The Best Free Anti-malware Software of 2013
By Dave Cottrell
The best free anti-malware software of 2013 has been tested, ranked and run for over half a year, already, and it has undoubtedly saved a lot of computing devices.
I say “computing devices,” because the days of the humble desktop computer’s total dominance of the field have ended. While we still have them and use them, we also have laptops (like the one I’m working on), tablets, iPads, smartphones and now phablets, tablets that double as a cellular phone.
It’s great to be able to be connected everywhere we go, although I am very happy there is a way of shutting these things off!
These days, you can do your business virtually anywhere, but there is something we all need to be aware of that all of these tools have in common: Malware.
Malware comes in many forms. It can be as innocuous as a small snippet of software called a “cookie,” set on your computer to keep track of your surfing and clicking habits on a website. Every time you log in anywhere, cookies are used. Most of them are not malware, per se, but they do load up on your computer, and if you never dump your cache, can slow your device down.
Malware, the kind we really need to be aware of, can be code that loads on your computer and collects information on all you do. This is called spyware. It can collect all kinds of data from your computer that you want kept private, in some cases including passwords and banking information.
It can also be what’s known as a trojan, short for trojan horse (not the other thing…). Just like the wooden horse full of soldiers the Trojans snuck through the gates of the city as a “present,” the trojan sits on your computer until a predetermined time and then loads itself and starts taking over your computer. They can be really nasty to remove, especially if they are a java code installed in the root directory (also called rootkits).
The one most people are very familiar with is the one called a virus. Just like a very small amount of live virus can infect you and make your whole body very sick, a computer virus left unchecked can bring your device to a complete standstill. I have personally witnessed a case where a virus started writing to a hard drive and filled it completely in about an hour, making it impossible to run. (It’s dead, Jim!)
It’s way easier to keep stuff out of your device than to try to clean it out after you’re infected. Just like it’s better to wash your hands and avoid close contact with sick people, rather than getting sick and having to deal with a flu or cold; it’s better to keep malware out of your computer.
Good anti-malware can be quite expensive. Once you have it all, including a registry cleaner to straighten out the mess made by all the downloading, surfing, protecting, etc., done on your device every day, you can easily spend a hundred bucks or more, and after that, there are yearly licenses to buy, and then the constant, heavy, bandwidth-hogging upgrades…
But here’s the good news. You don’t really have to buy anti-malware software for your personal device. You can get it all for free!
The best free anti-malware software of 2013 has been tested by some of the best geeks in the business, and the lists have been made.
What if your computer is already infected? Well, first of all, if it’s still running, put ANY antivirus program on there to protect it and your friends from worse.
Then consider these top solutions.
- Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 1.70 scores the best. Guess what I have on my computer? This one doesn’t include ongoing protection, but if you have almost any kind of malware problem already on your computer, this one will root it out very nicely in most cases.
- AVG Anti-Virus FREE 2013 This one scores very close to as high as Malwarebytes for cleaning out existing infections. The difference is that this one also offers ongoing protection.
These two are rated the very best all around free anti-malware software for cleaning up an infected computer. Go ahead. Load them on your computer and run them. If you don’t already have them, I will bet that you’re in for a surprise.
The best free anti-malware software solutions for ongoing protect in 2013 are:
- AVG Anti-Virus FREE 2013
- Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ 10.5 These two share PCMag‘s Editor’s choices for full-featured, yet free antivirus protection. AVG scored highest overall in independent lab results.
- Comodo Cleaning Essentials 6 also does a great job for cleaning out the bad stuff. I keep all three on my computer. Remember, it’s not necessary or even wise to keep all your malware software running at once, but it’s a lot easier to run it something gets through if you already have it on your computer!
In malware blocking tests, AVG Anti-Virus FREE 2013 scored right at the top, closely followed by Panda Cloud Anti-Virus Free Edition 2.0 and Avira Antivirus Free 2013. Comodo Internet Security Premium (2013) is the only other one that scored above 9.0 out of 10
At the time of this article, Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ 10.5 from Lavasoft is scoring higher even than AVG in malware blocking tests and may come out the overall winner for 2013. It has come a long way since its humble beginnings, and has always been good. I have run Ad-Aware software on my computer since it was strictly for cleaning out adware. In fact Lavasoft pioneered the first anti-spyware software, back in 1999!
One thing that may seem very tempting for its simplicity is the free suite. These are tools that are billed as covering all your bases, including firewalls. Why not have it all in one, and have more room on your device?
Two products that are advertised this way are ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall 2013 and Comodo Internet Security Premium (2013), both of which I have used. The Comodo product is actually pretty good, and would be my recommendation if you were really determined to have only one product on your machine, but ZoneAlarm’s AV software isn’t the greatest. Their firewall has always been great, but I took it off because I was tired of all the upgrade reminders.
Comodo is one of those products you can download, install, and shut off unless you need it. It’s a great product for backup, and since it’s free, why not have it, as long as you have enough space.
Be aware when you go to download free anti-malware software that many of these companies also have a free trial download, usually with a prominent download link. This is not what you want to download if you want free software, because it will constantly prompt you to upgrade, and will one day stop working.
Look at the page carefully before you download, and make sure you really are downloading the free version.
Remember that if you have an online business, you can’t afford to have your device compromised or worse by malware. You do a lot of work when you run an online business, and visit a lot of different places in a day. You open a huge amount of email. You go to Paypal and other merchant accounts.
Imagine if a virus infected your device and wiped out your storage, be it an SD card or hard drive or whatever you use! What if someone got access to your merchant account or banking information! What if someone got your mailing list!
You just can’t afford to have your computer open to this kind of stuff. But at the same time, there is virtually no excuse to get hit.
You can get all the security software for your device that most people will ever need, FREE. That’s right. Free, no cost, zero, nada, zip, as the gurus like to say, except that this really IS free, and it’s very good software.
My two favourite go to places for software are CNET and FileHippo. Both of these places check the software, rate it, and make sure it’s free from any known kind of malware.
My preference out of the two is FileHippo. I’ve used them for years, and have never had a problem.
In fact, I am the kind of person the computer stores hate, because I don’t let them load anything on the device other than the operating system it comes with. I load only free software, almost all from FileHippo, and have had far greater success this way than with all the expensive software I used to buy because I thought I had to.
Occasionally I will upgrade to the premium software, but only if there is a free version that works well and only if I can see enough benefit in it to make it worth while. (A case in point is my PDF editing software).
Remember that you have to be careful you really are downloading the free version and not the free trial. FileHippo makes that easy.
Finally, for Android phones, such as my Galaxy III, I recommend AVG for Android, which you can download free from the Play Store. It has done a great job for me, and lest anyone thinks you don’t need AV software on a smartphone, it has also caught more than one piece of malicious code.
The best free anti-malware software of 2013 IS very good at what it’s for. Don’t leave yourself or your business vulnerable to malicious attacks. Protect yourself. It’s free… and it works.