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The 5 Best Antivirus for Windows 10 PCs of 2021

February 2021

Short on time?

This is the best antivirus of 2021:

Norton – Perfect antivirus protection and a ton of bonus features: A free and unlimited VPN, a password manager, webcam protection and parental controls.

Click here to see the price at Norton

Why do you need antivirus software? Your safety is at risk. Every Windows PC is hackable. Every click is trackable. By buying the best antivirus software, you restore your security and privacy. And equally important, you restore your peace of mind. Your device will be safe from malware. Your passwords will be safe from hackers. Your internet activity will be private from advertisers. And your children will be safe from inappropriate content on the web.

How to choose the best antivirus? We are here to help. We have been testing and reviewing security software for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS since 2014. Below, we have selected the best 5 from over 50 antivirus apps. Being armed with anti-malware, webcam protection, password managers, virtual private networks (VPNs), parental controls, game boosters, and anti-trackers, these are the Swiss army knives of the cybersecurity industry.

So what are the best antivirus for Windows 10 PCs?

1 / Most Popular

Norton

Norton

The best antivirus for 2021. Antivirus, firewall, VPN, password manager and webcam protection.

  • Malware Protection 100% 100%
  • Online Privacy 100% 100%
✓ Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
✓ 60-days money-back guarantee
✓ VPN: Free and unlimited

Read more about Norton

THE BEST

Review Score

2

BitDefender

BitDefender

Excellent protection. Antivirus, firewall, VPN, password manager and webcam protection.

  • Malware Protection 100% 100%
  • Online Privacy 96% 96%

✓ Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
✓ 30-days money-back guarantee
✓ VPN: 200 mb per day for free

Read more about BitDefender

EXCELLENT

Review Score

3

Panda

Panda

Excellent protection. Antivirus, firewall, VPN and a password manager.

  • Malware Protection 99% 99%
  • Online Privacy 94% 94%

✓ Windows, Mac, and Android (not iOS)
✓ 30-days money-back guarantee
✓ VPN: 150 mb per day for free

Read more about Panda

EXCELLENT

Review Score

4

BullGuard

BullGuard

Very good protection. Antivirus, firewall and an optional VPN.

  • Malware Protection 100% 100%
  • Online Privacy 76% 76%

✓ Windows, Mac, and Android (not iOS)
✓ 30-days money-back guarantee
✓ VPN: Not included for free

Read more about BullGuard

VERY GOOD

Review Score

5

McAfee

McAfee

Very good protection. Antivirus, firewall, VPN and a password manager.

  • Malware Protection 93% 93%
  • Online Privacy 56% 56%
✓ Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
✓ 30-days money-back guarantee
✓ VPN: Free and unlimited

Read more about McAfee

VERY GOOD

Review Score

Author: Tibor Moes

Tech enthusiast and founder of SoftwareLab. He has degrees in engineering and business, and has been active in the analysis of software, electronics and digital services since 2013.

The full reviews

Below you can read more in our reviews of the best 5 antivirus of 2021

  • Protection 50% 50%
  • Privacy 30% 30%
  • Speed 20% 20%

Protection

The core function of antivirus software is the protection against malware threats and phishing attacks. The German and Austrian test laboratories, AV-Test and AV-Comparatives, run several in-depth studies each year to analyse how the various brand handle these threats.

To do so, they run each of the security tools through the three tests described below. Rather than duplicate their work, we use their findings to reach the protection score for each of the brands in our comparison.

Real-World Protection Tests

The aim of the exercise is to discover how antivirus software respond to online malware threats.

This is done by browsing to a malicious URL and observing whether the URL is blocked or not. In case it is blocked, the antivirus passes the test.

In case the URL is not blocked, the malware will be allowed to execute. Should the antivirus software detect the malware at this stage (via signature or behavioural detection methods) and block its execution, the antivirus still passes the test.

If neither the URL nor the malware is blocked, then the system is compromised, and the antivirus fails the test.

Malware Protection Tests

During this tests, computers are exposed to malware via USBs and network drives, rather than the web.

After exposing a PC to a malware sample, an on-demand scan is run. Should the antivirus detect the malware’s digital signature and prevent it from executing, the antivirus passes the test.

In case it does not discover the digital signature, the malware is allowed to execute. Here the antivirus has a second attempt to catch the malware. This time using its behavioural detection features.

Should it fail to catch the malware again, the antivirus fails the test.

Anti-Phishing Test

Phishing attacks attempt to trick users into handing over sensitive information to hackers, such as their credit card details. This is done by mimicking legitimate websites, often PayPal and banks, and requesting users to type in their log-in details.

This is an important test, because phishing attacks do not infect a PC with malware, but rather attempt to manipulate the user through social engineering and spoofing. Therefor, the antivirus require a different skill set from detecting malicious computer code or suspicious file behaviour.

The test itself is actually quite simple. It measures whether the antivirus software, or its browser extension, warns the user when he or she attempts to access a fraudulent website. If it does not, it fails the test.

Privacy

The privacy industry is taking the world by storm. At a time when governments, internet service providers (ISPs), and big data firms can track everything, consumers are craving privacy. To meet this demand, cybersecurity companies are adding privacy features to their products.

Below, we describe the most essential privacy features. Our experience in working with these tools is the basis for the privacy score in this comparison.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN allows you to encrypt your internet connection and mask your IP address. The benefit of this is that hackers, internet service providers (ISPs), big data companies, and governments cannot see what you do online. In effect, this restores your anonymity when browsing the web.

Until recently, antivirus and VPN were separate industries. That is no longer the case. Nearly all antivirus manufacturers now offer VPN connections as part of their product. However, the way in which they do this varies quite a bit. In our analysis of the various VPN, we test for:

  • The impact on the upload and download speed, and latency (ping).
  • Whether streaming Netflix and torrenting are allowed and work.
  • The number of servers available and where these are located.
  • The security features such as AES-256, kill-switch and OpenVPN.
  • How much the VPN costs.
  • Who the creator and owner of the VPN is, and what their logging policy is.

This last point – the logging policy – is particularly important. Although you are anonymous online when you use a VPN, the VPN company itself can still track what you do. After all, your online activities flow through their servers.

Of course the VPN shouldn’t track what you do online. A VPN is a privacy product. That means privacy from everyone, including the VPN provider itself. Sadly though, many free VPN services and even some paid ones, abuse their power by collecting and reselling your data. 

So what about the companies in our comparison? Can you trust them? And are their VPNs worth your money?

Norton: A trustworthy company and a good VPN deal.

Norton built its own VPN, called Norton Secure VPN. It is included for free with all antivirus products, except for the entry-level AV Plus.

The VPN has some flaws (no kill switch and no torrenting allowed), but it’s secure, fast, works with Netflix, and has a clear no-log policy (meaning that it doesn’t track anything you do online).

And the fact that it is included for free, makes it the best VPN deal among the major antivirus brands.

BitDefender and Panda: Trustworthy companies and good VPN deals.

BitDefender and Panda haven’t build their own VPN. Instead, they re-sell Hotspot Shield‘s VPN under their own brandname.

Hotspot Shield’s VPN, which is owned by Pango, is one of the global leaders in the VPN space. It is fast, highly secure, allows torrenting and works with Netflix. It can easily compete with the other big names, like CyberGhost and NordVPN.

The VPN sold by BitDefender and Panda is a basic version of Hotspot Shield’s VPN, as you’ll miss out on several server locations and the kill switch. However, it comes at a very significant discount. Where Hotspot Shield sells its VPN at about $ 100 per year, you can get it from BitDefender at $ 39,99.

One thing to note is that, although BitDefender and Panda own your data, Pango processes it on their behalf. Luckily, Pango has a clear no-log policy, which means that none of your online activity is stored. So you can rest assured that you are completely anonymous online.

BullGuard: A trustworthy company but not a good VPN deal.

BullGuard re-sells a basic version of NordVPN’s service under its own brandname. Although NordVPN is excellent (fast, secure, works with Netflix and torrenting, and has a clear no-log policy), not all its features are available on BullGuard’s version (only 16 server locations an no kill switch).

This is not necessarily a problem, as long as the price is right, like in the case of BitDefender and Panda. After all, if you get less, you should pay less. 

Sadly though, that is not the case. BullGuard’s VPN and NordVPN are priced very close to each other, which makes no sense. So if you want NordVPN’s excellent service, just get it straight from the source. Don’t pay the same for less at BullGuard.

McAfee: Not a trustworthy company and, therefor, a terrible VPN deal.

McAfee bought TunnelBear (a VPN company) in 2018. Since then, it includes its VPN (now called Safe Connect) for free in its McAfee Total Security package. Sadly though, you should avoid this VPN.

McAfee’s VPN is fast, relatively secure, and allows torrenting, but it doesn’t work with any streaming service (Netlfix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu or Disney+). And to make matters worse, McAfee’s logging policy is simply terrible:

McAfee logs your IP address, location, websites your visit, links you click, and much more. It retains this data forever and grants itself the freedom to sell it to others. This is as bad as it gets. There is little difference between McAfee’s logging policy and that of your average internet service provider.

Anti-Tracker

Some antivirus brands, like BitDefender, now also include an anti-tracker in the form of a browser extension. Although there are plenty of free anti-trackers on the market, it is nice to see BitDefender increasing its privacy features.

As the name suggests, anti-trackers block tracking elements such as cookies. This stops those annoying ads from following your every move online. This has the double advantage of increasing your privacy and making websites load faster.

Microphone and webcam security

Hackers are able to activate your laptop’s webcam and microphone without your awareness. This is as creepy as it sounds. Luckily, both Norton and BitDefender include webcam security as standard in their antivirus package.

Speed

Any program that continuously runs in the background requires a certain amount of resources. Antivirus software do as well. The manner in which they do varies significantly however. Where one is hardly noticeable, another might cause your system to slow down by as much as 20%.

The test laboratories AV-Test and AV-Comparatives both run performance tests, in which they measure the resources required by antivirus software to perform their tasks.

Test cases include the slow down caused by antivirus software when copying, downloading and archiving files, installing and launching applications, and browsing websites.

AV-Comparatives runs the tests on “low-end” Windows 10 machines (i3 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a SSD hard disk), using their own in-house tests, as well as standardised performance tests such as PC Mark 10 Professional.

AV-Test runs the tests of both “low-end” (Intel i3, 256 SSD, 8GB RAM) and “high-end” (Intel i7, 256 SSD, 16GB RAM) Windows 10 machines.

We use their results, combined with our own test results, as the basis for our verdict in the speed section.