Round up: The best free anti-spyware and anti-malware software 2016


The best free protection for your PC

Using an internet-connected PC without anti-spyware and anti-malware protection is rather like walking through the bad bit of town covered in bling, waving big wads of notes around and shouting “I am very bad at fighting!” Luckily you don’t need to have big wads of notes to ensure that you don’t get ripped off through your router or mugged via modem: as we’ll discover in our feature, there are plenty of seriously good PC protection apps that you can get for absolutely nothing.

As with any free software, pay close attention to the installers: some apps really want you to install bundled software, and they often do so by making installer screens really misleading in the hope that you’ll just merrily click okay to everything. Given that the whole point of these apps is to remove unwanted software from your system, trying to stuff unwanted apps into your PC is a bit off. For more information, see our guide to avoiding potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).

Have we missed an anti-spyware program that’s saved your system? Let us know in the comments below.


BitDefender Anti Virus Free Edition
BitDefender provides a simple, hassle-free way to keep your PC safe from malware

1. BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition

Discreet protection from malware, spyware and online security threats

Top downloadBitDefender is the strong, silent type. It doesn’t even ask questions when you install it. What it does instead is use a range of tactics to identify bad things. It has B-Have, which looks for apps behaving badly; link scanning to identify cons; proactive virus scanning that can detect threats nobody has encountered before; and boot scanning every time you start your PC.

Ad-free, nag-free and hassle-free, it’s a great product that runs quickly and silently while you get on with something more interesting.

Download BitDefender Anti-Virus Free Edition freeIts comprehensive suite of tools to protect your PC makes BitDefender our top pick. Read on to discover nine more of the best free anti-spyware and anti-malware programs.


Panda Free Anti Virus 2016
Panda Free Anti-Virus uses cloud servers to lighten the load on your PC’s resources

2. Panda Free Anti-Virus 2016

Cloud-based security that takes the pressure off your PC

We’re big fans of Panda’s security products, and Panda Free Anti-Virus 2016 is smarter than ever before. It’s cloud-based, with all the heavy lifting happening on Panda’s servers – so the load on your PC is lessened considerably.

Download Panda Free Antivirus 2016 freeAs ever there are paid products that offer more features – Wi-Fi scanning, password management, encryption, parental controls and so on – but Panda offers excellent real-time protection and is ridiculously simple to use.


AVG Anti Virus Free 2016
AVG Anti-Virus Free 2016 presents frequent pop-ups, but is a reliable security solution

3. AVG Anti-Virus Free 2016

A simple interface and effective scanning with remote activation

If you prefer software that keeps quiet, AVG Anti-Virus Free 2016 might not be the app for you: it’s quite vocal with its notifications, and irks us from time to time with irrelevant pop-ups telling us we’ve done something fantastic.

Download AVG Anti-Virus Free 2016As a security app, though, it’s very good. The dashboard is user-friendly, there’s protection not just from downloadable threats, but from dodgy links too, and you can use your mobile to scan your PC remotely, which is pretty clever.

The paid-for Pro model has more security options – it has more robust download protection, offers data encryption includes a firewall – but the free version offers decent protection for most PC users.


Ad Aware Free Anti Virus
Ad-Aware Free Anti-Virus+ covers all the fundamentals of PC security

4. Ad-Aware Free Anti-Virus+

All the anti-malware essentials, but lacks phishing protection

Like many security software firms, Lavasoft offers its Ad-Aware Free Anti-Virus+ software in a free version in the hope you’ll upgrade to its paid-for products – so it doesn’t have some of the more advanced features you’d pay money for, such as phishing protection, parental controls and a digital file shredder.

Download Ad-Aware Free Anti-Virus+ freeWhat it does have, however, more than covers the essentials: it scans downloads, checks for spyware, offers safe browsing via a list of known malicious websites and has a game mode so security notifications don’t interrupt your frag-fests. Not bad for no money.


MalwareBytes Anti malware
The free version of MalwareBytes Anti-malware is excellent, but the paid-for version is even better

5. MalwareBytes Anti-Malware

An excellent tool, but the free edition lacks real-time protection

You can use MalwareBytes Anti-Malware free for as long as you like, but there’s an important caveat: real-time protection, the fast ‘hyper scan’ mode and malicious website blocking features all expire after 14 days – and that means you’re missing out on some of the program’s best features.

Download MalwareBytes Anti-Malware freeMalwareBytes has a deserved reputation for destroying malware that other programs miss, and its chameleon technology – which once again expires after a fortnight in the free version – means it’s less susceptible to attacks that deliberately target security software. Think of the free version as a short-term savior or a test drive; the Premium version costs £19.95 (about US$29.15, AU$38.32) per year.


Spybot Search and Destroy
The free edition of SpyBot Search and Destroy does an excellent job of cleaning up adware, malware and spyware

6. SpyBot Search and Destroy

A security stalwart that’s ideal for diagnosing existing infections

SpyBot Search and Destroy is a veteran of the malware wars, dating back to the first adware in 2000, and while it doesn’t scan for viruses – that’s in the Home version, which is $13.99 (about £9.58, AU$18.39) – the free version does a decent job of finding and fixing adware, malware and spyware.

Download Spybot Search and Destroy freeIt’s more of a system repair tool than a system protection tool, however, and you need to be careful where you get it from: there are fake versions in circulation which are designed to cause damage, not fix it.


Avast Free Anti Virus 2016
Avast Free Anti-Virus 2016 is fast, lean and effective

7. Avast Free Anti-Virus 2016

A comprehensive package with built-in password management

Avast is another old-timer, and has been protecting Windows since PCs were made of wood. Avast Free Anti-Virus 2016 is the lightest, fastest version the company has ever shipped (the bad old days of security software slowing your PC to a crawl are thankfully long gone) and it supplements the anti-malware protection with a nifty password manager and home network monitoring, which can identify weak points in your Wi-Fi.

Download Avast Free Anti-Virus 2016 freeAs with most free products, not all the goodies are available for nothing, so for example if you want anti-phishing protection or spam filtering you’ll need the paid-for version, but the free edition is still a very comprehensive security package.


Emsisoft Emergency Kit
You can carry Emsisoft Emergency Kit on a USB stick for use whenever and wherever you need it

8. Emsisoft Emergency Kit

A lifesaver if your PC is already infected, but not a preventative tool

Most security software tries to stop malware and spyware getting onto your system. Emsisoft Emergency Kit doesn’t: it’s the 911 call of security software, the app you use when your PC’s been poked by something unpleasant.

Download Emsisoft Emergency Kit freeIt’s designed to be portable, an app you carry around with you on a USB stick, and its system requirements are tiny: just 200MB of RAM, so it’ll run quite happily on any PC with 1GB or more system memory. With 2 million malware signatures, Emisoft Emergency Kit can restore almost any infected PC to rude health.


Hijack This
Get detailed information to diagnose your PC with Hijack This

9. HijackThis

For experts only – get detailed reports on a misbehaving PC

Originally developed by Trend Micro and now available via SourceForge, HijackThis isn’t an app for the faint of heart or tech-phobic: it generates an exceptionally detailed report on your system, enabling you to spot potential problems and malicious software.

Download Hijack This freeIt’s very fast and very thorough, but it’s about malware methods rather than specific products. It tells you what’s going on and it’s your job to interpret it and take action. In the wrong hands, that power could be disastrous. This is one for experienced users only.


SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition
SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition doesn’t have the friendliest interface, but its feature-set is excellent

10. SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition

An outdated interface belies a solid manual malware scanner

Not just anti-spyware – SUPER anti-spyware. Does it live up to the name? Yes and no. SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition lacks real-time protection and scheduled scanning, so it’s a tool you need to remember to run manually, and the interface appears to have been designed in the dark by maniacs.

Download SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition freeThe core product is a solid one though, with lots of scanning options, registry repair, behavioural scanning and daily threat updates. It’s not super, but it’s pretty good.

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