Avira Free Security continues to provide effective free malware protection, but it doesn’t currently stand out among its rivals.
- Works on Windows 7 & 8.1
- Includes lots of extra tools
- Less effective than some rivals
- Ransomware defence isn’t included
- Can’t disable notifications
- Password managerAvira offers a free edition of its companion password management service
Avira Free Security has a longstanding reputation as a lightweight antivirus suite that will run on almost anything.
However, its lack of a silent mode and a slight dip in its test performance means that it’s no longer an easy recommend. You may be best looking elsewhere for the best free antivirus.
Malware detection performance
The Avira malware detection engine’s performance in the most recent tests by AV-Test and AV Comparatives, although by no means ineffective, wasn’t quite up to most of its rivals.
It was the worst performer across two months of AV-Test’s real-world tests, scoring 99.2% and 99.9% respectively. It protected the test system in 98.9% of AV Comparatives’ test exposures, although it scored a perfect 100% across all protection and accuracy metrics in SE Labs’ latest tests.
Avira Free Security’s interface is typical for a modern AV suite: a greyscale background with large icons to make it easy to navigate its various features. It opens on a Status Scan tab, which scans for and removes unwanted files, mostly from cache folders, and registry entries. It will offer to fix your privacy settings, speed up start-up times, and update outdated apps for you – if you upgrade to the premium version of Avira.
More useful is the second tab, Security, with which you can initiate on-demand scans, check quarantined files, scan for apps in need of updating, access the Windows firewall, and enable and disable Avira’s different protection modules.
This shows that free users only get access to the real-time protection module, which monitors your PC at all times and scans any potentially malicious program that attempts to make changes to your device.
If you click on the dedicated web, email and ransomware protection modules, you’ll be prompted to subscribe to Avira Prime. This is less generous than many of Avira’s free rivals, but it’s worth bearing in mind that real-time protection is the most critical component of any modern anti-malware tool for day-to-day defence.
The Privacy tab primarily exists to promote other Avira products. I’m not a fan of the “browser safety” module – the Avira Safe Shopping extension. Free users also get a not-particularly-useful 500MB of monthly throughput on Avira’s Phantom VPN service, upgraded to unlimited for Avira Prime subscribers.
Avira’s companion Password Manager has a free version; but, although free users can sync across devices, you’ll have to pay for password security checking and it isn’t as polished as rivals such as Bitwarden.
A file shredder gets rid of files and overwrites them so that they’re unrecoverable, while the Privacy Settings tool helps you tweak Windows and installed applications’ settings so that they don’t inadvertently share more than you want them to.
You’ll find even more tools under the Performance tab, with utilities to locate and delete duplicate files, a performance optimiser, a driver update checker, and a tool to tweak your laptop battery settings, in addition to a selection of system speed and desktop optimisation tools. It’s worth noting that an interruption-free game/movie/fullscreen mode is only available in Avira’s paid-for offerings, however.
Should you buy it?
If you’re using an old version of Windows:
If you’re an existing Avira Free user running an older version of Windows, then its current performance is adequate, if not amazing.
Avira Free Security’s extra features are unusually generous for a free anti-malware suite, and it will run happily on Windows 7 and 8.1. However, for Windows 10 and 11 systems, tests show that it’s less effective at keeping malware off your PC than Microsoft’s outstanding – and fully integrated – Defender suite, while users of unsupported Microsoft operating systems would be better off with Avast or Bitdefender’s free antivirus tools.
How we test
We use every antivirus software ourselves, so we can check out the various features.
We also use reliable websites to determine the malware detection performance, including AV-Test, AV Comparatives and SE Labs.
We download and use the software ourselves to test the included features
We use trusted and approved websites to determine the malware detection performance
You might like…
Yes, it’s perfectly safe to use and can be trusted. But you can find better malware detection for free elsewhere.
Yes, Avira Free Security is free to use for as long as you want. Although certain features are locked behind the premium tier’s paywall.