av-softwareI’m often asked what I think about using free anti-virus software on home computers.  I’m for it as long as you use something good.  Some of the ones that you pay for are not so good anyway. If you choose the right one, you won’t give up anything compared to the paid ones.

Notice that I specifically said “home” computers.  I seldom recommend using free AV software in a business.  Reason is that when you have multiple computers in an office, they can expire at different times and even get disabled by malware – and if you don’t recognize that immediately, the infections can spread to every computer and server in the network. Business AV software should always have a central admin console and email alerts when something bad happens.  Home and free versions don’t have that.

Here are six top-quality anti-virus scanners that will detect and remove viruses on your home computer and keep it safe in the future. There are tools here for systems ranging from Windows XP to Windows 8.1. The first three are general purpose, free anti-virus and anti-malware programs. The next 3 are special purpose programs that help clean up problems that an AV program can’t. Click their names to go directly to a web page where you can download them.

  • avast! 2015 – my current favorite of the bunch. A product with a heritage going back over a quarter of a century, avast! is used by more than 220 million people. The free tool comes with Antivirus protection, Anti-malware protection, including anti-spyware and anti-rootkit technology, and can remove annoying browser toolbars or extensions, and can restore your hijacked search browser.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials – a free, easy to use security tool that helps guard against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. It provides real-time protection and updates in the background automatically.
  • Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition – a free, quality AV program that uses a combination of Cloud scanning and behavioral analysis to detect new or unknown threats.
  • aswMBR rootkit scanner – this isn’t a general AV software product, but is quite good at eliminating Rootkits that other products can’t.  aswMBR is from avast!
  • Comodo Cleaning Essentials (CCE) – a set of powerful security tools designed to help users identify and remove malware and unsafe processes from Windows computers. Designed as a portable application, the software requires no installation and can be run directly from removable media such as a USB key.
  • Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free – an industry-leading scanner that detects and removes malware like worms, Trojans, rootkits, rogues, spyware, and more.