Best Antivirus Software of 2024

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Why Trust Techopedia

The best antivirus software will ensure your system is protected against malware, spyware, and ransomware. Cybercrime caused more than $12.5 billion of financial damage in America last year, so having protection in place is critical. Security solutions offer real-time protection and can stop suspicious activity on your device, flag dangerous websites and downloads, and block ransomware, adware, and phishing attacks.

Our team of experts has tested and reviewed the best antivirus software available today and compared the top products on criteria such as scanning speed, online protection, value for money, and customer feedback. Read on to find the best virus protection software for your needs.

The Best Antivirus Tested By Our Experts

TotalAV – Best Antivirus Software Overall

Free Scan Included
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Surfshark – Best Antivirus Protection with a Feature-Rich VPN

7-Day Free VPN Trial
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Norton – Best Antivirus Software for PC

30-Day Free Trial
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Nord Threat Protection – Best Antivirus with a Global VPN

7-Day Free Trial
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TrendMicro – Best Virus Protection with AI-Led Threat Detection

30-Day Free Trial
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Intego – Best Antivirus Software for Mac

30-Day Free Trial
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Avast – Best Free Antivirus Software

Free-Forever Plan
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McAfee – Best Antivirus Software for Windows 10

30-Day Free Trial
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TotalAV – Best Antivirus Software Overall

Starting Price $19/year
Free Trial/Plan Free scan
Key Features Antivirus Scanning, System Optimization, Web Protection, VPN
Compatibility Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
Max Devices 8
Money-Back Guarantee 30 days

Why We Picked It

TotalAV is one of the best anti-malware products around. It has superb malware detection rates and an interface that’s ideal for both beginners and advanced users. It also offers a free smart scan that’s perfect for getting started. Over 25 million people trust TotalAV, and you can see why.

Features

While the free version lets you scan and remove malware threats, it doesn’t offer real-time protection. For that, you can upgrade to any of TotalAV’s reasonably priced paid plans.

The real-time scanning feature is switched on by default, so your device enjoys protection against viruses, trojans, ransomware, and more the moment the antivirus is installed. Of course, you’ll be free to go to the control panel and turn it off, but we don’t recommend doing that.

What makes TotalAV so good at identifying malware is its cloud-scanning feature. Anytime it finds a file suspicious during a scan, it’ll compare it with the known malware in its cloud database.

With lightning-quick identification, TotalAV can develop a fix for the attack much faster than competitors. The best part is that this cloud database is constantly expanding.

As soon as a new digital threat is recorded in any of the 25+ million devices that TotalAV is currently protecting – it’s added to the database to protect the rest of the users.

Enjoy 360-degree protection while browsing the internet, thanks to the WebShield extension – an add-on compatible with Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Edge. We like how it constantly searches for harmful websites and redirects you from any site that could hide malware or viruses.

For additional security, we recommend using TotalAV’s Safe Search feature. It’ll redirect all your searches through the TotalAV search engine. The safe sites will be marked with a green tick, and the unsafe ones will be flagged with a red cross. This reduces the chances of accidental visits to malicious websites to zero.

That said, if there is one drawback, it’s the lack of specific identity theft monitoring – but the platform has plenty of other tools.

Pricing

To get you started, TotalAV offers a free smart scan so you can find and quarantine any threats. The most affordable paid plan is $19/year, and it’ll give you protection for three devices, zero-day cloud scanning, PUA protection, and much more.

TotalAV Pro TotalAV Internet TotalAV Total
Features Real-time protection, Web Shield extension, ransomware protection, zero-day scanning, phishing protection Adds a VPN Adds Total AdBlock, password vault, device protection
Devices 4 6 8
Lowest Price $19/Year $39/Year $49/Year

If you’d also like an ad blocker and protection for multiple devices, upgrade to a premium plan – we recommend the Total Security package.

Try TotalAV risk-free today with the 30-day money-back guarantee. Don’t like it? Get a full refund.

Who It's Best For

With its system scans and real-time protection, TotalAV is a great pick for comprehensive protection. The introductory pricing also makes it very affordable, and it’s ideal for individuals and families alike.

Pros

  • Doesn’t burden system resources
  • Top rated antivirus with an unlimited VPN
  • Provides excellent phishing protection
  • Access to real-time website tracking tools

Cons

  • Advanced features limited to higher plans
  • Higher prices on renewal
TotalAV
9.6
Review

Surfshark Antivirus – Best Antivirus Protection with a Feature-Rich VPN

Starting Price $36.32/year (2 years)
Free Trial/Plan 7 days for VPN
Key Features Antivirus, High-Speed VPN, Ad Blocker, Email and Card Privacy Tools
Compatibility Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
Max Devices 5
Money-Back Guarantee 30 days

Why We Picked It

Surfshark is one of the safest antivirus solutions on the market right now. As an added bonus, it offers a first-class VPN with a whole range of additional features and functionality.

This means you can browse securely and privately, with additional privacy protection against cybercriminals, advertisers, authorities, and ISPs.

Features

Surfshark sets out to offer a simple and effective security service with advanced protection against viruses and zero-day threats. You can run manual and scheduled scans, and the product also analyzes unknown files to prevent infections.

It’s easy to set up and configure and is also a lightweight service, so it should never take over your CPU or slow down your system. Another great feature is breach notification: if your email, password, personal ID, or bank details turn up in a breach, then Surfshark will let you know about it.

We love that Surfshark provides AES-256-GCM encryption for your connection. This is the toughest encryption option available, meaning the service can protect your device from all types of possible tracking and interference.

Surfshark takes data security seriously and even goes a step ahead of the competition with its SHA-512 encryption. This will scramble your authentication details into 512 binary digits, making your data incomprehensible to outsiders.

Surfshark’s VPN service also comes with a no-log policy. Independent third parties have audited this and given it a resounding vote of confidence” After all, security shouldn’t come at the cost of your data.

Subscribing to this package means you get the protection of one of the best antivirus apps, plus the anonymity of a VPN in a single subscription, saving you the cost and trouble of managing a separate VPN account.

Pricing

Surfshark, like Nord, is an antivirus + VPN combo, meaning you can get two products for the price of one. But as you can see, Surfshark is cheaper:

Surfshark One Surfshark One+
Features Secure VPN, ad blocker, Alternative ID, Webcam protection, anti-spyware and malware protection Adds data removal service
Devices 5 5
Lowest Price $2.69/month $4.29/month

The best thing about Surfshark is that it doesn’t reserve any premium features for its costlier plans. The plans only differ in their duration and prices, not their features. Get started with Surfshark risk-free with the 30-day money-back guarantee.

Who It's Best For

Surfshark provides an impressive security package, combining fully featured antivirus tools with one of the best VPNs on the market today, so you can use the internet securely and anonymously. Given this, it’s perfect for privacy-conscious users.

Pros

  • Top antivirus software with a VPN
  • Provides access to a private search engine
  • Excellent GPS spoofing to unlock streaming content
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Private data exposure alerts

Cons

  • Security tools limited to five devices
  • Antivirus software not included in the cheapest plan
Surfshark Antivirus
9.5
Review

Norton – Best Antivirus Software for PC

Starting Price $29.99/year
Free Trial/Plan 30 days
Key Features Virus Protection Promise, Cloud Backups, Parental Controls, Identity Protection Tools
Compatibility Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
Max Devices Unlimited
Money-Back Guarantee 60 days

Why We Picked It

In AV-Test lab tests, Norton routinely gets full marks for protection, performance, and usability and is able to catch 100% of prevalent and zero-day malware attacks.

In short, Norton Antivirus will consistently detect novel attacks, with minimal false positives and impact on your device’s performance.

Features

What we particularly like about Norton is how it can run quietly in the background without jeopardizing your system’s processing speed or taking up too much battery power.

In another test, Norton was able to detect custom-made ransomware in seconds. No matter what kind of attack you’re dealing with, Norton is the best antivirus to save the day.

Norton’s biggest USP is its SafeCam protection. It’s perhaps the only antivirus system that protects your device’s webcam from being hacked. A hacked webcam gives intruders access to some of your most personal details, making it all the easier for them to blackmail you.

Thanks to Norton, you don’t have to worry about it. Beyond this, another unique feature that Norton provides is Norton Insight. This tool will dig out files and apps that look suspicious so that you can run a custom scan on them – so a sneaky virus won’t escape Norton’s radar.

The antivirus generally has a low impact on system performance, but you may see a slight slowdown with older machines.

Pricing

Norton’s best value-for-money package is also priced at $29.99 for the first year. Although its renewal cost is lower than McAfee’s, it can only cover a single device instead of McAfee’s 5.

Norton Plus Norton 360 Standard Norton 360 Deluxe Norton 360 LifeLock Select
Features Malware, ransomware, and hacking protection, 2GB cloud backups, password manager Adds a VPN and dark web monitoring Adds parental control and privacy monitoring Adds LifeLock identity theft protection
Devices 1 3 5 10
Lowest Price $29.99/Year $39.99/Year $49.99/Year $99.99/Year

This plan gives you a 2 GB PC cloud backup, a password manager, online threat protection, and more. You can also protect up to 5 devices with Norton’s premium Select + LifeLock plan.

With a 7-day free trial plus a whopping 60-day money-back guarantee, you’ll have ample time to judge Norton’s suitability for your needs before making any financial commitments.

Who It's Best For

Norton gets excellent results in lab testing, and it comes with a wide range of features to ensure you have complete, real-time protection. What’s more, the range of plans means that it’s easy to find one that’s perfectly suited to your needs.

See our complete Norton vs McAfee guide for further analysis.

Pros

  • Automatic cloud backups
  • Promises a 100% best Virus Protection rate
  • Top-notch identity protection features
  • Offers password manager and firewall protection
  • Best Reddit-recommended antivirus

Cons

  • Heavy on older systems
  • Need to upgrade for multi-device support
Norton
9.3
Review

NordVPN Threat Protection – Best Antivirus with a Global VPN

Starting Price $53.87/year (2 years)
Free Trial/Plan 7-day trial on Android
Key Features Global VPN Network, Web Protection, Ad Blocker, Password Manager
Compatibility Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
Max Devices 10
Money-Back Guarantee 30 days

Why We Picked It

NordVPN Threat Protection is included with the excellent NordVPN VPN platform. It’s an excellent solution for securing downloads and your browser, and it also gives you access to a high-speed VPN network with huge numbers of servers around the world.

Features

The regular version works even without a VPN connection, whereas the Lite version requires your system to be connected to the VPN. Both versions come with their own USPs.

For example, the regular edition of the software automatically runs real-time scans of your executable files so possible threats can be detected fast and countermeasures can be taken.

The Lite version, on the other hand, works on the DNS level, filtering out and blocking the IP of websites known for malicious activities and shady ads. That said, NordVPN Threat Protection is likely best known for its wide coverage.

For instance, it automatically blocks all intrusive pop-up ads so that you can have an uninterrupted browsing experience without the risk of accidentally clicking on a malicious link.

To prevent targeted ads and data theft, Nord Threat Protection takes special steps against third-party data trackers. It does a great job of preventing data leaks by blocking trackers on every site you visit and leaving no trail behind for them to follow.

Of course, you also get a leading VPN service included alongside some of the best internet security features around – giving you access to a secure, private, and generally high-speed connection.

Another great feature, available with Complete and Plus plans, is a cross-platform password manager, so you can securely access and store all your login information. It’s this comprehensive feature set that puts it ahead of the competition and more basic packages.

Pricing

You can get NordVPN Threat Protection with NordVPN Plus and Ultimate plans. The best value for money is the 2-year + 3 free months subscription plan.

Nord Plus Nord Ultimate
Features Secure VPN, malware protection, ad blocker, password manager, and data breach scanner Adds encrypted cloud storage and identity theft recovery
Devices 10 10
Lowest Price $3.99/month $5.99/month

Upgrading to the Nord Ultimate plan gets you 1TB of cloud storage and cyber protection benefits. The plans also come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Who It's Best For

NordVPN is great if you want to ensure you’re protected while browsing the internet. Of course, it comes with one of the best global VPN packages available, with coverage in over 111 countries, ensuring you can find fast servers in territories around the world.

Pros

  • One of the fastest antiviruses
  • Comes with a VPN and password manager
  • Facilitates remote LAN connections
  • Follows a strict no-logs policy
  • Advanced features like split-tunneling and MeshNet

Cons

  • Can’t scan hard drives
  • Limited free trial options
NordVPN Threat Protection
9.0
Review

Trend Micro – Best Virus Protection with AI-Led Threat Detection

Starting Price $19.95/year
Free Trial/Plan 30 days
Key Features Ransomware and Phishing Blocker, Web Protection, Password Manager
Compatibility Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
Max Devices 10
Money-Back Guarantee 30 days

Why We Picked It

Trend Micro uses cutting-edge AI technology to detect and remove digital threats from your system. Importantly, its advanced security features won’t compromise your device’s performance.

Features

Trend Micro runs on minimal CPU power, takes up significantly less space, and hardly impacts the device’s processing speed. So, unlike low-quality antivirus software, it won’t make your system crash or freeze.

As a preventative measure, Trend Micro has a unique Folder Shield feature that protects your files from viruses and malicious software. Its protective shield extends to files stored locally and those on the drives such as Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, and more.

This feature will also prevent unauthorized apps from changing these protected files, which further drives down the chances of an external virus attack. For web protection, it constantly checks the URL and blocks your access to the website the moment it detects suspicious activity.

You’ll receive a warning pop-up with the type of malware detected if you want to know more about it. One downside is that the platform doesn’t provide a firewall, though it does provide plenty of other security features.

Pricing

Trend Micro has a free antivirus software called HouseCall which tags along with threat reports and loads of custom scan options.

 Antivirus+ Trend Micro Internet Maximum Trend Micro Premium Suite
Features Ransomware protection, advanced AI learning, Trend Micro pay guard Adds online children protection, secure social media tool, system optimization Adds password protection and management and secures mobile devices Adds a VPN, dark web monitoring, identity fraud insurance, remote diagnosis and repair, and 24/7 support
Devices 1 PC 3 PC 5 devices 10 devices
Lowest Price $19.95/Year $39.95/Year $49.95/Year $54.95/Year

Who It's Best For

Trend Micro has an excellent set of smart scanning tools. It’s a great option for businesses or users looking for a Linux antivirus solution, and with the low starting price, it’s a good pick for users on a budget.

Pros

  • A cloud-based antivirus solution
  • Offers URL-level detection
  • AI-backed malware detection
  • Offers a basic free plan
  • A feature-laden browser extension

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with an integrated firewall
  • Higher prices on renewal
Trend Micro
9.1
Review

Intego – Best Antivirus Software for Mac

Starting Price $37.50/year (2 years)
Free Trial/Plan 30 days
Key Features Built for Macs, Real-Time Protection, System Optimization, Firewall
Compatibility Mac, Windows
Max Devices 5
Money-Back Guarantee 30 days

Why We Picked It

Intego is a popular antivirus solution designed especially for Mac devices. If a virus manages to enter your Mac device, you need the best malware removal for Mac, after all.

Features

Intego’s antivirus solution, VirusBarrier, is available under the name. It is designed to protect your device from virus attacks in real-time. Intego’s virus detection rates are also highly accurate and have been tested by independent testing agencies.

For instance, in a test run by AV-Comparatives, Intego passed with flying colors and could detect all the malware planted by the antivirus testing organization.

Along with antivirus protection, Intego will also help you keep your device clean and optimized with its Washing Machine feature. Under this, it’ll run a scan and dig up all the junk files taking up unnecessary space in your device, such as cache files, logs, downloads, and duplicates.

Plus, you can then choose which files to keep and which to delete permanently. The more free space you have on your device, the better your device will run.

If there’s one addition we’d love, it would be having a secure browsing option.

Pricing

Intego has separate pricing for Mac and Windows. The best Mac plan is the Mac Internet Security X9 plan, but the premium bundle is worth a look if you want parental controls and smoother system performance.

There’s also a discount if you subscribe for two years, which takes the price down to $74.99 for 2 years.

Mac Internet Security X9 Mac Premium Security X9 Mac Premium Bundle + VPN
Features Virus and malware protection, automatic scanning, real-time protection, firewall, VirusBarrier, NetBarrier Adds Mac washing machine tool and personal backup Adds a VPN
Devices 1 Mac PC 1 Mac PC 1 Mac PC
Lowest Price $74.99 for 2 Year $129.99 for 2 Year $149.99 for 2 Year

Windows users should opt for the Family plan since it can cover 3 PCs:

Windows Personal Windows Family Windows Extended
Features Virus and malware protection, automatic scanning, real-time protection, firewall, VirusBarrier, NetBarrier Adds Mac washing machine tool and personal backup Adds a VPN
Devices 1 Windows PC 3 Windows PC 5 Windows PC
Lowest Price $39.99/Year $54.99/Year $69.99/Year

Who It's Best For

Intego was specifically built for Mac, and it’s a great option for Mac users. It offers a range of robust security tools, and the ability to scan your iPhone as an external drive is extremely useful.

Pros

  • Secure VPN
  • Offers excellent parental controls
  • It comes with an inbuilt firewall
  • Best malware antivirus for Apple users

Cons

  • Relatively expensive plans
  • Support beyond Macs is limited
Intego
8.6
Review

Avast – Best Free Antivirus Software

Starting Price $49.99/year
Free Trial/Plan Free plan
Key Features Sandbox Testing, Webcam Protection, File Shredder, Web Security
Compatibility Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Max Devices 10
Money-Back Guarantee 30 days

Why We Picked It

Avast is one of the few top-tier antivirus providers that offers a fully-featured free version. It includes Smart Scan functionality, which can find hidden vulnerabilities and viruses that would be overlooked in Quick Scans.

Features

Avast also offers a File Shield that alerts you about suspicious files before you open them. If a file is infected, this feature will prevent it from spreading to the rest of the device.

Similarly, Avast’s intuitive Behavior Shield alerts you if any of your apps start misbehaving – you can either quarantine or delete them before the virus spreads. Avast’s expertise with malware detection and removal isn’t just self-proclamation.

It’s been backed by tests for independent antivirus testing labs. For instance, AV-Test ran a test on Avast’s paid and free versions, and Avast detected 100% of zero-day and prevalent malware and earned a “Top Product” certificate.

This isn’t unusual, either, and Avast routinely gets full marks for protection, performance, and usability.

In another test on Avast’s free version, run by AV-Comparatives, it blocked and offered a 99.5% online protection rate. On the whole, Avast has one of the best test scores in the industry, only behind Norton and Trend Micro.

Pricing

Avast is generally rated as the best free antivirus software out there. The free Avast One Essential plan comes with data leak alerts, an advanced firewall, ransomware protection, and more.

On the Premium Security plan, Avast doubles up as a VPN, too, and covers ten devices for $69.99/year or $49.99/year for one device. What’s more, you can test out the service with its 30-day money-back guarantee.

Plan Price
Avast Free Antivirus Free
Avast Premium Security – 1 device $49.99/year
Avast Ultimate Security – 1 device $49.99/year
Avast Premium Security – 10 devices $69.99/year
Avast Ultimate Security – 10 devices $69.99/year

You can see our list of the best free antivirus solutions for more recommendations.

Who It's Best For

Avast is the best free antivirus we’ve tested and provides a superb range of features with its free plans. Given this, it’s a great budget option – and it offers a wide range of plans if you choose to upgrade.

See our Avast vs AVG guide for further analysis.

Pros

  • High antivirus detection scores
  • Offers a special Boot time scan
  • Comes with a secure and fast web browser
  • It has a built-in ad blocker
  • Fast background scans

Cons

  • May slow down lower-end devices
  • Confusing pricing structure
Avast
8.6
Review

McAfee – Best Antivirus Software for Windows 10

Starting Price $29.99/year
Free Trial/Plan 30 days
Key Features Protection Score, Social Privacy Manager, System Optimization, Identity Protection Tools
Compatibility Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Max Devices Unlimited
Money-Back Guarantee 30 days

Why We Picked It

McAfee offers a great antivirus suite that gets lots of praise for its usability, affordable plans, and decades of experience. It also offers a wide range of features and is among the best solutions for Windows 10 machines.

Features

Along with the usual scanning options, McAfee offers a unique Vulnerability Scan option that looks up security patches for areas of attack on your device and lets you know when an app needs to be updated to reduce the risk of an attack.

To prevent cyber attacks, McAfee has a firewall that filters out all malicious files and downloads that could be hiding viruses. This tool identifies and removes viruses even before they reach your system.

The best thing about this firewall is its beginner-friendly nature – you can easily navigate its interface, and every feature is easy to find and use. Beyond this, McAfee also provides exceptional security against ransomware through its intuitive layer of real-time protection.

Even better, the real-time scans don’t affect your browsing experience. You won’t even notice it’s there unless you purposely look for it or run into a security issue.

The moment McAfee detects an attempt to encrypt your files, known as File Content Transformation in McAfee’s language, it’ll drive up your security. Plus, it’ll also create protected backups of those files.

This means that even if the intruder corrupts them, you don’t lose the documents and valuable information. Need we say more? We do. McAfee will also keep your device in the best shape with its system optimizer called QuickClean.

It’ll clean all cookies, temporary files, junk files, and every unimportant item hogging up space in your device.

You also get support for cloud backups – though there are some limits to the service.

Pricing

McAfee’s cheapest plan is just $29.99 for the first year. Here are your other options:

McAfee Essential McAfee Premium McAfee Advanced
Features Scam Protection, web protection, VPN, password manager Adds personal data cleanup, online account cleanup (scans only), and identity monitoring and alerts Adds bank and credit card transaction monitoring and identity theft coverage
Devices Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Lowest Price $79.99 for 2 Year $49.99/Year $89.99/Year

We recommend picking the Premium plan for identity monitoring and security freeze features. Plus, you’ll also get protection for unlimited devices with this one.

Unsure? McAfee comes with a lengthy 30-day free trial and a money-back guarantee. Try it for a full 60 days without risking any money.

Who It's Best For

McAfee is packed with features and is great at tackling ransomware and phishing attacks. It also has a great toolset for protecting your privacy, making it great value for money for individuals and families using Windows devices.

Pros

  • Offers a handy digital file shredder
  • Comes with a free VPN with all plans
  • Ability to customize scheduled scans
  • Integrated with a home network analyzer
  • Among the best Windows antiviruses

Cons

  • Many security features require upgrading plans
  • Relatively basic VPN
McAfee
8.5
Review
Methodology

How We Review And Test Antivirus Software

15 Antiviruses Tested

20 Datapoints Measured

300+ Hours Testing

500+ User Reviews Read

We base our recommendations on first-hand experience and in-depth testing. All the Antivirus products we suggest, have been tested based on the following criteria:

  • Core Security Features: We make sure that the antivirus software is fully equipped with features like real-time protection, scanning, a firewall, web protection, and more.
  • Malware Detection Rates: We test malware detection rates ourselves by running both in-depth and quick scans on our devices. Additionally, we check independent lab tests.
  • Compatibility: We check which devices and operating systems the antivirus software is compatible with. Often, different-looking dashboards and slightly different packages of features may be available.
  • Performance Impact: A reliable and functional antivirus should not slow down your device significantly. So, we examine our device performance with and without the antivirus running.
  • Customer Experience: Alongside our own experience, we are curious to know what real users have to say regarding the services. So, we’ve scoured the web for feedback on each of our tested antiviruses.
  • Value for Money: We always consider value for money and how much each product is offering for the set price point.

Do I Need Antivirus Software? What Is It?

Whether you’re using Windows or a Mac, it’s a good idea to have an antivirus software solution installed on your machine. Around 89% of desktop users use antivirus software – and it’s the smart thing to do. Anti-malware software scans your system for viruses that could be attempting to attack your device or steal your data.

And there’s plenty to be afraid of, whether it’s hackers stealing the passwords for your bank account or unscrupulous individuals locking your computer and holding it to ransom.

The very least you should worry about is the risk of malicious actors hijacking your bandwidth and processing power for botnets and crypto mining – though this can make your device inoperable. More serious threats include identity theft and fraud, with hackers cloning your credit cards and taking out loans in your name.

Given this, it’s critical to have robust antivirus protection in place.

How Does Virus Protection Work?

Today’s leading antivirus products protect you from viruses in several distinct ways.

  • Scans – Antiviruses scan your device for viruses and malware using a directory of known threats. They will then quarantine and remove suspicious files and software.
  • Network Security – Most security products will provide a firewall to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic. This will detect concerning network activity and data being extracted from your devices.
  • Real-Time Protection – Top antivirus software tools will offer real-time protection, which monitors software and system behavior to detect suspicious activity. This allows the security app to find and block infected files and to identify previously unknown threats.
  • Downloads – Many malware protection packages can also scan files before you download them to stop your device from being infected.

Will an Antivirus Slow Down My Device?

Antivirus software should generally have minimal impact on your device’s performance. We’ve looked at independent, third-party testing results as part of our review process, and our picks have performed well when it comes to having a limited impact on processing resources.

Of course, you can also schedule scans to only run when it’s convenient. In addition, the best antiviruses include system optimization tools to ensure your software is up-to-date and running as efficiently as possible – which can have your machine running as good as new.

Having a malware infection, on the other hand, can cripple your device and leave you open to identity theft and fraud. Because of this, it’s a far better option to have an antivirus solution in place than to do without.

What Does Antivirus Software Do? What Threats Will It Block?

An antivirus program can shield you from a wide range of online threats. These include:

VirusesSpywareRansomwarePhishingSpam and Adware

Viruses

Viruses are self-replicating pieces of malware that seek to infect computers and spread. While viruses once only sought to create disruption, they’re typically used by criminals today to gain access to devices and to steal individuals’ personal details.

This might result in the device being used as part of a botnet or for cryptomining – or it might see a hacker attempting to steal your identity or access your bank accounts.

Experts have recorded more than 1.1bn pieces of malware circulating on the internet. This is an ever-increasing number, with 100m threats added to the count every year.

Just being online puts you at risk of being infected with a virus, but antivirus software products reliably protect computers against viruses.

Spyware

Spyware is a kind of malware that infects your device and spies on your activity to steal your personal data. This could include everything from passwords and credit card information to your financial details.

Some spyware programs will allow hackers to access your apps, use your microphone and camera, and disable your device. Fortunately, antivirus software can help shield you from such spyware attacks.

Ransomware

In ransomware attacks, hackers gain access to systems and then encrypt files before demanding payment to release them.

This can be extremely damaging for businesses and organizations working with irreplaceable sets of data, including everything from small firms and hospitals to government bodies and charities.

Antivirus security apps can protect against this type of threat in several ways. For example, they can flag phishing emails that could expose users to malware, provide secure backups to ensure files can be replaced, and proactively prevent programs from encrypting files and folders.

Phishing

Phishing attacks attempt to trick people into handing over their payment details to fraudsters via malicious domains. It may be sufficient, though, for the hackers to simply get you to click on a link or download a file for them to infect your device with malware.

Antiviruses can flag potentially dangerous links in emails and malware files attached to messages, keeping you safe from fraudsters.

Spam, Ads, and Adware

Pop-up advertising and spam websites are two of the most common ways for viruses to access your device and corrupt your files. Once a virus manages to enter your system, it does permanent damage.

Antiviruses can block these spam emails and advertisements. Many have ad and tracker blockers, which save you time, processing power, and bandwidth and help to protect your privacy.

Premium solutions also offer monitoring services for your social media accounts and banking services to provide additional layers of protection.

Free vs Paid Antivirus – Is Free Antivirus Enough?

The main difference between free and paid antivirus tools is the level of protection that they provide. Free tools provide basic protection, but paid plans offer additional features and provide multi-layered security defenses.

Avast is one of the most widely used antivirus software products, for example, but you get a lot more from the provider if you upgrade.

Krishi ChowdharyTech Expert
EXPERT INSIGHT

“A paid plan is an excellent investment in digital security if you handle sensitive data or use a computer for work. A free antivirus tool may be viable if you’re just using your computer to check email, read the news, and watch Netflix. However, you should consider upgrading to a paid version for advanced features and protection against ransomware and phishing attacks.”

Free plans often come with advertising or frequent reminders to upgrade. Some providers have even been found to be monetizing their products by selling user activity data to third parties.

An even worse scenario is to download malware disguised as antivirus software, which can then infect your network and start harvesting your data.

Because of this, it’s a smart choice to pay for a paid plan from a reputable provider so you can ensure your device, data, and identity are protected.

Is Windows Defender Good Enough?

Microsoft Defender – formerly known as Windows Defender – is Microsoft’s built-in antivirus solution for Windows 10 and 11. It provides a reasonable degree of security, with real-time protection, a firewall, and antivirus scans.

However, it doesn’t provide advanced security solutions or the additional features offered by commercial providers, such as a password manager, secure storage, or a VPN, and it doesn’t include robust protection from phishing or ransomware attacks.

In addition, it can only protect a single Windows device and can’t protect your phone or other hardware.

A key benefit, though, is that the software makes it easy to deactivate its features when other antivirus software is installed. This means you don’t have to worry about the programs coming into conflict or unecessarily slowing down your system.

How to Choose the Best Malware Protection Program

There are a variety of different factors that can make a big difference when it comes to choosing the right antivirus software for you and your devices.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the most important factors to consider for computer protection, whether you’re looking at Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Trend Micro Maximum Security, or other antivirus providers:

Detection RatesPrivacySecurity FeaturesEase of UseSupport

Detection Rates

The most important factor to consider when selecting an antivirus software solution is how well it can protect your device against current and future threats.

With tons of great options on the market that can deliver protection rates significantly above 95%, there’s no reason to settle for services that do less – and the best tools will consistently catch and quarantine threats with few false positives.

It’s also worth considering that if you’re using a free service that has poor detection rates, then you’re likely exposing yourself to threats and compromising the security of your device.

Privacy

Some companies gather information on how you use your computer to enhance their products. While simple product use information is normally anonymized, some products may transfer suspicious documents to the vendor’s scanning cloud from your computer.

We recommend looking for a vendor that provides guarantees about the secure and appropriate handling of your files and data to minimize the chance your privacy may be breached. The best virus protection products will ensure your system remains secure and private.

Some providers, such as Surfshark, offer both antivirus and VPN features, providing additional privacy and security for your internet connection.

Additional Security Measures

While it’s important to have malware protection and a firewall, many of the top antivirus programs offer more than that. For example, you might look for support across browsers and devices and additional services, such as a VPN or a password manager.

Getting this functionality bundled with your anti-virus software adds convenience while making you more secure, and it might also save you money, meaning you don’t have to run up additional subscription costs.

Ease of Use

The usability of the antivirus app is another important factor. While some applications might be complicated to use, others are simple.

Antiviruses should make it easy to run full system scans or to scan a single file. See our guide on how to check a file for viruses to see just how simple it can be.

In the past, some antivirus programs had a negative impact on device performance, but the entries on our shortlist generally have minimal system impact.

Try to find a security program that you feel at ease with – if you don’t use it or don’t make full use of it, you’re likely leaving yourself open to threats.

Before paying for a subscription, you can take advantage of free trials and money-back guarantees to test the platform and make sure you’ve got a grip on the product.

Support

Customer service can make a big difference when looking at anti-virus software.

If you’re trying to remove a malware program that has made it through your firewall or you’re trying to optimize your antivirus, which seems to be consuming your entire CPU, then it’s good to be able to get ahold of expert assistance.

Look for tools with 24/7 customer support and multiple support channels, like live chat, email, and toll-free numbers. If a service has a reputation for poor support, then it may be worthwhile to cut it off your list.

What Devices Can Antivirus Security Software Protect?

Most antivirus companies provide solutions for a range of different operating systems and devices. Here’s what to look for:

  • Best Windows Antivirus – Antivirus firms typically offer robust solutions for PCs. We rate TotalAV, McAfee, and Norton as being some of the best options.
  • Best Antivirus for Mac – While Apple devices might be more secure than PCs, Macs can get viruses and are susceptible to malware and virus attacks today, so it’s advisable to buy an antivirus product. Intego is a top-rated solution for Macs and MacBooks and can scan your iPhone as an external drive.
  • Best Antivirus for Android – It’s wise to get protection for your mobile device. TotalAV, Surfshark, and Norton are top picks for Android security.
  • Best Antivirus for Chromebook – Chromebooks can get infected too. TotalAV, Norton, and NordVPN Threat Protection are some of the best security solutions for keeping your device secure.
  • Best Linux Antivirus Software – Few providers offer consumer solutions for securing Linux, but Bitdefender, Trend Micro, and ESET are excellent business solutions for the platform.
  • Best Server Antivirus – Keeping your server free of malware is critical for businesses. We rate Avast, Trend Micro, and ESET as some of the best providers to protect you.

How to Use Antivirus Software

Getting started with antivirus software is relatively simple, but the process can be confusing. Here’s a guide with step-by-step instructions for setting up TotalAV and running a scan.

  1. Get a TotalAV account

    First, go to TotalAV, click Buy Now, and select the appropriate plan for your needs. The basic plan is sufficient for most users, but you can upgrade to get a password manager and VPN. Click Purchase & Agree to complete your purchase.

    TotalAV landing page

  2. Download and Install TotalAV

    With the purchase complete, you can now download the app. Once that’s done, follow the install wizard’s instructions to finish the process. You can now use your login details to access your account.

    TotalAV installation wizard

  3. Run your first scan

    With TotalAV installed and set up, you can scan your device and make sure that your operating system is secure. You can pick from a smart scan or a full system scan. It’s smart to run a full scan to ensure your device is comprehensively checked as soon as you install the software.

    TotalAV settings option

    With that, you’re good to go, and TotalAV will offer real-time protection, regular scans, and complete online security.

    To schedule scans, go to the Settings cog on the left, select Antivirus Scans, then fill in the details you want, selecting the scan type, frequency, and any files or folders you want to be excluded.

    totalav the best antivirus software

    To ensure real-time protection is enabled, click the TotalAV icon on the left, then check the Real-Time Protection toggle on the following screen.

    You can find the settings for the WebShield firewall by clicking on the fingerprint icon on the left, clicking WebShield, then checking the Enable WebShield button. This ensures you’re protected while using the internet.

    If you have the Internet Security plan, you can also access the VPN from the left menu, as well as Total Password, which is included with the top-tier Total Security plan and as a separate product.

FAQs

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Krishi Chowdhary
Tech Expert
Krishi Chowdhary
Tech Expert

Krishi Chowdhary has half a decade of experience writing buying guides and product reviews for numerous leading technology websites. He spent two years writing for Business2Community.com before joining Techopedia.com. He has a degree in Commerce and extensive experience in the technology industry. He's also the key driver behind TechReport.com's news content, delivering expertise insight into the latest tech and cybersecurity news daily.