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Protecting your PC, laptop and even your phone from internet threats is essential these days. It’s no longer optional.

Many people would rather not pay for the privilege and – since you’re reading this – you probably fall into that camp. While there are great deals available on paid-for security suites, it still amazes us that you can have the same antivirus protection that’s in Kaspersky’s, Bitdefenders and other packages for free.

So, after reading through our list of six recommended options below, there’s no excuse for not running antivirus software on all your PCs and laptops. With Avast and AVG’s offerings you can protect your Android phone, Mac and iPhone too.

Should you get free antivirus?

The catch with free antivirus is that it doesn’t always offer the most complete protection. It is better than having none at all but free versions tend not to include some of the extra features that come with paid-for products.

This is why using the term ‘antivirus’ can be misleading. Antivirus is typically just one component of a good security product, which can also include specific protection from ransomware as well as spam filtering, parental controls, password managers, VPNs and cloud storage. However, that’s not to say those features can’t be found in free products – you’d be surprised what you can get without paying or even handing over your email address.

The free antivirus from Kaspersky, Bitdefender and others all offer great protection from viruses, as you’ll see below.

If you want the comprehensive protection and support a paid-for version includes, you’ll find recommendations in our best antivirus roundup.

Best Free Antivirus Reviews

Kaspersky Security Cloud Free

Avast Free Antivirus

Avast Free Antivirus

AVG AntiVirus Free

AVG Free Antivirus

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

Microsoft Windows Defender

Avira Free Security

Avira Free Security

Is free antivirus really free?

Yes it is. But you may well trade off some privacy. For example, Avast and AVG’s privacy policies clearly explains how it uses your personal and non-personal information when you download and use its free product.

You might be asked if you want to opt in to data collection during installation of these products. This is why it is absolutely crucial you read what you’re agreeing to when you install an app, and are extra careful to opt out of any data sharing.

Otherwise, you grant the software the right to share some of your (anonymised) information to third parties, which may include advertisers and other companies. 

The danger is that a company might work out how to de-anonymise this data, which is a risk you don’t want to take.

And some free antivirus products will be supported by adverts, typically on Android versions. You can find out if it’s worth installing antivirus on Android and whether iPhones need protecting from malware or not.

If any of this concerns or bothers you, then take the time to read the privacy policy before you install a product. This applies to paid-for products too, but on the whole they do not take liberties with your privacy.

And these days, antivirus software should comply with GDPR in Europe and with other privacy regulations in other countries.

Does free antivirus software work?

Privacy is perhaps not the most important factor, depending on your outlook. Antivirus software is designed to prevent your PC and laptop – plus phone and tablet – from being infected by malicious code which could cause issues ranging from annoying pop-ups through to stealing your personal information or even deleting or encrypting your files.

The effectiveness of antivirus software changes over time, and a product that stops all viruses today may not do that tomorrow or in a month. No antivirus software offers a cast-iron guarantee that it will stop 100% of malware, but many achieve this figure. And it’s essentially the same virus protection you get from the paid-for version of that product.

So, yes. It works. It’s not an excuse to start downloading cracked software or visiting dodgy sites though. Security requires a multi-layered approach, and that includes being careful and sensible about the sites you use, the links you click on and the stuff you download.

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