If you’re working on a tight budget, but still need to safeguard your devices from the most recent malware and ransomware, free antivirus software is an excellent choice. Free antivirus programs typically use the same malware-scanning engines as their paid counterparts, however, they lack additional tools that provide total online security, including a virtual private network (VPN) and password manager, and parental controls.

The best free antivirus software must provide effective real-time malware protection, which means that the program is actively catching and blocks threats as they are trying to download or infiltrate your computer. Previously, this type of protection was available only through premium subscriptions. However, it is becoming commonplace in free antivirus.

The most effective free antivirus software should include a basic VPN and password manager, at a minimum for a trial time. McAfee is a good example. It provides a free trial for 30 days for its top-of-the-line package. It includes all premium features such as ID theft and web security protection.

Finally, the top free antivirus software must be simple to use. The majority of brands on our list have intuitive features and user-friendly dashboards. Some have mobile apps that make it easier to scan and secure your Android or iOS devices. The most effective free apps can be used on more than one device. Paid versions provide family-friendly plans and business tools.