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.
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
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.
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 exclamation 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 misleading, 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:
- Trend Micro’s Housecall – an online scanner, operating within your browser.
- Panda’s Active Scan – an online scanner, operating within your browser.
- Avast antivirus 4.x Home Edition includes anti-spyware & anti-rootkit for Windows.
- ClamWin is a free open-source antivirus that’s actually also cross platform.
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-reputable solution. The differences between them will be around effectiveness at actually catching and stopping threats, as well as their ease of use.
One important distinction 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.