Best free anti-malware software
If you're looking for the best free anti-malware software for Windows – whether it's a whole new security package, or just an additional program to give your regular antivirus a boost – then you've come to the right place.
Here is our definitive list of the best free anti-malware software, and choosing the right software for your needs is essential, as malware continues to be a threat and a concern for us all.
It's not just viruses we're talking about here, but also annoying programs such as adware, that can embed themselves in your web browser and add toolbars or change you homepage. Not only are these annoying, but they also pose a serious security risk.
Getting the best antivirus you can is an excellent first line of defence for your PC, but it's often a good idea to install additional anti-malware software to boost your protection from a more diverse range of threats. Alternatively, you could replace your existing security software with a whole new suite designed to protect against all kinds of malware - see our best free antivirus software.
Otherwise, read on to find out our pick of the best free anti-malware software you can download. With any of these installed, you'll be able to browse the internet with confidence.
Plus, since we're on the topic of saving money, you might want to check out the best deals of PCs and laptops, with Black Friday 2019 just around the corner.
The best anti-malware software in the world right now is: BitDefender Antivirus Plus 2020
We've put the world's best anti-malware tools to the test, and our top recommendation is BitDefender Antivirus Plus 2020. It's not free, but it offers multi-layer protection from ransomware, while also guarding against spyware, adware and other malware. One subscription will protect three devices, making it excellent value, and you'll be protected by one of the world's biggest threat databases.
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The best anti malware software for free at a glance
- Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
- Avira Free Security Suite
- AVG AntiVirus Free
- Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
- SpyBot Search & Destroy
- Emsisoft Emergency Kit
- Avast anti-virus
Discreet but effective, Bitdefender is the best anti-malware for your PC
Operating system: Windows
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is the strong, silent type. This anti-malware software doesn't even ask questions when you install it – it just quietly gets on with the job of identifying and eliminating anything that poses a risk to your safety and security.
It watches out for apps behaving badly, scans links on the web to identify scams, and has proactive malware and spyware scanning that can detect threats nobody has encountered before. Plus the app boasts boot scanning every time you start your PC.
Ad-free, nag-free and hassle-free, Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is a great product that runs quickly and silently while you get on with something more interesting.
Its comprehensive suite of tools to protect your PC makes Bitdefender the best free anti-malware software you can download today. It's all the protection you need in one handy package.
The Avira Free Security Suite provides one of the most comprehensive free security packages available on the internet.
As well as providing the standard anti-virus protection, the Avira Free security suite also provides a software updater, as well as scanning your network for vulnerabilities and helps you fix them.
There are also safe browsing and safe shopping options, as well as a system optimizer to speed up your PC which is normally charged for in other packages.
If that's not enough there's also a free VPN included for up to 500MB per month, as well as a password manager and privacy settings manager.
However, you actually have a choice of which features you want to install. This is a great plus as while the Avira suite is generous some users may want to run one or more features through a different suite.
There is an upgrade option, of course, but this is priced toward installation across 5, or 25 devices, and involves such features such as removing the VPN limit.
If there's one negative, it's that there's no anti-ransomware protection, but aside from that the Avira Free Security Suite is a very generous package indeed.
A simple interface and effective scanning with remote activation
Operating system: Windows, Mac, Android
If you're looking for anti-malware software that keeps quiet and won't disturb your work, be warned – AVG Antivirus Free is quite vocal with its notifications, and irks us from time to time with pop-ups telling us we've done something fantastic with regard to our online safety.
As an anti-malware app, though, it's very good. The dashboard is user-friendly, there's protection not just from downloadable threats, but from dodgy links too, and you can use your mobile to scan your PC remotely, which is pretty clever.
The paid-for Pro model has more security options - it has more robust download protection, offers data encryption includes a firewall - but the free version offers decent protection for most PC users.
An excellent anti-malware tool, but the free version lacks real-time protection
Operating system: Windows
You can use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware free for as long as you like, but there's an important caveat: real-time protection, the fast 'hyper scan' mode and malicious website blocking features all expire after 14 days - and that means you're missing out on some of the program's best features.
Malwarebytes has a deserved reputation for destroying malware and spyware that other programs miss, and its chameleon technology - which once again expires after a fortnight in the free version - means it's less susceptible to attacks that deliberately target security software.
Think of the free version as a short-term savior or a test drive; the Premium version costs £29.95 (about US$40) per year.
An anti-malware and anti-spyware stalwart that's ideal for diagnosing existing infections
Operating system: Windows
SpyBot Search & Destroy is a veteran of the malware wars, dating back to the first adware in 2000, and while it doesn't scan for viruses – that's in the Home version, which is $13.99 (about £10, AU$20) – the free software does a decent job of finding and fixing adware, malware and spyware.
It's more of a system repair tool than a system protection tool, however, and you need to be careful where you get it from: there are fake versions in circulation designed to cause damage, not fix it. The version linked here is the real deal.
A lifesaver if your PC is already infected, but not a preventative tool
Operating system: Windows
Most security software tries to stop malware and spyware getting onto your system. Emsisoft Emergency Kit doesn't: it's the 911 call of security software, the app you use when your PC's been poked by something unpleasant.
It's designed to be portable – an anti-malware app you carry around with you on a USB stick – and its system requirements are tiny: just 200MB of RAM, so it'll run happily on any PC with 1GB memory or more. With two million malware signatures, Emsisoft Emergency Kit can restore almost any infected PC to rude health.
Avast offers one of the most competent internet protection suites out there. While the company is famous for providing free anti-virus software, it's worth noting that this now comes bundled with an anti-malware feature that uses behavioral monitoring to spot rogue programs.
What's even better is that not only are Avast's basic products free, but they are also available for mobile devices as well as for desktops, which makes Avast a particular ideal choice if you have multiple devices you need to check.
While the basic Avast service is second-to-none, the company also provides paid-for anti-malware software that takes this things, such as fine-tuning your PC to run better, to anti-ransomware software and secure file shredding.
For business users, there are paid-for internet security options to cover a range of needs and options.
For home users, though, the Avast free anti-virus should keep your PC very well protected, though do note you'll be periodically prompted to update for one of Avast's other services.