Best Free Windows Antivirus Software, anyone?

I go hunting for truly free, yet decent, antivirus software for Windows, and I find four reasonable alternatives

Very down-to-earth topic today: antivirus software. I go crazy at pre-installed 60-day-trial crap that subsequently expires and then keeps bugging me with reminders until I fork up $50 for renewal. On my VMs with old Windows software I have a preference for installing XP, and I’m not interested in buying any new software. I just want to run my legacy code or stuff I can’t run on my Macs – such as Chrome, or old versions of Internet Explorer, or the Office 2007 documents that (thanks, Microsoft) Office 2008 on the Mac can’t handle (!). And not to mention my kid’s computers which all need antivirus protection, but don’t generate much revenue; or the home computers of various friends and extended family members.

So what, if any, are the best options for free antivirus software for Windows?

Here are the obvious criteria:

  • Truly free (doesn’t expire; no lame bait-and-switch tactics; no adware). It’s ok if it’s restricted to non-commercial and/or home use.
  • Reviewed/tested by independent labs
  • Works on a wide variety of flavors of Windows (at a minimum both XP and Vista; does not need to work on server editions)

For lab/testing resources, I’ve looked at the following:

With those simple criteria in place, and surveying sundry other sources, it turns out that the list of options is reasonably short:

  • Avast 4 Home from Alwil Software got passing grade from both labs and was also recommended by CR. Please note that the terms of use for the free home edition is that it must be both non-commercial and home use. Alwil is Czech-based (Prague).
  • PC Tools AntiVirus Free Edition from PC Tools. Got passing grades from both labs but wasn’t tested by CR. They seem to be originally an Irish company, but also have offices in Australia and the US. The only tool that’s not an Editor’s pick at Softpedia (where it’s classified as adware due to wanting you to install Google Toolbar).
  • AVG Anti-virus free edition from AVG (formerly Grisoft). Passing grade from both labs, and also the choice of, and CR rated it just behind Alwil. AVG seems to be a truly global creature, their management team are from all over the place (I mean that in a good way). Softpedia classifies it as adware because it tries to get you to install a toolbar (which isn’t needed).
  • Avira AntiVir Personal from Avira, a German company. Passing grades by both labs, not tested by CR, Editor’s pick at Softpedia.

Seems like some good choices. I was going to go with AVG but then they tried to inject partnership stuff in the download process, so now I’m going with Avast instead. Download and installation went smoothly; they require you to register for a 14-month key (after which you can register again for another 14 months etc). Some apparent quirks for mainstream software (e.g. they think it’s cute to use the computer-generated voice to say “virus definitions have been updated”), but seems to do the trick.

1 Comment

  1. Great post!
    Ive had great results for years with Avast and AVG on my XP machines.
    Hope you have the same.


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