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Protect your PC from the cyber-flu with these awesome free antivirus options

Viruses and malware are bad news; they can slow down your PC by ramping up CPU usage, modifying important files, and messing with the way your system behaves. If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re making an effort to avoid such infections — or worse, looking for a way to exterminate them. Luckily, there are a host of free, high-quality programs built specifically to keep your PC safe from all manner of viruses and malware. Better yet, these free options are often just as good, and in some cases better, than premiums apps that offer similar functionality and features.

Related: Your Mac needs an antivirus, and we’ve found five free options

To help you find the best option, we’ve assembled this list of the best free antivirus software available for Windows 10, whether you prefer innate utilities Like Windows Defender, or quality third-party alternatives in the Avira vain.

Avast! Free Antivirus 2016

avast! Free Antivirus 2016

In terms of basic protection, avast! has been shown to be one of the best antivirus programs out there, scoring a 5.5 out of 6 in in AV Test’s protection test. The latest free antivirus suite from Avast! is an impressive package. Aside from the usual virus and malware protection — including anti-rootkit and anti-spyware capabilities — the software comes with a slew of customizable options you can toggle at installation, including protection for your Android devices through Avast! mobile Security & Antivirus. The 2016 version of Avast! goes the extra mile when it comes to making sure you feel safe using the program; at installation, there is a very clear breakdown of exactly how avast! uses your private information. This transparency is important and welcome. Of the new additions for the 2016 version are network and router scans, which will alert you to network-related security issues or oversights, and a vulnerability scan, which will let you know just how secure your PC is (or isn’t).

Related: Do you new an anti-virus for Android? Signs point to yes

Another feature unique to avast! is how it approaches malware. Avast! gets out in front of potential malware attacks by initiating scans before an unknown file opens, and will prevent it from doing so should it cause any red flags. The software is good at protecting your PC while online, blocking malicious URLs and stopping auto-downloads from occurring. Going with Avast! will also nab some extra goodies, including a password manager and phishing protection, which has been enhanced since its previous iterations to be much more effective.

Of course as a free program, you’ll be missing out on some features exclusive to the paid package, including auto-scans and auto-updates. Those wanting such upgrades will need to opt for a subscription plan, which ranges from $10 to $180 per month. Still, sticking with the free version will keep you well-protected.

AVG AntiVirus Free 2016

AVG Free AntiVirus 2016

Despite past fishiness regarding AVG’s privacy policy, AVG Antivirus Free 2016 remains one of the best options for protecting your computer from all manner of security breaches (for the record, AVG’s privacy concerns were regarding the company collecting and selling your search data. While it may sound disconcerting, their practices were not necessarily insidious, as its par for the course when it comes to free antivirus software, and a lot of free software in general. After all, companies have to make their money somehow). Independent testing by AV-Comparatives scored AVG AntiVirus Free 2016 as Advanced+, the highest rating for antivirus efficacy. Such a high rating should wipe clean any remaining trepidation you may have about installing the product.

AVG AntiVirus Free 2016 comes with a whole host of features and several types of available scans, including scheduled scans, fast scans, folder-specific and root-kit specific scans, and of course the full-system scan, giving you flexibility in targeting whatever virus threats need rooting out. Its malware blocking is decent as well, though, strangely, the program opens a small dialog box warning of potential browsing risks, an odd design choice as the pop-ups are less obvious than blocking the website within the web browser itself.

That said, AVG is still a fine choice for protecting your PC while on the Internet. Its anti-phishing capabilities are more extensive than what most web browser employ by default, and it has a browser cleaner that will wipe clean your browser setting with one click. You can also set AVG to prevent tracking of your browsing activity (which, yes, is a bit ironic, considering AVG’s history — pun intended).

There are some features unique to AVG, including identity protection, PC analyzer tool, and a file shredder, which overwrites files before they’re sent to the trash folder, thus preventing the original file from being restored. These perks are nice, but the PC Analyzer in particular is a lame duck without upgrading to the paid version, as it will only inform you of vulnerability issues, not solve them. Of course, upgrading will also increase your level of protection and flexibility of use overall, but unless you’re actively trying to infect your system, the free version shouldn’t let you down.

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