Kaspersky Labs security products have always had a great reputation for accuracy, but you've had to spend real money to get protected.
Kaspersky Free changes the rules by making all the core Kaspersky technologies available for free, to everyone – both personal and business users.
The program covers all the antivirus essentials, including real-world scanning of files, web threats, emails and instant messages. Kaspersky Free has the same top-rated engine as the commercial builds, with the same update, self-defense and quarantine systems, and no stupid restrictions or nag screens to try and make you upgrade.
Unsurprisingly, the program still leaves out a lot of Kaspersky technology. Top of the list is probably Safe Money, a secure environment for protecting your web shopping and banking tasks. There's also no System Watcher, which can roll back some malware actions, perhaps helping to recover files encrypted by unknown ransomware. Bonus extras like webcam protection and the anti-banner module have been dropped, and there's no technical support beyond what you can find on the website.
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You may not be able to cover these security holes by running Kaspersky Free alongside some other app. The installer will check for incompatible applications, just like any other Kaspersky product, and demand you remove anything that might cause problems (which is just about every other antivirus engine around).
There are some limits here, then, but that's no surprise with a free product. You're still getting one of the best antivirus engines around for absolutely nothing at all, and that seems like a good deal to us.
Kaspersky Free has a clean and simple console which displays your current security status, and has simple icons to launch its various functions.
Most of the options don't work in the free build, but they're greyed out and easy to ignore. Within five seconds we realized there were only two buttons that mattered: Scan and Database Update.
Kaspersky Free doesn't skimp on scanning modes. The program can check your full system, the essential areas only, external devices or specific files and folders, and Explorer's right-click menu enables scanning objects for viruses, checking their reputation, or getting more information on any application.
Scanning speeds are only average, but Kaspersky Free doesn't grab too many system resources and is unlikely to slow you down.
Explore the Settings box and you'll find options giving you full control over updates, automated scanning, whitelisting, notifications, logging, network use and more. You can optimize settings for speed or security in a couple of clicks, or tweak them all individually.
All of this is easy to find and manage, thanks to the well-designed interface. Kaspersky's Task Manager shows you a quick list of all your recent scans, for instance, but you can easily filter or organize this to find specific information, and export anything as a CSV or TXT file.
Of course, what really matters is protection, and Kaspersky has one of the best-rated antivirus engines around. AV Comparatives' placed Kaspersky third out of 24 in its February to June 2017 Real-World Protection Test, and it blocked 100% of threats in both AV Test's June 2017 Windows Home User test and SE Labs April to June 2017 Malware Protection report. No security software can guarantee to block every threat, but Kaspersky Free gets closer than most.
Note: Kaspersky Free isn’t available in every region globally yet. For the full rollout schedule, which runs until November, check out this blog post.