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The 10 Best Antivirus for Laptops [2022]: Updated Test *

By Tibor Moes / July 2022

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.

The Best Antivirus for Laptops of 2022: Norton

Norton Antivirus

Limited Time: Save 70% 🔥

  • 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.

Excellent Virus Protection for Laptops: Bitdefender

Bitdefender Antivirus

Exclusive: Save 60% 🔥

  • 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 2022

We have tested and reviewed security software since 2014. Below, we have selected the top 5 from 19 paid and free antivirus software.

Click the links or scroll down for more.

Norton Icon New

Norton Antivirus Review

Ranked #1 out of 19 Antivirus

Norton Antivirus Review

Norton 360 Antivirus Review

Norton offers the best antivirus protection on all operating systems.

Anti-Malware

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.

Firewall

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.

VPN

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.

Password Manager

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.

Bonus Features

  • 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 2022?

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

Bitdefender Antivirus Review

Ranked #2 out of 19 Antivirus

Bitdefender Antivirus Review
Bitdefender: Save 60% on this secret page 🔥
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.

Anti-Malware

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.

Firewall

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.

VPN

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.

Password Manager

Bitdefender's password manager is a bit useless, because it only supports Windows. And not macOS, Android, or iOS.

Prices & Packages

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.

Bonus Features

  • 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 2022?

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

Panda Antivirus Review

Ranked #3 out of 19 Antivirus

Panda Antivirus Review
Panda Dome Antivirus Review

Panda offers excellent virus protection on Windows. And it has the most flexible pricing for its antivirus packages.

Anti-Malware

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.

Firewall

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.

VPN

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.

Password Manager

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

Bonus 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 2022?

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

Kaspersky Antivirus Review

Ranked #4 out of 19 Antivirus

Kaspersky Antivirus Review
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.

Anti-Malware

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.

Firewall

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.

VPN

Kaspersky's free VPN has a data limit of 300 MB / day and a poor privacy policy. So we don't recommend it.

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.

Password Manager

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.

Bonus Features

  • 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 2022?

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.

However, its VPN privacy policy is disappointing. A VPN is a privacy product and shouldn't be used for marketing.

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

McAfee Antivirus Review

Ranked #5 out of 19 Antivirus

McAfee Antivirus Review
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.

Anti-Malware

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.

Firewall

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.

VPN

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.

Password Manager

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

Bonus Features

  • 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 2022?

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 

Icon

Norton

Norton

Bitdefender

Bitdefender

Panda

Panda

Kaspersky

Kaspersky

McAfee

McAfee

Score

Norton

5.0

Bitdefender

4.9

Panda

4.7

Kaspersky

4.6

McAfee

4.4

Starting Price

Norton

€ 15 / year

Bitdefender

€ 16 / year

Panda

€ 17 / year

Kaspersky

€ 20 / year

McAfee

€ 30 / year

Malware Detection Rate

Norton

100%

Bitdefender

99%

Panda

99%

Kaspersky

99%

McAfee

96%

Firewall

Norton


Bitdefender


Panda


Kaspersky


McAfee


Password Manager

Norton


Bitdefender


Panda


Kaspersky


McAfee


Parental Controls

Norton


Bitdefender


Panda


Kaspersky


McAfee


Dark Web Monitor

Norton


Bitdefender


Panda


Kaspersky


McAfee


Free VPN Data Limit

Norton

Unlimited

Bitdefender

200 MB / day

Panda

150 MB / day

Kaspersky

300 MB / day

McAfee

Unlimited (if auto-renewal is active)

Operating Systems

Norton

Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Chromebook

Bitdefender

Windows, macOS, iOS, Android

Panda

Windows, macOS, iOS, Android

Kaspersky

Windows, macOS, iOS, Android

McAfee

Windows, macOS, iOS, Android

Number of Devices

Norton

Up to 10

Bitdefender

Up to 5

Panda

Unlimited

Kaspersky

Up to 10

McAfee

Up to 10

Money Back Guarantee

Norton

60 days

Bitdefender

30 days

Panda

30 days

Kaspersky

30 days

McAfee

30 days

Discount Link

Norton

Bitdefender

Panda

Kaspersky

McAfee

How we test the best antivirus for laptops?

We have tested a lot of antivirus software for laptops. We started in 2014 when Windows 8.1 and macOS X 10.10 Yosemite were still around.

Since then, cyber threats have evolved. For example, malware used to be front and center in the digital world. These days, people have much more to worry about online.

Especially phishing attacks, where hackers attempt to steal sensitive data like passwords, have become a significant threat. And so have ransomware attacks, where cybercriminals encrypt your data and demand a ransom to unlock it.

In 2022, protecting your laptop is not just about protecting the device. It is also about protecting the data that is on it: Credit card details, online banking accounts, social security information, and much more.

Luckily, the cybersecurity industry has evolved as well. Modern antivirus suites are up to the challenge thanks to the combination of anti-malware, anti-phishing, anti-ransomware, and many other features.

We test whether the companies do what they say. Whether their features are capable, whether the companies are reputable, and whether their prices are acceptable.

Below are the tests that we put the best antivirus for laptops, phones, and tablets through.

Anti-malware test 1

As the name suggests, anti-malware is about malware detection and removal. An antivirus program needs to be able to discover a malware threat before it executes and neutralize it before it harms the laptop.

There are two ways in which anti-malware software detect threats:

  • Threat detection based on virus signatures is the classic form. Here, anti-malware compares the code of suspicious files to that of known malware. If they overlap, the file is flagged as dangerous.
  • Heuristic analysis, also known as behavioral analysis, is the modern form. Here, anti-malware software analyze the behavior of apps on your laptop in real-time. If any are malicious, they are neutralized.

The combined methods can prevent many forms of malware, such as adware, ransomware, spyware, scareware, trojans, worms, viruses, keyloggers, and many more.

The best thing is that, through heuristic analysis, they can detect malware that have never been encountered before. For instance, zero-day attacks. These can be brand new viruses or exploits of unknown security risks in your laptop’s operating system.

We average the historical test scores by the independent test labs (AV-Test, AV-Comparatives, and SE Labs) since 2016. That was the year that AV-Test, our favorite group of IT experts, ran their first anti-malware protection test on Windows 10.

Anti-malware test 2

Seeing is believing. So we don’t just look at the results of the test labs. We also run our tests, albeit on a smaller scale.

For example, we infect a clean test laptop with a wide range of malware samples by attaching a USB stick. We also visit several malicious websites, which are known for phishing attacks.

We then analyze whether the antivirus software on the laptop can detect and remove the malware samples. And whether it can stop malicious websites from opening in our browser.

As our tests have less scale than those by the test labs, we let their results determine most of our anti-malware protection score.

False positive test

Everyone makes mistakes, including antivirus software. Sometimes, it stops a safe website from opening. At other times, it flags a harmless file as suspicious. Or it might mistake benign software for malware.

These events are called false positives. They are nothing to worry about. But when they happen frequently, they can become a real hassle. So antivirus companies attempt to keep them to a minimum without sacrificing the thoroughness of their malware scans.

We analyze the findings of the Usability test by AV-Test. They research and compare the number of false positives caused by the various virus scanners.

System performance test

Cybersecurity is critical. But if the antivirus software entirely consumes your system’s resources, that’s not very practical. That’s why we analyze the CPU load while the antivirus runs a full system scan.

We also analyze the Performance test results by AV-Test. In their test, they measure whether the security software slow down the opening of websites and the downloading, installing, and launching of programs.

Firewall test

The first line of defense on your laptop is a two-way firewall. It can analyze and filter data streams that enter and leave your computer.

This matters because when you connect to the internet or a local network, someone might want to access your files without your permission or knowledge.

On top of that, an advanced firewall will hide the open ports on your laptop so that hackers can find them with port-scanning techniques.

To analyze whether firewalls do what they say, we use the ShieldsUP! test of the Gibson Research Corporation. It can tell us whether the ports on your test laptop are blocked.

Password manager test

Many people re-use the same email and password combination for all their accounts. On top of that, their chosen passwords are often terribly unsafe: Birthdays, pet names, 123456789, the word “password.” These are some of the most common examples on the internet.

Now imagine that a big website gets hacked, which frequently happens. Then your password and email combination might be leaked. And if you re-use that combination on all websites, the hackers can now access all of your accounts.

A password manager can help. It generates and stores highly secure and unique passwords. On top of that, it automatically enters those passwords when you log in. So you have unique passwords for each account, and you don’t need to remember them. It’s wonderful.

What’s more, the best password managers add extra security layers like two-factor authentication (2FA) and fingerprint or facial recognition login (biometrics). We test all these features and more. 

Parental control test

The digital world can be dangerous for adults, not to mention what it’s like for children. And yet, it’s difficult for parents to protect their kids online like they would protect them offline.

A password manager can help. It allows a parent to set screen time rules and filters on the internet. That means certain websites, like gambling or adult entertainment, won’t open on children’s devices.

To test whether the parental controls work, we install those protective boundaries on a test phone. We then attempt to visit the websites that are supposed to be blocked. We also try to use the phone after the screen time limitations have taken effect. And we review the reporting in the admin.

VPN test

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) hides your IP address, which makes you anonymous online. It also encrypts your internet connection which makes your data secure, even when you surf the web via unsecured public Wi-Fi networks. We test the VPN on a range of criteria:

  • Privacy: Do they log your online activity?
  • Security: What encryption protocol and strength do they use?
  • Speed: What is their impact on your download speed?
  • Streaming: Do they work with Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime?
  • Torrenting: Can you download files via peer-to-peer networks?

Supported devices test

Antivirus software should be able to protect multiple devices, not just your laptop. So we test their protection features on the major operating systems: Windows 10, Windows 11, macOS, Android, and iOS.

Especially macOS users often get a watered-down version of the protection available to Windows users. So we check whether the firewall, password manager, parental controls, and VPN are available on the operating system for Macbooks and iMacs.

Reputation test

We all assume that a company operating in the cybersecurity space cares about its customer’s security and privacy. So when Avast was caught tracking and selling their user’s data via their subsidiary Jumpshop, the world was shocked and outraged.

That’s why we read press releases, independent reviews, privacy policies, and more to find out whether companies are as respectable as they should be. If a company breaks the rules, it disappears from our comparison.

Customer support test

When something goes wrong and your security is in danger, it’s nice to know you can contact someone who can help. That’s why we test the customer support offered by cybersecurity companies. We connect with them via 24/7 live chat and email. And we read through their forums, knowledge base, and FAQs.

Ease of use test

Cybersecurity is complex, but antivirus software shouldn’t be. After all, most users are novices when it comes to security.

So we test how easy the software is to install on a laptop and how long it takes. We also test how well it performs on default settings and how complex it is to adjust the advanced features.

Value for money test

It would be great if we could all download free antivirus software and receive perfect protection. But as we all know, that’s not how it works. Free antivirus programs are often elementary and no better than the pre-installed Microsoft Defender on your laptop. 

That said, security software shouldn’t cost a fortune. So we analyze the discounted prices for the first year and the renewal prices for the second year. And then we compare those between the manufacturers.

At the entry level, our ideal antivirus program would offer protection for a single device of any operating system. And include rock-solid anti-malware, a firewall, VPN (preferably without a data limit), 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 2022. 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 39 antivirus software from 19 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 Plus, Bitdefender Internet Security, Bitdefender Total 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 Internet Security, Kaspersky Total Security & Kaspersky VPN Secure Connection
  • MacKeeper Antivirus
  • Malwarebytes Free & Malwarebytes Premium
  • McAfee Total Protection Premium
  • 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 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 2022.

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.

About the author

Tibor Moes

Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.

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.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.

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