How to Choose Antivirus Software – Tips on Getting Good Antivirus Software

How to choose antivirus software is a question plenty of people are asking today – protecting your devices from malware, spyware, and other digital threats is critical, after all.

In this guide to how to choose antivirus software, we’ll dig into what makes a good antivirus product and the factors you should look into before making a purchase.

How to Choose Antivirus Software That’s Right For You

TotalAV antivirus Smart Scan

The best antivirus software will scan your system for threats and protect you from being exposed to viruses online. Choosing the right antivirus software can be a challenge, though, given the sheer number of options available on the market.

Here are seven factors you shouldn’t miss when picking the best antivirus software for your device.

Detection Rates

This is the number of threats detected by an antivirus compared to the total number of threats on a device.

For maximum security, look for antivirus solutions that clock very high detection rates under testing. Modern antiviruses often boast rates ranging from 97% to 99% or more – the higher, the better.

Equally, pay attention to the rate of false positives that antiviruses flag – when the software identifies something as a virus when it’s not a threat. The lower the false positive rate, the better. An antivirus with a high detection rate and a high false positive rate isn’t ideal.

There are several third-party platforms, like AV-Test and AV-Comparatives, which undertake forensic independent testing to rate antivirus solutions on their detection rates and performance, and we use their scores as benchmarks.

Real-Time Protection

Modern antivirus solutions should be able to scan your devices in real time and prevent threats from accessing your system.

Make sure the provider you pick can scan downloads in real time and remove threats immediately, ideally even responding to zero-day attacks.

Robust web protection is also important to stop you from being targeted by malicious websites. After all, unsolicited downloads and sketchy websites are the top sources of modern viruses.

Ease of Use

A good antivirus should be easy to use. Make sure your chosen solution has a simple interface and several scan options.

You can ensure you’re happy with a product by taking advantage of the free trials offered by providers. Also, pay attention to the scan options provided, such as quick scans and folder scans, to make sure you can find everything you need.

Price

Although protection against viruses is important, it should come at a reasonable cost. Look into the pricing plans for antivirus solutions before finalizing your pick.

Providers often offer significant introductory discounts but then have hefty renewal fees. Pay attention to the long-term costs of using a particular antivirus solution so you’re able to get the maximum possible value out of the deal.

Additional Features

Alongside their core functionality – scanning and removing viruses – many antivirus platforms offer additional features, including VPNs and password managers. These are also part of the cybersecurity toolkit and help to keep you safe from malicious actors.

A VPN masks your IP address so hackers and marketers can’t track you. Password managers, meanwhile, help you access and maintain strong, unique passwords for all your online accounts, minimizing your vulnerabilities.

Cybersecurity providers often bundle these tools with their antivirus solution. If you’re getting additional protection for only a marginal increase in price, you should definitely consider it as a bonus.

Most leading antiviruses include a firewall today, but our firewall vs antivirus guide covers the key differences between the two.

The Provider’s Reputation

Antivirus software has access to all your system files, so it’s important to ensure you only purchase products from reputable providers. After all, you don’t want to fall prey to data breaches or to inadvertently purchase a fake antivirus.

Reputable providers like TotalAV, Norton, TrendMicro, ESET, and Avast have been in business for years and have made a name for themselves in the cybersecurity space. If you want to go with a less well-known provider, read their security and privacy statements and ensure they have proper governance.

Free Plan and Money-Back Guarantees

It can be wise to opt for platforms that offer free plans and money-back guarantees.

Free plans come in handy for testing products before you put money down, while money-back guarantees underline the provider’s confidence in their software.

The Top Antivirus Software to Buy Online

The table below covers the top antivirus solutions on the market today based on our research and testing. It’ll give you a headstart if you’re looking at how to choose the best antivirus software.

Antivirus Software Test Results Starting Price Max Devices Supported Compatibility Free Version Top 3 Features
TotalAV 5.5/6 for performance and 6/6 for usability $29/year 6 Windows, Mac, iOS and Android Free scan – Zero-day cloud scanning
– PUA protection
– Browser manager & cleaner
Norton 6/6 for protection and usability $19.99/year 10 Windows, Mac, iOS and Android 30-day trial – 100% Virus Protection Promise
– 2GB cloud backup
– Hacking protection
TrendMicro 6/6 for protection, performance, and usability $19.95/year 10 Windows, Mac, iOS and Android Limited free tools – Blocks dangerous websites
– Anti-phishing  features
– Dark web monitoring
ESET – 6/6 for usability
– 5.5/6 for protection and performance
$39.99/year 10 Windows, Mac, and Android 30-day trial – Data encryption
– Password management
– Network and smart device protection
Avast 6/6 for protection, performance, and usability Free / $34.68/year 30 Windows, Android, Mac, iOS Free-forever plan – Advanced ransomware protection
– Permanently deletes sensitive files
– Web Shield blocks dangerous downloads and sites
Malwarebytes 5.5/6 for protection and performance, 6/6 for usability $59.99/year 20 Windows, Mac, Android Free antivirus for Windows – Brute force and uninstall protection
– Browser Guard features
– Identity theft protection

How to Buy Antivirus Online

Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to buy antivirus protection for your devices with one of the best antivirus solutions – TotalAV.

  1. Purchase a Subscription Plan

    The first step to how to get antivirus software is to buy a subscription. In this case, go to TotalAV, enter your details, click “Checkout Securely,” and make the payment.
    Purchase a Subscription Plan
  2. Download and Install

    Once you’ve completed the purchase, you can download the antivirus software.
    Download and Install
  3. Open the Antivirus and Run a Scan

    Open the antivirus by double-clicking on the desktop icon. You can then run a Smart Scan by clicking on “Malware Protection” and “Protection Status.” You’ll find the “Malware Protection” option on the left toolbar.
    Open the Antivirus and Run a Scan
  4. Remove Any Malware Found

    You can view any threats found by clicking on “Quarantine” and permanently remove threats from your system.
    Remove Any Malware Found

Can I Get Free Antivirus Software?

There are plenty of free antivirus solutions that can help you protect your devices without incurring any costs. For example, Microsoft provides a proprietary antivirus tool called Windows Defender, which comes pre-installed with the operating system and offers real-time protection.

Here are some pros and cons of using free antivirus software.

Pros

  • 100% free – You get protection without spending a penny
  • Basic protection – Free solutions are good if you’re on a budget and want basic protection

Cons

  • Lack of advanced features – Free software is often basic and lacks advanced features
  • Lack of support – You’ll often have to rely on forums and community support
  • Security concerns – Free antiviruses don’t guarantee total security and some are even fake antivirus scams

A number of providers offer free antivirus products. Avast is among the best with a free-forever plan, while Malwarebytes has a free antivirus for Windows. TrendMicro, on the other hand, has a range of targeted tools, including software to fight ransomware, phishing and web threats, and already installed viruses.

What Mistakes Do People Make When Buying Antivirus Software?

Picking the right antivirus software comes with its own challenges, and it’s only natural that people make mistakes. Here are some mistakes you should avoid.

Ignoring renewal prices – Many buyers only look at the initial pricing when choosing an antivirus, but renewal prices are often higher. See our Malwarebytes vs Norton guide, which compares a product with a free plan to one with a higher renewal rate.

Not reading reviews – It’s always a good idea to read reviews before you buy an antivirus, such as the ones you’ll find in our antivirus guides, which cover pros and cons and the issues that users face.

System slowdowns – It’s important to have an antivirus, but they can have an impact on your system’s performance, so make sure your machine can handle the software and that your pick isn’t detrimental to normal use.

Regular updates – After purchasing an antivirus solution, it’s important to update it regularly. New malware and security threats are emerging every day, so it’s important to get the latest updates from your antivirus provider.

More Antivirus Resources

Now we’ve explored how to choose good antivirus software, here are some more guides from our network that’ll help you pick an ideal antivirus for your personal requirements.

Conclusion – How to Choose Good Antivirus Software

Choosing a good antivirus software product is a key decision for your security. Make sure to look beyond the price and pay attention to details like detection rates, false positives, and third-party test scores so you can compare products side by side.

Buying from established AV brands will generally be wise, and you may also want to consider whether additional features like VPNs and password managers add value for you.

It’s also a good idea to test a platform before buying a subscription, so look for providers that offer free plans and try out the product.

How to Choose Antivirus Software FAQs

How do you buy antivirus software online?

How much is antivirus software?

How do you choose the best antivirus software for Windows 10?

Do Macs and Apple products need antivirus?

What are the risks of not using antivirus software?

Krishi Chowdhary

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.