The 5 Best Free Antivirus Software Programs of 2020

Man using free antivirus software on a laptop
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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.

The publication tested and reviewed 17 free programs and examined the results of other independent labs that have tested the programs.

The best free antivirus software

PCMag awarded its “Editor’s Choice” honor to Kaspersky Security Cloud Free. It earned an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5 from PCMag, making it the only program out of the 17 to earn a rating of more than 4 out of 5.

Kaspersky Security Cloud Free stands out for getting “perfect or near-perfect” scores from independent testing labs.

Neil J. Rubenking, PCMag’s lead analyst for security, explains:

“Around the world, independent antivirus testing labs devote tremendous resources to evaluating antivirus products. I follow four labs that release periodic reports on their findings, and Kaspersky has always taken perfect or near-perfect scores from all four. It’s true that the labs didn’t specifically test the free edition, but given that free users now get all antivirus features, including the behavior-based System Watch, the results should be the same.”

Additionally, four programs earned overall ratings of 4 out of 5:

Windows Defender

Windows computers come with Microsoft Windows Defender Security Center, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should rely on it.

PCMag gave it a rating of 3.5 out of 5, noting that while the program’s scores from independent testing labs have “significantly improved,” there are better free options. Rubenking continues:

“The very best free antivirus utilities give you even more protection, and they earn great scores from the independent testing labs.”

Note that if you have a Windows computer and opt to use a nonWindows antivirus program, Windows Defender will go dormant to avoid conflict, PCMag says.

Should you pay for antivirus protection?

PCMag notes that paid antivirus programs offer more protection and better protection than free versions. Whether you should pay for such 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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