The 5 Best Free Antivirus Software Programs of 2024

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There’s basically no excuse for not having top-notch antivirus software on your personal computers these days.

You have multiple well-rated — and no-cost — options to choose from, as PCMag’s latest ratings of free antivirus programs illustrate.

To reach its findings, the publication tested 38 antivirus products and examined the results of other independent labs that have tested the programs.

The best free antivirus software

PCMag awarded its “Editors’ Choice” honor for 2024 to Avast One Essential. It earned an “outstanding” overall rating of 4.5 out of 5 from PCMag.

In writing about the rankings, Neil J. Rubenking, PCMag’s lead analyst for security, says:

“Avast has been supplying antivirus protection for as long as there’s been an antivirus industry … All four of the independent testing labs we follow include Avast in their reporting, and it aces almost every test. It also takes high scores in our own hands-on testing.”

However, PCMag published its 2024 ranking of free antivirus software before the U.S. Federal Trade Commission fined Avast $16.5 million for selling users’ data. So you might want to consider one of the runners-up instead.

AVG Antivirus Free and Bitdefender Antivirus Free for Windows tied for the second-place spot, with each scoring an “excellent” 4 out of 5. AVG was named “best for useful bonuses,” and Bitdefender is “best for no-frills protection.”

Rounding out the top five are Avira Free Security and Microsoft Defender Antivirus, each earning a “good” rating of 3.5 out of 5.

Kaspersky Free, which once ranked highly, is conspicuously absent from the list. PCMag notes that Kaspersky’s Russian origins and the war in Ukraine have caused many governments and organizations to censure and cut ties with the business. The Federal Communications Commission has gone so far as to say Kaspersky is a national security threat, and as a result, PCMag no longer recommends their products.

Should you pay for antivirus protection?

PCMag says that paid antivirus programs offer more protection and better protection than free versions. What’s more, tech support may be limited for free program users.

Whether you should pay for antivirus protection comes down to your budget. If a paid program isn’t in your budget, perhaps try a few of the free programs to see which you like best.

One exception is for business computers. PCMag notes that free antivirus programs are often free only for noncommercial use, meaning only for use on personal computers.

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