Depending on your age, you may remember installing your first antivirus program on a computer by inserting a CD or a floppy disk into a bulky device that took up a ton of space on your desk or the floor. While technology has significantly advanced since then, antivirus programs are just as important today as they were in the early 90s. The only difference is that as malware has become more advanced, antivirus companies continue to make it a priority to stay a few steps ahead.

Our Top Picks

Best For

What We Like


Avast One Essential

Best features

More features than many paid plans
24/7 customer service via email


Bitdefender Free

Best security strength

 Highest performance in our tests
Amazing lab scores


Security Cloud Free

Best customer support

 Live chat, phone support and 24/7 email
 3,500+ employees


Avira Free Antivirus

Best for bundled products

VPN, password manager and cleanup tools
 In business for 35 years


AVG Free

Best for trial runs

 Plenty of free options
Customer support by phone


Malwarebytes Free

Best for quick scans

 Easy to start using
 24/7 customer support via email


    How We Chose the Best Antivirus Software for 2022

    The Gizmodo Advisor Reviews team tested and reviewed the top free antivirus software and compiled the best performers into a list while rejecting the rest. While much of the free antivirus programs you can find today are either scams, inadequate, or both, the programs we review below have solid reputations, strong security and plenty of features available for free.

    We also researched and averaged independent lab scores that each antivirus received from third-parties. We used ratings from ICSA Labs, AV-Comparatives, SE-Labs and AV Test in our final scores.  

    The Gizmodo Advisor Tech Team spent more than 100 hours researching, testing and reviewing the best free and paid antivirus software in 2022. These reviews are unbiased and independently driven by the methodologies we use to test products. Below you will find the factors and percentage weights we use to score antiviruses with our methodology.

    FactorPercentage of ScoreDescription
    Privacy and Security30%Familiarize yourself with standard antivirus security features and determine which additional features are nonnegotiables for you. Your software should provide on-demand and on-access malware scans, phishing protection, behavior-based detection and firewall protection. Does it also come with parental controls and identity protection?
    Customer Experience20%Antivirus providers should offer accessible support and answer customer questions in a timely manner. Is 24/7 chat available? How easy (or difficult) is it to contact support representatives? Is there a support page that’s helpful and easy to navigate?
    Features and Functionality20%Top antivirus software should be simple to set up and protect your device from vulnerabilities without affecting its performance. Does it slow down your device? Is it difficult to use? Are extras like credit alerts or VPNs available?
    Reputation and Credibility20%We take into consideration how long the company has been in business, its reputation, and what customers say on consumer review sites and community forums.
    Plan Value10%A free antivirus plan’s value should align with its features, customer support and experience, and reputation.

    Avast One Essential: Best Security Features

    Years in business: 30

    Employees: 1,950

    Independent lab scores: 98%

    Support options: 24/7 customer service via email

    One of the most popular antivirus companies in the world, Avast introduced a new free bundle in 2021 called Avast One Essential. The plan immediately stood out from other free antivirus programs by offering so many security features in one package.

    In fact, Avast One Essential’s features (listed below) even rival some paid plans:

    • On-demand malware scans
    • On-access malware scans
    • Phishing protection
    • Malicious URL blocking
    • Behavior-based detection
    • Vulnerability scan
    • Firewall protection
    • Limited identity protection

    Avast performed well in our malware and phishing tests, netting a 4 out of 5 score on Windows. The bundle also checks data breaches for your compromised passwords and includes a VPN for safer internet searches.

    Combine all these features with a great reputation in the industry and excellent lab scores from AV-Test, SE-Labs and AV Comparatives, and you’ve got the best free antivirus software you can get today. 

    To upgrade to a paid version of Avast, we recommend Avast Premium Security or the full Avast One bundle.

    Bitdefender Free: Best Security Strength

    Years in business: 20

    Employees: 1,800+

    Independent lab scores: 99%

    Support options: 24/7 customer service through email,

    live chat and phone support

    Bitdefender’s free antivirus has an average score of 4.1 out of 5 on Trustpilot and excellent lab scores by AV-Comparatives and AV-Test Institute, which gave it a 97% and a Top Product ranking.

    Best of all, Bitdefender Free performed perfectly in our security tests. It received our highest overall score with a perfect 5 out of 5 on Windows for malware and phishing defense.

    Bitdefender’s free features include:

    • On-demand malware scans
    • On-access malware scans
    • Malicious URL blocking
    • Behavior-based detection
    • Phishing protection

    The included features are extensive, but Avast One Essential has more protection. We’d like to see Bitdefender add more security features to its free version before we call it the best overall antivirus you can get at no cost.

    Users on the free plan can also contact customer support 24/7, with customer service reachable via email, as well as live chat and phone support.

    We recommend upgrading your antivirus software to the Bitdefender Internet Security plan for additional security features.

    Kaspersky Security Cloud Free: Best Customer Support

    Years in business: 24

    Employees: 3,561

    Independent lab scores: NA

    Support options: 24/7 customer service through email,

    live chat and phone support

    Kaspersky is a large antivirus firm with over 10,000 customer reviews on Trustpilot, a wide range of features, high performance scores and great customer support with its free version. Email, live chat and phone support are all available.

    The free plan’s security features include:

    • On-demand malware scan
    • On-access malware scan
    • Malicious URL blocking
    • Phishing protection
    • Behavior-based detection
    • Limited identity protection

    There are, of course, limits to the free version. These limitations include no vulnerability scan, parental controls, or firewall capabilities. Kaspersky’s free plan also scored a 3 out of 5 in our defense performance tests on Windows machines, while the paid plan scored a 4 out of 5. Overall, millions of customers are happy with Kaspersky, judging by the company’s Google Play and App Store ratings.

    When you’re ready to start using more advanced features, we recommend upgrading to Kaspersky’s Internet Security plan.

    Avira Free Antivirus: Best for Bundled Products

    Years in business: 35

    Employees: 274

    Independent lab scores: 99%

    Support options: Not available with free plan

    With some of the strongest consumer reviews on the market, Avira has developed a strong customer base in its 35 years of operation. It has over 26,000 reviews on Trustpilot, with an average score of 4.7 out of 5.0. 

    The free version provides the following features:

    • On-demand malware scans
    • On-access malware scans
    • Behavior-based detection
    • Vulnerability scans
    • Identity protection
    • Parental controls
    • Virtual private network (VPN)
    • Password manager
    • Cleanup tools

    With Avira’s free version, you have access to a VPN and password manager, which means you can anonymously surf the internet while locking up your login information and not worrying about malware. It’s a full comprehensive bundle that protects you from prying eyes and hackers.

    It’s rare to find a free antivirus with so many amenities. The only real downside to Avira’s bundle is its lack of any customer support for free users. 

    We recommend upgrading to the Avira Prime bundle to gain access to even more antivirus features and products.

    AVG Free: Best for Trial Runs

    Years in business: 33

    Employees: 404

    Independent lab scores: 98%

    Support options: Customer support is provided

    via web form

    AVG, acquired by Avast in 2016, performed extremely well in our team’s testing. The free version earned a 5 out of 5 score on iPhone and Android and a 4 out of 5 score on Windows laptop and desktop. 

    AVG also has some of the most consistent lab scores from third-parties. In late 2021, SE-Labs gave AVG’s free plan a 93% Protection Accuracy Rating, a 98% Legitimate Accuracy Rating and a 96% Total Accuracy Rating. AV-Comparatives also gave AVG’s free plan a 96% protection rate against phishing attacks in 2021.

    With AVG’s free plan, you get:

    • On-demand malware scans
    • On-access malware scans
    • Phishing protection
    • Malicious URL blocking

    AVG has been in the antivirus market since 1991. With strong scores and numerous features available in the paid plan, AVG is our team’s preferred free antivirus for first-time users because you’ll be able to learn a lot in a short amount of time. The scans are fast and the company has a strong reputation.

    While many users continue using the free version of AVG, if you want more security features protecting your devices, our team recommends upgrading to the AVG Internet Security plan.

    Malwarebytes Free: Best for Quick Scans

    Years in business: 13

    Employees: 906

    Independent lab scores: 87%

    Support options: 24/7 customer service via email

    Malwarebytes’ free plan is best for quick, on-demand malware scans. Unfortunately, that’s also the only feature available in the free version.

    This version is best for someone who needs to run a system-wide malware scan to detect malware that may already exist on a device. Malwarebytes performed well in our tests, earning a 4 out of 5 score on iPhones and Android and a 3 out of 5 score on Windows desktops and laptops. Its scanning feature was fast and did not pull too heavily on the computer processing unit (CPU).

    Malwarebytes provides 24/7 customer service via email, even to its free users. It also enjoys relatively strong third-party lab scores.

    When you’re ready to upgrade from your free plan to a paid version with more features, we recommend Malwarebytes’ Premium plan.

    3 Reasons to Use Antivirus Software

    Malware is Advancing

    Malware has been a problem since the dawn of the internet, and it only continues to evolve. Now, malware is smarter and can slip through defenses more easily, even on devices that promise built-in protection like Macs and iPhones. That’s why we recommend having antivirus software on all your devices. 

    You Have More Devices

    Most tech users have multiple devices to protect. More devices means a higher chance of being infected by malware. Thankfully, many antivirus companies now offer plans that protect multiple devices.

    Better Deals

    Antivirus software prices usually range between $40-$100 per year, depending on how many devices you want to protect. In addition, many antivirus deals come with extra security features and added products, like virtual private networks (VPNs) and password managers.

    Antivirus Software Checklist

    There are several items even a free antivirus program should provide:

    1. Top-Notch Security

    Security is the backbone of antivirus software. It’s crucial to choose a software that is impenetrable. Malware scans should find all possible hints of malware in your system and report them to you. Phishing scams should all be caught and corrected. Firewalls, identity protection and other defenses also need to be successfully doing their specific jobs.

    2. Add-On Features

    Most programs provide malware scans, on-demand or on-access. Antivirus software may also include behavior-based detection and phishing protection, as well as add-on products like a password manager or VPN.

    Antivirus programs can meet many unique needs, so it’s important to ask yourself how you use your devices in order to find the right mix of protection.

    3. Solid Reputation

    Antivirus companies typically have poor consumer review scores due to low customer service satisfaction. In addition, many free antivirus programs don’t protect your device like they should. 

    The best antivirus companies have a decent reputation because of their reliability and usefulness. Customer support quality can also be the determining factor between favorable and unfavorable consumer reviews.

    Frequently Asked Questions