TWO FACTS: #1 Every Internet surfer will come across malware at some point, no matter how careful they are. #2 Most security products aren’t cheap, so users skip on them. Does that sound like a good recipe for disaster? Well, it is. Here is some good news though. There is a variety of antivirus products that are FREE and just as good as paid ones, which leaves you no reason to have your PC unprotected. Here is our list of top picks for the best free security software in 2016.
Even if you don’t browse the web, but your computer is connected to the Internet, you are still at risk of contracting an infection. Trojans, viruses and all sorts of other malware may creep onto your drives and bring chaos into your life. Things like identity theft, hacked personal data and such may become a frightening reality. That is if you don’t have good protection set up on your PC.
Free antivirus programs can offer a tough shield against all sorts of malware, but you have to know which ones to use, as a mediocre product can let cyber threats through and leave you suffering the consequences. The products we included as Top Picks in the list below are the most effective, easy to use and powerful for keeping you safe in the cyber space.
1. Avira Free Antivirus
Can you imagine taking advantage of the experience of over 400 million users? That's how many times Avira Antivirus has been downloaded and installed on user PCs, and every piece of malware those PCs have been exposed to is immediately recorded in Avira’s cloud database. If a user on the other end of the world gets a brand-new virus, all other Avira users are immediately protected against it.
The program is very fast, user-friendly and will not bug you to death with alerts and popups. You get an optional extension for your web browsers to keep sites from tracking your online activity. With a 100% score in detection rate tests and an extensive feature set, Avira is our top choice in free security software.
2. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is one of the most silent and unobtrusive security products that works in the background. Just as Avira, this program got 100% in detection rate tests. The free version does not display ads or nags, does not require maintenance and is very light on system resources. In most cases you won’t even notice that it’s scanning your PC or individual files.
For those of you who like to have more control over what their antivirus does on their PC, there are other programs out there that will keep prompting you for action. But if you prefer to have your antivirus just do its job quietly, then Bitdefender is your best bet.
3. AVG Antivirus Free 2016
Here is what we absolutely love about AVG: the program lets you run a security scan on your computer straight from your smartphone. Even when you are away, and as long as your PC is on and connected to the Internet, you can always check it and be sure it is clean & clear. The program shows great results at detecting all types of malware. It checks the files you download, links you click and every corner on your drive where viruses may hide. As long as you don’t mind its pesky popups that inform you of everything the software does, of new updates being available, recommended actions or upgrades, then this could be a very stable and effective security shield for all your data.
4. Avast Free Antivirus 2016
Besides the usual virus scans on your computer, Avast Free Antivirus 2016 provides great tools for online security.
Avast protects your computer against viruses and malware, identifies vulnerabilities in your Wi-Fi network and even offers a handy password manager that helps keep your login info secure and accessible anytime.
Just like with almost any free software product, you are offered to upgrade to a paid version that gives you more extensive functionality. However, Avast Free is sufficient for most computers and for fending off common viruses and malware.
5. Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+
Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ used to be an anti-malware tool, but has now grown into a complete suite of security tools. As such, it scans the files you download, checks for spyware and tracking apps, tests web addresses against a database of known malicious locations and protects your computer against most threats.
With Ad-Aware Free you get the essential functionality your computer needs from a security program, so you can do quite well without the advanced features offered in paid products.
6. 360 Total Security 2016
360 Total Security 2016 is not just one antivirus, but a whole four of them packaged together. You get Bitdefender, Avira, 360 QVMII AI and 360 Cloud Scan. A combination like this could probably detect a virus the moment it is born as an idea in a criminal mind and not even released yet. That’s in an ideal world though.
The reality is that you don’t have all four engines running at once. Some of them have to be manually enabled, and you may not realize it right away. The fact that you need to tweak some settings before you get the maximum protection advertised means that this product may not be suitable for novice users. Program speed is another issue.
7. Panda 2016 Free Antivirus
Panda 2016 Free Antivirus takes the load off of your computer drives by handling the security checks in the cloud. Just like with many other free programs, you have to pay to get a lot of additional features. However, the free version covers all the essential features very well and gets good scores in detection rate tests.
8. Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Defender
Windows 8 and 10 users get an antivirus built into their operating system: Windows Defender.
You would think that Microsoft would know best how to protect the operating system it created, but as life demonstrates, Microsoft’s security products are not as good as the top antivirus products on this list.
Although Windows is more secure now than it used to be, it is still vulnerable to viruses and malware, as armies of cyber criminals use more sophisticated methods and instruments every day. One good thing about Windows Defender and MSE is that these programs integrate very well with the OS, being that they come from the same maker. This software is a lot better than no protection at all, but it isn’t the best.
9. Your bank’s security product
Your bank may actually have a security solution for you. It is in their best interest to keep your financial info protected, as a hacking event would mean problems for them too. This is why a lot of banks offer their customers free licenses for paid antivirus or Internet security products. When you get a premium paid program for free, it often beats normally free antivirus programs. Check with your bank and you may be surprised.
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