Kaspersky Free antivirus provides top security for Windows PCs

Can Kaspersky compete with free antivirus from AVG, Avast and Avira?

Kaspersky has a range of excellent security software for Windows PCs, but unlike rivals such as AVG, Avast and Avira, it hasn’t had a free option. Kaspersky Free antivirus fills that gap.

Free PC antivirus software is available for the PC and the latest entry into this market is Kaspersky Free. Here's a review of this Windows software.

Why would a software company give away free software? There are actually many benefits and one is that is prevents the user going to rival companies and installing their software instead of yours.

If someone is using your free software, you have a captive audience and endless opportunities to sell upgrades to paid products that bring in money. Kaspersky is unlikely to make a sale to someone using the free version of AVG, Avast or Avira, but it might be able to convince them to upgrade to Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Internet Security or Total Security.

Don’t worry, you are not going to be blasted with pop-up ads and sales pitches. Instead, Kaspersky Free simply provides free antivirus security. All the core protection is active, but there are some modules that can only be accessed if you upgrade to a paid version.

On the home screen only Scan and Database Update can be used and Safe Money, Privacy Protection, Parental Controls, and Protection for all devices simply display a message stating that they are not free and you must upgrade to activate them.

Kaspersky Free antivirus for Windows home screen

The way Kaspersky Free sells upgrades is simply to show you what you are missing.

Scan for malware with Kaspersky Free

Click the Scan button and there are the usual options consisting of Full Scan, Quick Scan, Selective Scan and External Device Scan. Full scans take a long time, but they might only be needed once a month. Quick scans are faster and can be performed weekly, but it is not as thorough.

A selective scan enables you to add files to be checked by dragging them from an Explorer window and dropping them on the Kaspersky Free window. This enables you to build a list of items to scan, such as the contents of the Downloads folder.

Another way to check for malware is to right click files in an Explorer window. Three new items appear on the menu after installing Kaspersky Free and Scan for viruses is straightforward.

Kaspersky Free context menu when clicking on a file in Windows Explorer

The second menu item is Check Reputation on KSN and this displays a window that shows what Kaspersky knows about the application. The company maintains an online database and it can tell you if an application is trustworthy or malware, how many people have used it, when it was first seen and so on.

The third new menu item, Kaspersky Application Advisor opens a browser window to show a full report on the application. It shows user confidence, geographic range, number of users, and more. This is excellent and a great help when you want to know if an app you downloaded from the internet is safe or not.

Related: Harden Windows security and increase protection from malware

Kaspersky Secure Connection

Kaspersky Secure Connection is bundled with Kaspersky Free and it is a VPN powered by Hotspot Shield. An icon appears in the tray at the right side of the taskbar and clicking it opens a panel so you can turn on the VPN to provide a secure, encrypted internet connection. Don't get too excited though, it appears to give you just 300MB for free. However, it could be useful for light use at a public Wi-Fi hotspot.

Kaspersky Secure Connection is a VPN for Windows users

Kaspersky Free settings

There isn’t much else in this free antivirus program apart from settings. There are switches to enable or disable File Anti-Virus, Web Anti-Virus, IM Anti-Virus, and Mail Anti-Virus. If you use web-based email like Outlook.com and Gmail, you can turn off Mail Anti-Virus because those services scan emails for malware anyway.

Performance settings let you put off scheduled tasks while on battery power, disable features like notifications when full screen applications are running, such as games or videos, and a few other settings.

Kaspersky Free antivirus for Windows settings

There are high, medium and low antivirus settings that balance performance against protection, options to scan all files, or selectively by format or extension, an option to scan only new and changed files, to scan zip archives or skip them and so on. There are plenty of settings to tweak if you want to customise the way it works.

AV-Comparatives most recent Real-World Protection Test showed Kaspersky protected against 99.8% of malware, which is close to a perfect score. If you want free antivirus protection for your Windows PC, Kaspersky Free is a good choice.

Related: How to protect against ransomware in Windows and stay safe

Download Kaspersky Free

The URL is kaspersky.com/free-antivirus but the company is making it available around the world in stages. If you cannot download it yet, you will be able to sooner or later. The last countries to get it will be Thailand and Vietnam in November.

(I was sneaky and used a VPN to pretend I was in another country. Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway were the first to get it.)

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