How to get a year of premium antivirus free

The very best security software – totally free

Antivirus software on a laptop

Threats like ransomware, software vulnerabilities and theft of personal data make online security more important than ever. Free antivirus packages give you basic protection from malicious software, but for more comprehensive coverage (including link-scanning, identity protection and parental controls), you'll have to dig into your wallet for a premium program - that's why we update our best antivirus software guide so frequently.

Or will you? The world's top antivirus developers all offer fully-featured free trials of their security suites (usually 30 days, but sometimes longer) for you to evaluate the software and decide whether to invest in a licence. With so many demos available, it's perfectly possible to enjoy a full 365 days of premium protection completely free (plus a little extra for good measure).

Once the year is up, you'll know exactly which suite suits you best, and know that you're making the right decision. We've sampled the most generous trials available, and put together a list to give you the best protection for a full year.

Only install one antivirus program at a time, because security suites mistakenly flag one another as a threat. Some trials will detect other tools automatically, but it's a good idea to use a third-party uninstaller like Revo Uninstaller or Geek Uninstaller to make sure you've completely removed all traces before installing the next one (we used GeekUninstaller and had no issues).

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Norton Security Deluxe

Norton Security Deluxe makes it easy to drill down through the various categories to find the specific options you need

1. Norton Security Deluxe

Trial period: 30 days

Full price: US$49.99/£29.99/AU$94.99

Key features:

  • Protection for five devices (including Windows, macOS, Android and iOS)
  • Remote lock and wipe for mobile devices
  • Identity protection
  • Flexible online security

Gone are the days of bloated antivirus software – the latest edition of Norton is lightweight and has little noticeable impact on performance.

Norton Security Deluxe is the second tier in its security lineup, and covers up to five devices, including PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones. That might not be enough for an entire household, but it's still impressive for the price.

There's also remote locking and wiping for mobile devices – extremely helpful if you accidentally leave your phone on the train – plus the usual protection from viruses and malware. Norton Security Deluxe also aims to protect Android phones and tablets from nasty apps on the Google Play Store, though a shield against malicious browser extensions might be more useful.

It takes a little while for all the components to be downloaded and installed (the process involves several steps) and you'll be prompted to create a Norton account. Once that's done, the interface is refreshingly simple, with just a handful of main controls that you can drill down into for full customization options.

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Norton Security Premium

The premium edition of Norton Security includes cloud storage for backing up key files

2. Norton Security Premium

Trial period: 30 days

Full price: £39.99/US$39.99 (about AU$50)

Key features:

  • Protection for five devices (including Windows, macOS, Android and iOS)
  • 25GB cloud storage
  • Parental controls
  • Identity protection

Once you've tried the standard version of Norton's online security suite, try upgrading to Norton Security Premium, which brings the number of protected devices up to 10.

Norton Security Premium also offers 25GB cloud storage for backing up your most important files and keeping them safe in the event of a ransomware attack. It might not be enough for all your photos and videos, but it's a useful amount. If you decide to pay for a subscription when the trial is up, you can pay a little more for some extra space.

There are also parental controls to keep your kids from seeing anything they shouldn't (although it's no substitute for your watchful eye over their shoulder).

As with the lower tier Norton Security, you'll need to make yourself a cup of tea and find something to do while the software is installing, but it's worth the wait. When you come to remove it at the end of the trial, make sure you select the option to remove all user data, and uncheck the box asking if you want to keep the scanning engine installed.

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Kaspersky Anti-Virus

Kaspersky offers a frill-free antivirus program that won't slow down your PC

3. Kaspersky Anti-Virus

Trial period: 30 days

Full price: US$39.99/£24.99/AU$39.95

Key features: 

  • Dedicated ransomware protection
  • Super lightweight
  • Choice of scan types

Like Norton, Kaspersky is a well-known and trusted name in internet security, with a reputation to match. Kaspersky Anti-Virus doesn't offer the bells and whistles you'll get with its full security suite (more on that below), but it's a reliable antivirus package that, importantly, won't slow down your PC. The trial will only protect one device, so consider making it the one you use most for gaming or other taxing tasks that might be affected by a heftier security tool.

After you've downloaded the trial you'll be prompted to enter an email address, but you can ignore this – the software will still install. there's a link on the right that enables you to activate the trial version instead. Before performing your first scan, make sure you update the threat database. It's a slightly annoying extra step, but after this, updates will be performed automatically in the background.

You're offered a choice of full, quick and selective scans (the latter of which can target a specific drive or folder), as well as an option to scan external devices. It's recommended that you run a full scan straight after installation, after which you can schedule your own scans for convenient times.

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Kaspersky Internet Security

For online banking and shopping, Kaspersky Internet Security  is a good choice

4. Kaspersky Internet Security

Trial period: 30 days

Full price: US$59.99/£34.99/AU$41.95

Key features:

  • Protection for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS
  • Dedicated ransomware protection
  • Parental controls
  • Secure banking and shopping tools

As the name implies, Kaspersky Internet Security is specifically designed to protect you during your everyday browsing, banking and shopping.

There are additional browser extensions for Safari, Chrome and Firefox if you want to be extra vigilant. These are anti-phishing tools that alert you if you're about to navigate to a known malicious site.

As with the standard antivirus tool, you'll need to update the virus database manually before you get started, but after that it should be plain sailing. The interface is a little different, making the extra features obvious, which we appreciate. The parental control tools are a particularly welcome addition that you won't find in the lower-end version.

There's only one snag: although Kaspersky Internet Security can protect Windows PCs, Macs and mobile devices, the cheapest subscription plan only covers a single device. That seems like an odd choice when cross-platform support is one of the program's main attractions.

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G Data Internet Security

Its parental controls make G Data Internet Security suite a good choice for families

5. G Data Internet Security 2018

Trial period: 30 days

Full price: US$39.95/£34.95 (about AU$50)

Key features:

  • Dedicated ransomware protection
  • Cloud backup
  • Parental controls
  • Software exploit protection

G Data Internet Security 2018 is a particularly good option for families thanks to its built-in parental controls that protect little ones from inappropriate content. It can also restrict the amount of time kids spend gaming, so there'll be no Minecraft until they've finished their homework.

The trial edition only protects one PC though, so you'll want to install it on the main household machine and use something else for your other devices. 

In addition to the usual protective software, G Data's internet security suite includes free cloud storage for backing up essential files (on German servers, the company is keen to point out), plus an English-language helpline.

Installation is straightforward, scans are swift and all the essential functions are present and correct. It's also one of the most affordable options if you choose to upgrade to the full version once you've finished trying all the other suites available.

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G Data Total Security

G Data Total Security combines the above security tools with secure cloud backups

6. G Data Total Security

Trial period: 30 days

Full price: US$44.95/£39.95 (about AU$60)

Key features:

  • Password manager
  • Backups to Google Drive or Dropbox
  • Dedicated ransomware protection
  • Device access control

G Data Total Security includes all the features of the company's Internet Security package, plus automatic backup for your data using Dropbox or Google Drive.

There's also a password manager to secure your logins, so you don't need to bother with one of the many free tools available. This is particularly beneficial, as standalone password managers are common targets for criminals.

You can control access to particular parts of your system too – so if your kids log in with their own Windows account, they won't be able to plug in USB drives for example, or access the hard drive where you keep your music collection (no matter how much enjoyment they might derive from deleting it).

There's a handy tabbed interface, though there are so many tools included, it might take a few moments to find the one you're looking for.

G Data Total Protectiony

BullGuard Internet Security

It's a good set-and-forget option, but BullGuard Internet Security offers limited user control

7. BullGuard Internet Security

Trial period: 60 days

Full price: US$38.98/£24.97/AU$38.98

Key features:

  • Parental controls
  • Game booster to optimize performance
  • Dedicated malware protection

One of the lesser-known names on the antivirus scene, BullGuard Internet Security's standout features is cloud backup, which makes saving and restoring your most valuable files easy. The basic edition of Internet Security only offers 5GB online storage, but it can also integrate with your Dropbox account.

Once BullGuard Internet Security is installed and you've registered for an account, it begins a process of 'Optimizing your PC', which sounds a little alarming when you haven't been explicitly asked to authorize this. You'll be alerted to any programs that are requesting access to the internet, and asked to approve or deny them, but beyond that it's not clear exactly what the optimization entails.

Once Bullguard has finished its setup and configuration process, all the options are presented in a clear central control panel. Unfortunately there's not much transparency here either – you can choose whether to 'perform PC optimizations in the background' and set an antivirus protection level (minimal, optimal or maximum), but there's no explanation of what this actually means. The interface is clear and scans are quick, but Bullguard Internet Security is best for users who want to simply install and forget their antivirus program.

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BullGuard Premium Protection

BullGuard Premium Protection will safeguard your identity to help protect your credit score

8. BullGuard Premium Protection

Trial period: 30 days

Full price: US$109.20/£69.95/AU$109.20

Key features:

  • Identity protection
  • Network-wide scans
  • Available for Windows, macOS and Android
  • Game booster to optimize performance

BullGuard Premium Protection includes some unique extras, including advanced online banking security tools, and email and SMS alerts if your financial data is compromised, enabling you to make the necessary calls to your bank before your account is drained and your cards take a virtual trip to Vegas. Note that identity protection isn't available in Australia.

BullGuard Premium Protection can also scan your entire home network for threats, including all connected smart devices, so you don't have to install a security app on everything. Pretty clever.

There's social media protection to prevent your kids seeing inappropriate content, and the amount of cloud storage is boosted from 5GB to 25GB.

The interface will be immediately familiar if you've already tried the version above - the only differences being the extra buttons linking to BullGuard's premium features.

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Vipre Advanced Security

Vipre Advanced Security lets you decide how much manual control you want over your PC's protection

9. Vipre Advanced Security

Trial period: 30 days

Full price: US$43.99/£33.49/AU$61.70

Key features:

  • Simple, clean interface
  • Phishing protection
  • Firewall

Vipre used to offer three tiers of internet security, but now appears to only have one: Vipre Advanced Security. 

Despite the name, Vipre Advanced Security is quite basic compared to many of the other antivirus suites here. There are no parental controls here, and no way to scan your entire network or protect tablets from infection. Instead, you get a solid antivirus engine, a firewall, and phishing protection for emails.

There's dedicated protection against ransomware, though Vipre doesn't offer any cloud-based backup to keep your files safe in the unlikely but unlucky event that they're encrypted without your permission.

It's a simple tool then, but effective and lightweight. If you don't need or want the additional bells and whistles of other security software, Vipre's no-frills approach and clear interface will suit you down to the ground.

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Panda Dome Premium

Panda Dome Premium is packed with an impressive array of tools, though you'll need to enter payment details to access the free trial and cancel before the subscription kicks in

10. Panda Dome Premium

Trial period: 30 days

Full price: £9.99 (about US$15, AU$20) per month

Key features:

  • Built-in VPN
  • Parental controls
  • Desktop and mobile
  • Password manager

Panda offers one-month free trials of all its antivirus suites, so you might as well go for the top-tier edition. The weirdly named Panda Dome Premium erects a metaphorical shield around your PC, protecting it from viruses and malware.

It'll protect all your Windows, iOS and Android devices (though not macOS), with remote wiping and locking for tablets and phones. You can even use it to take remote selfies, if you're so inclined.

You get a password manager, secure vault for sensitive files, and 20GB of cloud storage for backups.

There's a VPN thrown in too, though it only offers 150MB data transfer per day, so if you're looking for something that'll cover your everyday browsing rather than just the occasional spot of shopping and banking, you'll want to look elsewhere. Still, it's a nice touch and handy for occasional use.

Unlike the other free trials here, Panda Dome Premium requires you to enter billing information to download the software (which is a monthly subscription service), then cancel it once the 30 days are up to avoid being billed. Make sure you mark the date in your preferred calendar app and set a reminder.

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Comodo Internet Security Pro 10

Comodo Internet Security Pro 10 is a sound choice if you're not comfortable tinkering with settings and options too much

11. Comodo Internet Security Pro 10

Trial period: 30 days

Full price: US$39.99 (about £30, AU$50)

Key features:

  • Sandboxing of suspicious programs
  • Cloud-based virus definitions database
  • Firewall

Another internet security suite, Comodo Internet Security Pro 10 is designed for Windows users who prefer a hands-off approach. Rather than quarantining any file that looks shifty and making you choose whether to delete it, Comodo uses its extensive cloud-based database to make the choice for you (though you can customize these settings if you'd rather take control yourself).

Unusually, Comodo also offers a human touch: if you believe your PC has a virus, the company's techs can take remote control and make sure it's been thoroughly removed. Indeed, the company is so confident in its specialists' work, it will fork out up to $500 for repairs if a virus damages your machine.

Some of its tools (the firewall in particular) are less necessary in Windows 10, but features like sandboxing (running unknown programs in a virtual PC so they can't affect your system files) are very welcome.

Keep an eye out while installing the trial – Comodo 'helpfully' offers to change your home page, new tab and default search engine options to Yahoo. You probably don't want that.

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Trend Micro Maximum Security

When Trend Micro says 'maximum', it isn't kidding - its internet security suite includes all the tools you need to stay safe online, plus a few you won't

12. Trend Micro Maximum Security

Trial period: 30 days

Full price: US$49.95, £34.95, AU$99.95

Key features:

  • Dedicated ransomware protection
  • Social media privacy protection
  • Parental controls
  • Mobile device security

With support for multiple devices and bonus family protection tools to protect youngsters from the worst of the web, Trend Micro Maximum Security is clearly aimed at families; if you don't hear the patter of tiny feet on a regular basis, several of its settings are likely to go unused. We're also not sure about the inclusion of optimization tools for Windows and Android, which seem to be there simply to bulk out the feature list.

That said, some of Trend Micro's proprietary tools are very handy. Scanning of external drives is a standard feature for all antivirus tools - free and paid - but TM goes one step further by scanning your Microsoft OneDrive account too.

There's also cross-platform support, and Trend Micro Maximum Security can protect up to 10 devices at once.

For such a comprehensive tool, the full version is surprisingly affordable in the UK and US, though if you're in Australia you might prefer to look elsewhere once the trial is over.