Cut to the chase
Below I have compiled a list of antivirus publishers offering free solutions and some of their features. Generally, if the vendor doesn’t have a free version, they will offer a free trial if you really want to give their software a go. Some I have tried, most I have not tried yet. Check back regularly to see which I have updated!
UPDATE: There is nothing more frustrating than a *free* program that does nothing. I would rather have a fully functional free trial than a totally free program that will report a ton of problems, but not let you do anything unless you buy the program, or sign-up for some offer. See Pareto Logic below for more.
Avast! – Antivirus + Antispyware. Paid versions include advanced firewall, secure online shopping and banking, and antispam.
AVG – AVG’s free version is antivirus only. Paid versions offer safe chatting and downloading, support, secure online banking and shopping, wifi protection, and PC and application performance monitoring.
Avira – Anitvirus only on free version. Upgrading will get you antiphishing, active protection, protection from malicious websites, bootable rescue CD, protection from downloading viruses from the web, and enhanced mail protection.
BitDefender – No free version (that I can find) but they offer several free utilities: Online Scanner, virus specific removal tools, Quickscan, BitDefender Free Edition (WAIT! I thought there wasn’t a free edition. Guess they should make it easier to find).
Comodo Firewall + Antivirus – Comodo’s free offerings include antivirus and firewall protection as separate downloads so you can choose which to install. Paid versions include proactive security and support in addition to the antivirus and firewall.
Counter Spy – No free version. Find their product line here. Counter spy is a little confusing as they seem to be marketed under two different companies - GFI and VIPRE (TM) which seems to be the GFIs home antivirus solution.
CyberDefender – The free version includes on-demand detection, real time blocking, and dual core scanning technology. While “dual-core” sounds like it has to do with your computer’s hardware it actually means it runs two different virus detection engines which increases your chances of detecting viruses (but use more computer resources as well). Paid versions offer real time blocking, quarantine and removal.
ESET – Before I get into ESET’s offerings, I’ll say upfront we dropped our previous corporate AV provider (who will remain nameless, I don’t want to get into semantics…) for ESET because the interface, updating, installation, packages, provisioning, tracking, etc, etc ,etc of the previous AV was just a plain pain in the %^&*!! So far we are very happy with ESET.
So onto their offerings. Unfortunately, they only offer a free trial. Check it out.
F-Secure – While F-Secure does not offer a free version of their antivirus software, they do off many online/free tools to diagnose and clena your computer: free online tools, Free anti-theft mobile, other useful tools or guides (at bottom of page).
G Data – No free version. Find their product line here. Ok, I lied in the “About us” page when I said I never paid for AV on my home computers. I bought G Data a few months ago based on reviews I read in our corporate subscription to Virus Bulletin. Unfortunately, it never worked and required a repair everytime I started the computer (Windows 7). Your mileage may vary.
Kapersky - Kapersky only offers a free trial of their antivirus software. However, they do offer several tools to aid in virus detection and removal, including a free rescue disk if your system is having serious issues. You can find the tools here.
Kingsoft Antivirus - Kingsoft antivirus includes USB device protection, IM protection, disk cleaner, history cleaner, and LSP repair. Don’t you hate it when people use acronyms and don’t tell you what it means? LSP could be Loud Stupid People for all I know. And yes, I looked on the website for as long as any consumer is going to bother looking.
Lavasoft Ad-Aware – Lavasoft Ad-Aware software includes antivirus and antispyware protection. Paid version include secure shopping, banking, and downloads, priority updates and support, hacker and spammer protection, backup and recovery, and speed and performance optimization.
Panda Security Antivirus – While Panda Security does not offer a free version of their antivirus software, they were several years ahead of the industry in offering a free online virus scanner. An online scanner is pretty common place these days, but it is worth mentioning Panda’s was one of the first.
Pareto Logic – Pareto Logic offers a whole slew of “free” downloads. Many are unlicensed versions of their software that have an option to enter a license key. It is unclear at this point what the benefit to licensing the software is.
UPDATE: As I suspected the “free” versions of the software do nothing. They will scan your computer, find all sorts of “problems,” and offer to “fix” the problem. However, the only thing you will get by clicking the “fix” button is an offer to license (read “buy”) the software. They even go so far as to put an add in the Windows add/remove programs menu when you go to uninstall!! Right click on the software to uninstall, and your options are “uninstall,” “get free,” and cancel. “get free” takes you to a registration page for a delayed billing service and offers the product for free if you sign up. NO THANKS!!
Trend Micro - Trend Micro does not offer a free version of their antivirus, but they do have several great free tools including an online scanner, web protection, and Hijackthis - a utility that helps secure your computer settings.
Windows Live – Microsoft Safety Scanner is a totally free antivirus and antimalware tool from Microsoft.
Windows Security Essentionals – Microsoft Security essentials is another feel antivirus and security tool from Microsoft.