The 4 Best Free Linux Anti-Virus Programs

antivirusicon thumb   The 4 Best Free Linux Anti Virus ProgramsDoes a Linux user need antivirus software? Not really: infecting a Linux machine is pretty hard to do. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good reasons to have scanning software around, though.

If you insert your thumb drive regularly into Windows computers, for example, it might be infected, meaning you’re spreading malware with it and not even knowing it (see: Stuxnet).  Antivirus software for Linux gives you a quick way to check your drives without any risk of infecting yet another Windows machine.


It’s also a great tool to have around if you regularly help your Windows-bound friends and family recover from viruses. Remove their hard drive and plug it into your computer, or just use your Linux machine to clean their external drives.

Most Linux antivirus software focuses on removing Windows viruses, and function as one-time-scan tools rather than the Windows-style, sit-in-your-tray-and-protect-you products that’s common in Windowsland. Such software is not essential for Linux users, but is pretty handy.

Oh, by the way: if you’re looking for Windows anti-virus software, you will want to read the ten best free antivirus programs that we previously published.

Avast

avast scan   The 4 Best Free Linux Anti Virus Programs

Avast, the anti-virus program I previously decided has the coolest name for an anti-virus program, also sports a pretty great Linux GUI. As you can see it looks right at home on my Ubuntu desktop. This makes it easy to update defintions and scan the folders of your choice.

It’s also really easy to install Avast for Linux. Just download your package of choice (rpm, deb and tar.gz), then register for a free year of Avast usage. If you don’t register, you won’t be able to use the program:

avast registration   The 4 Best Free Linux Anti Virus Programs

Happily, registering gives you one year of free non-commercial usage, so you won’t need to do this frequently. And you’ll have access to a sleak GUI and all of the definitions Avast has to offer.

BitDefender

bitdefender scan   The 4 Best Free Linux Anti Virus Programs

This is one of my favorites. BitDefender frequently finds, for me, viruses that other scanners miss. Being able to use it from Linux is a big plus.

Finding it for Linux isn’t straightforward, though. You need to head over to the BitDefender for Unices page, then click the “evaluation version” button. You’ll be given a form to fill in, and when you’re done you’ll get a license valid for one month and a link to downloads.

The downloads look like this:

bitdefender download   The 4 Best Free Linux Anti Virus Programs

Find your platform and package of choice (ignoring, for now, the “.run” file extension) and download it (right-click and click “save as“, or your browser might try to open the entire file as a text document.) Change the permissions of the file to allow it to be executed. If you don’t know how to do this, the simplest way is to right-click it, click “Properties,” open the permissions tab, then click “allow executing.”

Finally, open your command line. Browse to the folder with the file, then type “sudo ./[filename]“, where [filename] is the name of the BitDefender version you downloaded. You’ll need to read an EULA before BitDefender will finally install (mercifully, using the package manager of your choice).

Why you need to go through all of that I don’t know, but it’s worth it. You now have access to a complete version of BitDefender. You can scan any file, update with the click of a button and much more. The graphical interface is identical to that of the BitDefender Live CD.

The free license lasts for only 30 days, but you can apply for another one if you need to.

ClamAV

Completely open source, ClamAV is probably the most famous Linux anti-virus. Using it requires some command line knowledge, but there is a basic GUI for running scans:

clamav   The 4 Best Free Linux Anti Virus Programs

Installing ClamAV is simple; it’s in the repositories of most Linux distributions. Install the “clamtk” package and you’ll get the above GUI and you’ll have everything you need; or, if you’re an Ubuntu user, simply click here to download ClamAV.

Once you’ve installed ClamAV, fire up your terminal and run “sudo freshclam“.  This will update ClamAV’s virus definitions for you.

Now you simply need to run clamtk. Fire it up from the command line, or find the program called “Virus Scanner” in the “Accessories” section of the menu. Use the GUI to scan any folder, or your entire system. Or, if you prefer, use “clamscan” from the command line. Either way you’ve got some quality, free anti-virus protection.

AVG

avg scan   The 4 Best Free Linux Anti Virus Programs

Those familiar with AVG’s Windows interface will be disappointed: AVG for Linux has no GUI. This command line scanner does offer the same virus definitions of AVG’s famous Windows program, though.

You can easily download AVG for Linux. You’ll find packages for every major distro, including .deb and .rpm files.

Using the program is straightforward. First you need to start the AVG daemon: run “sudo avgctl –start“. Then you can use “sudo avgupdate” to update the software, and “avgscan” to scan a given file.

avgupdate   The 4 Best Free Linux Anti Virus Programs

There’s not a whole lot else to say about this one, although I hope AVG releases a Linux GUI again soon (previous versions offered one).

Conclusion

These four programs all offer Linux users a way to scan for Windows viruses, and the occasional Linux one as well. If you regularly help your friends and family out with IT stuff I recommend you install at least one such program, to keep it on hand.

Can you think of any other Linux anti-virus programs? What do you think of the ones outlined? Let me know in the comments below, along with any questions you might have about the above products.

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

24 Comments -

67GTA

F-Prot and Avira also are free for home use, and have Linux versions available.

Srinivas G

Hey, nice article Justin. I use BitDefender because Avast doesn’t have a 64-bit version (we have to force the architecture to install the 32 bit one) and always throws an initialization error at me (there’s a fix, though). Clam AV misses a lot. I haven’t tried AVG yet and maybe I won’t need to, with BitDefender performing well.

BTW, BitDefender offers us a “1 year” license for “personal use”. Here’s the link > http://www.bitdefender.com/wor… Instead of filling in the ‘evaluation version’ page, you can directly request a free license and that along with the download link will be e-mailed to you.

Srinivas G

Hey, nice article Justin. I use BitDefender because Avast doesn’t have a 64-bit version (we have to force the architecture to install the 32 bit one) and always throws an initialization error at me (there’s a fix, though). Clam AV misses a lot. I haven’t tried AVG yet and maybe I won’t need to, with BitDefender performing well.

BTW, BitDefender offers us a “1 year” license for “personal use”. Here’s the link > http://www.bitdefender.com/world/Products/ScannerLicense/ Instead of filling in the ‘evaluation version’ page, you can directly request a free license and that along with the download link will be e-mailed to you.

dana theteacher

Makeuseof has to be my favorite blog. This is just another great example of why! Thank you for the reviews.

pdecort

I am relatively new to Linux having bought an QNAP TS-219P. It has an embeded version of Linux so I’m not certain whether I would be able to use any of these on the embeded version… or how to go about installing them.
I use the NAS from my windows based PCs so I think the virus protection would be wise.

also, it’s not an intel processor – which seems to rule out Avast.

Any assistance would be appreciated!

P de Cort

pdecort

I am relatively new to Linux having bought an QNAP TS-219P. It has an embeded version of Linux so I’m not certain whether I would be able to use any of these on the embeded version… or how to go about installing them.
I use the NAS from my windows based PCs so I think the virus protection would be wise.

also, it’s not an intel processor – which seems to rule out Avast.

Any assistance would be appreciated!

P de Cort

Imakayaker

Try the ClamAV. It was included on my version of Ubuntu and it seems to work pretty well. I am looking for another AV just in case.

Mohammad Elsheimy

I love Avira and I think it’s one of the best anti-virus programs ever. :)

Anarimus

You are correct sir. I’ve used all of these and i always return to Avira.

Lott11

I have used this combination for the past few years on my MS 64 bit OS.
Comodo Firewall, Avira Anti-virus, Emsisoft A2 Square Mal-ware & A2HiJackFree, and Spy-bot..
Since I put this combination I never had any problem and it is free.
Even Dow this is not needed for Linux, I do like Avira best of all it is quick and is a real time scan.
Any USB, flash memory, external drive, what ever gets plugged in gets a scan with out me doing anything both on Linux and MS.
Avira still rank highest over all for my self.

Lott11

I have used this combination for the past few years on my MS 64 bit OS.
Comodo Firewall, Avira Anti-virus, Emsisoft A2 Square Mal-ware & A2HiJackFree, and Spy-bot..
Since I put this combination I never had any problem and it is free.
Even Dow this is not needed for Linux, I do like Avira best of all it is quick and is a real time scan.
Any USB, flash memory, external drive, what ever gets plugged in gets a scan with out me doing anything both on Linux and MS.
Avira still rank highest over all for my self.

Ghostcat

But it would be interesting to know how do they perform when cleaning Windows infected systems from Linux.

I am, as we speak, testing them, with several samples of Windows viruses, taken from an infected machine.
So far, neither F-Prot, Bitdefender or – to my disappointment – AVG are able to detect Windows viruses. It seems that they are intended to be antivirus protections for Linux itself. Not really what I’m looking for.

ClamAV has unfortunately never been too good; the detection rate is rather low; I can’t trust it enough to be sure I have cleaned a Windows infected machine.

I haven’t been able to evaluate Avira, since it asks for some dependencies that I don’t have installed in my PCLinuxOS.

Avast is the only one that is doing a good job detecting Windows viruses when running on a Linux system. And the latest release of the GUI seems to have corrected a minor but annoying problem that I used to have: the GUI used to crash when trying to scan large directories, but right now that seems to be working well.

The greatest disappointment is AVG. The older version 7.x was pretty good to detect and clean Windows infections. Even without a GUI it was very useful. The next version 8 was still usable even thought they removed the cleaning capability. But the latest 8.5 version does not detect Windows viruses; it’s even called “AVG Server Edition”, which appears to indicate that is intended for servers running Linux.

I think that having an antivirus software on a Linux system can be, as Justin says, very handy when cleaning Windows systems. Sadly, most vendors don’t seem to be interested in this use; they make only antivirus solutions for Windows – which not always work once the computer is already infected -, or they make antivirus software to protect Linux installations – servers mainly.
I hope that Avast continues making their excellent Linux version, and that ClamAV gets better.

Ghostcat

But it would be interesting to know how do they perform when cleaning Windows infected systems from Linux.

I am, as we speak, testing them, with several samples of Windows viruses, taken from an infected machine.
So far, neither F-Prot, Bitdefender or – to my disappointment – AVG are able to detect Windows viruses. It seems that they are intended to be antivirus protections for Linux itself. Not really what I’m looking for.

ClamAV has unfortunately never been too good; the detection rate is rather low; I can’t trust it enough to be sure I have cleaned a Windows infected machine.

I haven’t been able to evaluate Avira, since it asks for some dependencies that I don’t have installed in my PCLinuxOS.

Avast is the only one that is doing a good job detecting Windows viruses when running on a Linux system. And the latest release of the GUI seems to have corrected a minor but annoying problem that I used to have: the GUI used to crash when trying to scan large directories, but right now that seems to be working well.

The greatest disappointment is AVG. The older version 7.x was pretty good to detect and clean Windows infections. Even without a GUI it was very useful. The next version 8 was still usable even thought they removed the cleaning capability. But the latest 8.5 version does not detect Windows viruses; it’s even called “AVG Server Edition”, which appears to indicate that is intended for servers running Linux.

I think that having an antivirus software on a Linux system can be, as Justin says, very handy when cleaning Windows systems. Sadly, most vendors don’t seem to be interested in this use; they make only antivirus solutions for Windows – which not always work once the computer is already infected -, or they make antivirus software to protect Linux installations – servers mainly.
I hope that Avast continues making their excellent Linux version, and that ClamAV gets better.

DiagonalArg

Thanks for clearing up the Win/Linux issue, Ghostcat.

Here’s another interesting review that I just found:

http://www.tuxradar.com/conten

I too had settled on Avast, though that reviewer was mildly more positively disposed to BitDefender.

DiagonalArg

Thanks for clearing up the Win/Linux issue, Ghostcat.

Here’s another interesting review that I just found:

http://www.tuxradar.com/content/get-best-virus-scanner-linux

I too had settled on Avast, though that reviewer was mildly more positively disposed to BitDefender.

Ubuntuandstuff

I use a linux antivirus to disinfect a windows partition on my desktop

ubuntuandstuff.blogspot.com

Ubuntuandstuff

I use a linux antivirus to disinfect a windows partition on my desktop.

Jason Harris

Hey Guys,

I work with BitDefender and am more than willing to help with any issues or concerns you guys have. reply to this comment and we can connect offline – I look forward to hearing any questions and helping!

-Jason

Jason Harris

Hey Guys,

I work with BitDefender and am more than willing to help with any issues or concerns you guys have. reply to this comment and we can connect offline – I look forward to hearing any questions and helping!

-Jason