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You’ve heard it a thousand times: you need antivirus protection. Macs need it 5 Easy Ways to Infect Your Mac With Malware 5 Easy Ways to Infect Your Mac With Malware You might think it's pretty difficult to infect your Mac with malware, but there are always exceptions. Here are five ways you can get your computer dirty. Read More . Windows PCs need it. Linux machines need it. Modern antivirus apps have gotten so easy to download and run that you barely need to do anything at all. Plus you can get some of the best ones for free. You really have no excuse. So grab one of these ten and start protecting your computer!

A Note About Free Antivirus

All of these companies are trying to make money. And handing out free antivirus isn’t going to do that. So there are a few things you should be aware of. Many of these companies, for example, will try to get you to upgrade to their paid software. You might see pop-ups or get emails telling you to upgrade. That’s one of the costs of free software.

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More insidiously, some of them will try to get you to install free toolbars 4 Annoying Browser Toolbars & How To Get Rid Of Them 4 Annoying Browser Toolbars & How To Get Rid Of Them Browser toolbars just don't seem to go away. Let's look at some common nuisances and detail how to remove them. Read More or browser extensions. That’s almost never going to be a good idea. Browser toolbars are terrible, and generally only serve to collect and sell your information while slowing down your browsing. And antivirus browser extensions 10 Chrome Extensions You Should Uninstall Right Now 10 Chrome Extensions You Should Uninstall Right Now It's hard to keep track of which extensions have been caught abusing their privileges, but you should definitely uninstall these 10 as soon as possible. Read More don’t add any extra functionality.

Just keep an eye out when you’re downloading and installing these apps, and be prepared to occasional nagging to upgrade. If you’re prepared for it, it won’t be much of an issue.

Avira (Windows, Mac)

With a reputation for consistently solid performance and easy-to-use tools, Avira is a great choice. The most recent antivirus test from AV-Comparatives gave the pro version a 99.9% protection rate, and you can bet the free version packs similar power.

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Scheduling options are very intuitive, and you can create a number of scans that run throughout the week. Schedule a quick daily scan, and a weekly full scan, and you’re set. Those combined with real-time protection will keep you safe from just about everything 3 Things Your Antivirus Doesn't Take Care Of 3 Things Your Antivirus Doesn't Take Care Of Antivirus softwre should be installed on every computer, but what doesn't it take care of? Which aspects of your antivirus could leave you or your business exposed, even when you've installed and updated? Read More .

Download Avira for Windows
Download Avira for Mac

Bitdefender (Windows)

Another antivirus app whose pro version got a 99.9% protection rate, the free version of Bitdefender will keep you safe from almost every piece of malware in circulation. Anti-phishing 4 General Methods You Can Use To Detect Phishing Attacks 4 General Methods You Can Use To Detect Phishing Attacks A "phish" is a term for a scam website that tries to look like a site that you know might well and visit often. The act of all these sites trying to steal your account... Read More and anti-fraud features help keep you even better protected.

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The simple interface won’t overwhelm you with options, and automation means you don’t have to actively manage it. It was also designed to be light on system resources, which is a bonus, as some antivirus apps can be resource hogs.

Download Bitdefender for Windows

Avast (Windows, Mac)

Although Avast secured a slightly lower protection rating than some other options (99.6%), it’s still very high. It has also has relatively low resource usage, making it unlikely to noticeably slow down your computer.

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A simple, easy-to-use interface means you don’t need an instruction manual to get it set up. Despite ranking slightly lower on threat protection, Avast is a solid choice for anyone looking for a free antivirus. There’s a reason it’s one of the most popular options out there.

Download Avast for Windows
Download Avast for Mac

AVG (Windows, Mac)

Another free antivirus app that’s been very popular for a long time, AVG ranks well in both protection (99.6%) and system resource usage. And while they now offer unnecessary things like system cleanup and mobile antivirus, their core product is still one of the best.

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AVG does have a reputation for some annoying nag screens, but many people find the occasional upgrade request an easy price to pay for solid antivirus performance.

Download AVG for Windows
Download AVG for Mac

Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free (Windows)

Lavasoft’s pro version of Ad-Aware scored a 99.3% protection rate in recent tests, making it a solid contender. And while that version did tend to use more resources than other antivirus options, it’s still a great choice for Windows users. Its focus on anti-adware and anti-spyware features are especially nice.

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And although using a free antivirus app is going to be sufficient for just about everyone, the various paid levels of Ad-Aware are quite affordable, so if you’re looking to upgrade to something more fully featured, sticking with Lavasoft will be easy.

Download Ad-Aware Free for Windows

eScan Anti-Virus Toolkit (Windows)

This toolkit differs from the other options available in that it doesn’t require an installation; you can just download and run it. That means it can be run from a USB drive, and you can use it even if you already have another antivirus running. It never hurts to have backup!

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Because there’s no installation, there’s no real-time defense or scheduling. So you probably shouldn’t use this as your main antivirus. But if you think yours might not be working, or you want to double-check, it’s a good choice.

Download eScan Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows

Trend Micro HouseCall (Windows, Mac)

Another on-demand antivirus app, HouseCall can be quickly downloaded and run. It won’t give you scheduling options or real-time protection, but if you think your computer might be infected I Think My Mac Has A Virus! 3 Ways You Can Tell I Think My Mac Has A Virus! 3 Ways You Can Tell Is your Mac acting kind of... weird? Whether you're seeing adverts you can't explain, or your system is unreasonably slow, you might think the problem is malware. But you're probably wrong. Read More , it’s a great way to check.

Trend Micro offers a number of other free tools that you may be interested in as well, like the anti-ransomware toolkit, browser guard, and rootkit buster.

Download HouseCall for Windows
Download HouseCall for Mac

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (Windows, Mac)

Malwarebytes has earned a strong reputation for excellence over the past few years. And its anti-malware app is no exception. It specializes in getting rid of adware, it’s a very small file, and it’s lightning-fast.

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Unless you decide to upgrade, you’ll only get manual scan capabilities, and no real-time protection. But even with that caveat, it’s still a great app to have.

Download Malwarebytes for Windows (note: download the free trial; you can continue using the basic features after the 14-day trial expires)
Download Malwarebytes for Mac

Panda Free Anti-Virus (Windows)

While you’ll probably get quite a few nag screens telling you to upgrade to a paid version, Panda does have some advantages. For example, it offloads most of its work to the cloud, freeing up system resources.

Beyond doing work in the cloud, there’s not a whole lot to differentiate Panda from other things out there. AV-Test showed that it protects well but doesn’t have phenomenal performance results. It did score very well for usability, though, so you don’t need to worry about complex interfaces and configurations.

Download Panda for Windows

ZoneAlarm Free Anti-Virus (Windows)

This is quite a full-featured app for being free. In addition to all the standard antivirus features you’d come to expect, it also packs a basic firewall 5 Reasons Why You Should Use a Firewall 5 Reasons Why You Should Use a Firewall You've heard of firewalls, but what are they really for? Do they stop viruses? Can you manage without one? We look at five reasons to install and use a firewall on your computer. Read More . There’s a good chance you already have one, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. It also offers some basic identity protection that will let you know if there are unauthorized changes to your credit files.

Using an actual identity theft protection service (or even basic credit monitoring) will likely be more effective, but another layer of security is always good.

Download ZoneAlarm Free for Windows

Which free antivirus app do you use? How have you found it? Let us know your experience in the comments below!

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