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The 5 Best Antivirus (2023): Comparison of May *
By Tibor Moes / Updated: May 2023
Why do you need antivirus software ? Your safety is at risk. Every device is hackable. Every click is trackable.
- Infection is dangerously simple: Open an email attachment, visit a website, connect a USB drive, or install software. That’s all it takes. You may have, unknowingly, infected your device with malware.
- Once infected, you become a spreader: Specific malware, such as computer worms, spread automatically. Once your device is infected, they will replicate onto any unprotected device you connect with.
- Online privacy is a myth: Surveillance is the business model of the internet. Social networks, cell phone providers, and search engines track what you do online to send you personalized ads.
When you buy the best antivirus software of 2023, you will restore your security, privacy, and peace of mind. Your devices will be safe from malware. Your passwords will be secure from hackers. Your internet activity will be private from advertisers. And your children will be shielded from inappropriate websites.
Short on time? These are the best antivirus of 2023:
Ranked #1 of 20 antivirus software
✓ Anti-malware: 100%. It eliminates all malware.
✓ Performance: 100%. It has no impact on your PC speed.
✓ Features: 100%. Everything is included for free (see list).
Trusted by 50 million users.
Ranked #2 of 20 antivirus software
✓ Anti-malware: 95%. It eliminates nearly all malware.
✓ Performance: 100%. It has no impact on your PC speed.
✓ Features: 95%. Some, like the VPN, cost extra (see list).
The best antivirus of 2023
We have tested antivirus software since 2014. Below are the best 5 from over 20 paid and free antivirus software:
- 🥇 Norton Antivirus - The best antivirus software of 2023.
- Bitdefender Antivirus
- McAfee Antivirus
- Panda Antivirus
- Kaspersky Antivirus
Scroll down for the reviews or compare them in our comparison table.
Norton has the best device, privacy, and identity protection. It has all the security features you need 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.
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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.
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.
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.
- 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 software of 2023?
Yes, Norton is the best antivirus program in our test.
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.
Ranked #2 out of 20 Antivirus
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.
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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.
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.
- 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.
Ranked #3 out of 20 Antivirus
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.
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.
- 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.
Ranked #4 out of 20 Antivirus
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.
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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.
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.
- 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.
Ranked #5 out of 20 Antivirus
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.
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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.
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.
- 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.
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.
Below, we compare the following products:
- Norton 360 Standard
- Bitdefender Internet Security with the Premium VPN
- Panda Dome Premium
- McAfee Basic
- 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).
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.
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-phishing (web protection)
- 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.
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.
The best antivirus deals:
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🥈 Bitdefender Antivirus
🥉 McAfee Antivirus
How do we test the best antivirus of 2023?
In 2023, antivirus protection is about more than malware detection on Windows PCs. The best antivirus programs protect all major operating systems from a wide range of cyber threats, including data breaches, malware attacks, phishing attempts, privacy invasions, ransomware attacks, spyware infections, zero-day attacks, and more.
In short, the best antivirus software must offer you virus protection, identity theft protection, and privacy protection. And if that wasn’t enough, these security features must be presented in an easy-to-use interface and come at a reasonable price. To discover which antivirus provider is worth your money, we have put them through 15 tests:
> Test 1: Anti-malware protection test
Malware is malicious software and includes many online threats, such as adware, keyloggers, ransomware, spyware, trojans, viruses, worms, and more. Most of these threats are known malware, which means that cybersecurity companies have encountered them before. However, some are unknown malware, meaning they are new and have never been encountered before.
These latest malware threats pose a serious problem. Because the classic form of real-time protection uses virus definitions to detect threats. That means that the antivirus program scans the code of potential malware against a wide range of malicious code samples in its database. That way, it can differentiate between legitimate programs and malicious threats.
To discover new threats, the antivirus engine had to evolve. Therefore, the best anti-malware software developed heuristic analysis. This is a complex word for behavior monitoring, which enables the antivirus software to scan the behavior of apps for suspicious patterns. This behavior-based detection can discover malware before its code is added to the database.
To discover which antivirus packages have the best real-time malware protection, we run our own tests and analyze those by independent antivirus testing labs. In our tests, we infect a Windows PC with many viruses and malware via a USB stick. We then analyze the malware scanning capabilities to see whether the antivirus software removes all threats.
Independent testing labs, like AV-Test, SE Labs, and AV-Comparatives, run similar analyses on a larger scale. Our preferred source is AV-Test, where we average Windows’s historical protection test results since 2016 to find the best malware removal software.
> Test 2: False positives test
A false positive happens when antivirus software mistakes legitimate software for malware, confuses a harmless file for malicious code or stops a safe website from opening. It happens to every antivirus program and isn’t a cause for concern.
But when it happens in large numbers, it can become quite annoying. AV-Test runs a large-scale analysis of false positives in its usability test. We use their findings to guide our writing.
> Test 3: System performance test
It’s important to surf the web safely. But it’s a problem if the antivirus software uses your PC’s resources entirely. That’s why we measure the CPU load while the antivirus software runs quick and complete system scans. If the security software requires fewer system resources, you will have more of your computer’s performance left for other tasks.
We also look at the results of AV-Test’s performance section, where they measure the slow-down caused by antivirus software on opening websites and downloading, installing, and launching software. These are the best proxies to measure the impact on a device’s performance.
> Test 4: Firewall test
A two-way firewall is the first line of defense against hackers and other cyber threats. A simple firewall filters incoming and outgoing data on both local networks and the internet. And advanced firewalls will allow you to set rules that regulate the data stream. On top of that, it will cloak or block open ports on your PC so that hackers can’t find them.
We use the ShieldsUP! test of the Gibson Research Corporation to find out whether the antivirus software successfully blocks all ports.
> Test 5: Password manager test
Password managers have two core functions. First, they should help you create and store highly unique and secure passwords. Second, they should automatically fill out online login forms, so you don’t have to.
On top of that, they should offer features such as two-factor authentication (2FA) and biometrics login via fingerprint or facial recognition. We test all these security features.
> Test 6: Virtual Private Network (VPN) test
When you use a VPN, your data is sent through an encrypted VPN tunnel to a VPN server before it reaches the web. This makes you anonymous online and safe from man-in-the-middle attacks on public wi-fi networks. The price you pay is a slightly slower internet connection (about 10%).
We test whether the built-in VPN is secure (encryption strength and VPN protocol), private (log policy), and fast (download speed). Whether it works with popular streaming services like Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime. Whether it offers unlimited data (unlimited VPN access). And whether it allows downloading via peer-to-peer networks and torrent clients.
> Test 7: Parental control test
Parental controls allow parents to monitor their kids online and set protective boundaries. These include screentime rules and the blocking of specific websites and apps. Sometimes parental controls also offer the ability to see where the child is in the real world, usually on a map.
We test whether all these parental control features work. We do this by installing the boundaries on a test device. And then we attempt to circumvent them. Like an intelligent child would. We also examine whether our behavior on the test device is reported accurately and in real-time in the parental control admin.
> Test 8: Anti-phishing protection test
Malicious websites and phishing emails attempt to steal your sensitive data by tricking you into filling out fake forms. Many antivirus programs include a browser extension that blocks phishing sites before they can open. We test this web protection feature by installing the antivirus browser extensions and attempting to visit the dangerous URLs.
> Test 9: Ransomware protection test
Ransomware attacks encrypt the data on your hard drive and demand a ransom payment for the decryption key. The sad truth is that even if you pay, you often never receive the key. Advanced ransomware protection features prevent the data on your hard drive from being encrypted.
Multi-layer ransomware protection goes one step further. These advanced threat prevention systems detect ransomware attacks at both the delivery stage and the execution stage. In the first stage, the ransomware attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in the software on your device. In the second stage, behavioral detection reveals the malicious encryption patterns of the ransomware.
We test the security suite at both stages of the attack: It should be highly capable of both exploit prevention and behavioral detection.
> Test 10: Bonus features test
An antivirus program can include a wide range of additional features. These range from basic extra features, like spam filters, to more advanced features, like secure browsers, and premium features, like secure online storage. We can’t discuss all the features in detail, but consider the following cybersecurity tools valuable:
- 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
Antivirus software should protect multiple devices across various operating systems (at least Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS). For example, some entry-level security suites, like Norton Antivirus Plus, protect a single Mac or Windows PC but not mobile devices. Whereas high-end security suites, like Norton 360 Premium, protect up to 10 devices on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.
This might sound straightforward, but you would be surprised how many antivirus software focus entirely on Windows computers. Their security software for Mac Computers and Android devices often takes a backseat, not to mention iOS devices. However, we test all antivirus software on every operating system.
If the antivirus software offers solid virus protection for unlimited devices, it gets bonus points.
> Test 12: Ownership and reputation test
Not all antivirus companies are trustworthy. For instance, Avast tracked and sold the browsing habits of millions of its users. It collected this data via its Online Security browser extension and sold it via its subsidiary, Jumpshot. Although it claims to have stopped these activities and has been sold to Norton, the reputation lingers.
We analyze whether the cybersecurity companies in our test have a poor reputation, especially concerning customer data. To find this out, we spend a fair amount of time reading press releases, news articles, and privacy policies (especially of browser extensions and VPN services).
> Test 13: Interface test
For many users, cybersecurity is not a fun subject. Therefore, antivirus software must be quick and easy to install, and intuitive to use. We test the installation speed of every program, their ease of use on default settings, and the complexity of adjusting the advanced settings.
> Test 14: Customer support test
In an ideal world, everything goes right. But, sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world. In the real world, things go wrong all the time. People click on dangerous links, open malicious files, fall for phishing scams or answer spam emails. In those moments, it’s essential to have good customer support on your side.
We check whether the antivirus companies have 24/7 live chat, email, and phone support. And we read through their knowledge base, forums, and FAQs. We also contact the support team by chat or email and ask them something complicated to check their support speed and capabilities.
> Test 15: Value for money test
Preferably we would all download the best free antivirus software and have perfect protection. But, sadly, that’s not how it works. Although some free antivirus programs offer basic antivirus protection, they never do more than that. That essentially makes them a free malware removal tool, which both Windows and Mac have already built in.
Therefore, we recommend staying away from the free version. If the product is free, you usually become the product. The company will analyze your behavior and sell that data to marketing firms. In essence, you would be protected from malware by installing spyware. So avoid free antivirus products, and opt for the paid version instead.
But cybersecurity shouldn’t cost you a fortune, either. So we compare the first-year prices and second-year renewal prices across the antivirus providers. And we 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 in 2023?
When choosing the right antivirus software for you, there are three core questions to ask yourself:
- What operating software are you protecting?
- What security features will you need?
- Is it safe to use free antivirus programs? Spoiler Alert: No, it isn’t.
What operating software are you protecting?
Most antivirus programs work well on Windows. Far fewer offer the same level of protection on macOS, Android, and iOS. That’s a shame because malware for those operating systems are on the rise too.
If you have multiple devices across various operating systems, then we recommend Norton as the best antivirus software of 2023.
Its malware detection rates are exceptional, and its security features are very complete. It includes one of the best VPN, a two-way firewall on Windows and macOS, and a password manager for every operating system.
However, if you only have a specific operating system to protect, you can have a look at our comparisons for each:
- The best antivirus for Windows 11. Windows has most competition, as many antivirus focus on Microsoft’s OS. We recommend Norton, but also really like Bitdefender.
- The best antivirus for Mac. There are far fewer good antivirus programs for macOS than for Windows. When you want to buy antivirus software for Apple’s OS, we recommend Norton or Intego.
- The best antivirus for Android Phones. Some people believe that installing free antivirus software on Android is sufficient. We don’t think so. Many free tools cause more harm than good. We recommend Norton or Kaspersky on Google’s mobile operating system.
- The best antivirus for iPhones and iPads. Apple’s mobile OS has the lowest malware threat of all operating software. However, privacy invasion and identity theft remain big threats, even on iPhones and iPads. So we always advise users to equip themselves with a security app.
What security features will you need?
The features that everyone needs:
- Anti-malware. It protects you from viruses, worms, and more.
- Anti-phishing. It protects you from malicious links and sites.
- Two-way firewall. It blocks dangerous in- and outgoing connections.
- Password manager. It creates unique passwords for all your accounts.
The features that you might need:
- VPN. A VPN is a must if you spend a lot of time on public Wi-Fi networks. It is the only way you can perform sensitive tasks like online shopping without your credit card details or bank account ending up on the dark web. Norton is the best antivirus with a VPN. Although McAfee offers an unlimited VPN too, it is not as good as Norton’s VPN.
- Ransomware protection. If you operate a small business, you have an increased risk of suffering a ransomware attack. Sadly, ransomware attacks are rising, and so is the requested ransom. Worse, a third of the companies that pay never get their data back. Bitdefender is well known to offer the best ransomware protection.
- Parental controls. Kids spend a lot of time on their mobile devices. But what they’re up to can be a mystery. Parental controls can help. They allow you to set screentime limitations (no more daily haggling). And they will enable you to monitor and protect your kids online discretely. We tested many parental controls and found Norton’s to be the most effective.
Is it safe to use free antivirus programs?
We only recommend paid antivirus programs. If a product is free, you often become the product. That means your data is tracked and sold, or that the app is full of ads and up-sell banners.
And even after stating that, we still often get the question: “What is the best free antivirus software?”
If you have no money to spend and want third-party software, get Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition. It is the free version of Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and includes an on-demand antivirus scan and phishing protection (called web protection at Bitdefender).
But, in our opinion, you might as well stick with Windows Defender (also known as Microsoft Defender). The two aren’t so different. Our advice: Do yourself a favor, don’t take chances online. Pay a little for your cybersecurity to avoid trouble later on.
What antivirus software have we tested for 2023?
We have tested a wide range of products from 20 different antivirus companies. Where it made sense, we tested the free antivirus program, the paid antivirus software, the paid premium version, and the VPN service.
The free programs usually offered decent malware removal and protection, but not much more. The paid versions were always much better than the free trial and free software.
- Bitdefender Antivirus
- Bitdefender Total Security
- Kaspersky Antivirus
- Kaspersky Internet Security
- McAfee Antivirus
- McAfee LiveSafe
- Microsoft Defender (Windows Defender)
- Norton Antivirus
- Norton 360 Deluxe
- Norton 360 Advanced
- PC Matic
- Trend Micro
From all the software above, we believe that Norton, Bitdefender, and Panda are the best premium antivirus programs. Most other antivirus software offers solid protection for Windows devices but only basic protection on other operating systems.
If we had to choose a single brand, we would pick Norton as the best antivirus protection of 2023. Its excellent malware protection on multiple operating systems has been proven in independent lab results for many years. And its bonus features, which include a firewall, password manager, parental controls, and unlimited VPN, are unrivaled. On top of that, it has a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best antivirus for Windows?
Norton and Bitdefender are the best antivirus for Windows. Both have excellent anti-malware scores and include many extra features: Firewall, VPN, password manager, parental controls, and more.
What is the best antivirus for Mac?
Norton and Intego are the best antivirus software for Mac. Both have excellent anti-malware protection. And although Norton is more complete, Intego’s firewall is more intuitive and its VPN more advanced.
What is the best antivirus for Android?
Norton and Kaspersky are the best antivirus for Android. We prefer Norton for its unlimited VPN, which will keep you safe and anonymous on public Wi-Fi networks. But Kaspersky has anti-theft tools.
What is the best antivirus for iOS?
Norton and Kaspersky are the best antivirus for iOS. Both include a VPN, password manager, and web protection. But Norton’s VPN is unlimited, whereas Kaspersky’s has a 300 MB / day limit.
What is the best antivirus for ransomware protection?
Bitdefender and Norton are the best antivirus for ransomware protection. Bitdefender’s Ransomware Remediation tool is excellent. It can restore files that ransomware attacks have encrypted.
How does antivirus software work?
Antivirus software finds malware by comparing potential threats to known malware samples in its database. And by analyzing apps for suspicious behavior. It then removes malware before it can cause harm.
Do you really need antivirus protection in 2023?
Yes, you need antivirus software in 2023. Although Microsoft Defender is good at removing malware, it’s not complete: Its firewall is less advanced, and it doesn’t have a VPN, password manager, or dark web scan.
Is free antivirus software safe?
We don’t recommend using free antivirus software. They are basic anti-malware tools without extra features. And sometimes, they even spy on you. So stay away from the free version. Buy the paid version instead.
Is Kaspersky still safe in 2023?
Kaspersky moved its data processing from Russia to Switzerland in 2020, before the war in Ukraine. And ties between Kaspersky and the government have not been proven. So we believe Kaspersky is still safe to use.
What is the cheapest antivirus?
In most countries, Bitdefender is the cheapest antivirus software due to its deep discounts. However, the special discount page is hidden. So click to link on our site to find it.
Will antivirus slow your device down?
It depends on the antivirus program that you buy. We’ve tested 28 antivirus products from 19 companies and found that the top 5 (Norton, Bitdefender, Panda, Kaspersky, and McAfee) don’t slow down your device.
Will antivirus protect you 100% ?
Norton is the only antivirus software with a 100% anti-malware protection test score. Bitdefender and Kaspersky follow closely with 99% each. All other brands have lower scores.
Does antivirus remove existing viruses?
Yes, antivirus software remove existing viruses from an infected device. They also discover and remove new offline and online threats before they become a problem.
What is identity theft protection?
Identity theft protection alerts you when your personal details are at risk. For instance, when they are traded on the dark web. Sometimes, there are restoration services and insurance for identity theft available.
Languages and sources
This page in other languages on SoftwareLab.org:
Below are the sources and tools we’ve used to test the antivirus software:
- Apple Platform Security
- AV-Comparatives Consumer
- AV-Test Android
- AV-Test macOS
- AV-Test Windows
- GRC Firewall Test
- Microsoft Defender
- SpeedTest VPN
- Trustpilot Security Software
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.