Antivirus software is critical for every PC. Without it, you risk losing your personal information, your files, and even the cash from your bank account. We’ve tested more than 40 utilities to help you pick the best antivirus protection for your computers.
Pros: Outstanding scores in independent lab tests and our web protection tests. Multi-layered ransomware protection. Password manager. Banking protection. Offers a virtual private network, or VPN. Many security-centered bonus features.
Cons: Unlimited VPN access requires separate subscription. With antivirus disabled, ransomware-specific features missed one uncommon sample.
Bottom Line: With outstanding antivirus test results and a collection of features that puts some security suites to shame, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is a top choice.
Pros: Perfect scores from four independent testing labs. Good scores in our malware-blocking and malicious URL blocking tests. Numerous bonus scans. Full-scale phone and live chat support.
Cons: Poor antiphishing test scores. Bonus scans overlap each other significantly.
Bottom Line: Kaspersky Anti-Virus sweeps the antivirus testing labs, with all perfect scores. It remains an antivirus Editors’ Choice.
Pros: Perfect scores in our malware and exploit protection tests. Best score in our malicious URL blocking test. Includes spam filter, password manager, and other bonus features.
Cons: First full scan unusually slow. Limited tech support.
Bottom Line: Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic blows the tires off our hands-on tests, and it offers a large collection of bonus features. It remains an antivirus Editors’ Choice.
Pros: Installer and program are incredibly tiny. Very fast scan. Perfect score in my malware-blocking test. Very good score in my malware removal test.
Cons: Bonus antiphishing protection less effective. Bonus security tools too advanced for the average user.
Bottom Line: Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus is tiny beyond belief, yet it achieved perfect scores across the board in my malware-blocking tests. It also did a very good job cleaning up malware-infested systems. This impressive product shares our Editor’s Choice honor with Norton AntiVirus 2012.
Pros: Very good scores from independent testing labs. Good scores in our hands-on tests. HIPS component blocks exploits. UEFI scanner finds malware in firmware. Comprehensive device control.
Cons: So-so phishing protection score. Device control too complex for most users.
Bottom Line: ESET NOD32 Antivirus gets good scores in lab tests and our own tests, and its collection of security components goes far beyond antivirus basics.
Pros: Excellent scores in our hands-on malware protection and malicious URL blocking tests. Includes exploit protection, ransomware protection, behavior-based detection.
Cons: Few and poor independent lab tests scores. Phishing protection ineffective. Ransomware detection results mixed.
Bottom Line: Malwarebytes Premium now functions as a full-blown antivirus and not just second-line protection, as it did previously. It earns excellent scores in some of our hands-on tests, but still doesn’t rate well with the independent testing labs.
Pros: Cross-platform, multi-device protection. Good scores in hands-on tests. Includes firewall, file shredder, and many other bonus features.
Cons: Some so-so scores from independent labs. WebAdvisor’s Site Report didn’t work consistently in testing.
Bottom Line: A single subscription for McAfee AntiVirus Plus lets you protect every Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS device in your household. It’s quite a deal.
Pros: Excellent scores in our hands-on tests and independent lab tests. Protects against ransomware, keyloggers, and exploits. Remote management for up to 10 PCs or Macs. Inexpensive.
Cons: Advanced features require uncommon tech expertise. Parental control and webcam protection limited.
Bottom Line: Sophos Home Premium expands on basic antivirus with protection forged in the company’s Enterprise-level products. The results are excellent, though some features may be too complex for some users.
Pros: Excellent scores in our antiphishing and malicious URL blocking tests. Multi-layered ransomware protection. Pay Guard protects online transactions. Many bonus features.
Cons: Poor score in our hands-on malware protection test. Pay Guard didn’t consistently offer protection. Spam filter works only with Outlook. No multi-device volume licensing.
Bottom Line: In addition to effective malware protection, Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security offers layered protection against ransomware, a firewall booster, protection for online banking, and more.
- F-Secure Anti-VirusPros: Good scores in independent lab tests and our tests. Behavior-based DeepGuard detects brand-new malware, including ransomware. Advanced network protection. Streamlined, simple interface. Inexpensive.Cons: Ransomware protection failed against one real-world sample in testing. No antiphishing component.Bottom Line: F-Secure Anti-Virus’s advanced network protection and DeepGuard behavior-based detection system make it a powerful malware fighter, but its ransomware protection missed one sample in our testing.
How to Choose the Right Antiviru
Malware, Spyware, and Adware Protection
As you shelter in place, set aside a little time to think about what dangers might be sheltering in your computer. Sure, you’re anxious to get hold of your economic impact payment, but malware coders also have their eye on that windfall. If a data-stealing Trojan subverts your payment, you won’t be stimulating the economy. And if you’ve taken the widespread advice to write a novel in lockdown, imagine how you’d feel if a ransomware attack stole your first draft. Working from home? You don’t want to be the one who’s poor security caused a company-wide data breach. There’s no doubt; you need antivirus protection. We’ve evaluated more than 40 antivirus utilities to ease the process of picking the one that’s best for you.
We call it antivirus, but in truth it’s unlikely you’ll get hit with an actual computer virus. Malware these days is about making money, and there’s no easy way to cash in on spreading a virus. Ransomware and data-stealing Trojans are much more common, as are bots that let the bot-herder rent out your computer for nefarious purposes. Modern antivirus utilities handle Trojans, rootkits, spyware, adware, ransomware, and more. PCMag has reviewed more than 40 different commercial antivirus utilities, and that’s not even counting the many free antivirus tools. Out of that extensive field we’ve named four Editors’ Choice products and honored several more with a four-star rating. If you have malware, one of the products listed above should take care of the problem.
Some nonstandard commercial antivirus utilities proved effective enough to earn an excellent four-star rating alongside their more traditional counterparts. VoodooSoft VoodooShield bases its protection on suppressing all unknown programs while the computer is in a vulnerable state, such as when it’s connected to the internet, and also acts to detect known malware. The Kure resets the computer to a known safe state on every reboot, thereby eliminating any malware. These are interesting approaches, but not directly comparable with traditional antivirus tools.
You may notice that one product listed above earned just 3.5 stars. Of the five current products rating 3.5-stars, only F-Secure and G Data have ratings from two labs. F-Secure has the added fillip of costing the same for three licenses as most products charge for just one, so it made its way into the list.
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- McAfee Total Protection (10 devices) — $44.99 (List Price $119.99; Save $75)
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- Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus — $18.99 (List Price $39.99; Save $21)
- Bitdefender Antivirus Plus — $29.99 (List Price $59.99; Save $30)
- ESET NOD32 Antivirus — $59.99 (List Price $79.98; Save $19.99)
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