Many people continue to use vintage computers, running operating systems that are past their end-of-support date. While I recommend that these users upgrade to something modern and more secure, I understand when they stick with their classic machines. I don’t judge.
But if those computers are going to hit the internet, they do need antivirus. And as they age, it becomes more difficult to find an antivirus software that is willing to run on a much older OS. Below are some links to free antiviruses that are compatible with bygone OSes, like Vista and El Capitan.
My favorite free antivirus for older PCs is Microsoft Security Essentials. But Microsoft pulled this from their sites, so use these links to get the 32-bit version or the 64-bit version . It will run on any XP, Vista or Win7 computer.
There’s some debate on whether Macs need additional antivirus protection. For now, I’ll say: You are at greater risk if you’re using an out-of-date computer, so antivirus becomes more relevant if you’re not running the latest MacOS. If your MacOS is so old to be completely out of service, please get some antivirus ASAP.
AVG offers free antivirus for Macs here, and can install on MacOS 10.13 High Sierra or newer.
Avast offers free antivirus for Macs here, and can install on MacOS 10.11 El Capitan or newer.
Microsoft Defender Antivirus is part of every Windows 10 and Windows 11 computer. Whether you use Microsoft Defender or another antivirus, please know that you can use the Microsoft software to run a deep scan on your computer. This will not conflict with your current security software, and can be useful if you feel you may have a virus problem that is not being detected with normal system scans.
The “deep scan” is officially called the Microsoft Defender Offline scan, and here’s how you can use it:
Click the Start Button and go to Settings. In the search field, type “windows security” and then click on Windows Security to open it.
Click on Virus & Threat Protection. a. If you are using a non-Microsoft antivirus, click on Microsoft Defender Options and then turn on Periodic Scanning.
Under the Quick Scan button, click “Scan Options”.
Click the bubble next to Microsoft Defender Offline scan, and then click Scan Now.
This begins the Offline scan, and will reboot your computer to fulfill this action. So close and save your work before going through with this! Expect to see this sort of scan screen running for 15 minutes or more:
After the scan is over, you may not see much, other than your computer boots up to your normal wallpaper and icons. To see the results of the scan, follow the steps 1 & 2 from above, and the Virus & Threat Protection panel will tell you if it caught any baddies. Feel free to click on Protection History for more details on your scan history.
Many PC users are content to use the free antivirus that’s built-in to Microsoft Windows: Microsoft Defender Antivirus. Some still call it Windows Defender, but in any case, you can get to it by clicking on the white or blue shield that lives near your system clock.
But some users are finding that they cannot enter that shield icon, after certain Windows Updates. Some Microsoft upgrades break that icon, and won’t let you see your protection software anymore. If this happens to you, there’s a quick fix for that:
Click the Start button and use the Windows Search function to look for “Powershell”. When you find it, right-click it and select Run as Administrator.
Copy and paste the following chunk of text into the Powershell window and then press Enter on your keyboard:
I’m sorry to say that Bitdefender has pulled a fast one on some of us.
Last year, they announced that they were discontinuing their free antivirus for Windows. And users of the free software received emails from Bitdefender, urging them to take advantage of a low price of their paid software. For my part, I recommended people not buy their antivirus, and switch to any other free protection software. But many users upgraded and paid for their security suites, to continue with uninterrupted Bitdefender protection.
This past week, Bitdefender announced their release of Bitdefender Free Antivirus for Windows. It’s available now for download on their website. I’ve tested it out, and it installs and works as well as any of their past software. I’m guessing it wasn’t announced before now, in order to convert more people to paid accounts….
But I’m still not keen on pushing my clients to use this product. The built-in protection on Windows machines is just as highly rated as Bitdefender products. But I can say that Bitdefender is a quality product, should you prefer to use it. And if you want help converting back to a free account, or addressing any other payment issues, make sure to reach out to BD support.
Concerned about Kaspersky Antivirus? Here’s what you need to know, if you currently use their software:
Germany’s Federal Government just warned businesses in their country to avoid using Kaspersky antivirus software. The concern is that Kaspersky software offers a potential vector for a future IT attack. There is no current threat, only a concern over the future possibility of one.
Dig further and the history of the US Government and Kaspersky gets more sordid and confusing. More questions are raised than are answered. Is this simply the rise of anti-Russian sentiments, or are there legitimate threats to beware here?
If You Choose to Stop Using Kaspersky
Kaspersky Antivirus is a top-rated protection software. But if you feel the need to move on to something else, by all means do so! There are so many highly-rated antiviruses out there, and I commonly recommend people try out the built-in Microsoft Defender (Windows) or XProtect (MacOS) for free. Just uninstall your current Kaspersky programs and the built-in protections should kick in automagically.
If you have any trouble or errors while uninstalling Kaspersky software, don’t fret! there is a specific tool to use, if you need advanced help removing Kaspersky’s antivirus.
But many commercial antiviruses sign their users up for automatic renewal. You may want to check the Kaspersky website, and log into your customer account, to check this. Turn off any renewal options, lest Kaspersky charge you for something you’re not using.
If you’ve recently paid for Kaspersky, you are allowed to ask for a refund within 30 days of purchase. Contact Kaspersky Support from the options at the bottom of this page for that.
For many years, Bitdefender has offered free antivirus to all, but that ends soon for Windows users. As of 1/1/2022, they say that their free software will be discontinued. And they’d love to sell you their paid antivirus!
But whoa there, let’s slow it down a bit. If they’re trying to convert you to a paying customer, put your wallet away and consider other free protection software. There’s plenty of options out there!
Your first step will be to uninstall all Bitdefender Free software from your computer. After you do that and reboot your PC, check the white or blue shield icon in your taskbar. The Windows Security Center should allow you to turn on Microsoft’s built-in protection, Microsoft Defender Antivirus. (And in many cases, it turns itself on!) That is enough protection, and equivalent to any other free antivirus out there!
If you really want to go above and beyond, you may. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but I realize that some folks appreciate having a 3rd party antivirus app. And many other companies still offer free antivirus, like:
Many people get annual emails that announce upcoming antivirus auto-renewal charges. So this scam tends to works well, because it lines up with people’s expectations:
There is nothing true about this message, yet it still grabs people and compels them reach for the phone. The urge to undo that $500+ charge almost blocks out other thoughts. But if you receive this kind of email, take a deep breath and realize that it is just a ruse. It is a variant of the Thanks for Your Purchase scam. It is a purchase that never happened.
The phone number in that email will not connect you to Norton, but a scammer. S/he’ll gladly pretend to be with Norton or McAfee or whatever company you mention. And they will cheerfully agree to get you your money back. But what they will actually do is pretend to process a refund for you, while covertly making off with your cash.
Don’t ever call these numbers, and don’t email the senders. Even knowing that it’s a scam, reaching out to them in any way may encourage them to share your contact info with other scammers. And that just means more scams in your inbox. It’s always best to just delete these emails. And if a scammer cold-calls you with this sort of scheme, just hang up on them without another word.
When it comes time to uninstall an antivirus program, you should remove it the same way that you would any other program. On a Windows 10 PC, you would probably go to Start -> Settings -> Apps, find the program in the list and click it to get the Uninstall button. But that doesn’t always work.
Antiviruses are more complicated and prone to problems than regular software. Sometimes those problems emerge as you try to uninstall, and the software will not leave your system. It happens frequently enough that the antivirus makers often create specific tools to help.
Below I will list out popular antiviruses and links to their specific removal tools. If you ever meet with failure during a normal uninstallation of an antivirus, maybe these will help you. And if I’ve missed a particular antivirus you need help with, drop me a line about it. I’ll research it and add anything I find to this list!
On your computer, please do not install more than one antivirus. You’re certainly welcome to use any antivirus you like: Bitdefender, Avast, McAfee, Norton, etc. But only one. If you want to change antiviruses, uninstall your current AV before bringing in the new one.
Why? The reasons can get complicated, but I’ll keep it brief: Two antiviruses can fight with each other and your computer will suffer the fallout. If you run more than one antivirus, your computer may bog down, kick up strange errors, or have problems loading websites.
So whichever antivirus you like, stick with just that one, and don’t pile on any others.
One exception: Microsoft Defender Antivirus (built-in to Windows and found under the white shield icon) is smart, and will turn itself off automatically if you install any other antivirus. And it should turn itself back on if you uninstall all other antiviruses.
You can use your antivirus to scan any file on your system, and it’ll tell you if the file is safe or not. But sometimes, you might want a second opinion. No antivirus is perfect. If you want to double-check any file before you open it, head to www.virustotal.com .
At this site, you can upload a file to be scanned for viruses. VirusTotal will check it against *dozens* of other antivirus definitions, and quickly give you the results.
By the way, someone emailed me a virus today. I sent it up for a VT scan; the results are attached to this post. I found it rather telling that Microsoft and Bitdefender spotted the virus, but Symantec and McAfee found nothing wrong with my file…
You can also submit a URL, if you like, and they will also check that for safety. Best of all: This site is free to use and free of ads!