For strong malware protection, AVG AntiVirus Free 2014 may be all you need. In tests, AVG shields clean systems from viruses and spyware just as well as its paid rivals. AVG cleans up infected systems, too -- but not as quickly and smoothly as paid software like Bitdefender Antivirus Plus (2014) (Est. $30 for 3 PCs) . AVG Free doesn't offer many extras, either.
Easy on a clean machine -- but not if it's infected. If your system is clean, expect "smooth sailing" when you install AVG Free, PCMag.com's Neil Rubenking says. If it's already infected, though, expect to do some tinkering. "On exactly two of my 12 malware-infested test systems AVG Free installed and scanned without any problems," Rubenking writes. On others, it took a few tries to get the installer to finish its task or a successful scan to be completed. In a few stubborn cases, Rubenking had to enlist AVG Free's Rescue CD and "days of back-and-forth with tech support." Eventually, AVG Free did clean up every system.
Clean, touch-friendly interface. Testers love AVG Free's touch-friendly (Windows 8-friendly) design. It's clean and easy to read, with big buttons for each area of protection (computer, web browsing, etc.). When you install AVG Free, it automatically adds its toolbar to your browser. The toolbar offers a couple of useful features, experts say, including alerts on risky websites and a Do Not Track feature (to keep ad banners from spying on your web-surfing habits). A File Shredder feature lets you permanently delete sensitive files. That's about it for features, though; for more extras (like Data Safe secure file storage), you'd have to step up to the paid version.
Quick and effective (once it's installed). AVG Free earns top honors in test after test. It's a top free antivirus pick at both PCMag.com and CNET's Download.com. It's fantastic at blocking malware, thwarting 97 percent of samples in PCMag.com's test -- making it one of the best at this task, free or paid. Cleanup works well, too (once you manage to get AVG Free installed on an infected system -- see Setup and installation). It's nearly as good at rooting out malware as the top-rated paid software, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus (2014), at PCMag.com. Independent labs are impressed, too. AVG earns VB100 certification in Virus Bulletin's latest test. At AV-Test.org, AVG Free earns a 5 out of 6 rating for both malware protection and performance (not slowing down the computer) and is AV-Test Certified.
Once again, AVG AntiVirus Free earns an Editors' Choice award here. It can take a lot of back-and-forth with tech support to install the software on some already infected systems, but once installed, it blocks and removes malware very effectively.
Review: AVG AntiVirus Free 2014, Neil J. Rubenking, Sept. 9, 2013
With a 4.5-star Outstanding rating and an average of 4 out of 5 stars from more than 24,000 users (including reviews of previous versions, however), AVG AntiVirus Free 2014 is a CNET Download Pick. Eddie Cho especially likes its new privacy tools, like File Shredder.
Review: AVG AntiVirus Free 2014, Eddie Cho, Sept. 3, 2013
This independent IT security institute tests the latest antivirus programs on a variety of Android and Windows systems. So far, AVG AntiVirus Free 2014 has only been tested on Windows XP. It earns a score of 5 out of 6 for malware protection and performance (not slowing down the computer), and a nearly perfect score for usability.
Review: Detailed Test Reports, Editors of AV-Test.org, As of December 2013
4. Virus Bulletin
AVG AntiVirus Free earns a VB100 certification from this independent testing agency in its latest August 2013 test (on a Windows 7 Professional system). However, in a prior June 2013 test (Windows Server 2012), AVG delivered one false positive. More details are available, but only for subscribers.
Review: VB100 Results Overview: AVG, Editors of Virus Bulletin, As of December 2013