Staying safe from viruses and malware keeps your computer running smoothly — and protects you from identity theft.
Fortunately, you don’t have to pay a king’s ransom to shield your computer from trouble. Several anti-virus programs are available that can protect your computer for free.
Consumer Reports recently identified the best for Windows and Mac computers.
In compiling its rankings, CR says it looked at more than 30 anti-virus programs — about a dozen of which are available for free — and exposed them to “a host of malware samples and malicious websites.”
The best free anti-virus programs
The five best free anti-virus programs for Windows are:
- Avast Free Antivirus-2019
- Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
- AVG Free Antivirus-2019
- Avira Free Antivirus-2019
- Kaspersky Free Antivirus-2019
Windows 10 Defender-2019 finished a respectable sixth in the rankings. This anti-virus software might be working for you as you read this article — it comes installed on nearly all new Windows computers.
However, Consumer Reports notes that Windows 10 Defender’s ability to protect you is “not quite as strong” as the higher-ranked entries on this list. For example, CR notes that Windows 10 Defender does not have a password manager or email protection — unlike other choices, including Avast Free Antivirus-2019.
Granted, Avast’s free software isn’t necessarily free. According to a recent investigation by PCMag and Motherboard, which published after CR’s anti-virus rankings, Avast allegedly tracked and sold parts of some Avast users’ internet browsing and search histories.
CR also ranked four top free anti-virus programs for Macs. They are, from highest- to lowest-rated:
- AVG Antivirus for Mac
- Avast Free Mac Security-2019
- Avira Free Antivirus for Mac-2019
- Apple macOS Mojave
Consumer Reports says paid anti-virus software sometimes offers perks — such as a firewall or spam filter — that you might not find in free software. However, CR also says that in some cases, free software actually offers more vigorous protection than paid versions.
For example, it notes that “Malwarebytes Premium, $65, scored lower than Windows Defender without offering any meaningful extras.”
How to download anti-virus software safely
Before downloading any of the free options, CR urges you to go to the manufacturers’ websites to find the software. As the publication says:
“If you click on a pop-up ad promising free AV protection, you could easily end up with malware on your computer. These ads are a common scam employed by cybercriminals. To be safe, go straight to the source and manually type in the web address for the company that offers the product you want to use.”
Which anti-virus software do you use? Share your choice with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.