What’s the Best Free Anti-Virus?

A reader asks:

I’ve used Kaspersky antivirus for many years, but can’t afford the renewal this year. My subscription runs out next week. Can you recommend a good anti-virus (specifically one that’s free)?

For Windows version 8 and 10, use the free, built-in, Windows Defender. For Windows Vista and Windows 7 users, download the free Microsoft Security Essentials from: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/14210/security-essentials-download


  1. It’s accurate. AV-TEST ranks it 100% detection on the December 2017 report.
  2. It’s fast. It doesn’t bog down your machine nearly as much as other options.
  3. It’s no hassle. It doesn’t nag you to upgrade to a paid version.
  4. It’s free. And it should be. This is a feature that Microsoft should provide for free, just like your car comes with door locks.

Will it protect me?

If you want protection regardless of what you do online, I’ve got bad news for you. No anti-virus will do that. Your best virus protection is your own behavior.

Darren Bilby, Google’s senior security engineer, says anti-virus software is “useless” and “We need to stop investing in those things we have shown do not work.” Robert O’Callahan, a former Firefox developer, says it might be time to stop using antivirus completely, and instead update your software and OS regularly and practice “skeptical computing”. The world’s biggest IT security company, Symantec, has admitted anti-virus software is “dead” and it still let through around 55 percent of attacks. New malicious software is developed every day, and it is designed specifically to evade your anti-virus.

Here’s the best advice I have: Stay up to date with security patches. Keep your applications updated to the latest versions. Don’t install Flash or Java if you can avoid it. Use an ad-blocker in your web browser. Don’t install pirated software, click on suspicious links, or crawl around on shady websites.

You can install Symantec, Mcafee, Kaspersky, or AVG, but unless the malware is old your anti-virus won’t catch it anyway. The serious crimeware used today changes itself every couple of days. You might as well stick with the built-in solution.

Ransomware will encrypt your files and demand money for decryption. Don’t pay these criminals. The best defense is a good backup system. Be prepared with good backups and the ability to rebuild everything from scratch. With good backups and the license codes for all your software, you can withstand these attacks with a clean rebuild of your computer. It’s a hassle, but it’s the best insurance.

You should also use two-factor authentication wherever possible. But that’s an article for another day.