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The 10 Best Antivirus (2023): Comparison of February *
By Tibor Moes / February 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.
- Device Security 100% 100%
- Online Privacy 100% 100%
The best antivirus protection of 2023
Norton is the most advanced antivirus software you can buy. It has a perfect 100% malware protection score and lots of security features:
Firewall, password manager, parental controls, unlimited VPN, webcam protection, dark web monitor, cloud storage, and web protection.
Choose Norton if you want complete device security, online privacy, and identity theft protection.
Try it risk-free, thanks to its 60-day return policy.
- Device Security 99% 99%
- Online Privacy 96% 96%
Excellent protection at a low price
Bitdefender is the best alternative to Norton. It has a 99% malware detection score and a wide range of security features:
Firewall, password manager, parental controls, limited VPN, webcam protection, dark web monitor, anti-tracker, and web protection.
Choose Bitdefender is you want affordable protection. But its VPN is limited to 200 MB and its password manager works only on Windows.
Try it risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
Antivirus Ranking and Reviews of 2023
We have tested and reviewed security software since 2014. Below, we have selected the top 5 from 20 paid and free antivirus software.
- 1. 🥇 Norton Antivirus - The best antivirus software of 2023.
- 2. 🥈 Bitdefender Antivirus - Excellent protection at a low price.
- 3. 🥉 Panda Antivirus - Most flexible pricing.
- 4. Kaspersky Antivirus
- 5. McAfee Antivirus
- Comparison table
- How we test
- How to choose
- Antivirus tested
- Frequently asked questions
Click the links or scroll down for more.
Norton Antivirus Review
Norton 360 Antivirus Review
Norton offers the best antivirus protection on all operating systems.
Norton antivirus is the only brand with a 100% malware protection score. No other brand has achieved this. Its real-time malware protection tool, called SONAR, is the best.
To get to this score, we averaged all test scores since 2016 by AV-Test, an independent test lab. We also ran our own tests, during which Norton was able to detect malware attacks and phishing attempts in real-time.
Norton SONAR applies heuristic analysis and machine learning to spot known and unknown security risks. This means it identifies new threats through suspicious behavior rather than malicious computer code.
Norton's Smart Firewall checks incoming and outgoing connections for suspicious behavior. It stops any attack before it becomes a problem.
By contrast, Windows' firewall only checks incoming connections. It does not monitor whether software on your computer makes suspicious outgoing connections to other devices.
And that's not all. Norton's firewall also cloaks your inactive ports, so that hackers can't find them through hacking techniques like port scanning.
Norton's unlimited VPN (Virtual Private Network) is outstanding. It is fast, secure (AES-256 & OpenVPN), private (no logs), allows torrenting (P2P), and features auto-connect, a kill switch, ad tracker blocking, and a split tunnel.
Most VPN services, like those by Bitdefender, have a daily data limit of 200 MB. To remove the data limit, you'll have to pay extra. Norton, however, includes its unlimited VPN for free.
Norton's password manager is excellent. Creating passwords is easy. Auto-filling them is accurate. And you can access your password vault using biometrics scanners (fingerprint or facial recognition).
Prices & Packages
- Norton Antivirus Plus starts at € 15 and offers basic protection: Anti-malware, firewall, and password manager. It protects 1 PC or Mac.
- Norton 360 Standard starts at € 20 and adds the unlimited VPN and webcam protection. It protects 1 device.
- Norton 360 Deluxe starts at € 25 and adds dark web monitoring. It protects 5 devices.
- Norton 360 Premium starts at € 30. It protects 10 devices.
- Web protection: Block malicious websites via the Safe Web extension.
- Cloud backup: Back up important files in secure cloud storage.
- Parental controls: Monitor and protect your kids online.
- Privacy monitor: Scan data brokers for your personal information.
- Webcam protection: Prevent unauthorized access to your webcam.
- Dark web monitoring: Scan the dark web for your personal information.
- LifeLock identity theft protection: Discover and restore identity theft.
Note: Norton's identity protection features are only available in the USA.
Is Norton the best antivirus software of 2023?
Yes, Norton is the best antivirus program in our test.
Modern security software need to offer far more than just anti-malware protection. By combining device security, online privacy, and identity theft protection, is Norton the best internet security suite you can buy.
You can try Norton risk-free, thanks to its 60-day return policy.
Bitdefender Antivirus Review
Ranked #2 out of 20 Antivirus
Bitdefender Antivirus Review
Bitdefender's antivirus engine is famous for its outstanding protection, many security features, and multi-layer ransomware protection, while being light on system resources.
Bitdefender antivirus has a 99% malware protection score. This was its average of all independent tests by AV-Test since October 2016. It puts Bitdefender ahead of all competitors, except Norton.
Bitdefender's real-time protection feature, Advanced Threat Defense, offers solid virus protection and advanced ransomware protection.
It does not rely on traditional malware detection methods, which use virus signatures. Instead, it continuously monitors the behavior of apps. The apps are blocked if Bitdefender spots an anomaly, such as code injection.
This method offers excellent malware detection rates while having a low number of false positives. During our own tests, Bitdefender detected the latest malware types instantly.
Bitdefender's firewall can block inbound and outbound connections on local networks and the internet. On top of that, Bitdefender detects and blocks port scans that hackers use to find open ports on your device.
Bitdefender's free VPN has a data limit of 200 MB / day. That equals 5 minutes of streaming at 720p or the opening of 100 websites.
Bitdefender uses Aura's VPN tech but has built its own apps. The VPN is fast, secure (AES-256 & HydraVPN), private (no logs), allows torrenting, and has a few extra features: start-up, auto-connect, kill switch, and split tunneling.
You will have to buy Bitdefender Premium VPN or Bitdefender Premium Security, for unlimited data transmission.
Bitdefender's password manager is a bit useless, because it only supports Windows. And not macOS, Android, or iOS.
Prices & Packages
- Bitdefender Antivirus Plus starts at € 16 and offers basic antivirus protection: Anti-malware, VPN, and password manager. It protects 3 PCs.
- Bitdefender Internet Security starts at € 24 and adds the firewall and several extra features. It protects 3 PCs.
- Bitdefender Total Security starts at € 32 and adds several extra features. It protects up to 5 devices.
Note: There is also Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition, the free version of Antivirus Plus. This is the best free antivirus software. But honestly, it's very basic and not much better than the built-in Microsoft Defender. So instead, we recommend Bitdefender's paid antivirus software. It's worth it.
- Online threat prevention: Anti-phishing protection for malicious sites.
- Vulnerability scan: Scan the operating system, apps, and network.
- Ransomware remediation: Restore files encrypted by ransomware.
- Anti-spam: Customize anti-spam for Outlook and Thunderbird.
- Safepay: Open a secure browser for online banking protection.
- Video and audio protection: Webcam and microphone protection.
- Anti-tracker: Remove tracking cookies via this browser extension.
- Parental advisor: Monitor the digital activities of your kids.
- Anti-theft: Locate and wipe your devices remotely.
- One-click optimizer: Clean up your hard drive and browsers.
- Data protection / file shredder: Permanently remove files.
Is Bitdefender the best antivirus software of 2023?
Bitdefender is one of the best antivirus programs in our test. Its anti-malware is exceptional, and the firewall and VPN are highly advanced. On top of that, its extra features are excellent.
We prefer Norton slightly, because its password manager works on all operating software (Bitdefender's only on Windows), and its free VPN is unlimited (Bitdefender's is limited to 200 MB / day).
However, we're also big fans of Bitdefender's internet security software. And as its renewal price is lower than Norton's, it's one of the best antivirus deals.
You can try Bitdefender risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
Panda Antivirus Review
Ranked #3 out of 20 Antivirus
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Panda Dome Antivirus Review
Panda offers excellent virus protection on Windows. And it has the most flexible pricing for its antivirus packages.
Panda antivirus scores 99.9% in the real-world protection tests. This is the average of all tests by AV-Comparatives since 2020. The score puts Panda ahead of all competitors, including Kaspersky, Bitdefender, and Norton.
Note that there are two independent testing labs: AV-Test and AV-Comparatives. Both test the malware scanning capabilities of free and premium antivirus programs. Usually, we quote AV-Test. However, Panda only takes part in the independent lab tests of AV-Comparatives.
Panda combines big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to scan all apps on your device. This allows it to counter known malware and advanced emerging threats like zero-day malware, ransomware, and API's.
Panda's firewall filters incoming and outgoing connections on local networks and the internet. It automatically assigns permissions to each application based on its risk level. But you can edit the rules per app.
Panda includes a free VPN with its antivirus products. However, this built-in VPN is limited to 150 MB / day, which isn't a lot. That equals about 4 minutes of streaming at 720p or the opening of 75 websites.
Like Bitdefender, Panda's VPN uses Aura's technology. This means that the VPN is fast, secure (AES-256 & HydraVPN), private (no logs), and allows torrenting. However, it lacks extra features like a kill switch, making its € 50.00 price expensive.
Panda's password manager is excellent. Generating and storing passwords is easy. Auto-filling them is accurate. And both two-factor authentification and biometrics login is supported.
The design of the browser extension for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox is identical to the apps on Android and iOS, which gives it a seamless experience across all major operating systems.
Prices & Packages
- Panda Dome Essential starts at € 17 and offers entry-level antivirus protection: Anti-malware, VPN, and a firewall.
- Panda Dome Advanced starts at € 23 and adds several extra features.
- Panda Dome Complete starts at € 35 and adds the password manager and several extra features.
- Panda Dome Premium starts at € 35 and adds the unlimited VPN and several extra features.
- Safe browsing: Block malicious URLs and phishing sites.
- Dark web scanner: Search the dark web for your email address.
- PC cleanup: Delete cookies or files with the system optimization tools.
- Wi-Fi protection: Check and improve the security of your Wi-Fi network.
- Anti-theft: Locate your PC if it is lost or stolen.
- File encryptor: Encrypt sensitive files with a password.
- File shredder: Securely and permanently delete files.
- USB protection: Scan a USB drive for malware.
Is Panda the best antivirus software of 2023?
Panda is one of the best antivirus software in our test. We really like the password manager and flexible pricing.
But we prefer Norton, because it includes an unlimited VPN at a lower price. And because it offers better protection for Macs and mobile devices.
However, if you only have a Windows PC to protect, Panda's excellent internet security suites are a great choice.
You can try Panda risk-free, thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee.
Kaspersky Antivirus Review
Ranked #4 out of 20 Antivirus
Kaspersky Anti-Virus Review
Kaspersky offers exceptional online security for Windows PCs, Mac computers, and Android devices. And the introduction of Kaspersky Security Cloud brings protection to iOS too.
Kaspersky antivirus has a 99% malware protection score. This was its average in the independent tests by AV-Test since October 2016. This puts it ahead of all other antivirus companies, except Norton.
It can offer such excellent malware protection through its triple-layer protection system:
- Locate vulnerabilities and threats pro-actively via heuristic analysis.
- Block cyber threats in real-time.
- Instantly isolate and remove dangers.
Kaspersky has one of the most advanced firewalls in the industry. It will filter incoming and outgoing network activity on local networks and the internet. And although it works perfectly on the default settings, there are plenty of customization options too.
Like Bitdefender's VPN, it uses Aura's technology. Therefore, the VPN is fast, secure (AES-256 & HydraVPN), and allows torrenting (P2P). It also features several extra features: Auto-connect, kill switch, smart protection, and website protection.
However, by default, Kaspersky will collect information on your device, location, VPN server, and WiFI network (including IP and DNS settings). It does this to improve product quality, send ads and create marketing offers.
Kaspersky's password manager is excellent. Creating and storing passwords is easy, and auto-filling them is accurate. Unlike Norton and McAfee, Kaspersky's password manager is a desktop app rather than a web app. But that doesn't get in the way of a great user experience.
Prices & Packages
- Kaspersky Anti-Virus starts at € 20 and offers only antivirus protection. It protects 3 Windows computers.
- Kaspersky Internet Security starts at € 26 and adds the VPN, firewall, and several extra features. It protects 3 devices.
- Kaspersky Total Security starts at € 32 and adds the password manager and several extra features. It protects 5 devices.
- Internal scan: Scan for worms, spyware, rootkits, and other malware.
- External scan: Scan external drives, like a hard disk or USB drive.
- Vulnerability scan: Scan your device for security risks.
- Kaspersky protection: A hardened browser extension for secure banking.
- Parental controls: Monitor and protect your children online.
- Webcam protection: Block programs from accessing your webcam.
- Private browsing: Block and remove tracking cookies in your browser.
- Backup and restore: Backup files to cloud backup storage.
- File encryption: Lock sensitive files in a secure vault.
- File shredder: Permanently delete files via advanced protocols.
Is Kaspersky the best antivirus software of 2023?
Kaspersky offers excellent antivirus protection. Its anti-malware is industry-leading, its firewall and password manager are excellent, and it provides a wide range of extra features.
Therefore, we prefer Norton, which includes an unlimited VPN for free in its antivirus suite. And it doesn't track what you do online.
You can try Kaspersky risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
McAfee Antivirus Review
Ranked #5 out of 20 Antivirus
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McAfee Antivirus Review
McAfee Total Protection, McAfee's main antivirus product, is excellent. And its interface is one of the very best on all popular operating systems.
McAfee antivirus has a 96% malware protection score. Unfortunately, that puts it behind the top performers: Norton, Bitdefender, and Kaspersky. We got this score by averaging all test scores by AV-Test since 2016.
Luckily, McAfee has improved its cybersecurity tools a lot in recent years. Since April 2020, it has achieved a perfect 100% score in every test.
In our tests, McAfee offered reliable protection against malicious software and cyber threats. Which means that it successfully detected and removed all offline and online threats.
McAfee can reach these results because of its Scan Engine:
- It runs antivirus scans and matches files with malware samples.
- It executes malicious code in a safe environment, called a sandbox.
- It applies heuristic techniques to recognize new malicious threats.
- It removes dangerous code from corrupted files.
McAfee's excellent firewall filters both in- and outgoing traffic. On top of that, McAfee hides open ports so that hackers can't identify unused ones with their port scanning techniques.
McAfee's VPN had some errors in our test. Although we had bought the unlimited VPN, we got a 500 MB / day limit on Android and iOS. And on macOS, the VPN didn't work at all. Only on Windows, it worked.
That said, the VPN is fast, secure (AES-256 & HydraVPN), and allows torrenting (P2P). But there are no extra features.
McAfee's cross-platform password manager is one of the best.
Creating and storing passwords is easy. Auto-filling them is accurate. And you can use biometrics (facial recognition and fingerprint scanner) to log in. As a result, it can compete with the best password managers, like Dashlane.
Prices & Packages
- Mcafee Total Protection Basic starts at € 30. It protects 1 device.
- Mcafee Total Protection Standard starts at € 35. It protects 3 devices.
- Mcafee Total Protection Plus starts at € 40. It protects 5 devices.
- Mcafee Total Protection Premium starts at € 45. It protects 10 devices.
- Secure Apps: A vulnerability scanner for security updates.
- App Boost: A performance boost for apps you frequently use.
- Browser Security: An anti-phishing browser extension.
- Web Boost: A browser extension that stops videos from auto-playing.
- Tracker Remover: A feature that deletes tracking cookies.
- ID Protection: A dark web scanner for your personal data.
- File Shredder: A shredder that can delete files securely.
- File Lock: An app that creates password-protected file vaults.
- Anti-Spam: An anti-spam feature for Outlook and Thunderbird.
- Safe Family: A parental control feature to monitor and protect kids online.
Is McAfee the best antivirus software of 2023?
McAfee has improved its virus protection significantly in recent years. On top of that, its password manager is one of the best, and its design is both user-friendly and beautiful. So it's a good antivirus program.
However, if we look at the long-term anti-malware performance since 2016, it is tied with Windows Defender, and behind Norton and Bitdefender. And its VPN still had some errors during our tests. So we prefer Norton.
You can try McAfee risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
Comparison table of the best antivirus software
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.
- Avast Antivirus Free, Avast Premium Security & Avast One
- AVG Antivirus Free & AVG Ultimate
- Avira Free Security & Avira Prime
- Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Bitdefender Internet Security, Bitdefender Total Security, Bitdefender Premium Security & Bitdefender Premium VPN
- BullGuard Antivirus & BullGuard Premium Protection
- Comodo Antivirus
- ESET Internet Security Premium Protection
- F-Secure Safe & F-Secure Total
- Intego Mac Internet Security X9 & Mac Premium Bundle X9
- Kaspersky Anti-Virus (Kaspersky Antivirus), Kaspersky Internet Security, Kaspersky Security Cloud, Kaspersky Total Security & Kaspersky VPN Secure Connection
- MacKeeper Antivirus
- Malwarebytes Free & Malwarebytes Premium
- McAfee Antivirus Plus & McAfee Total Protection Premium
- Microsoft Defender (Windows Defender)
- Panda Dome Essential & Panda Dome Premium
- Norton Antivirus Plus, Norton 360 Standard, Norton 360 Deluxe, Norton 360 Premium, Norton 360 for Gamers & Norton Secure VPN
- Sophos Home Premium
- TotalAV Antivirus Pro & TotalAV Total Security
- Trend Micro Antivirus Security & Trend Micro Maximum Security
- Webroot Antivirus (Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus) & Webroot Internet Security
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?
What is the best antivirus for Mac?
What is the best antivirus for Android?
What is the best antivirus for iOS?
What is the best antivirus for ransomware protection?
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?
Will antivirus protect you 100% ?
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, comparisons and Sources
This page in other languages on SoftwareLab.org:
Below are the sources and tools we’ve used to analyze the antivirus software and write our article.
- Apple 1
- Apple 2
- AV-Test 1
- AV-Test 2
- AV-Test 3
- AV-Test 4
- Bitdefender 1
- Bitdefender 2
- Bitdefender 3
- Hotspot Shield
- Kaspersky 1
- Kaspersky 2
- Kaspersky 3
- McAfee 1
- McAfee 2
- Microsoft 1
- Microsoft 2
- Norton 1
- Norton 2
- Norton 3
- Norton 4
- Norton 5
- Norton 6
- Panda 1
- Panda 2
- Panda 3
- Panda 4
Author: Tibor Moes
Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab
Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.
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