Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

There are many free antivirus programs available for your computer. We'll look at some of them, including the one I'm currently evaluating.

I know I need to get an antivirus program, but most want some kind of periodic subscription. I can't afford that. Where can I get a free antivirus for my computer? Which would you suggest?

In the long run, the price of anti-virus software pales in comparison to the price of contracting a virus. It can take a lot of time and effort to recover. So much so that the price of the software - even including the subscription - might well seem cheap.

However, I do understand your position as well.

The good news is that there are, indeed, some reasonable free alternatives.

As I've noted before, I tend to run Computer Associates AntiVirus, mostly because it was the corporate standard solution at Microsoft when I worked there. It's served me exceedingly well for several years now.

Recently, however, I've started to delve into some alternatives, and specifically, free alternatives.

I'm currently running AVG Free on two of my machines here at home. In fact, now that I think of it, my two most important machines: my Windows Vista laptop, and my new Windows XP desktop.

"Naturally when you go to visit the AVG Free website, you'll be offered the opportunity to purchase the paid version as well ..."

It seems to be working well.

My concerns with AVG so far include:

  • It wants to be more than an anti-virus tool. My experience with security suites, both personally and anecdotally via Ask Leo! readers, is that they are not the best approach. While not a complete security package, AVG Free is Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware combined. That might be ok, given that viruses and spyware are similar in many regards. But for now, it makes me nervous.

  • If I choose to turn any aspect of the software off, it reports that as an error. For example I turned off the link scanner (which checks for dangerous websites and links) because it caused problems in Firefox. Now the AVG icon has a big red exclaimation point indicating that there's an error. There is no error; I simply made a choice. Now if there is a real error, I might not notice it, since that status indicator is normal for me.

  • As I said, the link scanner interfered with FireFox. I like the idea, and might have left it on, but functionality comes first. It's gotta work, and it didn't for me.

Naturally when you go to visit the AVG Free website, you'll be offered the opportunity to purchase the paid version as well, which includes additional security tools. I will say that the site is not overly pushy or missleading, as I've sometimes seen with other products. Naturally the choice is up to you, but the free version is clearly and readily available.

So while I can't formally say that I recommend AVG, I can certainly say that it's worth checking out and evaluating for yourself.

Other free antivirus products include:

To be clear, I haven't tried any of those, they're simply some names that I recognize from quick Google Search for "Free Antivirus", which returns many, many results. These should at least meet the basics of being a semi-reputible solution. The differences between them will be around effectiveness at actually catching and stopping threats, as well as their ease of use.

One important distrucntion is that some of the products may be "free for non-commercial use". That means if you're using the products in a business setting, they're not free. Be sure to check the license.

Using a free anti-virus product I haven't mentioned? Let us know by posting a comment.

Article C3398 - May 27, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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39 Comments
Jon
May 27, 2008 7:17 PM

Hi Leo,
What kind of problems were you encountering with Firefox? I've been using AVG Free for almost a year and I don't see any problems so far, but maybe I'm just missing them?
Thx.
Jon @ Wordout

Matt
May 27, 2008 8:22 PM

I've heard both good and bad things about AVG. It works okay being free but now I run ESET Smart Security and it is excellent.

Jason
May 27, 2008 8:28 PM

Hi Leo,
I think AVG suite 8.0 is a headache. I was happy with AVG anti-virus 7.5, before they merged both the anti virus and spyware programs together. I downloaded 8 because the auto update kept bugging me to.
I'm not sure if I had to manually uninstall v7.5 before installing v8.0, but I didn't do so, as I assumed the setup would do that for me (isn't this to be expected these days?). Halfway through install setup: blue screen!
It took me a day to fix the hard drive errors I kept encountering, "NTLDR is not found during bootup", I had to run the repair function from the XP install CD.
Ever since then I have had random Cyclic Redundancy Check failures from individual files within archived files, install files, downloaded files, and the like. Not all the time, but enough to drive me nuts.
I may be compelled to format once again. I tried re-installing AVG 8 suite again, but couldn't complete setup due to install errors. Right now it's only half installed, and I have tried installing Kaspersky anti virus as well, but have realised it is only a trial, so right now I have 2 anti virus programs half-installed on my PC.
Time for a format! Luckily I've kept my old AVG anti-virus 7.5 install file. Why change a good thing?
May I also add, I use Spybot 1.5.2 as my choice of anti-spyware program, and I must say it works quite well.

Eli Coten
May 28, 2008 4:44 AM

Jason it sounds like you have a defective hard drive more than a problem specific to AVG or any other software.

I have installed Anti-Vir on my computer, it is also free but generally I don't use it very much. I prefer to avoid having anti-virus software running in the background because it slows down the computer an awful lot and I don't see how a virus could get into my computer. Yes theoretically of course it could - with no security software running it is very easy to see how it could, I just don't believe it will. And I have done so for 5 years without any problem I believe the practical chance of getting infected by viruses, malware etc is decreasing.

Ziggie
May 28, 2008 6:24 AM

I've used AVG Free for 3 years now. I updated to 8.0 from 7.5 without uninstalling with no errors whatsoever, and have not had a problem with firefox either.

While the free version can seem limiting, I just remind myself it's free. And I can't argue with the results. AVG has caught viruses in testing that both Norton and McAfee missed.

Murray McNeill
May 28, 2008 7:08 AM

AVG Free can be installed without the LinkScanner module. The procedure is outlined here:

http://free.grisoft.com/ww.faq.num-1241

This command line can be done to an existing installation and it will remove only the unwanted portion of the free version.

Ralph
May 28, 2008 7:05 PM

I have been using AVG 7.5 for a long while with no problems. The new version 8 was advertised and finally I rec'd a message that 7.5 would no longer be supported after June 1st/08. I downloaded and installed on 3 XP computers at home and had no problems. It removed 7.5 during install, and said that if I wanted to go back to 7.5, I would have to uninstall 8 and then reinstall 7.5. Why would I if they will no longer support it in a few days? I used to pay for Computer Associates but that started to cost major $ for 3 home computers, so after a lot of net research, decided on AVG and couldn't be happier! Runs great and I have have not been infected since using it, touch wood! I don't use a software firewall as my router is supposed to do that for me. Tried Zone Alarm and Comodo, they worked for a while, but after a reinstall of XP on 2 of 3 machines, I couldn't get my home network to run. So I removed them from all 3 computers and the network seems to work OK. Bottom line, I like AVG

mat
May 28, 2008 8:08 PM

Go for AVG 8.0. It requires little amount of your system resources. Very fine with IE7. Any problem with the installation ? Do disk cleanup first, then defrag the HD. To test, do a full-scan. But as Leo said, "it's worth checking out and evaluating for yourself".

Mark
May 28, 2008 10:03 PM

I have to chime in for Avast here. I've run both avg and avast and I find the interface a little less complicated that AVG and I've had better luck removing viruses and, using active scanning, preventing them, in the first place with Avast.

James
May 29, 2008 6:54 AM

And what about Avira AntiVir
http://www.free-av.com/en/products/1/avira_antivir_personal__free_antivirus.html

Linde Nobre
June 3, 2008 8:37 AM

I am running AVG for years with xp and others, at home and on the job. Every now and then a "computer specialist" shows up on the job and uninstalls AVG, claiming it slows down the computers (Well, you have to have him check when you're out having lunch and not on peak office hours...). Then after a while everything goes crazy and I reinstall AVG. I have tested lots, I found this the most useful (I combine with Spybot and Zonealarm!).
HOWEVER: Keeping your computer free of virusses is also a question of paying attention to what you do, who uses it, who puts their cds or other in it, how you use the internet, etc.
One antivirus I can unrecommend: Symantec Norton. That one is going to get you crazy!

Malcolm Otter
June 3, 2008 8:42 AM

I ran AVG Free for years, and in common with other users found it very good at what it does. I had to run it in tandem with Zonealarm but I have now bitten the bullet and bought AVG Internet Security version 8 which covers everything from anti virus to spam spyware and lots more. I have also negotiated a price for my wife's laptop and now have both machines running an AVG licence concurrently. Great product and well worth the money for the peace of mind.

1101doc
June 3, 2008 8:46 AM

I found AVG Free 8.0 to be much slower at boot and difficult to manage compared to old reliable 7.5. I much prefer to do manual updates and scans. That results in an annoying red 'X' over the icon. After much fussing and configuration I switched to Avira Free. It has about the same impact as AVG 7.5, does just as good(or even better) job, and has a faimiliar interface.

I have always found the Avast interface confusing, and although it does continue to be top-rated(along with Avira) that UI confusion put me off.

The only downside to the Avira application is a large "notice" screen that presents with each update urging me to buy the 'Pro' version. Fortunately, simply clicking the OK button makes it go away. I am not re-directed to the website. Seems a small price to pay for top-rated, free antivirus protection.

I have had reports from others that AVG Free 8.0 has conflict issues with Ad-aware and Spybot. So far, Avira seems to be "playing well with others.
(including Comodo)

Phooey! on AVG for "Nortonizing" their (formerly) fine product.

According to AVG updates for 7.5 will continue through 12/31/08: http://freeforum.avg.com/read.php?1,123812,backpage=,sv

I intend to let it run on the other house computers until then. Perhaps AVG will clean up it's act before New Year's. If not, I'll change them all to Avira.

martin
June 3, 2008 9:06 AM

I've been using Avast for quite some time. It works well -- you can schedule a scan which will be carried out at boot time before Windows (or at least most of WIndows) starts up.

Tony
June 3, 2008 9:29 AM

I've been using AVG 7.5, just recently installed AVG 8.0 works fine on Win2000. I'm no longer using FireFox got too bloated and slow. Using Avant browser, very very good. Couple of minor issues probably my settings. AVG 8.0 also works fine with AdAware and SpyBot no issues.
I've got Computer Associates on my laptop about to expire. They have raised their price past what I'm willing to pay. Otherwise their product is good. Laptop is going over to AVG also.
Oh and thanks Leo for this site and your newsletter. Much appreciated. (I know, send money)

Hugh E Torrance
June 3, 2008 11:26 AM

Avast has a boot scan as well as on access or on demand scanning,this is what I use on XP but I don,t use any kind of stuff like this with Linux,so far I have never needed it...

Bobz_Pop
June 3, 2008 12:12 PM

Been running AVG for 2+yrs now. No problems. Added Avast about 8 months ago, as it has the great boot scan option. Use both in conjunction with Spybot 1.5.2; Adaware, and Zone Alarm. Weird combo, but works for me.

fastfreddie1959
June 3, 2008 12:22 PM

I have tested all of the programs above.
In my opinion comodo is the best there is.
http://www.comodo.com/products/free_products.html
The only downside is the antivirus program does
not work in vista,but is awsome with XP.
I do use the antimalware program with the firewall
which is 100% leak proof.
I use clamwin for my antivirus for vista.
Ive been using comodo for over 2yrs now and
have never gotten a virus or trojan on my system.
Best thing about comodo is it's easy to configure
does not slow your computer down and is not
bloatware.
Take your time-read the reviews and you to
will be a believer in this program.
All 100% free....

Vincent Mc Kenna
June 3, 2008 12:23 PM

There is no doubt in my experience that AVG 7.5 as freeware is an excellent choice, so much so that I have been using it on my Laptop as a paid subscriber for almost 2 years -- not a single problem. OK, the yearly fee is Euro 23.30 including a VAT fee of Euro 3.75 to Her Majesty's Government. You get a healthy discount for two or more Computers.
I got tired of constant failures with NAV, involving e-mailing and speaking to their Customer Service in Hyderabad, India; so one day I changed to AVG !
I have 3 months free McAfee on my new desktop as it came with it, but McAfee have a nasty habit of holding on to your credit card and automatically renewing the subscription every year -- this is a major turn off as it is anti-competitive and an affront to my intelligence, so I will say goodbye to them next week !

When I consider that in Ireland the average adult shopper is paying $110 per week on Alcohol alone, the humble $0.70 per week I pay for AVG Anti Malware is equivalent to 4 fluid ozs of Guinness Beer per week, just enough to wet my beer mat!

Steve
June 3, 2008 1:13 PM

Hi Leo.
I too had problems with the link scanner in Firefox.
However by disabling the scanner add-on in Firefox itself it cured the problem, and AVG now reports all systems working.

Dena Kelley
June 3, 2008 4:46 PM

I loved AVG Free 7.5. It does exactly what it is supposed to and not a thing more, without slowing my PC to a crawl the way the big LiveOne/Norton/McAfee packages do. I am really irritated with AVG right now as they have decided to discontinue the free product. I have no interest in their new 8.0 product as it will undoubtedly bloat my machine just like their competitors. I would pay for antivirus software that just did what it was supposed to without being obtrusive.

Jerry
June 3, 2008 6:28 PM

I realised no one mentioned ThreatFire', but after using AVG 8 and the slowing of my Windows vista I tried 'Threatfire free offer and found it working good so far. Please post if anyone else uses this anti-virus, and if there is any problems I should be aware of.

Ravi Agrawal
June 3, 2008 10:35 PM

AVG is good & light on resources but I've given it up. It detects most keygens & serial crackers as trojans / viruses. And there have been Computers with AVG running that have been seriously infected & I too have been pinched by a Virus with AVG running with most current Updates. Morever, even after shutting down AVG completely it will not let you run a program it has once reported as infected. The program blocks the file in such a way that Windows gives a User Rights Warning & does not run the file even if you want it to. Only uninstalling AVG will let you Run it Again.

Ravi.

Ravi.

Jim
June 3, 2008 11:14 PM

Steve wrote, "I am really irritated with AVG right now as they have decided to discontinue the free product."

Actually, Steve, Grisoft has a free version of AVG 8.0 available that contains both anti-virus and anti-spyware, although they don't push it. It's available from their website, but directs you to this Download.com site: http://www.download.com/AVG-Anti-Virus-Free-Edition/3000-2239_4-10320142.html?part=dl-AVGAntiVir&subj=dl&tag=button ... I've installed 8.0 on both our XP machines with no problems so far.

Deyaa Addeen Fahmy Shedeed
June 3, 2008 11:20 PM

Me 2 use AVG Free from its site for a year .
thanks .

Kenny
June 4, 2008 4:59 AM

I used AVG for a few years, but moved over to Avira (www.free-av.com) a about 2 years ago. It's very lightweight and reliable etc.

I found AVG has a tendancy towards false positives, and I also see it struggling to use our webproxy to update, so we don't recommend it to our users.

Also, people should check out "superantispyware" - despite the stupid name, it is a really thorough bit of kit.

Organicman
June 4, 2008 7:31 AM

I have used AVG for years and even paid for it for two years after they announced they would no longer be offering a free version (sound familiar?). Of course, they continued to offer a free version to capture the new-comers, and they do, after all, have to earn some money somehow.

AVG slows down our older computers, but not my newest with Vista and dual processors.

AVG has certainly been the best I have tried to date and beats the pants off McAfee and Norton in my experience.

Alex
June 4, 2008 6:11 PM

For windows partition I would highly recomend AVG Free, and Spybot Search and destroy, avg is freeware, spybot search and destroy is entirerly free, and have never had a problem with either. Spybot s&d also includes anti roolkit.

For my linux partition, which I use much more frequently, I use Clamav with Clamavtk as my gui interface, I recomend it, but not for windows users, however i do recoment clamwin it is a gui interface for clamav on windows, it works well, however only problem I have had was long scanning times, and I have a decent machine, 2 gigs of ram, dual core 3.45 ghz.
Another security thing i recommend is to use your windows firewall, and get a free ware or open source one if you can for extra security. Also on linux use the firestarter firewall, once you get it configured, you don't have to run it again to have the firewall working each time. All of these tools are great for experienced, and inexperienced users I do think.

-Alex

Jessie
June 5, 2008 10:44 AM

I have xp, media center & I love Avast. It is very easy to use & it works good. When I had McAfee it slowed my machine down. I feel very comfortable with Avast. I have used it for several years now. It is the free version. Jessie

Jim
June 5, 2008 2:29 PM

As for the person using Threatfire, it tells you right in the diections, that it is only to be used as a "sidekick"
to a regular anti-virus program.

VAl
June 6, 2008 11:36 AM

I have been using Comodo, which provides free firewall plus free Anti-Virus software. It seems to be working well.

Niyi
June 9, 2008 2:16 AM

I use avira and it works very efficiently for my needs. I however notice its better to install it after a clean re-installation of your system, as it could affect the system that is already infected depending on the type of virus threat. Whenever I re-install a system, after installing all necessary software including an antivirus (avira), I create a system restore point. Whenever I have a problem with my system

Spirit
June 27, 2008 4:38 PM

Have used AVG Free spyware and antivirus..for untold years..d/l the new AVG8 it slugged my Vista and installed Yahoo Toolbar...rided all the above..and am really happy with Avira Free!!!!!! its user friendly.

sue holland
May 29, 2009 7:47 AM

thanks, followed link above and now have it
sue

Ricky Meade
July 21, 2009 11:02 AM

Yeah, Avira's Antivir (free) really rocks. It is one great piece of software... It has also won the Cnet's "Editors Choice Award"...

Tony
November 25, 2009 2:11 PM

My Free AVG expired and I was offered the PAID version which I refused. I was then given a FREE 30 day trial of the PAID version which expires in 6 days time. Do you think this is necessary? Is there enough difference between the two to justify it?

Diego
October 28, 2010 2:30 PM

I have been using ZenOK Free Antivirus for a few months and I think it's fantastic. The program runs in the background and it's automatic. its Antispyware too

Jan
August 12, 2011 10:12 PM

I am an elderly lady (73) & husband 80) who use the puter to keep in touch with our son & friends and do a little researching just to look & see what is going on. I NEED AN ANTIVIRUS but can not
afford to purchase one. Is there a good FREE
one we can get? Thanks from an old lady who
is trying to get/learn some 'puter smarts & not
be affraid of getting a virus. I signed up for Leos
newsletter thinking I might learn something like
you smart young people. Can an old lady become
a "geek".HA!! Thanks in advance for your help.
p.s.
How can I learn what some "puter lingo/words really means like "cached"?

Mark J
August 13, 2011 6:52 AM

@Jan
Leo now recommends the free Microsoft Security Essentials anti-malware program
http://ask-leo.com/what_security_software_do_you_recommend.html
And here's an online computer terminology dictionary.
http://www.webopedia.com/

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