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As a Windows user, you have three possible paths when it comes to system security: use the built-in Windows Defender, install third-party security software What Security Software Should You Be Using in Windows 10? What Security Software Should You Be Using in Windows 10? Despite being bundled with its own security tool, Windows 10 needs additional software to keep your data secure and make your online experiences safe. But which security software should you choose for WIndows 10? Read More , or ignore security altogether (the last option isn’t possible on Home versions of Windows 10). The path you take is crucial.

In our piece on important facts about Windows Defender Windows Defender: 7 Things You Must Know About Microsoft's Antivirus Solution Windows Defender: 7 Things You Must Know About Microsoft's Antivirus Solution Is Microsoft's built-in security good enough? Microsoft continuously improves its security tools. We'll show you the upsides and downsides of Windows Defender in Windows 8, Read More , we noted that Windows Defender is good enough for most users — but do you really want to settle for “good enough” when your security is at stake? Seems like an unnecessary risk to take…

So here are five of the best free security suites for Windows, all of which offer anti-virus, anti-malware, and real-time protection features. Some of these lack firewall functionality, but you can always supplement with a free third-party Windows firewall Which Free Firewall For Windows Is Best For You? Which Free Firewall For Windows Is Best For You? We place emphasis on antivirus and malware removal, but don't ignore firewalls. Let's take a look at the best free Windows firewalls, comparing ease of setup, ease of use, and availability of features. Read More .

1. 360 Total Security

360 Total Security is a free security suite provided by the leading Chinese security company, Qihoo. I know that some folks are hesitant to use China-based software, but if you’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, you’ll find that 360 Total Security exceeds your expectations.

Qihoo’s software is available in two forms: the full package (360 Total Security) and a pared-down, lighter-weight version (360 Total Security Essential).

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The Essential version includes anti-virus, anti-malware, sandboxing, secure online shopping, and real-time protection against privacy invasions, downloaded files, infected external drives, registry hijacks, and more. In addition, the full version includes system optimizers and junk cleaners.

What’s particularly nice about 360 Total Security is its sleek interface. Easy to navigate, nice on the eyes, and modern enough that it has a professional feel to it. That’s more than can be said about most security suites, even premium ones.

360 Total Security is also available for Android and is one of the best tools for guarding against and removing mobile malware infections Has Your Android Phone Been Infected with Malware? Has Your Android Phone Been Infected with Malware? How does malware get on an Android device? After all, most users only install apps through the Play Store, and Google keeps a tight watch over that to make sure malware doesn't squeeze through, right?... Read More .

Features at a glance:

  • Anti-virus and anti-malware protection with multiple engines.
  • Run programs and files in a protected sandbox environment.
  • Real-time protection against keyloggers, external drives, malicious websites, registry hijacks, and webcam spies.

2. Avira Free Antivirus

Avira Free Antivirus (not to be confused with AVG or Avast) is one of the best free options currently available. In consistently outperforms the big-name kings of security — including Kaspersky, Norton, and McAfee — in controlled comparisons of real-world effectiveness from sites like AV-Comparatives.

You get what you’d expect and more. The anti-virus/anti-malware scanner provides manual and real-time protection against all kinds of hazards, and the real-time scans use a cloud database to stay up-to-date and guard you against new and emerging threats.

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What’s nice about Avira is that it also detects and blocks potentially unwanted applications How to Automatically Skip Bundled Junkware on Windows How to Automatically Skip Bundled Junkware on Windows Here's a free tool that helps you skip bundled junkware when installing programs on Windows. Read More — those bundled programs that hitch rides within installers and end up on your system without your knowledge.

If you install the free Avira browser extension (available on Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and IE) then you can also take advantage of features like harmful website detection and the ad-tracker blocker.

Features at a glance:

  • Anti-virus blocks malware, Trojans, worms, and spyware.
  • Real-time protection based on up-to-date cloud database.
  • Blocks unwanted applications bundled inside installers.
  • Browser extension offers even more protective features.

3. Outpost Security Suite

What impresses me about Outpost Security Suite is how comprehensive it is in terms of features offered. And while there is a Pro version of the software, it isn’t that much better (it has identity theft How to Get Your Identity Stolen in One Easy Step How to Get Your Identity Stolen in One Easy Step Would you feel comfortable if a stranger got hold of your hard drive? Most people think deleting files is safe. The bad guys know better. We show you how your privacy can be compromised. Read More protection). The Free version isn’t otherwise crippled or limited. It’s the real deal.

The anti-virus feature ranks better than most free alternatives, both in terms of detection rates and performance speed. The real-time protection keeps you safe from files, photos, videos, and emails (which is aided by the mail scanning feature). It even comes with its own configurable firewall.

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Outpost Security Suite also has something called Auto-Learn Mode, which isn’t as useful as it sounds. Best to keep it off, but beware that you may be inundated with notifications whenever you want to install or run programs. Learn more in our review of Outpost Security Suite Secure Your PC with Outpost Security Suite Pro Secure Your PC with Outpost Security Suite Pro There’s nothing more important than our PC’s security. This week, we are giving away 25 licenses for Outpost Security Suite Pro 7.5. Read on to find out more about Outpost Security Suite and for your... Read More .

Features at a glance:

  • Anti-virus protection with top-rate detection and speed.
  • Built-in firewall that guards against unauthorized access.
  • Proactive protection against viruses and installers.
  • Mail Scanner checks inbox and attachments for viruses.

Note: As of this writing, Outpost Security Suite is only available up to Windows 8.1. They are working on Windows 10 compatibility, but it’s not yet known when a compatible release will arrive.

4. Comodo Internet Security

As a company, Comodo is deeply invested in the security world. Internet security software makes up a good chunk of their offerings, but they also have their hands in PC maintenance, DNS hosting, SSL certificates, data backups, and even secured versions of both Firefox and Chrome.

These guys are security experts who have been around for more than just a few years, so you can rest assured that their products are worthwhile and that they won’t disappear overnight without you knowing.

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Comodo Internet Security is pretty darn good for free software. It can eliminate existing malware infections (including spyware, rootkits, and even zombies that make you complicit in botnet attacks Is Your PC A Zombie? And What's a Zombie Computer, Anyway? [MakeUseOf Explains] Is Your PC A Zombie? And What's a Zombie Computer, Anyway? [MakeUseOf Explains] Have you ever wondered where all of the Internet spam comes from? You probably receive hundreds of spam-filtered junk emails every day. Does that mean there are hundreds and thousands of people out there, sitting... Read More ), has sandboxing capabilities, and a memory firewall that guards against buffer overflow attacks.

It’s not the fastest or most resource-friendly security suite, but it gets the job done and does it well. The interface could use some improvements, but compared to what it looked like years ago, it has certainly come a long way.

Features at a glance:

  • Anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-rootkit protection.
  • Memory firewall for buffer overflow attack protection.
  • Run programs and files in a protected sandbox environment.
  • Filters dangerous websites and untrusted software publishers.
  • Game Mode suppresses operations while gaming.

5. Panda Free Antivirus

Panda Free Antivirus is an up-and-coming solution (relatively speaking) that’s gaining a lot of attention and traction. Silly name aside, it nails the trifecta of security software: light on resources, easy to learn and use, and effective at keeping your system secure.

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Panda Free Antivirus is as simple as they come. It was designed with the phrase “install and forget” in mind, with few settings to fiddle with. It stays out of the way, making it great for those who aren’t tech-savvy. If you want a simple solution that’s better than Windows Defender, this is it.

Compared to their premium products, Panda Free Antivirus might seem a bit limited — no online shopping protection, no data backups, no file encryption, no system optimizations — but what it does do, it does well, and that’s real-time protection against malware and spyware.

Features at a glance:

  • Anti-malware, anti-spyware, and external device protection.
  • Up-to-date malware definitions using a cloud database.
  • Internet protection through URL/Web filtering and analysis.
  • Advertisement popups asking to upgrade every once in a while.

Which Security Suite Do You Use?

My personal choice is 360 Total Security, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the ones listed above. It all depends on what you need, what you can live without, and how much you trust the companies behind said products.

Now you tell us: which security suite do you trust the most? Share your reasons and experiences with us down in the comments below! We’d love to hear what you have to say.

  1. Phaethon
    October 31, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    I just install Panda Antivirus in old laptop with windows xp. Very light and useful interface, but after one day i have two Blue Screen O.D.

  2. ray king
    October 15, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    I used 360 for a while, and was very happy with it. Until I had great problems with something interfering with the TV. Every time I hit a key, selected a new page or program, or whatever, my wife would scream again! After trying all possible cures, I eventually uninstalled 360, for about the third time, and used Avira instead. Since then-no more TV problems. I find it a little hard to believe, and of course this may have been caused by something else, however, the problem has gone. I have to say that I preferred 360, but if it was the cause of the problems, then I am very wary of using it again. The TV interference was so bad that it was unwatchable, picture freezing for frequent long periods. I did inform 360 of the problem, and if it was caused by them, hope they solve it.

  3. Nina Mccutcheon
    July 23, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    365 is terrible , Avast is hard on pc and causes preformance issues, making you buy preformance suite, AVG, is slow going and registry is not free, Avira is pretty good i believe.

  4. Syber
    May 3, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    I have no idea why you recommended 360 Total Security which is Chinese software, as I know Chinese software have some safety problem. They developed some useful software, but safety always put first.

  5. Saad Mohammad
    March 30, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Could u plz give an opinion about avast free antivirus and malwarebytes anti malware free? would be really helpful

  6. highstream
    March 1, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Came across your article, thanks. Have been using Comodo CIS free for some time and their anti-virus before that (along with MBAM Pro). I do agree it's bulky, its scans can take up a lot of system resources, and generally a bit idiosyncratic. What I'm not clear about is firewalls. You mention CIS and Panda having firewalls. What about the other three? Has terminology changed about how they are described?

  7. Dennis
    December 19, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    I guess I've been extremely lucky. Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) and Windows Defender have protected me for years without any virus or malware infection.

    I've been using the following software on my desktop for years and my laptop for a year and haven't ever had any big issues:

    Windows Defender (for continuous scanning), Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware (SAS) for periodic scanning.

    I've had one piece of malware, but Malwarebytes got it and removed it - no problems. And I've had a lot of spyware which was caught and removed by SAS and there were no problems either.

    I am definitely going to replace Windows Defender with 360 Total Security or Avira Free Antivirus though and I'm going to recommend that my friends also replace their Windows Defender software also after reading this article as well.

    Thank you so much for this article!

    • anticeon
      January 20, 2016 at 10:47 pm

      Windows Defender is slow when doing realtime scanning on .exe files. if you have Core i7 or FX-8350 you might not notice anything, but when you use low-mid end proc you will notice it.

  8. Pravin
    December 11, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    I wonder, there is no Avast. I am using it for more than 10 years and most to reviews for free AV include Avast. But, I must thing again and try other. Any reason, you not included Avast and not in top 5?

    • anticeon
      January 20, 2016 at 10:45 pm

      Its "Free" antivirus, newer version of Avast full of bloat features, simply because they install premium features but cant be activated without code.

  9. Micheltoronto
    December 4, 2015 at 8:46 am

    I like Panda and have been using it for past two years. I found that AVG & Avast put 500 or more unnecessary hooks in the registry. I like Panda, simple setup and forget. I use Win 7 Firewall, it blocks everything.

    • Joel Lee
      December 4, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      Panda's occasional popup ads are kind of annoying, but otherwise I agree, it's pretty good!

  10. David
    December 4, 2015 at 7:00 am

    I am using Comodo Internet Security Software ! It's a perfect security Solutions !!

    • Joel Lee
      December 4, 2015 at 3:16 pm

      A bit bulky but yeah, Comodo isn't bad at all. :)

      • bilwediz
        October 23, 2016 at 1:25 pm

        Joel I had Commodo didn't like it and uninstalled they ripped out my Drivers cost me £30 for a local Techie who was good enough to call into my house after work and discovered what they had done . A really nasty trick and totally unprofessional would not recommend them at all

  11. GR
    December 3, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Well i personally think that all antiviruses are also viruses by their natures; but we have to rely on them anyway. Windows essentials worked good for me over the years.
    But 360 sounds interesting i must say..Good article and information.

    • Joel Lee
      December 4, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      You should replace Essentials as soon as you can. Glad you found the article useful! Thanks. :)

  12. Davidr
    December 2, 2015 at 4:30 am

    I would stay away any software from China - it's actually an advise from lots of Chinese.

    • Dennis
      December 19, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      Do you think they will break into your system somehow?

  13. Katharine Wood
    December 2, 2015 at 1:36 am

    I've been using AVG for a long time, but I'm looking to switch for a number of reasons, but mostly because AVG seems to require a reboot for literally every update. And lately it seems like it updates 2 or 3 times a week. The constant nags to reboot are extremely annoying. Anyone know if this is par for the course for all security software, or do any of the above alternatives avoid this?

    • Joel Lee
      December 4, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      I wouldn't say that's par for the course, no. Frequent reboots would definitely be a dealbreaker for me!

    • Dennis
      December 19, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      Yeah, me too!

  14. paul
    December 2, 2015 at 12:28 am

    you are way off date , Agnitum has today released the second updated version for Windows 10 users ( Pro version ) , and yes in my opinion it is the best Security Suite there is. They also provide their knowledge and software for other , more commercial , players in the field , like Avast , AVG , Bullguard , Avanquest , Lavasoft , Sophos and more.....

    • Joel Lee
      December 4, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      Hey Paul. At the time of writing, which was just a week or two ago, I spent over an hour looking for an Outpost Security installer that would work on my W10 system. I found nothing. I tried running the installer that they offer on their site and W10 wouldn't let me run it.

      If there is a version that works with W10, great! I just wish Agnitum would make it more obvious on how to get it done, because I certainly couldn't figure it out.

  15. blaszta
    December 1, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    As I remember, Qihoo was cheating in the lab test.. it should be black listed.

    • Jan F.
      December 1, 2015 at 6:45 pm

      Qihoo provided an installer with a different default configuration for the lab test than for the end users. It had the in-house QVMII engine disabled and the Bitdefender engine enabled (default is the reverse).
      Basically, if they provided a geo-installer with one configuration for the Chinese market and one for the ROW (equal to the one provided for lab tests) there would be no "cheating" accusation.

      On top of their own engines, they are (or at least were) licensed to implement both, the Bitdefender as well as the Avira engines ~ both frequently scoring very high in AV tests.

      Personally I have switched to Qihoo over a year ago and with both, the QVMII and the Bitdefender engine enabled you have a solid protection. Being banned from certain AV tests doesn't make it a lesser product IMHO.

      • blaszta
        December 3, 2015 at 5:24 pm

        Interesting.. is there any reference/article to confirm this?

  16. n2b
    December 1, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    I use Avast, MBAM, and Super Anti-Spyware. But if I could find objective testing that proved a greater reliability at protection and detection among another collection of programs, I'd go with it (assuming it is compatible with my Windows 7 Pro system).

    • Joel Lee
      December 4, 2015 at 3:10 pm

      Do you notice a reduction in system speed/performance with 3 security programs? More security is nice, but I don't know if I could deal with the potential slowdown.

      • n2b
        December 4, 2015 at 3:37 pm

        Well, only Avast! provides real-time protection. I don't have the premium versions of the latter two I mentioned, so no real-time protection (for me) from them. I only run MBAM and SAS (and Windows Defender occasionally) manually. Bottom line: no speed issues. Maybe someone else with these programs running all in real-time could answer? :-)

        • Joel Lee
          December 5, 2015 at 8:23 pm

          Oh, I see. That makes sense then. :D

  17. John
    December 1, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    I use Microsoft Security Essential.

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