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The 5 Best Antivirus for PC Gaming (2023 Update)

By Tibor Moes / Updated: September 2023

Our digital world is a dangerous place. Leaving your devices unprotected is akin to walking a tightrope without a safety net. Yet, as a gamer, you know that speed is everything. And you don’t want your PC security to ruin your FPS.

So we have tested and compared the best antivirus for gamers, focusing on security software with built-in Game Boosters. These will automatically detect when you are gaming and pause power-hungry programs running in the background. No more FPS lags or slowdowns, and no more annoying notifications.

That way, investing in your security is not a compromise. You can ensure the safety of your digital world, shield your sensitive information, and regain control over your online privacy. Yet get the most out of your gaming PC.

Norton 360 for Gamers is the best antivirus for PC gaming

Norton 360 for Gamers

Ranked #1 of 28 antivirus

  • Malware Protection 100% 100%
  • Speed Impact 100% 100%

Norton has the best protection, excellent privacy features, and a great price. On top of that, it has an excellent Game Optimizer.

  • Malware protection: 100%. In the last 10 tests, Norton removed all malware. It will protect you against all threats.
  • Speed impact: 100%. In the last 10 tests, Norton had no impact on the speed of the test PC. It will not slow you down.
  • Features: 100%. Anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, password manager, identity protection, game optimizer, cloud backup, and more.

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

Bitdefender is the second best antivirus software for gamers

Bitdefender Antivirus

Ranked #2 of 28 antivirus

  • Malware Protection 95% 95%
  • Speed Impact 100% 100%

Bitdefender offers excellent protection and bonus features. However, it’s expensive if you want the VPN and password manager.

  • Malware protection: 95%. In the last 10 tests, Bitdefender removed nearly all malware. It offers great protection.
  • Speed impact: 100%. In the last 10 tests, It had no impact on the speed of the test PC. It will not slow you down.
  • Features: 95%. Anti-phishing, firewall, and more. But the VPN and password manager cost extra.

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

The best antivirus for PC gaming

We have reviewed antivirus software since 2014. Based on our in-depth tests of 28 antivirus brands in 2023, these are the best antivirus for PC gaming:

  1. 🥇 Norton for Gamers – The #1 in 2023
  2. Bitdefender Antivirus
  3. McAfee Antivirus
  4. Panda Antivirus
  5. Kaspersky Antivirus

We have tested their anti-malware protection, security features, speed impact, false positives, and price. Scroll down to read the in-depth reviews.

Norton Antivirus Review

Norton Review

Ranked #1 out of 28 Antivirus

Norton Antivirus on Windows 11

Norton has the best device, privacy, and identity protection. It has all the security features you need, including a gamer booster, and a great price too.

  • Malware protection: 100%. Norton averaged 6 out of 6 in the last 10 protection tests. It is excellent at detecting and removing malware.
  • Speed impact: 100%. Norton averaged 6 out of 6 in the last 10 performance tests. It does not slow down your PC.
  • Features: 100%. Norton offers anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, unlimited VPN, password manager, parental controls, and more.
  • Price: 95%. Norton offers better value for money than all competitors, except for Kaspersky, which is slightly cheaper.

Discount: Temporarily save up to 70% 🔥

Norton 360 Antivirus Review

Norton offers the best antivirus protection on all operating systems.


Norton is one of the few brands with a 100% malware protection score. Its real-time malware protection tool, called SONAR, is the best.

To get to this score, we averaged the last 10 test scores 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.

Game Booster

Norton GO (Game Optimizer) improves your gaming experience by focusing CPU cores exclusively on your game when you enter full screen mode. This can boost your game’s framerate (FPS) and reduce loading times, without influencing your system’s RAM usage or overall performance.

In other words, it will free up resources from power-hungry software that run in the background. That way, all your system’s performance will go to your game. On top of that, it will pause all notifications so you don’t get disturbed while gaming. Norton is a real gaming antivirus.


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 the software on your computer makes suspicious outgoing connections to other devices.

And that’s not all. Norton’s firewall also cloaks inactive ports, so 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.

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 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 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.

In some countries, Norton 360 Advanced is called Norton 360 Premium. This is essentially the same product, without identity theft protection.

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.

Conclusion: Is Norton the best antivirus for gaming of 2023?

Yes, Thanks to the game mode, Norton is the best antivirus for gamers.

Modern security software needs to offer far more than just anti-malware protection. By combining device security, online privacy, and identity theft protection, Norton is the best internet security suite you can buy.

You can try Norton risk-free, thanks to its 60-day return policy.

Bitdefender Antivirus Review

Bitdefender Review

Ranked #2 out of 28 Antivirus

Bitdefender Antivirus on Windows 11


Bitdefender offers excellent protection and bonus features. However, it’s pricey if you want the VPN and password manager.

  • Malware protection: 95%. Bitdefender averaged 5.95 out of 6 in the last 10 protection tests. It is excellent at removing malware.
  • Speed impact: 100%. Bitdefender averaged 6 out of 6 in the last 10 performance tests. It does not slow down your PC.
  • Features: 95%. It offers anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, parental controls, and more. But the VPN and password manager cost extra.
  • Price: 75%. If you only want the antivirus, Bitdefender offers great value. But if you want all features, Norton offers a better deal.

Discount: Save 50% 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.


Bitdefender antivirus has a 95% malware protection score. This is the average of the 10 most recent protection tests by AV-Test. It puts Bitdefender ahead of all competitors, except Norton, McAfee, and Kaspersky.

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.

Password Manager

Bitdefender’s password manager is sold separately. It is not included with Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Internet Security, or Total Security. To get it, you have to buy it separately or buy Bitdefender Premium Security.

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.

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.

Conclusion: Is Bitdefender the best antivirus software of 2023?

Bitdefender is one of the best antivirus software in our test. Its anti-malware, firewall, password manager, and VPN are highly advanced. On top of that, there are tons of extra features.

However, Bitdefender can be expensive. It sells its password manager and unlimited VPN separately or as part of its Premium Security suite. This makes it pricey if you want all security features.

By contrast, Norton includes these features for free.

You can try Bitdefender risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

McAfee Antivirus Review

McAfee Review

Ranked #3 out of 28 Antivirus

McAfee Antivirus on Windows 11


McAfee offers excellent device, privacy, and identity protection. However, some features are only available in the USA.

  • Malware protection: 100%. McAfee averaged 6 out of 6 in the last 10 protection tests. It is excellent at detecting and removing malware.
  • Speed impact: 85%. McAfee averaged 5.85 out of 6 in the last 10 performance tests. So it has a minimal impact on your PC’s speed.
  • Features: 100%. McAfee offers anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, unlimited VPN, password manager, parental controls, and more.
  • Price: 95%. McAfee offers better value for money than most competitors, except Kaspersky, which is slightly cheaper.

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McAfee Antivirus Review

McAfee allows you to protect an unlimited number of devices.


McAfee is among the few brands with a 100% anti-malware test score. It has improved its cybersecurity tools a lot in recent years. Since April 2020, it has achieved a perfect 100% score in every protection test by AV-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, Safe Connect, is free and offers unlimited data. It’s fast, secure (AES-256), private (no activity logs), has servers in 45 countries, works with Netflix on many servers, and allows torrenting.

However, it’s not perfect. For instance, not all security features (like the kill switch and split tunnel) are available on all operating systems. And if you turn off auto-renew, the VPN is limited to 500 MB / day.

Password Manager

McAfee’s cross-platform password manager, True Key, 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 Basic costs € 30 (Europe) or $ 30 (USA). It offers antivirus, anti-phishing, firewall, password manager, and VPN. It protects 1 device.
  • McAfee Essential (called McAfee Plus in Europe) costs € 40 (Europe) or $ 40 (USA). It adds no additional features but protects 5 devices.
  • McAfee+ Premium costs € 45 (Europe) or $ 45 (USA). It adds a personal data cleanup and protects unlimited devices.
  • McAfee+ Advanced costs € 65 (Europe) or $ 80 (USA). It adds identity theft protection and protects unlimited devices.
  • McAfee+ Ultimate costs $ 190 (USA) and is not sold in Europe. It adds more identity theft protection features and protects unlimited devices.

McAfee is in the process of renaming its products. So in some countries, you’ll be shown McAfee Total Protection instead, which has the same features as McAfee Basic and Essential.

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.

Conclusion: Is McAfee the best antivirus software of 2023?

McAfee is one of the best antivirus software in our test. Its virus protection gets perfect scores, its password manager is excellent, its unlimited VPN is included for free, and its design is both user-friendly and beautiful.

On top of that, its premium and advanced plans allow you to protect an unlimited number of devices and offer extensive privacy and identity protection features, especially in the United States.

You can try McAfee risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

Panda Antivirus Review

Panda Review

Ranked #4 out of 28 Antivirus

Panda Antivirus on Windows 11


Panda offers excellent protection and has flexible pricing. However, it’s expensive if you want the unlimited VPN.

  • Malware protection: 99%. Panda averaged 99.9% in the malware protection tests. It is excellent at detecting and removing malware.
  • Speed impact: 99%. Panda averaged 99% in the performance tests. So it has almost no impact on your PC’s speed.
  • Features: 100%. Panda offers anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, unlimited VPN, password manager, parental controls, and more.
  • Price: 75%. Panda offers the most flexible pricing of all brands. But, if you want all the security features, Norton is more affordable.

Discount: Save 50% on this secret page

Panda Dome Antivirus Review

Panda offers the most flexible pricing for its antivirus packages.


Panda antivirus scored 99.9% in the real-world protection tests. However, it does have with a higher number of false positives than its competitors, which means that it frequently mistakes harmless software for malware.

This result is the average of all tests by AV-Comparatives since 2020. Usually, we quote AV-Test, another independent test lab. However, Panda does not take part in their tests. Both labs independently test the malware scanning capabilities of free and premium antivirus programs.

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.

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

  • Panda Dome Essential starts at € 17 (Europe) or $ 24 (USA). It offers antivirus and a firewall.
  • Panda Dome Advanced starts at € 23 (Europe) or $ 28 (USA). It adds anti-phishing and parental controls.
  • Panda Dome Complete starts at € 35 (Europe) or $ 43 (USA). It adds a password manager and system optimizer.
  • Panda Dome Premium starts at € 60 (Europe) or $ 67 (USA). It adds an unlimited VPN and update manager.

All of Panda’s plans can be upscaled to an unlimited number of devices.

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.

Conclusion: 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

Kaspersky Review

Ranked #5 out of 28 Antivirus

Kaspersky Antivirus on Windows 11


Kaspersky has excellent protection at a low price. But the war in Ukraine raises concerns about its ties to the Russian government.

  • Malware protection: 100%. Kaspersky averaged 6 out of 6 in the last 10 protection tests. It is excellent at removing malware.
  • Speed impact: 100%. Kasperksy averaged 6 out of 6 in the last 10 performance tests. So it does not slow down your PC.
  • Features: 100%. Kaspersky has anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, unlimited VPN, password manager, parental controls, and more.
  • Price: 100%. Kaspersky Plus is the most affordable way to protect a Windows PC with all essential features, including an unlimited VPN.

Discount: Save up to 50%

Kaspersky Anti-Virus Review

Kaspersky offers exceptional online security at a low price.


Kaspersky antivirus has a 100% 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 and McAfee.

It can offer such excellent malware protection through its triple-layer protection system:

  • Locate vulnerabilities and threats proactively 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.


Kaspersky includes an unlimited VPN for free with Plus and Premium.

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 Standard starts at € 20 (Europe) or $ 28 (USA). It offers antivirus, anti-phishing, and a firewall. It protects 1 to 5 devices.
  • Kaspersky Plus starts at € 26 (Europe) or $ 37 (USA). It adds a firewall and an unlimited VPN. It protects 1 to 5 devices.
  • Kaspersky Premium starts at € 32 (Europe) or $ 48 (USA). It adds identity protection and parental controls. It protects 1 to 20 devices.

Kaspersky has replaced the old product names Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Internet Security, and Total Security, with Standard, Plus, and Premium.

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.

Conclusion: 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.

However, its VPN privacy policy is disappointing. A VPN is a privacy product and shouldn’t be used for marketing. On top of that, Kaspersky struggles with the tensions between the West and Russia, due to the war in Ukraine.

Therefore, we prefer Norton, which includes an unlimited VPN for free in its antivirus suite, doesn’t track what you do online, and isn’t caught up in a geopolitical struggle.

You can try Kaspersky risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

Specification comparison

Below, we compare the following products:

  • Norton 360 Standard
  • Bitdefender Internet Security with the Premium VPN
  • McAfee Basic
  • Panda Dome Premium
  • Kaspersky Plus

These are the most affordable products at each brand, which allow you to protect at least 1 PC with the most essential features: Anti-Malware, Anti-Phishing (Web Protection), Firewall, Password Manager and Unlimited VPN (no data limit).

#1 of 20
#2 of 20
#3 of 20
#4 of 20
#5 of 20
Speed impact
1st year price
$ 39.99 / year
$ 54.99 / year
$ 29.99 / year
$ 66.99 / year
$ 36.99 / year
2nd year price
$ 89.99 / year
$ 129.99 / year
$ 89.99 / year
$ 133.99 / year
$ 75.99 / year
Operating software
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Money back
60 days
30 days
30 days
30 days
30 days



Password manager

Unlimited VPN

Test score comparison

We’ve compared the 10 most recent test scores of all antivirus brands. The tests were performed by AV-Test, the German anti-malware test lab. They use three factors:

  • Protection (1-6): Antivirus protection against malware attacks.
  • Performance (1-6): System slowdown caused by the antivirus.
  • Usability (1-6): Frequency of false alarms and disruptions.

We used their results, and this formula, to calculate the final score:

Final Score = 60% Protection + 20% Performance + 20% Usability.

Brands not listed in the table haven’t participated in the analysis by AV-Test. This is usually not a good sign. Because most reputable brands, except Panda, ESET, and Sophos, partake in the test.

Final Score

Price comparison

We’ve compared the prices of the top antivirus products for Windows. To make it a fair comparison, we looked at what it would cost us, to protect a Windows PC with the following essential features:

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

A few notes:

  • Some brands are missing features, lowering their value for money.
  • Prices are second-year prices in the USA, without first-year discounts.
  • Prices are rounded up for readability (e.g., $99.99 becomes $100).

Brands have different prices outside the USA. See those on their website.

Total price
Missing features
$ 60
No firewall and password manager
$ 65
No firewall, password manager, and VPN
$ 90
$ 90
No firewall
$ 100
$ 130
No password manager
$ 179
No firewall

User reviews

We’ve compared the user reviews of all antivirus brands. We’ve used the scores and review count of TrustPilot, a leading user review platform. However, take these results with a grain of salt, as some brands actively attempt to increase their ratings.

Personally, we are wary of exceptionally high scores. Especially those by brands such as TotalAV, known for aggressive marketing and sales tactics.

We consider scores between 4.0 and 4.5 good and realistic. Higher scores are dubious, and lower scores indicate that the brand might have a poor product or customer service. McAfee’s scores, for instance, are worrying.

Review score
Review count

What is antivirus software?

Antivirus software is a critical tool that helps protect your computer or device against various cyber threats. These threats could include viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, spyware, and other malicious programs known as malware.

With the increasing complexity and prevalence of these threats, antivirus software has evolved beyond simple virus detection and removal. Modern antivirus software also includes features such as phishing protection, firewalls, email protection, web browsing protection, and even parental controls.

For more, read our blog post on what antivirus software is.

How does antivirus software work?

Antivirus software operates using a combination of different methods to identify and neutralize threats. The three main techniques that most software solutions employ are signature-based detection, heuristic analysis, and behavior-based detection.

Signature-based detection

Signature-based detection is one of the most common methods used by antivirus software. It involves identifying malicious programs by comparing the binary pattern, or ‘signature,’ of a file against a database of known malware signatures. When the software encounters a file whose signature matches an entry in the database, it flags it as a potential threat.

This method is highly effective against known threats but may struggle to identify new, unknown malware.

Heuristic analysis

To combat the limitations of signature-based detection, antivirus software also uses heuristic analysis. This method employs algorithms to analyze the structure and behavior of a file to determine if it is likely to be malicious.

Heuristic analysis is particularly useful for detecting new or modified malware that doesn’t match any known signatures. However, this method is more prone to false positives, as it may sometimes misidentify harmless files as malicious.

Behavior-based detection

Behavior-based detection, also known as behavioral blocking, monitors the behavior of programs within a system to identify suspicious activities. If a program tries to modify other software, delete critical files, or establish a connection to an unknown server, the antivirus software would identify this as abnormal behavior and block the activity.

This method is highly effective at stopping malware that manages to bypass the initial detection methods. However, like heuristic analysis, it could lead to false positives.

For more, read our blog post on how antivirus software works.

Is antivirus for PC gaming different?

Yes, antivirus software for PC gamers should offer features catered specifically to their unique needs. A prominent feature among these is a ‘game booster’. But what exactly is a game booster, and why is it important in an antivirus program for PC gamers?

A game booster is a software feature specifically engineered to optimize your computer’s performance for gaming. When activated, the game booster prioritizes your game’s processes and dedicates more of your system’s resources towards running the game. This can include assigning specific CPU cores to the game, optimizing graphics performance, and even managing RAM usage.

In the context of antivirus software, this feature becomes even more critical. Typically, antivirus software is resource-intensive, running scans, updates, and other activities that can impact your gaming performance negatively. However, an antivirus with a game booster understands the importance of uninterrupted, lag-free gaming sessions.

When the game booster mode is activated, it not only optimizes your gaming performance but also intelligently manages the antivirus software’s actions. For instance, it may temporarily pause full system scans or updates to ensure that your gaming experience is not compromised. Yet, crucial security features like real-time protection remain active to keep your system protected.

This synergy of game-optimized performance and robust security makes antivirus software with a game booster an ideal choice for PC gamers. It ensures that while you are engrossed in intense gaming sessions, your system stays safeguarded from potential threats without compromising on performance.

For more, read our blog post on whether Windows 11 needs antivirus.

How do we test antivirus software?

Our comprehensive testing process evaluates antivirus software based on six key elements, each assigned a specific weight according to its importance:

  • Anti-malware protection (30%)
  • Security and privacy features (30%)
  • Speed impact (10%)
  • False positives (10%)
  • Price (10%)
  • Ownership and reputation (10%)

This structure allows us to provide a balanced assessment that covers both the quality of the software and the value it offers to the users.

Anti-malware protection (30%)

We emphasize heavily on anti-malware protection, accounting for 30% of the overall evaluation. We use a two-pronged approach for this: in-house testing and analysis of AV-Test results.

In-house testing

Our in-house testing involves an extensive series of real-world simulations. We expose a test PC to hundreds of malware samples using a USB drive and scrutinize whether the antivirus scanner successfully detects each one. These malware samples encompass a wide range of threat types, from trojans to ransomware, to ensure that the software’s detection capabilities are rigorously evaluated.

Furthermore, we conduct dynamic tests simulating actual malware attacks. We manually execute malware files and launch ransomware attacks to see if the software’s real-time protection mechanisms are robust enough to thwart these threats effectively. This type of testing is crucial because it mirrors the conditions and challenges that a user’s system might face in reality.

AV-Test results

Apart from our in-house assessments, we supplement our findings with data from AV-Test—an independent organization known for conducting rigorous tests on security products. We analyze their protection test results for Windows, Mac, and Android platforms. These reports help us understand how the antivirus software performs in a standardized testing environment, giving us additional insight into its reliability and efficiency.

This multifaceted approach ensures that we evaluate the antivirus software’s anti-malware capabilities comprehensively, offering you a dependable guide for your digital security needs.

Security and privacy features (30%)

The security and privacy features are equally as important as anti-malware protection in our assessment, making up another 30% of the total score. We take an in-depth look at various features that contribute to the overall security and privacy of the user.

Web protection (anti-phishing)

Web protection, particularly anti-phishing, is vital for preventing users from falling prey to phishing attacks, where they might be tricked into revealing sensitive information. We test this by visiting sites known for phishing and observing whether the software successfully warns or blocks these threats.


A reliable firewall controls network traffic and acts as a barrier between a trusted network and an untrusted network. We test the firewall’s efficiency by simulating external attacks and checking how effectively the software blocks unauthorized connections.

Password manager

A password manager securely stores all of a user’s passwords. We assess its security by trying to crack the encrypted vault. Usability is also checked by seeing how easy it is to save, retrieve, and change passwords.

Virtual private network (VPN)

VPNs are crucial for protecting user privacy online by encrypting internet traffic. We examine the strength of the encryption and the number of server locations. We also assess the speed and reliability of the VPN connection.

Parental controls

These features allow parents to restrict and monitor their children’s internet activity. We evaluate the depth of the controls, such as blocking certain websites or setting internet usage limits, and how easy they are to set up and manage.

Identity theft protection

This tool notifies users of any suspicious activity involving their personal information. We test it by trying to use the user’s data for unauthorized purposes and noting if and how quickly the software detects it.

Secure cloud storage (cloud backup)

Secure cloud storage allows users to back up their data securely. We assess its security, the amount of storage provided, and how easy it is to back up and retrieve data.


Anti-ransomware prevents ransomware attacks that can lock users out of their data. We test this by simulating ransomware attacks and measuring the software’s ability to detect and neutralize them.

Dark web monitoring

This feature scans the dark web for any leaked personal information. We assess its efficiency by leaking fake user information and seeing if the software detects and alerts the user.

We rigorously evaluate each feature to ensure it functions as promised and contributes to the overall protection of the user, adding depth to our review.

Bonus features

An antivirus program can come with various entry-level functions, such as spam filters and secure browsers, and premium options like online storage with enhanced security. We consider the following bonus features worthy of your consideration:

  • Ad Blocker
  • Anti-theft
  • Email protection
  • File encryption
  • File shredder
  • Gaming mode
  • Microphone protection
  • PC maintenance features
  • Secure browser (hardened browser to protect your online banking)
  • Spam filter
  • Startup optimizer
  • Tune up tools
  • Virtual keyboard
  • Webcam protection

Speed impact (10%)

We dedicate 10% of our evaluation to the speed impact of the antivirus software. Here, we use the AV-Test’s performance tests to guide our assessment. These tests gauge the effect of the antivirus software on system performance, including its impact on daily operations like downloading and installing applications, launching programs, and copying files.

A well-performing antivirus should offer robust protection without significantly slowing down the user’s system, maintaining a fine balance between security and usability.

False positives (10%)

False positives, where harmless files or websites are incorrectly flagged as threats, can disrupt user experience. For this, we turn to AV-Test’s usability tests, which constitute 10% of our evaluation.

These tests measure the frequency with which an antivirus product incorrectly blocks or warns about safe websites or files over a period. High numbers of false positives can lead to users ignoring legitimate warnings, thereby putting their devices at risk.

Price (10%)

In our evaluation, price represents 10% of the total score. However, it’s not just about the lowest price; instead, we focus on value for money. We compare the range and effectiveness of features offered against the price tag. We also consider pricing structures, with a particular emphasis on the difference between first and second-year prices, as substantial increases after the initial year can impact the overall value proposition of the software.

Ownership and reputation (10%)

The final 10% of our assessment considers the ownership and reputation of the company behind the antivirus software. It’s vital to note that not all companies are created equal. A case in point is the Avast scandal, where the company was found to be selling user data through a subsidiary called Jumpshot. Incidents like these significantly tarnish a company’s reputation and users’ trust.

Therefore, we delve into the company’s ownership structure, track record, and any notable controversies to provide a comprehensive picture of the product’s credibility.

For more, read our blog post on how we test antivirus software.

How to choose the best antivirus software?

Choosing the best antivirus software for your needs involves a careful evaluation of various factors. Your choice should offer a balanced mix of robust security, regular updates, a comprehensive set of features, minimal performance impact, responsive customer support, and fair pricing.

Reliable protection from malware

At the core of any antivirus software is its ability to provide reliable protection from malware. The software should efficiently detect and neutralize a wide range of threats such as viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, and spyware. It’s crucial to consider the software’s anti-malware protection scores from independent testing labs, like AV-Test, to gauge its effectiveness.

Security updates

The cyber threat landscape is continually evolving, and new threats emerge every day. Hence, antivirus software should be regularly updated to keep up with the ever-changing threat landscape. Make sure the software you choose has a strong track record of timely and consistent security updates to tackle the latest threats.

Security features

A comprehensive set of security features adds extra layers of protection to your digital life. Look for features like anti-phishing, a reliable firewall, password manager, VPN, parental controls, identity theft protection, secure cloud storage, anti-ransomware, and dark web monitoring. Assess how well these features perform and whether they align with your specific needs.

Performance impact

While robust protection is vital, it should not come at the cost of your device’s performance. The antivirus software should provide security seamlessly, without slowing down your system or interrupting your activities. Check for performance scores from independent testing labs to gauge the software’s impact on system speed.

Customer support

Even the most intuitive software may require some assistance from time to time. A responsive customer support team can make a significant difference when you encounter any issues or have queries. Look for companies that offer multiple support channels, such as live chat, email, or phone, and have a reputation for timely, helpful responses.

First-year and second price

Finally, consider the software’s price, focusing on the value it offers rather than the lowest cost. Keep in mind that some companies offer attractive first-year prices but might have a substantial increase in the second year. Scrutinize the pricing structure and ensure it aligns with the range and quality of features and services offered.

Operating system

If you have a specific operating system that you would like to protect, we probably have a dedicated antivirus comparison for it:

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

What cyber threats can antivirus protect you from?

Antivirus software is designed to safeguard users from a wide array of cyber threats. However, it’s crucial to note that while these tools can provide extensive protection, they may not block every single threat. That said, they are integral to protecting your devices and data from the most common and destructive threats, including:


Malware, short for malicious software, is a broad term covering various types of harmful software like viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, and spyware. These malicious programs can disrupt device operations, steal sensitive data, or gain unauthorized access to systems.

For more, read our blog post on malware or malware examples.


Adware is a type of software that automatically delivers unwanted advertising material, often in the form of pop-ups. While some adware is merely annoying, others can include malicious programs that can track your activities or install additional software without your consent.

For more, read our blog post on adware or adware examples.


A botnet is a network of computers infected by malware and controlled by an attacker, often without the owners’ knowledge. Botnets can be used for various nefarious activities, such as launching Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, sending spam emails, or distributing malware.

For more, read our blog post on botnets or botnet examples.


Keyloggers are a type of surveillance software designed to record keystrokes on a device. They can capture sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and private messages, thereby posing a severe threat to personal security and privacy.

For more, read our blog post on keyloggers or keylogger types.


Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a user’s files and demands a ransom for their release. It can block access to your data or entire systems until the ransom is paid, often in untraceable cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

For more, read our blog post on ransomware or ransomware examples.


Rootkits are a set of software tools that enable an unauthorized user to take control of a computer system without detection. They are known for their stealth and can hide their existence or the existence of other malicious processes and files, making them particularly difficult to detect and remove.

For more, read our blog post on rootkits or rootkit examples.


Spyware is software that spies on your computer activities without your knowledge or consent. It can collect various types of personal information, such as internet surfing habits, keystrokes, and confidential information, and send this data to an external entity.

For more, read our blog post on spyware or spyware examples.


Trojans are a type of malware disguised as legitimate software. They can provide a backdoor to your system, allowing attackers to access and control your computer or network, steal sensitive data, or inflict other damage.

For more, read our blog post on trojans or trojan examples.


Viruses are a type of malicious software that can replicate and spread to other computers, often corrupting system functions or destroying data in the process. They usually attach themselves to legitimate executable files and are triggered when those files are run.

For more, read our blog post on viruses or virus examples.


Worms are a type of malware that replicate and spread across networks without user intervention. They often consume bandwidth and overburden systems, leading to system slowdowns or crashes. Unlike viruses, they don’t need to attach themselves to an existing program to propagate.

For more, read our blog post on worms or worm examples.

What cyber threats can antivirus not protect you from?

While antivirus software provides comprehensive protection against a wide array of threats, there are certain types of cyber threats that these tools may not be fully equipped to handle. These typically involve human interaction and can take advantage of users’ lack of knowledge or manipulate their trust. These threats include:


Phishing is a technique used by cybercriminals to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers, by posing as a legitimate organization in email or other communication channels. While many modern antivirus solutions offer anti-phishing features, no tool can guarantee 100% protection. Vigilance and knowledge remain the best defenses against phishing.

For more, read our blog post on phishing or phishing examples.

Online Scams

Online scams encompass a wide range of fraudulent activities carried out over the internet. These can range from fake auctions, deceptive “work from home” schemes, to pyramid schemes. Again, while some antivirus software may have features to warn you about known scam websites, the onus is on the user to exercise caution when dealing with unfamiliar sites or offers that seem too good to be true.

For more, read our blog post on online scams.

Social Engineering

Social engineering is a tactic used by attackers to manipulate individuals into breaking standard security procedures or divulging confidential information. It often involves human interaction and tricks people into making security mistakes or giving away sensitive information. An antivirus tool can’t protect you from this type of threat, highlighting the importance of awareness and education.

For more, read our blog post on social engineering.

Zero-Day Exploits

Zero-day exploits refer to software vulnerabilities that are unknown to those who should be interested in mitigating the vulnerability, including the vendor of the target software. Since these vulnerabilities are unknown, antivirus software may not be able to protect against a zero-day attack until the vulnerability is discovered and a patch is released. In this scenario, having a strategy for regular software updates and patches becomes crucial.

For more, read our blog post on zero-day exploits.

What antivirus software have we tested?

We have tested 28 antivirus brands, ranging from entry-level free antivirus programs, to mid-range paid antivirus software and full-featured internet security suites. Below is the list of the 20 most important brands:

The best antivirus programs are Norton 360 Deluxe, Norton 360 Advanced, and Bitdefender Total Security. By comparison, the other antivirus software cost too much, offer less capable protection from malware threats, or have no unlimited VPN access.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

What is the best antivirus software for PC Gaming?

The best antivirus for PC gaming is Norton, which offers top-tier protection and special gaming features at a fair price. Check out the discount link on our site.

Do you need antivirus software on a PC?

Yes, antivirus software is crucial for a PC’s security. In today’s digital world, the risks of not having antivirus protection far outweigh the investment.

How does antivirus software work?

Antivirus software protects your device by scanning for and neutralizing threats such as viruses, malware, and other cyber threats. It uses multiple detection methods to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.

Will antivirus software slow down your device?

Top-quality antivirus software like Bitdefender and Norton won’t slow down your device, while lesser brands might. Always choose quality to maintain optimal system performance.

Is free antivirus software safe?

Free antivirus software might not provide comprehensive protection and can even pose security risks. Paid antivirus software offers superior protection and features.

Is Kaspersky still safe?

Despite being Russian, Kaspersky has not been proven unsafe. It offers robust security features and continues to receive positive reviews. However, always monitor the latest security news.

Languages and sources

Similar pages in other languages on SoftwareLab.org:

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


Author: Tibor Moes

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.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.