the top service, Avira Free Security even provides real-time and ransomware protection.
Ultimately, the only way you’ll get full protection is by subscribing to a premium antivirus. Otherwise, your PC remains vulnerable to attack from the latest threats. I recommend that you try the best antivirus on the market, Norton — you can test Norton risk-free for 60 days as it offers a money-back guarantee if you change your mind.