Best free Antivirus?

Belated

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Feb 2, 2011
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I got my new computer home today, but I put off choosing an antivirus for it. I'm having a hard time choosing one.

I don't have the money right now to buy an antivirus, but I would love to use a free one. I just don't know which one to use. I want an antivirus that's not intrusive. That won't install itself in my browser or make me give permission for everything. What in your opinion is the best free antivirus in terms of reliability and leaving-me-alone-ity?
 

evilneko

Slava Ukraini
Jun 16, 2011
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The best antivirus is the one that you will use.

They're free. Try them. Pick one.
 

dfb1999

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Oct 7, 2012
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I've used Avast! for four years with no problems at all, although I hear wonderful things about Microsoft Security Essentials.

All-in-all, the best anti-virus is to just be careful what you click on.
AV software is just a safety net for when it's unavoidable.
 

Eclipse Dragon

Lusty Argonian Maid
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Jul 7, 2020
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There is no reason to pay for antivirus,
purchased programs usually aren't any better than the free programs.

I used to use AVG, but I feel like they've gone downhill, now I use Avast,
and malwarebytes for a little extra help.
 

SnowyGamester

Tech Head
Oct 18, 2009
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I've been using Zonealarm for the past few years and it hasn't let me down (except this one time a few years ago, but I digress). It can be a little intrusive, but it doesn't have to be (the browser plugin and the stuff that brings up an occasional popup are optional and can be easily disabled, though it's good practice to leave program monitoring in security suites on since you'll at most only ever get one popup from each program if you mark it as allowed when it comes up; leaving it on can keep dodgy programs that aren't yet recognised as malware from doing dodgy things and may be worth a few extra clicks in the long run). Plus it has plenty of updates, all sorts of real-time protection, good detection rates and minimal false positives (all in the free version). It is giving me a bit of grief on Windows 8 at the moment though I expect that to be fixed soon since both the OS and Windows 8 compatible AV still aren't generally available.
 

Midnight Crossroads

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Jul 17, 2010
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I use Microsoft Security Essentials now after several years of Avast. I stopped using Avast after they started pestering me about licenses and asking me to upgrade to a premium account. I've also experienced trouble with games using Punk Buster registering false positives off of Avast. With MSE, I've yet to be interrupted once -which is what makes or breaks an anti-virus program for me- as they're basically all the same.
 

ohnoitsabear

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Feb 15, 2011
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I will also recommend Microsoft Security Essentials. I have had no problems with it whatsoever, and you know for a fact that it will never delete important system files, unlike some antiviruses.
 

RufusMcLaser

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Mar 27, 2008
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Over the last few years I've used McAfee, Norton, and Microsoft Security Essentials on my various household computers and my vote is with Microsoft for this one. It's an all around winner- unobtrusive, stable, and not at all a resource hog (the best selling point of all!). And it's free.
From time to time I hop online and use a web-based scanner from another company to check for blind spots.
 

Vegosiux

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May 18, 2011
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I use Avast! myself, and am quite happy with it despite its tendency for false positives lately. For now.
 

Belated

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RufusMcLaser said:
Over the last few years I've used McAfee, Norton, and Microsoft Security Essentials on my various household computers and my vote is with Microsoft for this one. It's an all around winner- unobtrusive, stable, and not at all a resource hog (the best selling point of all!). And it's free.
From time to time I hop online and use a web-based scanner from another company to check for blind spots.
I'm thinking Microsoft Security Essentials, but I'm a little concerned. If I scan files with that program, will the nature of those files be collected and logged by Microsoft? Will they know everything that's on my computer?
 

Jamash

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Jun 25, 2008
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Belated said:
RufusMcLaser said:
Over the last few years I've used McAfee, Norton, and Microsoft Security Essentials on my various household computers and my vote is with Microsoft for this one. It's an all around winner- unobtrusive, stable, and not at all a resource hog (the best selling point of all!). And it's free.
From time to time I hop online and use a web-based scanner from another company to check for blind spots.
I'm thinking Microsoft Security Essentials, but I'm a little concerned. If I scan files with that program, will the nature of those files be collected and logged by Microsoft? Will they know everything that's on my computer?
Within the settings of Microsoft Security Essentials, there are 3 levels of what information is relayed back to Microsoft, known as the Microsoft Active Protection Service (MAPS):

I don't want to join MAPS said:
No information is sent to Microsoft. You won't be alerted if unclassified software is detected running on your PC.
Basic membership said:
Send basic information to Microsoft about malware and potentially unwanted software that has been detected, including where the software came from, the actions that you apply or that apply automatically, and whether the actions were successful.
Advanced membership said:
In addition to basic information, more information is sent to Microsoft about malware and potentially unwanted software, including the location of the software, file names, how the software operates, and how it has impacted your PC.
These options are easy to find and are completely transparent, and are also covered by a privacy policy that you can read before choosing an option and running MSE.

You have nothing to lose by installing MSE and reading the MAPS settings and privacy policy for yourself, before you decide whether to let it scan your computer.

You can also specify which files and folders it scans, so if you have anything you don't want to be scanned, don't select it.

I think Microsoft Security Essentials is a great "free" anti-virus, except it's not really free as you pay for it as part of your Windows licence and Microsoft have a vested interest in ensuring that every computer that runs their operating system is kept malware free, which means will be supported just as well as, if not better, than any other anti-virus software.
 

EternalFacepalm

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Feb 1, 2011
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dfb1999 said:
I hear wonderful things about Microsoft Security Essentials.
Don't listen to this man, he's a nutter.

Layered security is always best. My recommendation is a combination of MalwareBytes and avast!, as they both work really well.
 

AlwaysPractical

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Oct 7, 2011
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I've heard a lot of people like Avast! because of a nice UI and generally unintrusive. I use Avira myself, which can be a bit obnoxious if you're planning on using trainers for games (often recognised as viruses). Otherwise quiet, fast boot, updates regularly and has never failed to recognise a virus on my system.
 

EternalFacepalm

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Feb 1, 2011
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Aylaine said:
Why not MSE and MalewareBytes, then? That's what I personally use. I haven't been bugged in a long time. :)
Keep in mind that common sense goes a long way. If you're just a little bit tech savvy, you probably don't receive too many viruses; I've been running without any AV software for a year or two, and I haven't been infected once.

Regarding MSE, it's not bad per se, it's simply not as good as its competitors, at least not in my opinion. No matter where you look, the only reaction people really have to it is "meh, it's alright I guess."
 

RufusMcLaser

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Mar 27, 2008
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Belated said:
...
I'm thinking Microsoft Security Essentials, but I'm a little concerned. If I scan files with that program, will the nature of those files be collected and logged by Microsoft? Will they know everything that's on my computer?
In this day & age, I think that's a risk you run with just about any program which scans your files and occasionally reports back to the mothership. I suppose someone at Norton could slip a "make a HD image and send it back to us once a month" feature into the next software update. For that matter, MS could do this via software update next Thursday if someone in charge made stupid decisions.
However, H/T to Jamash for fielding this while I was away.

Jamash said:
...I think Microsoft Security Essentials is a great "free" anti-virus, except it's not really free as you pay for it as part of your Windows licence...
On this I must not agree- I purchased my XP machines and/or their Windows licenses well before MSSE, or in one case even XP SP2, was available. If I hadn't plunked down the change for some Win7 licenses a few months ago, I could still claim to have never contributed a cent to MSSE's sustainment. Nevertheless! You make a good point inasmuch as most everyone using a Windows machine already "paid" a bit towards MSSE. It's a recommendation I stand by.
 

Padwolf

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Sep 2, 2010
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Microsoft Security Essentials has been great so far for me, it is also very memory efficient, it doesn't take up much CPU usage at all. Other free antivirus's have slowed up my laptop, used too much CPU, and it's been a nightmare for me trying to find a new one, but Microsoft Security Essentials has been perfect so far.