It’s the nightmare scenario. You’ve spent an evening browsing the less wholesome corners of the Internet and you think you might have picked something up. Your computer is running slowly, a strange dancing lady keeps appearing on your task bar and you keep getting redirected to strange websites. This all could have been avoided if you’d just had a good antivirus. The recent rise in cyber crime has made malware protection more important than ever. Unfortunately many providers ask for a subscription fee. Luckily for all us cheapskates/broke people among us there are plenty of free options out there. A lot are fairly useless but there’s two worth your time. It’s Avast vs Bitdefender in the battle for the best free antivirus.
Can a free anti-virus program really be trusted?
Free anti virus programs sometimes have a bit of a bad reputation. Many of them amount to little more than advertising platforms that provide little in the way of useful protection. In fact sometimes it can feel like the free anti-virus is worse than the viruses it is supposed to protect you from. The fact is that a free antivirus will always lack the features of their paid counterpart.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t still get top notch protection. Many of the best paid services do offer free version that provide pretty solid protection. Think of it as a sort of demo. They’ll give you the basic protection that you need to stay safe but if you want access to the advanced features you’ll need to pay up.
We chose our two champions based on two of the most common suggestions. The stage is set, it’s Avast vs Bitdefender. So how do the competitors measure up in the battle for the best free antivirus.
Avast is a household name when it comes to free antivirus. It has consistently rated highly on free antivirus lists. Their 2017 free version comes packed with a whole host of features that go above and beyond what you would expect from a free package.
Before we get into those free features let’s answer the important question. How well does Avast protect you from Malware? The answer to that is, pretty effectively. Avast 2017 has received positive feedback from a number of independent testing labs. AV-Comparatives gives Avast two advanced and two advanced + ratings, which is a fairly impressive result. Not all results are as good with AV-TEST only giving Avast a score of 15.5/18.
These ratings show that Avast free ships with some fairly comprehensive malware protection with some minor drawbacks, usually related to performance. The free version can protect against various types of Malware and can even help to defend its users from Potentially unwanted Programs (PUPs). It handily detects and shuts down pretty much ever kind of Malware lurking out there.
Avast is also excellent at helping to protect you from phishing attacks. Phishing attacks have been used in many high profile breaches recently, including NotPetya. Phishing is tougher for an antivirus program to deal with because it relies on tricking the user into believing that a fake website is legitimate. Avast’s anti-phishing tools work on all three of the major browsers (IE, Firefox and Chrome) and it displays a semi-transparent logo telling you that the site is unsafe.
Avast Free comes with an impressive array of extra features at no additional cost
Avast free really ups the game with a pretty impressive suit of free features that you wouldn’t expect it to ship. These range from the wifi-scanner to password scanners. Some of these “bonus features” require a purchase in order to utilize all of the bells and whistles but the stuff on offer is still impressive.
Avast’s password manager is one of the more surprising inclusions. While not as comprehensive as a dedicated offering it should still be sufficient for the majority of users. It will handle any basic password management problems that you throw at it. It will help you create a really solid master-password (Hint: Think passphrase). You can then use this master program to access all of your other passwords. Once these are added Avast will then let you add your passwords and automatically fill them in when you revisit a new site. It can even warn you about weak or duplicate programs.
Another strong feature that might tip the scales for Avast vs Bitdefender is the wifi inspector. Contrary to what the name suggestions, it can inspect any kind of Internet connection, wired or wifi. Basically it checks the security of your network and gives you a report on the security status of all your devices. If it finds a problem it will flag it and then give you suggestions about how to improve your security.
Avast also comes with a whole host of other small features. It can check for typos in your website address, block unwanted trackers, flag any unsafe websites and even has it’s own “safe browser” for when you are using your card or bank account. Basically, Avast comes packed to the brim with features.
Avast takes the kitchen sink approach
Avast free offers excellent protection and a huge number of features for free. You will have to deal with the odd nag screen and it may attempt insert itself into your email signatures, although there’s an easy fix. You will of course get more features if you opt for the pro version but it’s not strictly necessary unless you really want a few extra features.
BitDefender is another free antivirus that regularly scores high in tests and that is often recommended as a solid choice. It doesn’t come with Avast’s bells and whistles but its virus protection is one of the best free products on offer today. Is that enough to give it an edge over Avast?
Bitdefender free might lack many features of the commercial version but it uses the exact same anti-virus software. This means that Bitdefender is boasting some of the best free protection on offer right now. So how does it compare to Avast?
Bitdefender has received positive ratings from a range of independent labs. AV-Comparitives has given them an advanced+ rating in every single category, which is more than a little impressive, especially for free software. It also got strong ratings from AV-test, scoring 17.5 out of ten, which blows Avast out of the water. That said, the difference isn’t that big but it does give Bitdefender a bit of an edge.
Bitdefender’s primary strength lies in its incredibly good anti-phishing software. Bitdefender has some of the best anti-phishing software out there and it is in part due to the way that it protects users. Not only does Bitdefender search for a database of phishing websites it also does its best to protect users from other kinds of scams and fraud, such as dating scams or escrow scams. The free version will just tell you that is blocked a phishing attempt but it does provide you with the same protection as the paid.
Bitdefender free takes a slimmed down approach by only offering basic protection
Whereas Avast throws features at its users Bitdefender free keeps things simple. What you get is a simple clean interface that will let you protect your computer from any threats. No more, no less. If you don’t want a whole host of other features and you’re just after comprehensive solid anti-virus protection then your best choice is definitely Bitdefender. It might be slim but it’s definitely effective.
Avast vs Bitdefender, who wins the battle for the best free antivirus
There isn’t really a clear cut answer to this question. Both Avast and Bitdefender fit into their own niches that will appeal to different kinds of users. Which one is best for you will really depend upon what you want out of your free antivirus.
Avast certainly has the edge when it comes to the features on offer. It ships with a solution for just about every problem. Some users may find many of the features unnecessary and will feel as though Avast is a little bloated.
Bitdefender on the other hand ships with nothing but the bare bones protection that you need. It also has an edge over Avast when it comes to protecting you from phishing scams, even if the two have comparable protection against Malware.
In the end, when it is Avast vs Bitdefender your victor will be heavily down to personal preference. Both services are excellent at what they do and are aimed at very different audiences so it will depend upon your needs.
That said, this is a battle and there needs to be a winner. I prefer a simple approach and so Bitdefender edges this one out with a technical victory but there is almost nothing in it.