Best Anti Ransomware Software Free - 5 Steps

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Kevin L. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I have been researching the best anti ransomware software for 2018 and came across your website. I was wondering if you had any recommendations? While searching for the best anti ransomware software (free), many websites have their own opinion on what anti ransomware software is the best, but most require a paid subscription. What is your opinion on the best anti ransomware software for PCs? "

My response:

I've answered this question in depth before (in a round about way) with my guide on How to Prevent Ransomware in 2018 - 10 Steps. This guide was written in 2018 but will hold true for years - even decades to come.

In general, I believe the only protection you need is an up to date operating system (Windows 10), your favorite (free) antivirus / anti malware software set for minimal protection (real time file scanning only), and backups made on a regular basis with monthly backups stored offline.

It's important to note that when it comes to the best anti ransomware protection, you don't want something that is going to slow your computer down. The more "protection" you throw at a system, the more layers of scanning are required. You can limit this if you only use real time file scanning with your antivirus software (and nothing else) and backups in case the antivirus fails to catch the infection in the first place.

Below I'll explain in more detail what I just said, so it all makes perfect sense.

Best Anti Ransomware Software Free - 5 Steps

Generally speaking, here are the programs I use to protect my system against ransomware:

1. Windows 10

The latest edition of Windows from Microsoft has the most recent security features built into the operating system, including anti ransomware protection. If you own Windows 7 or 8 you can still upgrade to Windows 10 for free, despite Microsoft suggesting that the free upgrade period is over.

If you intend to upgrade, I suggest you backup the system prior as the upgrade can fail or not work properly, leaving you with a half working system (or one that doesn't work at all). If you need help upgrading to Windows 10, I can assist using my remote desktop support service - just send me an email.

2. Windows Defender Security Center

The Windows Defender Security Center comes bundled with Windows 10 version 1703 and later (free) and includes Windows Defender antivirus, which runs alongside your main antivirus program if you use one, or you can just use Windows Defender on its own.

Windows Defender runs periodic full system scans once a month and can catch malware that your main antivirus might have missed. Windows Defender taps into the Microsoft Cloud and can alert you of suspicious activity that has been reported on other Windows 10 machines, which makes it a fantastic anti ransomware tool. The Windows Defender Security Center also includes the Windows Firewall, which helps protect you against viruses, malware, ransomware and alerts you if something is wrong.

3. Avast Antivirus Free

I have tested numerous antivirus programs in the past (even Windows Defender) and Avast uses the least amount of memory and CPU usage, meaning that it runs very light weight and fast - which translates to your computer running fast.

The only protection I use with Avast is the real time file scanning - everything else is turned off. The real time file scanning is the ONLY protection you need because it scans files as they are read from disk.

Please remember this: any extra "protection" causes the system to slow down - whether it's all the features of a particular program enabled, or using multiple programs to "protect" your system. This is true for any third party antivirus, anti malware, and anti ransomware protection as well.

4. Malwarebytes Antimalware Free

If I ever get infected with a virus, malware, or ransomware, I do a full system scan using Avast, and then I use Malwarebytes Antimalware (free) to do the same. I don't use Malwarebytes real time file scanning as this is part of Malwarbytes Premium which requires a subscription. I only use Malwarebytes Antimalware if I become infected using the "scan" option.

After the infection has been removed, I restore any encrypted (ransomware) files using my backups to negate any damage to my files. If the infection cannot be removed I would restore my operating system from backups - described next.

5. Macrium Reflect Free (for backups)

Macrium Reflect is worth its weight in gold (even if it's free, though a paid-for version if offered). Macrium Reflect can backup your entire operating system and user files; if you get infected, you can restore single files or an entire partition.

A proper backup strategy is important when backing up the system; for example, I backup my main computer to my server daily, and then I copy those backups onto an external drive once a month. I then keep those backups offline (not attached to the system) in case ransomware were to spread and destroy my backups.

Best Anti Ransomware Software: Conclusion

It's important to understand that there isn't a single anti ransomware, antivirus, or antimalware program on the market that is going to catch 100% of all infections. That's because there are many different strains of ransomware released all the time by cyber criminals, and no single program can detect the new variations. That's why antivirus, antimalware, and anti ransomware programs need to be updated regularly.

That's also why making backups is the key to any sort of infection, whether it's ransomware, malware, or a virus. You can help prevent ransomware infections by using an up to date operating system like Windows 10 - and as always, use common sense when opening files such as email attachments and downloads. For more ideas on how to protect yourself against ransomware, see my guide on How to Prevent Ransomware in 2018 - 10 Steps.

As you can see, the best anti ransomware protection is the excellent advice in this article, coupled with the programs I've mentioned - which are all free.

I hope that helps.

Additional 1-on-1 Support: From Dennis

If all of this is over your head, or if you need help protecting your system from ransomware and even upgrading to Windows 10 - I can help using my remote desktop support service. Simply contact me, briefly describing the issue and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing - please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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Nick's Computer Guys's picture

Almost word for word what I typically use with my clients, but you missed a key one since Avast Free does not do anything to actually stop a ransomware attack once it has been initiated.

CyberReason's RansomFree does just that, and plays well with Avast and other Antivirus programs. It has a small memory footprint, has been tested extensively and found to be very good at stopping a ransomware attack in its tracks, BEFORE it can encrypt all your files.

Nick's Computer Guys's picture

CyberReason has since discontinued development and support of their RansomFree product. I have found BitDefender's free Anti-Ransomware Tool to be a satisfactory replacement.

trevvytrev_10414's picture

Having just looked on Bitdefender's website after your recommendation, sadly I see that their free anti-ransomware tool you describe is no longer free and additionally, it appears it can't be downloaded and used separately either.

It's only available as part of two different paid-for packages that Bitdefender has.

(sigh) oh well, I'll keep looking...