If you’re on a limited budget, but want to shield your devices from the most recent malware and ransomware threats, free antivirus software is a good option. Free antivirus programs typically use the same malware scanning engines as paid versions, however, they aren’t as equipped with extra tools that provide complete online protection, such as a virtual private network (VPN), a password manager, and parental controls.

The best free antivirus software should offer effective real-time malware protection, which means that the program actively catches and blocks threats while they attempt to download or snoop on your computer. Prior to this, this type protection was only available through premium subscriptions. However, it’s nowadays common in free alternatives.

Also, the top free antivirus software should have a basic password manager and a VPN at the very least on an experimental basis. McAfee for instance, offers a trial period of 30 days for free to its top-tier plan. This includes all premium features, including ID theft and web security data rooms protection.

The best antivirus software for free should be simple to use. Most of the brands featured in our top picks offer user-friendly dashboards, intuitive features, and decent customer support. Some also have mobile apps that make it easier to protect and scan your Android or iOS devices. The best free software can be used on more than one device. Paid versions come with family-friendly plans and tools for business.

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