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The 7 Best Anti-Malware Software (2024 Update)

Updated: January 2024

By: Tibor Moes is the founder of SoftwareLab. He has tested 28 antivirus brands and studied Cybersecurity at Stanford. Read how we test antivirus.

Norton is the best anti-malware software of 2024

Norton 360

Ranked #1 of 28 brands

  • Malware Protection 100% 100%
  • Security Features 100% 100%

Norton has the best anti-malware protection, excellent security features, and a great price. It’s the best anti-malware of 2024.

  • Malware protection: 100%. Norton stopped all 1,200 malware attacks in our test.
  • Security features: 100%. Anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, password manager, and more.
  • Speed impact: 100%. Norton did not slow down our test PC. 

Try it risk-free, thanks to its 60-day return policy.

Avast is the second best anti-malware software of 2024

Avast One

Ranked #2 of 28 brands

  • Malware Protection 100% 100%
  • Security Features 80% 80%

Avast offers excellent protection, many bonus features, and a beautiful design. However, it lacks a password manager.

  • Malware protection: 100%. Avast stopped all 1,200 malware attacks in our test.
  • Security features: 80%. Avast does not include a password manager.
  • Speed impact: 100%. Avast did not slow down our test PC. 

Try it risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

The best anti-malware software

In 2024, we tested 39 anti-malware programs from 28 brands, by infecting our test PC with 1,200 malware attacks. We also inspected the password managers, VPN, anti-phishing browser extensions, firewalls, and other security features.

These are the best anti-malware software of 2024:

  1. 🥇 Norton 360 – The #1 in 2024
  2. Avast One
  3. TotalAV
  4. Bitdefender
  5. McAfee
  6. Panda
  7. Avira

Scroll down for the reviews.

Norton Antivirus Review

Norton Review

Ranked #1 out of 28 brands

Norton Antivirus 2024

Norton is ranked #1 of 28 brands.

Norton is the best anti-malware of 2024. It has perfect anti-malware protection, no impact on the speed of your PC, all the security features you need, and an excellent price.

Buy it if you want complete protection. You will get excellent anti-malware, anti-phishing, a firewall, a password manager, and an unlimited VPN, which will protect your privacy online.

  • Malware protection: 100%. Norton detected and removed each of the 1,200 malware samples in our test.
  • Speed impact: 100%. Norton’s anti-malware engine is lightweight and did not slow down our test PC.
  • Features: 100%. Norton includes anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, password manager, and more.
  • Price: 100%. Compared to similar products at Bitdefender and McAfee, Norton offers more value for money.

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Detailed Review

Norton 360 Anti-Malware Review 2024

Anti-Malware

At SoftwareLab, we’ve found that Norton stands out in the realm of anti-malware protection. With a flawless 100% malware protection score, it’s a top contender. This impressive statistic isn’t just from independent lab tests like those by AV-Test. We’ve personally put Norton to the test and observed its real-time defense against malware and phishing attacks.

Norton’s SONAR technology is a game-changer. It combines heuristic analysis with machine learning, enabling it to identify threats based on unusual behavior. This approach means Norton can catch new, unknown threats, not just those with known harmful code.

Smart Firewall

Norton’s Smart Firewall goes beyond the basics. Unlike standard firewalls that only monitor incoming traffic, Norton scrutinizes both incoming and outgoing connections. It’s proactive, stopping attacks before they escalate. Plus, it cleverly hides inactive ports to shield them from hacker techniques like port scanning.

VPN

Norton’s VPN service is a standout feature. It’s fast, secure with AES-256 encryption and OpenVPN, and maintains a strict no-logs policy. With perks like torrenting support, auto-connect, a kill switch, ad tracker blocking, and split tunneling, it’s a robust offering. And unlike other services with data caps, Norton’s VPN is unlimited and included at no extra cost.

Password Manager

Managing passwords is a breeze with Norton’s password manager. It’s user-friendly, featuring easy creation and accurate auto-filling of passwords. For added convenience and security, it supports biometric access like fingerprint or facial recognition.

Prices & Packages

  • Norton Antivirus Plus costs € 15 (Europe) or $ 20 (USA). It offers antivirus, a firewall, and a password manager. It protects 1 PC or Mac.
  • Norton 360 Standard costs € 30 (Europe) or $ 40 (USA). It adds a VPN and dark web monitoring. It protects 1 (Europe) or 3 (USA) devices.
  • Norton 360 Deluxe costs € 35 (Europe) or $ 50 (USA). It adds a privacy monitor and parental controls. It protects 5 devices.
  • Norton 360 for Gamers costs € 35 (Europe) or $ 45 (USA). It adds a gamer optimizer. It protects 5 devices.
  • Norton 360 Advanced costs € 40 in Europe and is not sold in the USA. It adds identity theft protection and protects 10 devices.
  • Norton 360 Select + LifeLock costs $ 99 in the USA and is not sold in Europe. It adds LifeLock identity theft protection and protects 10 devices.

Bonus Features

Norton enriches its offerings with:

  • Web protection against malicious sites.
  • Secure cloud storage for backups.
  • Online safety for children through parental controls.
  • Privacy monitoring and webcam protection.
  • Dark web monitoring, mainly in the USA.

Is Norton the Best Anti-Malware Software of 2024?

In our thorough testing and analysis, Norton emerges as the best anti-malware solution available. It’s more than just antivirus; it’s a complete suite for device security, online privacy, and identity protection.

With a 60-day return policy, trying Norton is risk-free. This makes it, in our view, the most comprehensive internet security package you can get today.

Avast Antivirus Review

Avast Review

Ranked #2 out of 28 brands

Avast Antivirus 2024

Avast is ranked #2 of 28 brands.

Avast is one of the best anti-malware of 2024. It has perfect anti-malware protection, no impact on the speed of your PC, many security features, and one of the best designs we’ve seen.

Buy it if you want excellent protection and superb design. You will get anti-malware, anti-phishing, a firewall, and a VPN. However, Avast does not include a password manager.

  • Malware protection: 100%. Avast detected and removed all of the 1,200 malware samples in our test.
  • Speed impact: 100%. Avast’s anti-malware engine is lightweight and did not slow down our test PC.
  • Features: 80%. Avast one includes anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, and more. But no password manager.
  • Price: 100%. Considering Avast’s excellent security features and design, its price is more than fair.

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Detailed Review

Avast Anti-Malware Review 2024

Anti-Malware

In our extensive testing at SoftwareLab, Avast One proved its mettle as a top-notch anti-malware tool. We tested it against over 1,200 malware samples, and it successfully detected every single one.

Full system scans were thorough, taking about 54 minutes, and its real-time protection was effective against even encrypted malware downloads. A point to note: the free version of Avast tends to promote its paid features quite persistently.

Firewall

Avast’s firewall allows you to keep an eye on network traffic and manually block applications. However, compared to alternatives like Norton and Bitdefender, it’s not as user-friendly or automated. A missing feature on the Windows version is the Wi-Fi Inspector, which is handy for spotting vulnerable devices on your network.

VPN

We explored the Avast One Essential VPN and found it to be a decent option for free users, offering 5GB of data weekly. The paid VPN plans, however, didn’t quite match up to the speeds and unblocking capabilities of competitors like Bitdefender.

Additional Features

Avast packs in several utility tools, such as browser data cleaning, software updating, password protection, ransomware shielding, and email security. Keep in mind, some of these, like tracking prevention, are reserved for the premium version.

Is Avast the Best Anti-Malware Software of 2024?

Avast stands out for its comprehensive security features, particularly excelling in malware protection. While it doesn’t include a password manager, it remains a strong choice for those needing robust, multi-platform security.

If you’re in search of a product with a password manager or parental controls, Norton 360 Deluxe could be a better fit. Avast’s 30-day return policy offers a chance for a risk-free trial.

For more details, read the full Avast review.

TotalAV Antivirus Review

TotalAV Review

Ranked #3 out of 28 brands

TotalAV Antivirus 2024

TotalAV is ranked #3 of 28 brands.

TotalAV is one of the best anti-malware of 2024. It has near-perfect anti-malware test scores, an intuitive design, no impact on the speed of your PC, and lots of security features.

Buy it if you want an easy-to-use anti-malware at a great price. You will get anti-malware, anti-phishing, a password manager, and a VPN, which will protect your privacy online. But no firewall.

  • Malware protection: 99.8%. TotalAV detected and removed nearly all of the 1,200 malware samples in our test.
  • Speed impact: 100%. TotalAV’s anti-malware engine is lightweight and did not slow down our test PC.
  • Features: 90%. TotalAV includes anti-malware, anti-phishing, VPN, and a password manager. But it doesn’t have a firewall.
  • Price: 90%. TotalAV offers generous discounts in the first year, but high renewal prices in the second year.

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Detailed Review

TotalAV Anti-Malware Review 2024

Anti-Malware

At SoftwareLab, we’re impressed by TotalAV’s near-perfect malware detection rate. Powered by Avira’s engine, it offers various scan options including Quick, System, Smart, and Custom.

Our System Scan, lasting about an hour, was efficient and barely affected system performance. TotalAV successfully identified 99.8% of a wide array of malware, spanning ransomware to spyware. Its real-time protection consistently stopped malicious downloads in their tracks.

VPN

TotalAV’s VPN, branded as Safe Browsing, is commendable. With 48 server locations and reasonable speeds, it’s versatile for streaming services and supports P2P file sharing.

Notable features include a kill switch and auto-connect functionality for public networks. While it may not match the speed of standalone VPN services, it’s a robust addition for bundled security offerings.

Password Management

Our testing of Total Password revealed a reliable and secure system. It employs 256-bit AES encryption, ensuring robust protection. Features like auto-save, auto-fill, and two-factor authentication enhance its utility. While it doesn’t have advanced options like hardware-based 2FA, it efficiently handles all basic password management needs.

Additional Tools

TotalAV enriches its package with extra features:

  • Identity theft protection through Aura.
  • A system tune-up suite, including a Startup Manager and Junk Cleaner.

Is TotalAV the Best Anti-Malware Software of 2024?

TotalAV emerges as a strong, budget-friendly antivirus solution in our assessment. It shines with powerful anti-malware capabilities, a dependable VPN, and an effective password manager.

With a 30-day refund policy, trying TotalAV is a no-risk decision. We recommend it for anyone seeking comprehensive and straightforward security.

For more details, read the full TotalAV review.

Bitdefender Antivirus Review

Bitdefender Review

Ranked #4 out of 28 brands

Bitdefender Antivirus 2024

Bitdefender is ranked #4 of 28 brands.

Bitdefender is an excellent anti-malware program in 2024. It has perfect anti-malware protection, no impact on the speed of your PC, many security features, and an excellent price.

Buy it if you want outstanding protection. But keep in mind that you will get anti-malware, anti-phishing, a firewall, and a few bonus features. Not the password manager or unlimited VPN.

  • Malware protection: 100%. Bitdefender detected and removed each of the 1,200 malware samples in our test.
  • Speed impact: 100%. Bitdefender’s anti-malware engine is lightweight and did not slow down our test PC.
  • Features: 80%. Bitdefender has anti-malware, anti-phishing, and a firewall, but it misses a password manager and a VPN.
  • Price: 100%. Although Bitdefender misses a few features, it has an excellent price, which gives it good value for money.

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Detailed Review

Bitdefender Anti-Malware Review 2024

Anti-Malware

Bitdefender’s antivirus engine is renowned for its exceptional protection capabilities. In our tests at SoftwareLab, it achieved a perfect 100% malware protection score.

Its Advanced Threat Defense, a real-time protection feature, provides robust virus and ransomware protection without relying on conventional virus signatures. Instead, it monitors app behavior, blocking anything unusual like code injections.

This approach results in excellent malware detection with very few false alarms. In our tests, Bitdefender instantly recognized the latest malware types.

Firewall

Bitdefender’s firewall is adept at blocking both incoming and outgoing connections, whether on local networks or the internet. It also effectively detects and halts port scans, a common hacker technique for finding open ports.

VPN

The free VPN option in Bitdefender caps at 200 MB per day, adequate for basic browsing but limited for streaming. Bitdefender’s VPN, utilizing Aura’s technology, offers a fast, secure (AES-256 & HydraVPN), and private experience, including features like a kill switch and split tunneling.

For unlimited data, you’ll need to upgrade to Bitdefender Premium VPN or Bitdefender Premium Security.

Password Manager

The password manager is not included in Bitdefender’s standard antivirus packages and must be bought separately or with Bitdefender Premium Security. It’s a separate cost to consider if you need this feature.

Prices & Packages

  • Bitdefender Antivirus Plus starts at € 15 (Europe) or $ 15 (USA). It offers antivirus and anti-phishing. It protects 1 to 10 PCs.
  • Bitdefender Internet Security starts at € 19 (Europe) or $ 25 (USA). It adds a firewall and parental controls. It protects 1 to 10 PCs.
  • Bitdefender Total Security starts at € 35 (Europe) or $ 40 (USA). It adds an optimizer and support for other OS. It protects 5 to 10 devices.
  • Bitdefender Premium Security starts at € 55 (Europe) or $ 60 (USA). It adds an unlimited VPN and password manager. It protects 10 devices.

Bonus Features

Bitdefender enriches its packages with:

  • Online threat prevention and anti-phishing.
  • Vulnerability scanning.
  • Ransomware remediation.
  • Customizable anti-spam.
  • Safepay for secure online banking.
  • Webcam and microphone protection.
  • Anti-tracker browser extension.
  • Parental advisor and anti-theft tools.
  • One-click optimizer and file shredder.

Is Bitdefender the Best Anti-Malware Software of 2024?

Bitdefender stands out as one of the best in our anti-malware tests, with its advanced firewall, VPN, and numerous extra features.

However, it can get pricey, especially if you need the password manager and unlimited VPN, which are sold separately or part of the Premium suite. By comparison, Norton includes these at no extra cost.

Bitdefender offers a 30-day return policy for a risk-free trial.

McAfee Antivirus Review

McAfee Review

Ranked #5 out of 28 brands

McAfee Antivirus 2024

McAfee is ranked #5 of 28 brands.

McAfee is an excellent anti-malware program in 2024. It has perfect anti-malware protection, no impact on the speed of your PC, an intuitive design, and all the security features you need.

Buy it if you want complete protection. You will get anti-malware, anti-phishing, a firewall, a password manager, a VPN, and, depending on where you live, identity theft protection.

  • Malware protection: 100%. Mcafee detected and removed each of the 1,200 malware samples in our test.
  • Speed impact: 100%. McAfee’s anti-malware engine is lightweight and did not slow down our test PC.
  • Features: 100%. McAfee includes anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, password manager, and more.
  • Price: 90%. McAfee is slightly more expensive than Norton, but allows you to protect an unlimited number of devices (in the US).

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Detailed Review

McAfee Anti-Malware Review 2024

Anti-Malware

In the world of cybersecurity, McAfee has risen as a top performer. It’s one of the few brands consistently achieving a 100% anti-malware test score since April 2020 in AV-Test assessments.

Our own tests at SoftwareLab corroborate this, with McAfee effectively detecting and neutralizing all offline and online threats. McAfee’s success in anti-malware stems from its comprehensive Scan Engine which includes:

  • Antivirus scanning matching files with known malware samples.
  • Executing suspicious code in a secure sandbox environment.
  • Heuristic techniques to identify emerging threats.
  • Cleansing files of malicious code.

Firewall

McAfee’s firewall is proficient in managing both inbound and outbound traffic. It also effectively conceals open ports, thwarting hacker attempts to exploit them through port scanning techniques.

VPN

McAfee’s Safe Connect VPN stands out with unlimited data and robust performance. It offers AES-256 encryption, maintains privacy with a no-logs policy, and has servers in 45 countries. It’s compatible with Netflix and supports torrenting.

However, some features like the kill switch and split tunneling are not uniformly available across all operating systems. Additionally, turning off auto-renew limits the VPN to 500 MB per day.

Password Manager

True Key, McAfee’s password manager, impresses with its user-friendliness and security, incorporating biometric login options. It competes well with top-tier password managers, offering seamless creation, storage, and autofill of passwords.

Pricing and Packages

McAfee’s offerings range from basic to comprehensive:

  • McAfee Basic: Basic package with antivirus, anti-phishing, firewall, password manager, and VPN.
  • McAfee Essential (Plus in Europe): Similar features but covers 5 devices.
  • McAfee+ Premium: Adds personal data cleanup for unlimited devices.
  • McAfee+ Advanced: Includes identity theft protection.
  • McAfee+ Ultimate: Available only in the USA, offers advanced identity protection.

Some regions might see McAfee Total Protection, similar to Basic and Essential packages.

Bonus Features

McAfee also includes:

  • Secure app updates and performance boosts.
  • Anti-phishing browser extension.
  • Video auto-play stopper and tracker remover.
  • Dark web scanner for personal data.
  • Secure file shredding and encryption.
  • Anti-spam for emails and comprehensive parental controls.

Is McAfee the Best Anti-Malware Software of 2024?

In our analysis, McAfee ranks as a top antivirus choice. It excels in virus protection, offers an excellent password manager and a free, unlimited VPN. Its user interface is intuitive and visually appealing.

The premium plans are particularly noteworthy for their extensive device and identity protection features, especially in the USA. With a 30-day return policy, trying McAfee is a risk-free decision.

For more details, read the full McAfee review.

Panda Antivirus Review

Panda Review

Ranked #6 out of 28 brands

Panda Antivirus 2024

Panda is ranked #6 of 28 brands.

Panda is an excellent anti-malware program in 2024. It has near-perfect anti-malware protection, no impact on the speed of your PC, all the security features you need, and flexible pricing.

Buy it if you want great protection and customization options. You will get anti-malware, anti-phishing, a firewall, a password manager, and an unlimited VPN, which will protect your privacy online.

  • Malware protection: 99%. Panda detected and removed nearly all of the 1,200 malware samples in our test.
  • Speed impact: 100%. Panda’s anti-malware engine is lightweight and did not slow down our test PC.
  • Features: 100%. Panda Dome includes anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, password manager, and more.
  • Price: 80%. Compared to similar products at Norton, Panda Dome is expensive. However, its flexible pricing is excellent.

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Detailed Review

Panda Dome Anti-Malware Review 2024

Anti-Malware

Panda Antivirus boasts a high 99.9% success rate in real-world protection tests. However, it’s important to note that it tends to have more false positives compared to competitors, sometimes misidentifying safe software as malware. This assessment is based on our tests at SoftwareLab and averages from AV-Comparatives since 2020. Panda utilizes big data, AI, and machine learning for its scans, effectively handling known malware and emerging threats like zero-day attacks, ransomware, and API exploits.

Firewall

Panda’s firewall efficiently filters both incoming and outgoing network traffic. It smartly assigns permissions to apps based on their risk level, though you have the option to modify these settings for individual apps.

VPN

Panda includes a free VPN with its antivirus products, but it’s capped at 150 MB/day, suitable for basic browsing but not extensive streaming. Using Aura’s technology, Panda’s VPN is fast, secure (AES-256 & HydraVPN), private, and supports torrenting. However, the absence of features like a kill switch makes its price point a consideration.

Password Manager

Panda’s password manager excels in usability and security. It supports two-factor authentication and biometric logins, and its uniform design across Chrome, Firefox, Android, and iOS ensures a consistent experience.

Pricing and Packages

Panda offers a range of packages with the option to scale up to unlimited devices:

  • Panda Dome Essential: Basic antivirus and firewall.
  • Panda Dome Advanced: Adds anti-phishing and parental controls.
  • Panda Dome Complete: Includes a password manager and system optimizer.
  • Panda Dome Premium: Comes with an unlimited VPN and update manager.

Bonus Features

Additional tools include:

  • Safe browsing and dark web scanner.
  • PC cleanup and Wi-Fi security enhancements.
  • Anti-theft, file encryption, and secure deletion.
  • USB malware scanning.

Is Panda the Best Anti-Malware Software of 2024?

In our analysis, Panda stands out for its flexible pricing and strong password manager. While we prefer Norton for its unlimited VPN at a lower price and broader device protection, Panda is an excellent choice for Windows PC users seeking robust internet security. Panda offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, allowing for a risk-free trial.

For more details, read the full Panda review.

Avira Antivirus Review

Avira Review

Ranked #7 out of 28 brands

Avira Antivirus 2024

Avira is ranked #7 of 28 brands.

Avira is an excellent anti-malware program in 2024. It has perfect anti-malware protection, no impact on the speed of your PC, all the security features you need, and a great design.

Buy it if you want excellent protection and intuitive design. You will get anti-malware, anti-phishing, a password manager, and a VPN. On top of that, Avira finally includes an excellent firewall.

  • Malware protection: 100%. Avira detected and removed all of the 1,200 malware samples in our test.
  • Speed impact: 100%. Avira’s anti-malware engine is lightweight and did not slow down our test PC.
  • Features: 100%. Avira includes anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, password manager, and more.
  • Price: 90%. Avira has a great price. But with Norton, you’ll get a few more features for the same amount of money.

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Detailed Review

Avira Anti-Malware Review: Updated for 2024

Anti-Malware

In our rigorous testing at SoftwareLab, Avira emerged as a top-tier choice. Its cloud-based scanner impressively identified every type of malware, securing a 100% protection score. What’s more, it accomplished this without slowing down our systems. Avira’s Smart Scan not only targets malware but also flags privacy concerns and system issues, making it an all-encompassing solution suitable for both beginners and advanced users.

Firewall

Avira’s firewall stands out with its high customizability. It uses sophisticated algorithms to monitor data and lets you tailor rules for individual apps. Its intruder prevention capability is a bonus, effectively blocking unauthorized data extraction.

VPN

Avira’s Phantom VPN performed well in our tests, reducing speeds by only 25-30% – a minor impact for online activities. It offers robust security with 256-bit AES encryption and supports P2P sharing. However, it did face challenges in bypassing geo-restrictions on streaming platforms.

Password Manager

Avira’s password manager, notable for its unlimited storage even in the free version, is fortified with 256-bit AES encryption and two-factor authentication. While highly secure, it does lack a password generator in its browser extension.

Additional Tools and Optimizers

  • Device Optimizer: Successfully freed up over 1GB of space in our tests.
  • Startup, Driver, and Game Boosters: Enhance overall system performance.
  • Battery Manager: Useful but could benefit from identifying power-hungry apps.

Is Avira the Best Anti-Malware Software of 2024?

Avira Antivirus Prime shines as a highly capable antivirus solution with excellent security features and user-friendly design. With a 30-day return policy, it’s a risk-free choice to consider. If you’re exploring alternatives, Norton 360 Deluxe, in a similar price range, offers additional features like parental controls.

For more details, read the full Avira review.

Specification comparison

Below, we compare the following products:

  • Norton 360 Standard
  • Bitdefender Internet Security with the Premium VPN
  • TotalAV Total Security
  • McAfee Plus
  • Panda Dome Premium
  • Avira Prime
  • Avast One

Our focus was on cost-effective plans that offer protection for at least one PC with these key features:

  • Anti-Malware
  • Anti-Phishing (Web Protection)
  • Firewall
  • Password Manager
  • Unlimited VPN (no data limit)

Compare them in the table below.

Norton
Avast
TotalAV
Bitdefender
McAfee
Panda
Avira
Icon
Norton
Panda
McAfee
Bitdefender
McAfee
Panda
Panda
Rank
#1 of 20
#2 of 20
#3 of 20
#4 of 20
#5 of 20
#6 of 20
#7 of 20
AV-Test anti-malware score
6.00 / 6.00
6.00 / 6.00
5.15 / 6.00
5.95 / 6.00
6.00 / 6.00
Unknown
5.95 / 6.00
AV-Test speed impact score
5.85 / 6.00
5.90 / 6.00
5.90 / 6.00
6.00 / 6.00
5.90 / 6.00
Unknown
5.95 / 6.00
1st year price
$ 39.99 / year
$ 29.99 / year
$ 49.00 / year
$ 81.98 / year
$ 39.99 / year
$ 66.99 / year
$ 29.99 / year
2nd year price
$ 94.99 / year
$ 99.99 / year
$ 179.00 / year
$ 139.98 / year
$ 84.99 / year
$ 133.99 / year
$ 104.99 / year
Operating software
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Windows
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Devices
3
10
1
1
5
1
5
Money back
60 days
30 days
30 days
30 days
30 days
30 days
30 days
Anti-malware







Anti-phishing







Firewall


-




Password manager

-

-



Unlimited VPN







Test score comparison

We not only relied on our in-house tests but also evaluated data from AV-Test, a German lab known for stringent anti-malware testing. Their scores are based on three factors:

  • Protection (1-6): How well the software blocks malware.
  • Performance (1-6): How much the software slows down your computer.
  • Usability (1-6): How often the software makes errors like false alarms.

To offer a unified measure, we calculated a final score using the formula: 60% Protection + 20% Performance + 20% Usability.

If a brand doesn’t appear in the AV-Test analysis, like Panda, ESET, and Sophos, that’s generally a red flag.

Source: AV-Test.

Final Score
Protection
Performance
Usability
6.00
6.00
6.00
6.00
6.00
6.00
6.00
6.00
5.98
6.00
5.90
6.00
5.98
6.00
5.90
6.00
5.97
6.00
5.85
6.00
5.96
5.95
5.95
6.00
5.94
5.95
6.00
5.85
5.93
5.95
5.95
5.85
5.91
5.95
5.75
5.95
5.87
5.83
5.83
6.00
5.81
5.85
5.55
5.95
5.77
5.70
5.95
5.80
5.60
6.00
6.00
4.00
5.47
5.15
5.90
6.00

Price comparison

Price matters. So, we compared the second-year prices in the U.S. for each software, rounding up for simplicity (e.g., $99.99 becomes $100). Note that some brands lack key features, affecting their overall value.

To make it a fair comparison, we looked at what it would cost us, to protect a  single Windows PC with the most essential features:

  • Anti-malware
  • Anti-phishing (web protection)
  • Firewall
  • Password manager
  • Unlimited VPN (no data limit).

Prices vary outside the U.S., so check the brands’ websites for your local pricing.

Total price
Missing features
$ 50
No firewall, password manager, and VPN
$ 80
No firewall and password manager
$ 90
No firewall
$ 130
No password manager
$ 180
No firewall

User reviews

TrustPilot scores offer another perspective. But caution is advised. Some brands, like TotalAV, are notorious for aggressive marketing that can inflate their scores. We found scores between 4.0 and 4.5 to be realistic and trustworthy. Anything higher is suspect, and lower scores (like McAfee’s) raise alarms about product or service quality.

Source: TrustPilot.

Review score
Review count
4.8
5900
4.7
97000
4.4
1600
4.3
14500
4.3
4000
4.2
8300
4.1
13200
4.1
900
3.9
12000
3.9
26600
3.8
19000
3.7
7600
1.2
2000

Buying Guide

Common questions about anti-malware software

What is anti-malware software and why do I need it?

Anti-malware software is a type of security program designed to detect, prevent, and remove malicious software, or malware, from computers and networks. Malware encompasses a wide range of threats including viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, spyware, and adware.

The need for anti-malware software arises from the ever-evolving nature of cyber threats. Malware can compromise personal data, slow down system performance, and even lead to financial losses. It’s essential for both personal and professional settings to safeguard sensitive information and maintain system integrity.

How does anti-malware software protect my computer?

Anti-malware software protects computers through several mechanisms:

  • Real-Time Protection: It continuously monitors your computer for suspicious activity, blocking malware before it can cause harm.
  • Scanning: Regular scans are performed to detect and remove any existing malware.
  • Heuristic Analysis: This involves detecting new, previously unknown malware based on behavior and characteristics.
  • Automatic Updates: To combat new threats, anti-malware software updates its database regularly, ensuring defense against the latest malware.

These features work together to provide a comprehensive defense against a wide range of malware threats.

Will anti-malware software slow down my computer?

Modern anti-malware software is designed to be lightweight and efficient, minimizing its impact on system performance. However, factors like system specifications, the size of the malware definitions database, and the intensity of real-time monitoring can influence system speed. To mitigate this, ensure your computer meets the software’s recommended specifications and configure settings for optimal performance.

Can anti-malware remove existing malware from my PC?

Yes, one of the primary functions of anti-malware software is to remove existing malware. It scans the system for known malware signatures and behaviors, isolating and eliminating any threats found. Some advanced software can also repair files damaged by malware.

Can anti-malware software protect my mobile devices as well?

Yes, many anti-malware software providers offer solutions for mobile devices running on platforms like Android and iOS. These mobile versions provide similar protection as their desktop counterparts, including real-time scanning, malware removal, and protection against emerging threats.

What should I do if my anti-malware detects malware?

If your anti-malware software detects malware:

  • Allow the Software to Take Action: Usually, it will automatically quarantine or delete the malware.
  • Perform a Full System Scan: To ensure no other malware is present on your system.
  • Update Your Software: Ensure your anti-malware and operating system are up to date to protect against future threats.
  • Change Passwords: If sensitive information was potentially compromised.
  • Monitor Your Accounts: Especially if the malware was of a type that could steal personal information.

Always keep your anti-malware software active and updated to prevent future infections.

What are the most common types of cyber threats today?

The most prevalent cyber threats today include:

  • Viruses and Worms: Self-replicating programs that spread across systems and networks, disrupting operations and damaging files.
  • Ransomware: Malware that encrypts a victim’s files, demanding a ransom for the decryption key.
  • Trojans: Disguised as legitimate software, they create backdoors in your security to let attackers in.
  • Phishing Attacks: Deceptive communications, often emails, designed to steal sensitive information like login credentials and credit card numbers.
  • Spyware: Software that secretly monitors and collects personal or organizational data.
  • Adware: Often bundled with free software, adware tracks browsing habits and displays intrusive advertisements.
  • Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks: Overwhelm a system’s resources to render it inoperable.

Understanding these threats is crucial for developing effective strategies to protect against them.

What threats can and can’t anti-malware protect me from?

Can Protect:

  • Viruses, Worms, and Trojans: By detecting and removing them.
  • Ransomware and Spyware: By identifying and blocking these threats.
  • Phishing Attempts: Some advanced anti-malware offers email scanning to identify malicious links or attachments.

Limited Protection:

  • Zero-Day Attacks: New, unknown threats might not be immediately recognizable.
  • Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs): Targeted attacks that may evade standard detection.
  • Social Engineering Attacks: These rely on human error, which software alone can’t completely prevent.

Cannot Protect:

  • Data Leaks Due to User Error: Such as sharing sensitive information inadvertently.
  • Physical Theft or Loss of Device: Anti-malware doesn’t prevent physical security breaches.

 

How do I choose the best anti-malware software for my needs?

When choosing anti-malware software:

  • Identify Your Needs: Consider the level of protection you need based on your online activities.
  • Performance Impact: Look for software that offers effective protection without significantly slowing down your system.
  • Ease of Use: User-friendly interfaces and simple controls are important.
  • Feature Set: Consider additional features like firewalls, web protection, and anti-phishing.
  • Compatibility: Ensure the software is compatible with your operating system and other applications.
  • Price vs. Performance: Balance the cost of the software with the level of protection it offers.
  • Reviews and Reputation: Research user reviews and expert opinions to gauge reliability and effectiveness.

 

Is free anti-malware reliable enough for basic protection?

Free anti-malware software can be sufficient for basic protection. They typically offer fundamental features like virus scanning and real-time protection. However, they may lack advanced features like firewalls, anti-phishing, and ransomware protection found in paid versions. For casual users with limited risk exposure, free versions can be a viable option, but for higher security needs, investing in a paid version is advisable.

Does anti-malware software come with customer support?

Most reputable anti-malware software providers offer customer support. The extent of this support varies by provider and may include:

  • Online Support: FAQs, forums, and knowledge bases.
  • Live Support: Via phone, email, or live chat.
  • Technical Assistance: For troubleshooting and help with malware-related issues.

Paid versions generally offer more comprehensive support options compared to free versions. When selecting anti-malware software, consider the quality and availability of customer support, especially if you’re less tech-savvy or for business use where prompt assistance might be crucial.

Advanced questions about anti-malware software

How do we test anti-malware software?

At SoftwareLab, we are committed to delivering comprehensive and unbiased reviews of anti-malware software. Our methodology encompasses a range of critical aspects to ensure that our assessments are thorough and relevant to our users’ needs.

1. Anti-malware and anti-malware protection (30%)

  • As the core function of anti-malware software, we prioritize protection from all forms of malware. We conduct in-house testing with a diverse set of 1200 malware samples, including the latest threats, and simulate real-time attack scenarios to gauge the software’s effectiveness.
  • To reinforce the reliability of our findings, we compare our results with those from AV-Test, a respected independent security institute.

2. Security and privacy features (30%)

  • Web protection: We evaluate the software’s ability to protect against phishing sites and other web-based threats.
  • Firewall: Our tests include intrusion simulations to assess the effectiveness of the software’s firewall.
  • Password manager: We examine the ability of the integrated password manager to generate, store, and auto-fill passwords securely.
  • VPN: We test for VPN speed, encryption quality, server locations, and the ability to conceal IP addresses.
  • Parental controls: We assess the efficacy of filters and restrictions for safe browsing for children.
  • Identity theft protection: Monitoring capabilities and alert responsiveness are tested.
  • Secure cloud storage: We evaluate the software’s cloud storage solutions based on capacity, ease of use, and security.
  • Anti-ransomware: Effectiveness against ransomware attacks is a critical part of our testing.
  • Dark web monitoring: We check how well the software scans for personal information on the dark web.

3. Speed impact (10%)

  • We assess how the anti-malware software affects system performance during common tasks, such as file copying, program downloads, and installations. Our assessment criteria are aligned with the AV-Test performance tests.

4. False positives (10%)

  • It’s crucial that anti-malware software distinguishes between safe and harmful applications. We evaluate the frequency of benign software being incorrectly flagged as malware, referring to AV-Test’s usability tests for additional insights.

5. Price (10%)

  • We consider the overall value for money, analyzing the features offered against the long-term costs of the software.

6. Ownership and reputation (10%)

  • The trustworthiness of the software’s provider is integral. We examine the company’s history, its data handling practices, commitment to user privacy, and its response to any incidents of unethical conduct or data breaches.

Our rigorous testing approach ensures that we provide our users with reliable and up-to-date information, helping them make informed decisions about their cybersecurity solutions.

Read more on how we test antivirus software.

How does anti-malware work?

Signature-based detection is a traditional method used in anti-malware software. It involves comparing files and programs on a computer against a database of known malware ‘signatures’ — unique strings of data or characteristics of known malware. This method is highly effective for detecting known malware but may struggle to identify new, unknown threats.

What is signature-based detection?

Signature-based detection is a method used by anti-spyware and antivirus software to identify malware. It involves comparing the digital signature of files and programs against a database of known malware signatures. If a match is found, the software flags the file as potentially malicious. This method is highly effective against known threats but can miss new, unknown malware.

What is heuristic analysis?

Heuristic analysis is a technique used to detect new, previously unknown malware or variants of existing malware. It involves examining code for suspicious properties that are often found in malware. This method doesn’t rely on known malware signatures but rather on identifying potential malicious behaviors or structures in code.

What is behavior-based detection?

Behavior-based detection focuses on identifying harmful actions or patterns of behavior within a system. Unlike signature-based detection, which looks for known malware signatures, behavior-based detection monitors how programs behave in real-time. This approach can catch malware that signature-based detection might miss, especially new or modified strains.

What is machine learning within cybersecurity?

Machine Learning in cybersecurity involves training algorithms to identify patterns associated with malware or cyberattacks by analyzing large datasets. These algorithms can learn and evolve, improving their ability to detect new and complex threats. Machine learning enhances traditional security measures by enabling more proactive and adaptive threat detection and response.

What is cloud-based anti-malware?

Cloud-based anti-malware refers to security services that are hosted in the cloud rather than on the user’s device. This approach leverages cloud computing resources to perform intensive scans, store large databases of malware signatures, and utilize advanced analytics. It allows for lighter client software on the user’s device, real-time updates, and broader threat intelligence.

What is sandboxing within cybersecurity?

Sandboxing in cybersecurity is a technique where suspicious programs are run in a separate, safe environment (‘sandbox’) on the computer or in the cloud. This isolation prevents potential malware from harming the actual system. It’s a way to safely observe behavior and assess whether the program is malicious.

What are false positives within cybersecurity?

False positives occur when anti-malware software incorrectly identifies a benign program or file as malicious. This can happen due to overly aggressive heuristic or behavior-based detection algorithms. While false positives are generally preferable to missing an actual threat (false negatives), they can be disruptive and may lead to unnecessary concerns or the deletion of important, safe files.

How does anti-malware handle zero-day threats?

Handling zero-day threats, which are vulnerabilities that are exploited before the vendor is aware and patches it, is challenging. Anti-malware software uses several strategies:

  • Heuristic Analysis: Detects unusual behavior patterns that might indicate an unknown threat.
  • Behavior-Based Detection: Observes the behavior of software, flagging actions typical of malware.
  • Cloud-Based Analysis: Utilizes a vast cloud database and machine learning to identify and respond to new threats faster.
  • Sandboxing: Runs suspicious programs in an isolated environment to observe behavior without risking the main system.

These techniques allow anti-malware to offer some level of protection against zero-day threats.

How does a firewall work?

A firewall is a security system that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. It acts as a barrier between a trusted internal network and untrusted external networks. Firewalls can be hardware, software, or a combination of both. They work by filtering traffic based on IP addresses, ports, and protocols, allowing or blocking data packets based on security policies.

How does a password manager work?

A password manager is a tool that stores and manages a user’s passwords in a secure database. This database is typically encrypted, requiring one master password to access it. Password managers can generate strong, unique passwords for each account, autofill credentials, and help users avoid the risks of using weak or repeated passwords. They also usually offer cross-platform synchronization for ease of access across devices.

How does a VPN work?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) creates a secure, encrypted connection over a less secure network, like the internet. It hides your IP address, making your online actions virtually untraceable. VPNs encrypt data transmitted over the connection, enhancing security and privacy. They’re commonly used to secure data transfers, shield browsing activities, and access region-restricted websites.

How does anti-phishing work?

Anti-phishing techniques are designed to detect and prevent phishing attempts:

  • Email Filtering: Scans emails for phishing indicators like suspicious links or sender addresses.
  • Web Browsing Protection: Alerts users about potentially dangerous websites or blocks access to known phishing sites.
  • User Education: Many solutions include user education components to help individuals recognize and avoid phishing attempts.

 

How does ransomware protection work?

Ransomware protection strategies include:

  • Access Controls: Restricting file access based on user roles to limit the spread of ransomware.
  • Regular Backups: Ensuring data is regularly backed up so it can be restored in case of a ransomware attack.
  • Behavioral Analysis: Identifying and isolating ransomware based on its behavior, like the rapid encryption of files.

 

How does identity theft protection work?

Identity theft protection services monitor personal information on the internet and alert users of potential misuse. This can include monitoring credit reports, scanning for personal information on dark web sites, and sending alerts about suspicious activities like unauthorized credit inquiries. Many services also offer assistance in recovering from identity theft.

How do parental controls work?

Parental controls are tools or software designed to allow parents to monitor and limit what their children can do online. Key features include:

  • Content Filters: Blocking access to inappropriate content.
  • Usage Controls: Setting time limits on device or internet use.
  • Monitoring Tools: Allowing parents to track online activities and view usage history.
  • Location Tracking: In some devices, enabling parents to track the location of their child’s device.

These controls help parents keep their children safe online and manage their digital experiences.

Other questions

What anti-malware software have we tested?

We have tested 39 anti-malware software from 28 brands. These range from free anti-malware programs, to entry-level paid anti-malware programs, mid-range paid anti-malware software, and full-featured internet security suites.

These are the programs we recommend:

We believe that Norton Antivirus Plus is the best entry-level anti-malware software and Norton 360 Deluxe the best anti-malware all around.

Does this page exist in other languages?

Yes, at SoftwareLab, we write in 11 languages:

Click the links to be taken to the language of your choice.

What sources and tools have we used?

Below are the sources and tools we’ve used to test the antivirus software:

Click the links to be taken to the source or tool of your choice.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor has tested 39 antivirus programs and 30 VPN services, and holds a Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate from Stanford University.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.