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The 5 Best Antivirus for Laptops (2023 Update)
By Tibor Moes / Updated: March 2023
Do you need an antivirus program for your laptop? Yes, you do. Our digital world is a dangerous place.
- Downloading malware is easy: Visit the wrong website, connect a USB drive, or open an email attachment, and you might have downloaded malware onto your computer.
- Malware spreads fast: Once your laptop is infected with certain malware, like computer worms, they automatically spread to other devices you connect with.
- Privacy on the web is a myth: Search engines, social media networks, and telecom companies are all trying to track what you do and see online, so that they can send you ads.
By buying the best security software for your laptop, you can protect your privacy and security. Your computer will be shielded from malware. Your browsing habits will be private from trackers. Your passwords will be too strong to hack. And your kids will be protected from malicious sites and apps.
- Device Security 100% 100%
- Online Privacy 100% 100%
The best antivirus for laptops
Norton offers the best security for your laptop. It is the only brand that has scored 100% on every anti-malware test since 2016. And it provides a wide range of extra security features:
Advanced firewall, a password manager for all operating systems, free VPN without data limit, webcam protection, dark web monitor, encrypted cloud storage, and web protection.
Buy Norton for the best protection on your laptop. Thanks to its 60-day return policy, you can try it risk-free.
- Device Security 99% 99%
- Online Privacy 96% 96%
Excellent and affordable virus protection
Bitdefender offers excellent protection for your laptop at a low price. It has a 99% anti-malware test score (the second highest in the industry) and many extra protection features:
Advanced ransomware protection, a password manager for Windows, firewall, VPN with 200 MB / day for free, webcam protection, anti-tracker, and web protection.
Buy Bitdefender for excellent laptop protection at a fair price. Thanks to its 30-day return policy, you can try it risk-free.
Antivirus Ranking and Reviews of 2023
We have tested and reviewed security software since 2014. Below, we have selected the top 5 from 20 paid and free antivirus software.
- 1. 🥇 Norton Antivirus - The best antivirus software of 2023.
- 2. 🥈 Bitdefender Antivirus - Excellent protection at a low price.
- 3. 🥉 Panda Antivirus - Most flexible pricing.
- 4. Kaspersky Antivirus
- 5. McAfee Antivirus
- Comparison table
- How we test
- How to choose
- Antivirus tested
- Frequently asked questions
Click the links or scroll down for more.
Norton Antivirus Review
Norton 360 Antivirus Review
Norton offers the best antivirus protection on all operating systems.
Norton antivirus is the only brand with a 100% malware protection score. No other brand has achieved this. Its real-time malware protection tool, called SONAR, is the best.
To get to this score, we averaged all test scores since 2016 by AV-Test, an independent test lab. We also ran our own tests, during which Norton was able to detect malware attacks and phishing attempts in real-time.
Norton SONAR applies heuristic analysis and machine learning to spot known and unknown security risks. This means it identifies new threats through suspicious behavior rather than malicious computer code.
Norton's Smart Firewall checks incoming and outgoing connections for suspicious behavior. It stops any attack before it becomes a problem.
By contrast, Windows' firewall only checks incoming connections. It does not monitor whether software on your computer makes suspicious outgoing connections to other devices.
And that's not all. Norton's firewall also cloaks your inactive ports, so that hackers can't find them through hacking techniques like port scanning.
Norton's unlimited VPN (Virtual Private Network) is outstanding. It is fast, secure (AES-256 & OpenVPN), private (no logs), allows torrenting (P2P), and features auto-connect, a kill switch, ad tracker blocking, and a split tunnel.
Most VPN services, like those by Bitdefender, have a daily data limit of 200 MB. To remove the data limit, you'll have to pay extra. Norton, however, includes its unlimited VPN for free.
Norton's password manager is excellent. Creating passwords is easy. Auto-filling them is accurate. And you can access your password vault using biometrics scanners (fingerprint or facial recognition).
Prices & Packages
- Norton Antivirus Plus starts at € 15 and offers basic protection: Anti-malware, firewall, and password manager. It protects 1 PC or Mac.
- Norton 360 Standard starts at € 20 and adds the unlimited VPN and webcam protection. It protects 1 device.
- Norton 360 Deluxe starts at € 25 and adds dark web monitoring. It protects 5 devices.
- Norton 360 Premium starts at € 30. It protects 10 devices.
- Web protection: Block malicious websites via the Safe Web extension.
- Cloud backup: Back up important files in secure cloud storage.
- Parental controls: Monitor and protect your kids online.
- Privacy monitor: Scan data brokers for your personal information.
- Webcam protection: Prevent unauthorized access to your webcam.
- Dark web monitoring: Scan the dark web for your personal information.
- LifeLock identity theft protection: Discover and restore identity theft.
Note: Norton's identity protection features are only available in the USA.
Is Norton the best antivirus software of 2023?
Yes, Norton is the best antivirus program in our test.
Modern security software need to offer far more than just anti-malware protection. By combining device security, online privacy, and identity theft protection, is Norton the best internet security suite you can buy.
You can try Norton risk-free, thanks to its 60-day return policy.
Bitdefender Antivirus Review
Ranked #2 out of 20 Antivirus
Bitdefender Antivirus Review
Bitdefender's antivirus engine is famous for its outstanding protection, many security features, and multi-layer ransomware protection, while being light on system resources.
Bitdefender antivirus has a 99% malware protection score. This was its average of all independent tests by AV-Test since October 2016. It puts Bitdefender ahead of all competitors, except Norton.
Bitdefender's real-time protection feature, Advanced Threat Defense, offers solid virus protection and advanced ransomware protection.
It does not rely on traditional malware detection methods, which use virus signatures. Instead, it continuously monitors the behavior of apps. The apps are blocked if Bitdefender spots an anomaly, such as code injection.
This method offers excellent malware detection rates while having a low number of false positives. During our own tests, Bitdefender detected the latest malware types instantly.
Bitdefender's firewall can block inbound and outbound connections on local networks and the internet. On top of that, Bitdefender detects and blocks port scans that hackers use to find open ports on your device.
Bitdefender's free VPN has a data limit of 200 MB / day. That equals 5 minutes of streaming at 720p or the opening of 100 websites.
Bitdefender uses Aura's VPN tech but has built its own apps. The VPN is fast, secure (AES-256 & HydraVPN), private (no logs), allows torrenting, and has a few extra features: start-up, auto-connect, kill switch, and split tunneling.
You will have to buy Bitdefender Premium VPN or Bitdefender Premium Security, for unlimited data transmission.
Bitdefender's password manager is a bit useless, because it only supports Windows. And not macOS, Android, or iOS.
Prices & Packages
- Bitdefender Antivirus Plus starts at € 16 and offers basic antivirus protection: Anti-malware, VPN, and password manager. It protects 3 PCs.
- Bitdefender Internet Security starts at € 24 and adds the firewall and several extra features. It protects 3 PCs.
- Bitdefender Total Security starts at € 32 and adds several extra features. It protects up to 5 devices.
Note: There is also Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition, the free version of Antivirus Plus. This is the best free antivirus software. But honestly, it's very basic and not much better than the built-in Microsoft Defender. So instead, we recommend Bitdefender's paid antivirus software. It's worth it.
- Online threat prevention: Anti-phishing protection for malicious sites.
- Vulnerability scan: Scan the operating system, apps, and network.
- Ransomware remediation: Restore files encrypted by ransomware.
- Anti-spam: Customize anti-spam for Outlook and Thunderbird.
- Safepay: Open a secure browser for online banking protection.
- Video and audio protection: Webcam and microphone protection.
- Anti-tracker: Remove tracking cookies via this browser extension.
- Parental advisor: Monitor the digital activities of your kids.
- Anti-theft: Locate and wipe your devices remotely.
- One-click optimizer: Clean up your hard drive and browsers.
- Data protection / file shredder: Permanently remove files.
Is Bitdefender the best antivirus software of 2023?
Bitdefender is one of the best antivirus programs in our test. Its anti-malware is exceptional, and the firewall and VPN are highly advanced. On top of that, its extra features are excellent.
We prefer Norton slightly, because its password manager works on all operating software (Bitdefender's only on Windows), and its free VPN is unlimited (Bitdefender's is limited to 200 MB / day).
However, we're also big fans of Bitdefender's internet security software. And as its renewal price is lower than Norton's, it's one of the best antivirus deals.
You can try Bitdefender risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
Panda Antivirus Review
Ranked #3 out of 20 Antivirus
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Panda Dome Antivirus Review
Panda offers excellent virus protection on Windows. And it has the most flexible pricing for its antivirus packages.
Panda antivirus scores 99.9% in the real-world protection tests. This is the average of all tests by AV-Comparatives since 2020. The score puts Panda ahead of all competitors, including Kaspersky, Bitdefender, and Norton.
Note that there are two independent testing labs: AV-Test and AV-Comparatives. Both test the malware scanning capabilities of free and premium antivirus programs. Usually, we quote AV-Test. However, Panda only takes part in the independent lab tests of AV-Comparatives.
Panda combines big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to scan all apps on your device. This allows it to counter known malware and advanced emerging threats like zero-day malware, ransomware, and API's.
Panda's firewall filters incoming and outgoing connections on local networks and the internet. It automatically assigns permissions to each application based on its risk level. But you can edit the rules per app.
Panda includes a free VPN with its antivirus products. However, this built-in VPN is limited to 150 MB / day, which isn't a lot. That equals about 4 minutes of streaming at 720p or the opening of 75 websites.
Like Bitdefender, Panda's VPN uses Aura's technology. This means that the VPN is fast, secure (AES-256 & HydraVPN), private (no logs), and allows torrenting. However, it lacks extra features like a kill switch, making its € 50.00 price expensive.
Panda's password manager is excellent. Generating and storing passwords is easy. Auto-filling them is accurate. And both two-factor authentification and biometrics login is supported.
The design of the browser extension for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox is identical to the apps on Android and iOS, which gives it a seamless experience across all major operating systems.
Prices & Packages
- Panda Dome Essential starts at € 17 and offers entry-level antivirus protection: Anti-malware, VPN, and a firewall.
- Panda Dome Advanced starts at € 23 and adds several extra features.
- Panda Dome Complete starts at € 35 and adds the password manager and several extra features.
- Panda Dome Premium starts at € 35 and adds the unlimited VPN and several extra features.
- Safe browsing: Block malicious URLs and phishing sites.
- Dark web scanner: Search the dark web for your email address.
- PC cleanup: Delete cookies or files with the system optimization tools.
- Wi-Fi protection: Check and improve the security of your Wi-Fi network.
- Anti-theft: Locate your PC if it is lost or stolen.
- File encryptor: Encrypt sensitive files with a password.
- File shredder: Securely and permanently delete files.
- USB protection: Scan a USB drive for malware.
Is Panda the best antivirus software of 2023?
Panda is one of the best antivirus software in our test. We really like the password manager and flexible pricing.
But we prefer Norton, because it includes an unlimited VPN at a lower price. And because it offers better protection for Macs and mobile devices.
However, if you only have a Windows PC to protect, Panda's excellent internet security suites are a great choice.
You can try Panda risk-free, thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee.
Kaspersky Antivirus Review
Ranked #4 out of 20 Antivirus
Kaspersky Anti-Virus Review
Kaspersky offers exceptional online security for Windows PCs, Mac computers, and Android devices. And the introduction of Kaspersky Security Cloud brings protection to iOS too.
Kaspersky antivirus has a 99% malware protection score. This was its average in the independent tests by AV-Test since October 2016. This puts it ahead of all other antivirus companies, except Norton.
It can offer such excellent malware protection through its triple-layer protection system:
- Locate vulnerabilities and threats pro-actively via heuristic analysis.
- Block cyber threats in real-time.
- Instantly isolate and remove dangers.
Kaspersky has one of the most advanced firewalls in the industry. It will filter incoming and outgoing network activity on local networks and the internet. And although it works perfectly on the default settings, there are plenty of customization options too.
Like Bitdefender's VPN, it uses Aura's technology. Therefore, the VPN is fast, secure (AES-256 & HydraVPN), and allows torrenting (P2P). It also features several extra features: Auto-connect, kill switch, smart protection, and website protection.
However, by default, Kaspersky will collect information on your device, location, VPN server, and WiFI network (including IP and DNS settings). It does this to improve product quality, send ads and create marketing offers.
Kaspersky's password manager is excellent. Creating and storing passwords is easy, and auto-filling them is accurate. Unlike Norton and McAfee, Kaspersky's password manager is a desktop app rather than a web app. But that doesn't get in the way of a great user experience.
Prices & Packages
- Kaspersky Anti-Virus starts at € 20 and offers only antivirus protection. It protects 3 Windows computers.
- Kaspersky Internet Security starts at € 26 and adds the VPN, firewall, and several extra features. It protects 3 devices.
- Kaspersky Total Security starts at € 32 and adds the password manager and several extra features. It protects 5 devices.
- Internal scan: Scan for worms, spyware, rootkits, and other malware.
- External scan: Scan external drives, like a hard disk or USB drive.
- Vulnerability scan: Scan your device for security risks.
- Kaspersky protection: A hardened browser extension for secure banking.
- Parental controls: Monitor and protect your children online.
- Webcam protection: Block programs from accessing your webcam.
- Private browsing: Block and remove tracking cookies in your browser.
- Backup and restore: Backup files to cloud backup storage.
- File encryption: Lock sensitive files in a secure vault.
- File shredder: Permanently delete files via advanced protocols.
Is Kaspersky the best antivirus software of 2023?
Kaspersky offers excellent antivirus protection. Its anti-malware is industry-leading, its firewall and password manager are excellent, and it provides a wide range of extra features.
Therefore, we prefer Norton, which includes an unlimited VPN for free in its antivirus suite. And it doesn't track what you do online.
You can try Kaspersky risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
McAfee Antivirus Review
Ranked #5 out of 20 Antivirus
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McAfee Antivirus Review
McAfee Total Protection, McAfee's main antivirus product, is excellent. And its interface is one of the very best on all popular operating systems.
McAfee antivirus has a 96% malware protection score. Unfortunately, that puts it behind the top performers: Norton, Bitdefender, and Kaspersky. We got this score by averaging all test scores by AV-Test since 2016.
Luckily, McAfee has improved its cybersecurity tools a lot in recent years. Since April 2020, it has achieved a perfect 100% score in every test.
In our tests, McAfee offered reliable protection against malicious software and cyber threats. Which means that it successfully detected and removed all offline and online threats.
McAfee can reach these results because of its Scan Engine:
- It runs antivirus scans and matches files with malware samples.
- It executes malicious code in a safe environment, called a sandbox.
- It applies heuristic techniques to recognize new malicious threats.
- It removes dangerous code from corrupted files.
McAfee's excellent firewall filters both in- and outgoing traffic. On top of that, McAfee hides open ports so that hackers can't identify unused ones with their port scanning techniques.
McAfee's VPN had some errors in our test. Although we had bought the unlimited VPN, we got a 500 MB / day limit on Android and iOS. And on macOS, the VPN didn't work at all. Only on Windows, it worked.
That said, the VPN is fast, secure (AES-256 & HydraVPN), and allows torrenting (P2P). But there are no extra features.
McAfee's cross-platform password manager is one of the best.
Creating and storing passwords is easy. Auto-filling them is accurate. And you can use biometrics (facial recognition and fingerprint scanner) to log in. As a result, it can compete with the best password managers, like Dashlane.
Prices & Packages
- Mcafee Total Protection Basic starts at € 30. It protects 1 device.
- Mcafee Total Protection Standard starts at € 35. It protects 3 devices.
- Mcafee Total Protection Plus starts at € 40. It protects 5 devices.
- Mcafee Total Protection Premium starts at € 45. It protects 10 devices.
- Secure Apps: A vulnerability scanner for security updates.
- App Boost: A performance boost for apps you frequently use.
- Browser Security: An anti-phishing browser extension.
- Web Boost: A browser extension that stops videos from auto-playing.
- Tracker Remover: A feature that deletes tracking cookies.
- ID Protection: A dark web scanner for your personal data.
- File Shredder: A shredder that can delete files securely.
- File Lock: An app that creates password-protected file vaults.
- Anti-Spam: An anti-spam feature for Outlook and Thunderbird.
- Safe Family: A parental control feature to monitor and protect kids online.
Is McAfee the best antivirus software of 2023?
McAfee has improved its virus protection significantly in recent years. On top of that, its password manager is one of the best, and its design is both user-friendly and beautiful. So it's a good antivirus program.
However, if we look at the long-term anti-malware performance since 2016, it is tied with Windows Defender, and behind Norton and Bitdefender. And its VPN still had some errors during our tests. So we prefer Norton.
You can try McAfee risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
Comparison table of the best antivirus software
The best antivirus deals:
How do we test the best antivirus for laptops?
The best antivirus programs for laptops in 2023 go beyond detecting malware on Windows computers. In addition to protecting against malware, they should also safeguard against a range of other cyber threats, such as data breaches, phishing attempts, privacy invasions, ransomware attacks, spyware infections, and zero-day attacks, on all major operating systems.
In addition to offering robust security features, the top antivirus software should also have a user-friendly interface and be reasonably priced. To find out which antivirus provider is worth your money, we put them through a series of 15 tests.
> Test 1: Anti-malware protection test
Malware is any malicious software and can include various online threats such as adware, keyloggers, ransomware, spyware, trojans, viruses, worms, and more. Most of these threats are known malware, meaning cybersecurity companies have encountered them before. However, some are unknown malware, meaning they are new and have never been experienced.
These latest malware threats are difficult to detect. Traditional real-time protection uses virus definitions to identify threats by scanning potential malware code against a database of malicious code samples.
The best anti-malware software has evolved to include heuristic analysis or behavior monitoring to scan for suspicious patterns in behavior and discover malware before it can be added to the database. We run our tests and analyze results from independent antivirus testing labs to find the best packages for real-time malware protection.
> Test 2: False positives test
False positives occur when antivirus software wrongly identifies a legitimate program as malware, mistakes a harmless file for malicious code, or blocks access to a safe website.
While familiar to all antivirus programs, these mistakes should not be cause for concern. However, a high number of false positives can be frustrating. To better understand this issue, we turn to AV-Test’s comprehensive analysis of false positives in their usability test.
> Test 3: System performance test
Ensuring safe browsing is essential, but it can be an issue if antivirus software consumes all of your PC’s resources. Therefore, we measure the CPU load while the antivirus software runs quick and complete system scans to address this. This allows us to determine whether the security software requires many system resources, leaving less of your computer’s performance for other tasks.
Additionally, we consider the results of AV-Test’s performance section, which evaluates the slow-down caused by antivirus software on opening websites and downloading, installing, and launching software. These factors provide a good understanding of the impact on a device’s performance.
> Test 4: Firewall test
A firewall is a security system that controls the incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. A firewall can be hardware-based, software-based, or provided as a service. Software-based firewalls are included in antivirus software and offer a high level of protection against malware.
There are various types of firewalls, including packet-filtering, circuit-level gateway, application-level gateway, stateful inspection, and next-generation firewalls.
Next-generation firewalls are the most advanced and are used in heavily regulated industries like finance and healthcare. They combine deep packet and stateful inspection with other network security systems like anti-malware.
To ensure that the antivirus software effectively blocks all ports, we use the ShieldsUP! test from the Gibson Research Corporation.
> Test 5: Password manager test
A password manager is a software that helps you create and store secure, unique passwords for your online accounts. It can also automatically enter your login information on websites and apps, making it easier for you to log in.
Using a password manager enhances the security of your online accounts by allowing you to use long and complex passwords that are hard for hackers to guess or crack. It also helps you avoid using the same password for multiple accounts, which can be risky because if one account is compromised, the hacker may be able to access all your other accounts.
Some password managers also offer extra security features such as two-factor authentication and alerts for potential account breaches. We test all these security features.
> Test 6: Virtual Private Network (VPN) test
A VPN is a way to connect to the internet securely and privately. It uses encrypted connections to create a virtual private network, protecting your data and activity from being tracked or hacked.
Our tests cover the security, privacy, speed, and compatibility of the built-in VPN and its ability to offer unlimited data and support for peer-to-peer networks and torrent clients. In addition, we verify its performance with popular streaming services like Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime.
> Test 7: Parental control test
Parental controls enable parents to restrict their children’s online activities and keep track of their internet usage. These controls can include setting limits on screen time, blocking inappropriate content, and monitoring communication with others.
To determine the reliability of the parental control features, we install them on a test device and try to circumvent them in the way that a clever child might. We also examine whether the parental control admin accurately and immediately reports our activity on the test device.
> Test 8: Anti-phishing protection test
A phishing attack is a cyber attack in which an attacker tries to obtain sensitive information from you by pretending to be a legitimate entity, such as login credentials or financial information. This is typically done through emails, social media messages, or text messages that contain a link or request for information. Additionally, the attacker may use pressure or threats to get you to take immediate action.
Anti-phishing software is a type of security software that prevents phishing attacks by identifying and blocking malicious websites and emails. It analyzes the links and content of websites and emails and compares them to a list of known phishing threats. If it detects a threat, the software will prevent you from accessing the website or email and alert you to the potential danger.
We test the anti-phishing capabilities of the antivirus software.
> Test 9: Ransomware protection test
A ransomware attack is a cyber attack in which an attacker locks your data and demands payment to unlock it. In addition, the attacker may threaten to destroy your data or make it public if you do not pay the ransom within a specific period. These attacks can be particularly harmful to businesses, as they can cause lost productivity and income.
Anti-ransomware software is a security tool that helps prevent ransomware attacks by detecting and stopping malicious software that may try to lock your data and demand payment to unlock it. It works by searching your computer for known ransomware threats and blocking them before they can cause harm.
We test the anti-ransomware capabilities of the antivirus software.
> Test 10: Bonus features test
In addition to protecting against viruses, an antivirus program may offer a range of extra features. These can range from basic spam filters to advanced features like secure browsers and premium options like secure online storage. While we can only delve into some elements here, these cybersecurity tools can be precious.
- Ad Blocker
- Dark web monitoring (identity protection)
- Email protection
- File encryption
- File shredder
- Gaming mode
- Microphone protection
- PC maintenance features
- Secure browser (hardened browser to protect your online banking)
- Secure cloud storage (cloud backup)
- Spam filter
- Startup optimizer
- Tune up tools
- Virtual keyboard
- Webcam protection
> Test 11: Operating system and multiple devices test
Protecting various operating systems is a must for antivirus software. While it may seem a given, many antivirus programs only cater to Windows computers and leave security for other systems like Mac, Android, and iOS behind. We ensure that all antivirus software is tested on every operating system.
> Test 12: Ownership and reputation test
Not all antivirus companies can be trusted with customer data. For instance, Avast was found to have collected and sold the browsing habits of millions of its users through its Online Security browser extension and subsidiary, Jumpshot. While the company says it has ceased these activities and has since been acquired by Norton, the damage to its reputation persists.
In our evaluations of cybersecurity companies, we carefully examine press releases, news articles, and privacy policies, especially for browser extensions and VPN services, to ensure they have a good reputation for handling customer data.
> Test 13: Interface test
For many users, cybersecurity isn’t a source of excitement, so antivirus software needs to be fast, easy to install, and simple to use. We test the installation speed of each program, as well as how user-friendly it is on the default settings and how complex it is to adjust the advanced settings.
> Test 14: Customer support test
In an ideal world, everything would always go as planned. But things sometimes go smoothly in the real world – people may click on dangerous links, open malicious files, fall for phishing scams, or answer spam emails. When these things happen, it’s essential to have good customer support to turn to.
That’s why we verify that antivirus companies offer 24/7 live chat, email, and phone support and examine their knowledge base, forums, and FAQs. We also test the support team by asking them a challenging question to assess their speed and capabilities.
> Test 15: Value for money test
It’s crucial to avoid free antivirus products, as they may analyze your behavior and sell that data to marketing firms, essentially protecting you from malware by installing spyware. While some free antivirus programs may offer essential antivirus protection, they rarely do more than that. This makes them free malware removal tools, which both Windows and Mac already have built-in.
Therefore, we recommend opting for a paid version. Cybersecurity shouldn’t have to cost a fortune, so we compare first-year prices and second-year renewal prices across antivirus providers and look at what you get for your money. Ideally, we want top-tier anti-malware protection, an unlimited VPN, and a password manager.
How to choose the best antivirus for your laptop?
When buying the right antivirus program for your laptop, you should ask yourself three questions:
- What operating systems do you want to protect?
- What security features do you need?
- Should you use free antivirus software? Spoiler alert: No, you should not.
We guide you through each of the questions:
What operating systems do you want to protect?
Depending on the source you trust, Windows has a market share of 76% to 88%, macOS 10% to 15%, and Linux about 2%. So most likely, you are looking to protect a Windows or macOS laptop.
However, you probably also have a phone and maybe a tablet (market share: 78% Android vs. 27% iOS). And it would be wise to protect those devices as well, especially in the case of Android.
That’s why we recommend Norton. It is the best multi-OS security software. It’s one of the few antivirus software that not just protects Windows laptops, but also offers outstanding protection for macOS, Android, and iOS.
But you might want more specialized advice. That’s why we have created a comparison for each operating system:
- The best security software of 2023. In this comparison, you’ll find antivirus brands that protect multiple operating systems from malware, while offering a range of extra security features.
- The best security software for Windows 11. In this comparison, you’ll discover antivirus companies that offer excellent protection for Microsoft’s new operating system: Windows 11.
- The best security software for macOS. In this comparison, you can find the best security suites for Apple’s desktop operating system: macOS. We look for full-featured suites that have a VPN, firewall, and password manager.
- The best security software for Android. In this comparison, you discover the best security apps for Google’s mobile operating system: Android. We look for malware protection, a password manager, and an unlimited VPN.
- The best security software for iOS. In this comparison, you can find the best security apps for Apple’s mobile operating system: iOS. As malware is not a significant threat on iOS, we look for a password manager and VPN.
And should you want more privacy-tailored advice, we recommend comparing the best VPN providers or the best antivirus programs with a VPN included.
What security features do you need?
There are some features that everyone needs. When buying the right antivirus software for your laptop, it should include the following:
- Anti-malware to protect you from viruses, worms, and more.
- Anti-phishing to protect you from malicious links and sites.
- A two-way firewall to block dangerous in- and outgoing connections.
- A password manager to create unique passwords for all your accounts.
And there are several security features you might need, depending on your circumstances. These are:
- A VPN. When you spend a lot of time on public Wi-Fi networks, whether at school, work, Starbucks, or somewhere else, a VPN is a must. Unfortunately, hackers can easily steal your data via a man-in-the-middle attack. However, when you use a VPN, you can even shop and bank on unsecured networks without taking any risk.
- Parental controls. If you have kids that spend a lot of time on their phones or tablets, parental controls are a worthwhile investment. They allow you to watch your kids in the digital realm. And to set some protective boundaries to keep them out of trouble.
- Ransomware protection. If you are a small business owner, one of your employees might click on a suspicious link, download ransomware, and infect the system. That would lock you out of your data. Luckily, some brands, like Norton and Bitdefender, offer excellent anti-ransomware.
Should you use free antivirus software?
No, you shouldn’t. You already have free antivirus software. For example, Microsoft Defender comes pre-installed on your Windows laptop. And Macbooks have XProtect and GateKeeper.
And it wouldn’t help if you replace those with a weak security tool that offers an on-demand malware scan and some web protection. Because honestly, that’s all that free antivirus software offer for your laptop.
So if you have no money to spend, stick to the protection that’s already installed on your laptop. But if you have a few dollars, upgrade your security with top-tier anti-malware, an advanced firewall, unlimited VPN, password protection, and a dark web monitor.
What antivirus for laptop have we tested?
We tested antivirus software from 20 brands. We tried free and paid antivirus programs for laptops, phones, and tablets. We tested the entry-level versions and the premium versions. And, where available, we also tried the VPN.
Below are the programs we tested:
- Avast Antivirus Free, Avast Premium Security & Avast One
- AVG Antivirus Free & AVG Ultimate
- Avira Free Security & Avira Prime
- Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Bitdefender Internet Security, Bitdefender Total Security, Bitdefender Premium Security & Bitdefender Premium VPN
- BullGuard Antivirus & BullGuard Premium Protection
- Comodo Antivirus
- ESET Internet Security Premium Protection
- F-Secure Safe & F-Secure Total
- Intego Mac Internet Security X9 & Mac Premium Bundle X9
- Kaspersky Anti-Virus (Kaspersky Antivirus), Kaspersky Internet Security, Kaspersky Security Cloud, Kaspersky Total Security & Kaspersky VPN Secure Connection
- MacKeeper Antivirus
- Malwarebytes Free & Malwarebytes Premium
- McAfee Antivirus Plus & McAfee Total Protection Premium
- Microsoft Defender (Windows Defender)
- Panda Dome Essential & Panda Dome Premium
- Norton Antivirus Plus, Norton Norton 360 Premium & Norton Secure VPN
- Sophos Home Premium
- TotalAV Antivirus Pro & TotalAV Total Security
- Trend Micro Antivirus Security & Trend Micro Maximum Security
- Webroot Antivirus (Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus) & Webroot Internet Security
Frequently asked questions
What are the best antivirus for Windows laptops?
Norton and Bitdefender are the best antivirus for Windows laptops. Their anti-malware protection is excellent, and both offer a range of extra features like a VPN, firewall, and password manager.
What are the best antivirus for MacBooks?
Norton and Intego are the best antivirus for MacBooks. They offer perfect malware protection for macOS and have advanced features like a firewall, VPN, and password manager.
How do antivirus programs works?
Antivirus programs detect and remove malware from your laptop. They can spot malware by analyzing their computer code or behavior.
Do you need an antivirus program on your laptop?
Yes, you do. Whether your laptop runs on Windows 10, Windows 11, or macOS, you’re always safer by installing one of the best antivirus software of 2023.
Should you use free antivirus software on your laptop?
No, you shouldn’t use free antivirus software. In the best case, you’ll install software with poor protection. In the worst case, you’ll install spyware on your laptop. Instead, stick to paid antivirus software.
What is the cheapest antivirus for laptops?
Depending on where you live, Norton Antivirus Plus or Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is the cheapest antivirus software you can buy. Both offer excellent protection.
Will antivirus slow your laptop down?
That depends on the antivirus software that you buy. The best antivirus programs, like Norton or Bitdefender, do not slow your laptop down.
Will antivirus protect you 100% ?
Only Norton has a 100% protection score for Windows. Bitdefender and Kaspersky follow closely with 99% each. All other brands score lower.
Below are the sources and tools we’ve used to analyze the antivirus software and write our article.
- Apple 1
- Apple 2
- AV-Test 1
- AV-Test 2
- AV-Test 3
- AV-Test 4
- Bitdefender 1
- Bitdefender 2
- Bitdefender 3
- Hotspot Shield
- Kaspersky 1
- Kaspersky 2
- Kaspersky 3
- McAfee 1
- McAfee 2
- Norton 1
- Norton 2
- Norton 3
- Norton 4
- Norton 5
- Norton 6
- Panda 1
- Panda 2
- Panda 3
- Panda 4
Author: Tibor Moes
Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab
Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.
Over the years, he has tested most of the best antivirus software for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, as well as many VPN providers.
He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.
This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.