Security Windows

The 5 Best Free Internet Security Software for Windows

Gavin Phillips Updated 22-05-2020

As a Windows user, you have three possible paths regarding system security. You can use the built-in Windows Security suite, install third-party security software, or ignore security altogether. The path you take is crucial.

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    Windows Security (formerly Windows Defender) is better than it has ever been. As a default security option, you’re in safe hands. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t opt for a free security suite alternative.

    So here are five of the best free security suites for Windows, all of which offer antivirus, antimalware, and real-time protection features.

    1. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

    bitdefender free antivirus

    Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition consistently ranks highly on independent antivirus testing sites, offering award-winning protection for your Windows computer.

    The free Bitdefender version brings you the core of the premium Bitdefender suite. This means excellent protection against viruses, malware, ransomware, phishing, and other scam sites. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition provides real-time antivirus protection and takes instant, autonomous action to protect your system.

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    The only downside to Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is that autonomy. There is little by way of customization in the free Bitdefender version. While that is perfect for those that want to download, install, and receive instant protection, it can cause issues at times with false positives.

    That said, those instances are few and far between. Overall, Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is an outstanding free internet security suite.

    Features at a glance:

    • Award-winning antivirus and antimalware protection
    • Automatic detection and removal of malware, zero-day exploits, rootkits, and spyware
    • Works well with other resource-intensive programs, such as games and media editors

    2. Kaspersky Security Cloud Free

    kaspersky security cloud internet security

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    Kaspersky Security Cloud Free is the free internet security suite from Kaspersky Lab. Although there were allegations of Kaspersky Lab antivirus products being spyware tools Is Kaspersky Still Reliable Antivirus Software? Security news is currently awash with a series of accusations against one of the world's leading antivirus developers, Kaspersky Lab. So, can you trust Kaspersky antivirus, or does it let Putin into your PC? Read More for the Russian government, there is little indication that regular consumers should stop using one of the most effective antivirus tools around.

    In that, Kaspersky Security Cloud Free is another internet security tool that performs consistently well in antivirus and antimalware tests. Like the free version of Bitdefender, the free version of Kaspersky brings you the core antivirus experience from the premium product, without all the bells and whistles.

    Recent updates to Kaspersky Free include an integrated VPN option to protect your online data, plus a secure password storage function. Plus, the security suite is simple to navigate.

    Kaspersky Lab also offers a bootable antivirus disk 7 Free Bootable Antivirus Disks to Clean Malware From Your PC PC struck down by malware and you're unable to safely boot your computer? Clean your PC with one of these antivirus boot disks. Read More you can use to clean stubborn malware from your system.

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    Features at a glance:

    • Automatic silent virus and malware removal—no irritating popups
    • Very low impact during system scans, runs well in the background
    • Optional Kaspersky Free browser extension to check malicious webpages
    • Includes email, instant messaging, and other local program scanning and protection

    3. Avira Free Antivirus

    avira antivirus free 2020 internet security

    Avira Free Antivirus (not to be confused with AVG or Avast) is one of the best free internet security suite options currently available. It regularly 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 antivirus/antimalware 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—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, then you can also take advantage of features like harmful website detection and the ad-tracker blocker.

    The only major downside to Avira Free Antivirus is the number of popups. It does hassle you at times to upgrade to the premium version of the internet security suite. There are several alternative free suites that don’t bother you with desktop advertisements, which Avira could learn from.

    Features at a glance:

    • Antivirus 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

    4. Sophos Home Free

    sophos home free internet security suites

    Sophos Home Free brings Sophos’ powerful business-grade internet security suite to your home computers. You can use Sophos Home Free to protect up to three computers simultaneously, which is a handy option in conjunction with the integrated parental controls.

    Sophos Home Free doesn’t offer much in the way of advanced features. However, you can happily download and install Sophos Home Free and let it go to work. It’ll block and remove viruses and malware automatically.

    Furthermore, Sophos Home Free adds internet protection. The free security suite blocks malicious websites from opening and stops potential phishing attacks.

    You’ll note that the image displays the Premium version of the Sophos Home security suite. When you download and install Sophos Home Free, you receive a 30-day free trial of the premium version.

    Features at a glance:

    • Handy cloud-control of security settings for computers in your network
    • Integrated phishing and malicious webpage blocking
    • Easy to use interface with parental controls
    • Unlimited protection for Android and iOS devices

    5. Panda Free Antivirus

    panda free antivirus internet security

    Panda Free Antivirus is a highly rated free internet security suite for Windows. You must feed it bamboo to get it up and running, but it is well worthwhile. 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.

    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.

    Recent updates to Panda Free Antivirus have modernized the user interface, giving it a sleek and modern feel. Yet, it remains easy to navigate. Those same updates also introduced a multimedia/game mode which stops Panda Free Antivirus interfering with system resourcing at critical points.

    Compared to their premium products, Panda Free Antivirus might seem a bit limited. There is 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:

    • Antimalware, 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

    More Free Security Software for Windows

    Here you have the choice of five excellent free internet security tools for Windows. They all offer exceptional protection against malware, viruses, phishing attacks, malicious web pages, and much more. However, some of the options might struggle against advanced threats, such as code-signed malware.

    Your choice comes down to what you need, what you can live without, and how much you trust the companies behind said products.

    Of course, these are not the only security tools on the market. There are plenty of excellent security, antivirus, and antimalware tools The Best Computer Security and Antivirus Tools Concerned about malware, ransomware, and viruses? Here are the best security and antivirus apps you need to stay protected. Read More to consider.

    Related topics: Anti-Malware, Antivirus, Computer Security, Online Security, Windows Apps.

    Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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    1. name
      September 1, 2019 at 1:04 pm

      let me tell you something! never use comodo esed or malwarbytes! they all work for turkish pedophile dictator tayip erdogan and give the backdoors of their products to him! be careful using firefox tor browser and duckduckgo! they work for cia!

    2. Nelson
      January 16, 2018 at 7:08 am

      You're right about 360 total Security. I too was doubtful, but I've found no hassles with it.

    3. Dan
      January 8, 2018 at 7:25 pm

      As an IT professional I'm totally surprised that you would recommend Total 360. Thats like putting a uniform on a convict and asking him to guard the bank.

      EmsiSoft is what I recommend for anyone using a standard PC (Windows based) and I never recommend a "free" version. You still pay no matter what. It may just be your personal information but what is that worth? To me its worth more than a free piece of software. If using a MAC or Linux then Bit Defender is the best. Again, not the free version. You don't get free locks for the door of your house.

      As for those that say they can't afford it... Either you pay now or you pay later. Either way, you WILL pay.

      Dan - A+, Net+, MCP, MCP+I, MCSE, MPS, ITIL certified.

    4. David
      December 1, 2017 at 12:29 am

      360 Total Security is a total muck up installed itself twice once where i indicated and on in system files also installed Opers web browser and continually had pop ups happening
      And is a Pig to uninstall LEAVE WELL ALONE

    5. David Baker
      November 26, 2017 at 3:20 pm

      I have tried Comodo and after a while it started warning me of things which wern't there so I tried to uninstall which I eventually did but they do hide traces on your computer so you have to be careful and do a thorough check so I would advise against them as for MSE and Windows defender I had no end of problems with viruses so no thank you. In the end I went to Zone Alarm free Anti Virus +Firewall and I have had no problems they do pester you with offers of upgrades from time to time but either just click no or accept their offers which by the way are good

    6. Druid Faith
      October 10, 2017 at 8:42 am

      I do use and have used for a long time the F-Secure products. In the days of MS-Dos, F-Prot was the best gimick free AV product out there.
      Their current line is good enough for me to trust both my client's and my own data with.
      I have been a beta tester and can tell you that their stuff keeps improving all the time.
      They also must adhere to the strict standards imposed on their home country's Data secrecy laws. So, they are not going to be handing anyone the keys to your encrypted files anytime soon. Looking at you NSA...

    7. Steven J.B.
      August 21, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      I have used AVG & Kaspersky internet security before & trust those sites. Thanks for the free internet security advice. Cheers. Time for a beer I think. Its 5pm somewhere in the world hahahaha....

    8. Jim
      April 29, 2017 at 11:41 pm

      I have used Comodo since it first became availabe way back when - and as far as doing what it says on the tin, it pretty well does just that, and does it quite effectively. However, it has had a few rough edges from time to time. For example, on more than one occasion, it has decided that it could not run, when booting up the computer, and instead it pops up a window to say so, and asks if it should run its own diagnostic and repair check - which is a nice enough touch - (although it does also suggest to me, that Comodo's developers obviously thought their software could go belly up, and thus needed such repair facilities included in the software). The baffling thing is that having ran the diagnostics, and received a report at the end of the diagnostic process that nothing was found wrong, the Comodo can then be started by clicking the desktop icon. When in this capricious mood, there is no way I have found to get Comodo to run without runningt the diagnostics, and getting a report that all was found well! Bizzare!.
      More worringly, I have just had to replace Comodo with Norton, for reasons as follows, as we run a rather expensive piece of dongle protected design software, (which cost almost £2500, and thus needs to be operational). While this software is installed on two machines, as something of a backup strategy, it will only run on the machine which has the dongle plugged in. I was horrified therefore a few days ago when the machine in regular use, failed to open the design software, and reported a "System error - c0000005", when trying to start it. "No immediate problem" thought I, and sucessfully swapped the dongle to the other machine, flashed up the software, and completed the task I had set out to do. I was mortified therefore about 12 hours later when I again flashed up the design software to do some further work, only to be met with the same system error message on the second computer, and a failure of the software to load. To cut a long story short, even after re-installing Windows in desparation, (and the design software several times) nothing worked - until, hit by a flash of inspiration - some would say desparation, I completely removed Comodo, and installed Norton instead. Hey-ho expensive software up and running again on both machines, and no error messages!!.
      Thus I conclude that while Comodo is a great piece of software as far as keeping you secure online, it is/can be, somewhat ragged around the edges at times, with occasional problems seemingly attributable to it.

    9. Scot
      April 11, 2017 at 10:04 pm

      I've been using Comodo for years and have been happy with it, until this past week. It changed to Comodo 10 and now it crashes and won't run. I uninstalled it and tried re-installing but it won't install properly. It keeps coming up with a fatal error. I hope that they fix this issue soon. In the meantime, I will try 360 again. I used it years ago. Thanks.

    10. Robert Bock
      February 28, 2017 at 3:30 am

      I have been using Comodo Free version for many years. I also run MalwareBytes in parallel. My Rootkit app is from Avira. Go figure. Glad to see Avira still among the tops . I've never used the other three.

      As for compatibility, running those two services together can create a snag or two but once they get used to each other it's a nice pair-up. I'd much rather be a bit over secure than lose the use of my PC. Buying parts and setting uip plus convincing Windows that I am the same user as before... woot! That's a headache i never want again.

      Thanks for your review.

    11. George
      February 20, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      I use AVG alongside MalwareFox. Pretty good combination if you ask me.

    12. SavageMind
      January 24, 2017 at 3:02 am

      I use Comodo and lately I find myself disappointed. It has incompatibilities with some software that I find unacceptable. Both CosMos and MasterCam 8X are some that will not work with Comodo on the system and the Comodo Company has no intention to fix the compatibility issues. Since I need some of the programs for school, I have to remove Comodo. At one time it was great but they honestly just to provide good support even for the paid version.

    13. Rindy Cronje
      December 27, 2016 at 7:50 pm

      I was using Bitdefender Internet Security and before that Avast. I'm not working at the moment so I need a protection program that is free. I am trying Comodo the free one.

    14. Dave
      December 21, 2016 at 11:09 pm

      Outpost aint no longer available all updates will stop on jan 7 and the program is now not available.

    15. cedric haycock
      December 10, 2016 at 1:44 am

      I have been running Comodo for many years on Windows XP then Win 7 (X32). The database updates were a horror by a slow ADSL as a fail reverted to restart. These days (NBN) it's great.
      I had problems with the other (X64) laptop on Win 7, and took Comodo off, but now Windows 10 seems stable I am putting Comodo back on again.

    16. 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.

    17. 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.

    18. 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.

    19. 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.

    20. Anonymous
      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

    21. 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?

    22. 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.

      • Anthony
        December 15, 2016 at 5:15 pm

        Windows Security Essentials, is horrible, I would stay away from that. We used it at the local tech school, even though it is for home use only, I don't know if that has changed.
        I was in the computer class, and viruses and malware we always getting on the computer. You would clean it up with another tool, and that tool would find so much more it missed.
        If I were to use Security Essentials, I would check out it ratings, with the big companies that test it's performance. I believe it was still at the bottom of the barrel when I last checked.

    23. 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.

        • Dick
          March 21, 2017 at 12:02 am

          I've used Avast on XP, Vista (my wife's machine) and 7, and it works very well. To avoid the premium features, use the custom install feature and UNcheck everything but File System Shield, Web Shield, Mail Shield, and Rescue Disk. You may find the Behavior Shield useful, but I don't.

          If you still get premium features:
          1. Go to Control Panel-->Programs
          2. Find Avast Antivirus and click Change.
          3. When the Avast screen appears, click Modify.
          4. Uncheck what you don't nee/want, then click Done.
          You'll probably have to restart your computer.

          Now, if someone proves to me that Avast is the cause of my computer taking over three minutes to boot, I'll switch.

    24. 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!

    25. 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

    26. 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. :)

    27. 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?

    28. Anonymous
      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!

    29. 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.

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

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

      • Anonymous
        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?

    31. 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

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

      I use Microsoft Security Essential.