Is there really a good free antivirus out there

Virus protection in the test: free against expensive

Arne Arnold

We ran five free antivirus programs against the best paid program and wanted to know: Which tool best protects a PC from malware? The surprise: The payment program wins, but only by a small margin.

EnlargeFree versus expensive - virus protection software in comparison
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Readers keep asking the PC-WELT: Is a free tool enough for virus protection or do I have to buy paid software? The answer to this question has become even more exciting in recent months, as the free Windows Defender tool has recently performed better and better in antivirus tests and offered itself as a pre-installed alternative to the payment program. So that we can currently answer the question "free versus expensive" well, we have had five free antivirus programs compete against the multiple test winner of the past few years. The Kaspersky Internet Security purchase program has not won every test in the PC WORLD in the past, but it has won most of them. The tool is also available in the particularly well-equipped version, Kaspersky Total Security. A good range of functions is one of the pluses of purchase programs, since the manufacturers often save precisely on this with the freeware versions of their antivirus tools. This is how you will find the six programs Avast Free Antivirus, AVG Antivirus Free, Avira Free Security Suite, Kaspersky Internet Security (chargeable), Panda Free Antivirus and Windows Defender.

Relevant:Is my pc infected? How to recognize attacks

Test setup: virus protection and range of functions

The programs have to prove themselves in the areas of virus protection and functionality. The range of functions only makes up 10 percent of the overall rating. When testing the virus protection, we fall back on three recognized anti-virus laboratories (see box and table below). The results from each laboratory contribute 30 percent to the overall grade.

What needs to be explained is the fact that one and the same program performs differently at different test institutes. The reason: New or heavily modified viruses are constantly appearing on the Internet. The testers select a few from these pests and release them on the test candidates. Sometimes an antivirus program can cope better with the new malware, sometimes worse. A program can therefore perform differently depending on the malware selected. You have to keep in mind that between 300,000 and 400,000 different viruses are discovered every day. Only a few dozen to a few hundred of these pests are precisely tested in the test laboratories.

We did not evaluate the operation in this test. Although the operator guidance of the tested programs differ significantly in some cases, all programs are basically the same: Each program is both simple and complicated. The programs are easy to install and use on a daily basis. You install the antivirus program and let it do its job without further ado. Most of the time you won't hear anything from the tool, and if a malware threat does appear, follow the program's instructions. But as soon as you look into the settings of the tools, they all become complicated and can only be set correctly by advanced users.

Test winner: Kaspersky and Windows Defender / Security

Purchase program: Kaspersky was also able to achieve first place in this test with the best virus protection performance. With a grade of 1.33 in the virus protection category, Kaspersky Internet Security came off best of all programs. Kaspersky also offers the most when it comes to additional functions, especially if you choose the more expensive version of Kaspersky Total Security. Therefore, the following still applies: If you want the best possible virus protection for your PC, you need a payment program. However, the free tools are on the heels of the class leader.

Free protection: In second place and as the best free tool, Windows 10's on-board tool, the Windows Defender which has been called "Windows Security" since Windows 10 1903. The program achieved a grade of 1.75 in the virus protection category and is only slightly behind Kaspersky. The biggest security problem with Windows security was a large number of false positives in the test by AV-Comparatives. Without this weakness, the tool would have achieved an anti-virus rating of 1.44 and would have been even closer to Kaspersky. In addition, Windows Security does not do that badly in terms of functionality if you include the other Windows security tools. These are, for example, the online backup in the Microsoft cloud, the bootable anti-virus USB stick with Windows Defender Offline or the child safety system from Microsoft. Anyone looking for free, good virus protection is currently well advised with "Windows Security" aka Windows Defender.

Winners and losers in the "free versus expensive" test

Winner: The Purchase Program Kaspersky was again able to secure first place in this comparison with the best overall performance in virus protection and range of functions. But even Kaspersky is not perfect, as the study by the SE Labs test laboratory showed. With 98 percent overall performance, Kaspersky not only cut two percentage points below the best possible result of 100 percent, but is also one percentage point behind the Windows Defender result. So Kaspersky has a head start in virus protection, but not very great. See the box below for more details on Kaspersky.

By the way: In the test, we also name the program Kaspersky Total Security in terms of functionality. It offers more features, but is identical to Kaspersky Internet Security in terms of virus protection.

The Windows Defender is the standard tool of Windows 10 and showed good to very good performance in the virus protection tests. Details about the Defender can also be found in the box. In addition, the ease of use speaks for the Windows Defender. Overall, it offers very few setting options, which is why you can hardly get lost with virus protection alone. It only becomes complicated when you want to use the other functions from the “Windows Security” area, such as “Device Security” or “App & Browser Control”.

The freeware Avast with an overall rating of 2.19, just like the Defender, scored “Good”. This makes the tool the best alternative for those users who are looking for a free antivirus program but do not want to use the Microsoft tool.

See also:The 11 best online scanners

Loser: The other three free programs each only achieved a “satisfactory” rating. The popular software lands in last place Avira Free Security Suite . That makes the tool rather not recommendable. However, the Avira program was only tested in one of the three test laboratories and was therefore only able to prove itself with a very small sample of pests. We will take another look at the test results of Avira Free Security Suite and report on them as soon as possible.

Conclusion: Even after this test, the recommendation is: The best protection is still provided by a payment program. But the difference in virus protection is no longer as great as it was in previous years. So if you are familiar with the PC and the Internet and are not so easily caught by the many tricks of the virus spreaders, you can also protect yourself well with a free program.

And the surprise of the test is: Windows Defender is a good and serious antivirus program. Because his performance was not only convincing in this test, but has also been mostly good and sometimes very good for almost two years.

This is how the antivirus specialists test

The antivirus test labs rarely examine free antivirus programs. For example, AV-Test only tests the Avast Free Antivirus and Windows Defender programs. And the freeware Panda Free Antivirus is only tested by one laboratory (AV-Comparatives). That is why we have compiled the test results from the three most important antivirus test laboratories in Europe and put them together in a single test. These are the three test laboratories: