Antivirus software, also known as anti-malware, is a type of program used to search, detect, and remove software viruses and other malicious software from your computer or device. Once installed, most antivirus software runs automatically behind the scenes to protect your computer against a virus.
The best antivirus software offers an intuitive interface, real-time scanning (as opposed to running a manual scan), automatic updates, and provides protection against all types of malware. Antivirus software should also be able to operate without slowing down your device.
Best Overall : Bitdefender Total Security
Bitdefender is our choice for the best overall antivirus software because it offers comprehensive security coverage across five devices, a privacy firewall, parental controls, and OneClick Optimizers to help maintain the speed of your devices.
Advanced parental controls
Unlimited VPN requires a subscription upgrade
Can be difficult to reach customer support
If you want antivirus software that protects against a variety of cyber threats, then you should check out our top choice, Bitdefender. First and most importantly, Bitdefender has excellent third-party antivirus protection scores. It is also very easy to use with an intuitive interface. All you have to do to activate Bitdefender Total Security is go into your email after making the purchase and follow the steps to create your account and activate your subscription. Once active, you can start installing and protecting your devices. Bitdefender has a minimal impact on the performance of your device and comes with a number of additional features.
Bitdefender Total Security covers Windows, PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets running Android or iOS on up to five devices and protects against viruses, malware, and cyber threats. It also provides protection against ransomware to keep your documents, pictures, and videos safe from cyber threats. Parents will be happy to know that Bitdefender also offers parental controls.
Bitdefender Total Security comes with a basic version of VPN that includes 6GB of traffic per month free of charge. If you require unlimited traffic, you will have to add Bitdefender Premium VPN to your subscription.
Before committing to an annual Bitdefender subscription, you can try it for free for 30 days. An annual subscription is $89.99 ($39.98 for the first year).
Best for Mac : Intego Mac Internet Security X9
Intego has been building antivirus software for Mac computers since 1997. With over two decades of experience, Intego was an easy choice for the best antivirus software for Macs.
Protects iPhones and iPads
Separate subscription required for VPN
No parental controls
While many people used to think that Macs were immune to viruses, that is simply not the case. Intego has been helping to keep Macs safe since 1997 and has since started providing antivirus protection for Windows-based PCs.
With Intego, your computer will be protected against Mac viruses, Trojan horses, worms, spyware, adware, hacking tools, dialers, keyloggers, and scareware. It also detects Windows malware to prevent your Mac from acting as a carrier. Intego provides on-demand malware scans as well as quick scans for day-to-day use, and scheduled scans. If malware is detected during a scan, you will be sent an email notification.
Intego provides a number of features like its location-aware firewall to protect your Mac when you are on the go. When you are traveling or away from your house, Intego NetBarrier automatically switches to the appropriate firewall setting to provide you with the best level of protection. NetBarrier also identifies various devices that are trying to access your Mac and lets you decide what is allowed and what is not. This can help to provide peace of mind when it comes to file sharing with others.
Intego Mac Security X9 is compatible with Mac OS X or macOS compatible computers. An internet connection is required for security updates and you will need 1.5 GB of available hard disk space.
Before you invest in Intego, you can try out its 30-day free trial. However, the purpose of this trial is to test the compatibility of the software with your system and to see how it functions. As a result, not all of the features are available in the free trial version.
Best for Windows : Kaspersky Anti-Virus
We chose Kaspersky Anti-Virus as the best antivirus software for Windows because of its multi-layer antivirus scanner, easy-to-use interface, and affordable price point.
High scores from an independent test lab
Phone and live chat support
VPN/password manager requires additional subscription
Not many extra features
Kaspersky is a global cybersecurity company that has provided protection to over 400 million users since 1997. Kaspersky Anti-virus is our choice for the best antivirus software for Windows because of its powerful, multilayered scanning ability and reasonable price point. For an introductory price of only $29.99 per year, you can install Kaspersky on three devices.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus blocks viruses and malware by scanning, detecting, and removing the latest cyber threats. It also screens your emails in an effort to protect you from phishing scams. Kaspersky is useful at protecting your computer against ransomware and also defends your network against attacks. In independent testing by the AV-test lab, Kaspersky achieved 100% protection ratings against malware infections.
To properly install and run Kaspersky Anti-Virus software, you will require a Windows operating system (10, 8.1, 8, or 7), as well as an internet connection, 1 GB or 2 GB of memory, and 1,500 MB of free disk space. The software can be downloaded straight from Kaspersky’s website. After completing your purchases, the download will appear on your order confirmation page and will be sent in a confirmation email.
Before committing to a year subscription, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial.
Best Value : Sophos
Sophos Home Premium takes our top spot for the best value antivirus software. For $59.00 per year, it offers comprehensive coverage on up to 10 home devices with no add-ons required.
Coverage for up to 10 PCs or Macs
Sophos mobile management app
Limited parental control and webcam protection
Advanced features require tech expertise
Sophos is a U.K.-based cybersecurity company that has been producing antivirus and encryption products for over 30 years. Today, it protects more than 500,000 organizations as well as millions of consumers across more than 150 countries. It takes the spot for the best value antivirus software because it provides extensive protection for up to 10 devices, all for a reasonable price.
With Sophos Home, you are able to protect 10 PCs or Macs from virtually anywhere. You also have the ability to protect unlimited iOS and Android devices. Sophos Home has a mobile app and cloud dashboard that allows you to add more computers, perform remote scans, receive alerts, or modify security settings remotely.
When you sign up for Sophos Home you get access to all of the features they have to offer, there are no additional add-ons required. Features are customized based on your operating system of choice and can include:
- Malware scan and clean
- AI threat detection
- Ransomware security
- Security management
- Privacy protection
- Web protection
- Real-time antivirus
- Parental web filtering
- Premium support
Before committing, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial with no credit card required.
Best Free Option : Avira
If you are looking for an all-in-one antivirus software that provides extras like VPN and a password manager, check out Avira Free Security. It claims our top spot for the best free antivirus software because it offers protection from major threats at no cost.
Pioneer in free security software
On-demand scans can be slow
Avira is a German computer security software company with over 30 years of security experience. Avira is widely known for being a pioneer in the free security software space and offers users a high-quality product without charge.
When you download Avira Free Security software, you gain access to antivirus protection and anti-scam protection, as well as a speed booster to improve your PC’s performance. This free software also includes a firewall to keep hackers at bay, a PC cleaner to prevent Windows from tracking you, and software updates to ensure you are getting the best performance. In addition to these features, a free VPN is also included with a limit of 500 MB per month as is a free password manager.
Avira also offers a Prime product that costs $99.99 per year and covers five devices. This product offers antivirus with ransomware, unlimited VPN, password manager with real-time data breach alerts, VIP customer support, and premium mobile apps for Android and iOS.
If you want free antivirus software, Avira is definitely worth trying. If you are debating whether to try the premium version, you can download the free version to see if you like the Avira product.
Best for Malware Removal : Norton
Norton 360 Deluxe provides comprehensive malware protection for five devices including 500GB of secure cloud backup and secure VPN.
100% virus protection guarantee
Steep learning curve
No free version
Norton is a familiar and trusted name in the security software space. Founded in 1990 and headquartered in Mountain View California, Norton offers a wide variety of digital security products and services.
Norton 360 Deluxe offers multiple layers of protection for up to five PCs, Macs, smartphones, or tablets. The software uses a combination of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and team members to monitor online threats and protect your devices. Its technology includes multiple layers of defense to protect against malware, viruses, spyware, and ransomware.
Additionally, Norton includes online threat protection to help protect your private and financial information online. It also offers 50GB of cloud storage and a smart firewall to protect your network traffic when connected to the internet.
With Norton, you can also take advantage of its password manager, privacy monitor, parental controls, secure VPN, dark web monitoring, and new school time feature. The school time feature allows you to manage your child's remote learning environment so you can help them to stay focused on their school work. Norton also offers a 100% virus protection promise. If you get a virus that Norton can’t remove, you get your money back.
This comprehensive coverage is available for the first year at $49.99. After the first year, the cost goes up to $124.99. If you want to try the product before you buy, Norton does offer a seven-day free trial with full access to complete protection including antivirus, ransomware protection, secure VPN, password manager, identity theft, and more.
Best for Students : Avast
We chose Avast Free as the best antivirus software for students because it’s powerful, it won’t slow down your computer, and best of all, it’s totally free.
Excellent third-party antivirus protection scores
Easy to install
Some extra features require additional purchase
Avast leaked user data in the past
With excellent protection scores from third-party reviewers and a price point (free) that can accommodate any student budget, Avast was an easy choice for our best antivirus software for students.
Avast is one of the world's largest security companies. It was founded in 1988 and is headquartered in Prague. Today, Avast provides protection to over 435 million users across the globe and prevents over 1.5 billion attacks every month.
Avast Free is built to be easy to install and effortless to use. Avast works behind the scenes to scan for security and performance issues and then if it finds something, it will tell you how to fix the problem. This free version includes intelligent antivirus software to help your device detect and block viruses, malware, spyware, ransomware, and phishing. It also has a Wi-Fi inspector that automatically detects weaknesses in your home Wi-Fi and can see if strangers are piggybacking on your network.
There are a few special features for gamers and movie buffs, Avast has a "do not disturb" mode which blocks all distracting pop-ups while you are enjoying a movie, gaming, or even presenting in full-screen mode. It also has a feature called Behavior Shield, which keeps a close eye on your applications to ensure that nothing goes rogue.
In addition to its free option, Avast also offers premium versions of its software. For $34.99 you can purchase its premium security program for one device. This price is for the first year only and then it increases to $69.99. You can cover 10 devices for the first-year price of $44.99 which will raise to $89.99 in subsequent years.
Our winner for the best overall antivirus software is Bitdefender Total Security. It wins our top spot because it is easy to use, offers comprehensive protection, and has many useful bonus features, including parental controls and banking protection. Most importantly, Bitdefender has excellent third-party antivirus protection scores.
Compare the Best Antivirus Software
|Company||Price||Free Option||Operating System||Devices Covered|
|Bitdefender Total Security
|$89.99 per year ($39.98 for the first year)||Yes||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS||5|
|Intego Mac Internet Security X9
Best for Mac
|$39.99 per year||No||Windows, MacOS, OS X||1|
Best for Windows
|$59.99 per year ($29.99 for the first year)||Yes||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS||3|
|$59.99||Yes||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS||10|
Best Free Option
|Norton 360 Deluxe
Best for Malware Removal
|$124.99 per year ($29.99 for the first year)||No||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS||5|
Best for Students
|Free||Yes||Windows, Android, MacOS, iOS||Unlimited|
How to Choose the Best Antivirus Software
To select the best antivirus software, consider the type of operating system the software works with as well as how effective the software is at preventing a virus. Here are some additional elements to consider when choosing antivirus software.
- Independent test scores: How does the antivirus software perform in independent tests? Professional testing labs can provide third-party data on how well the antivirus software actually performs.
- Usability: How easy is it to understand and use the software? Is it easy to download? Is the interface user-friendly?
- Budget: How much can you afford to spend on antivirus software? While some premium packages can be expensive, there are plenty of high-performing free options.
- Number of devices: Check how many devices are covered for the annual fee. While some antivirus software only covers one device, other plans will cover 10 or more.
- Extra features: Do you want additional features like anti-malware protection, firewalls, VPN, parental controls, and password protection?
Antivirus Software vs. Firewall
Antivirus software is used to scan, detect, and prevent suspicious files and software. This includes things like email attachments and internet downloads. It also looks for viruses that may be embedded in different files.
A firewall, used to deny or allow traffic, is a shield between your computer network and the rest of the internet. It monitors incoming and outgoing traffic and blocks anything suspicious forming entering or leaving your network.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does Antivirus Software Cost?
The cost of antivirus software varies based on variables including the level of security needed, number of devices covered, and the number of additional features (e.g. VPN, parental controls) included.
It is possible to get an effective antivirus software such as Avira or Avast for free. However, premium packages that include more features and cover more devices will come with a cost. Many antivirus software, including Kaspersky and Norton, offer discounted rates on the first year of subscription and then the annual cost increases in subsequent years.
Is Antivirus Software Necessary?
If you want to significantly reduce your chances of getting a virus, then antivirus software is necessary. This is true for Windows, Android, and Mac users. The only operating system that does not require the installation of antivirus software is the iPhone.
How Often Should You Update Your Antivirus Software?
Look for antivirus software that provides frequent and automatic updates. Updates should occur at least once per day. Generally, the more frequent the updates, the better. If updates are not automatic, it’s important that you stay on top of updates to ensure your device is properly protected.
When reviewing antivirus software, we considered many variables including how the antivirus software performed in independent tests and the type of malware the software protects against. We also considered how user-friendly the interface is and whether or not the antivirus software causes the device to slow down.
We also reviewed the type and number of bonus features that are offered by the antivirus software, and lastly, we considered the cost and number of devices included in the price.