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The 7 Best Antivirus (2024 Update) // We Tested 28 Brands
Updated: November 2023
Ranked #1 of 28 antivirus
- Malware Protection 100% 100%
- Security Features 100% 100%
Norton has the best anti-malware protection, excellent security features, and a great price. It’s the best antivirus of 2024.
- Malware protection: 100%. Norton stopped all 1,200 malware attacks in our test.
- Security Features: 100%. Anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, password manager, and more.
- Speed impact: 100%. Norton did not slow down our test PC.
Try it risk-free, thanks to its 60-day return policy.
Ranked #2 of 28 antivirus
- Malware Protection 100% 100%
- Security Features 80% 80%
Bitdefender offers excellent protection and bonus features. However, it’s expensive if you want the VPN and password manager.
- Malware protection: 100%. Bitdefender stopped all 1,200 malware attacks in our test.
- Security Features: 80%. The password manager and VPN cost extra.
- Speed impact: 100%. Bitdefender did not slow down our test PC.
Try it risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
The best antivirus of 2024
Cybercrime is on the rise. Phishing attacks target you via email and text. Ransomware tries to lock your files and photos. Your passwords can be hacked. And your identity could be stolen. The need for antivirus software has never been greater.
For 2024, we tested 39 antivirus from 28 brands. We infected our test PC with 1,200 malware samples to test the protection. We also inspected the firewalls, password managers, anti-phishing, VPNs, and other security features in detail. These are the best antivirus software of 2024:
- 🥇 Norton Antivirus – The #1 in 2024
- Bitdefender Antivirus
- TotalAV Antivirus
- McAfee Antivirus
- Panda Antivirus
- Avira Antivirus
- Avast Antivirus
Scroll down for the reviews.
Norton is ranked #1 of 28 antivirus brands.
Norton is the best antivirus of 2024. It has perfect anti-malware protection, no impact on the speed of your PC, all the security features you need, and an excellent price.
Buy it if you want complete protection. You will get excellent anti-malware, anti-phishing, a firewall, a password manager, and an unlimited VPN, which will protect your privacy online.
- Malware protection: 100%. Norton detected and removed each of the 1,200 malware samples in our test.
- Speed impact: 100%. Norton’s anti-malware engine is lightweight and did not slow down our test PC.
- Features: 100%. Norton includes anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, password manager, and more.
- Price: 100%. Compared to similar products at Bitdefender and McAfee, Norton offers more value for money.
Discount: Temporarily save up to 70% 🔥
Norton Antivirus Review: Updated for 2024
If you’re looking for top-notch antivirus software, Norton 360 is the clear winner in our book.
In the antivirus realm, a 100% protection score is almost unheard of. But Norton nails it. Its SONAR tool is a rock star in real-time malware protection. To verify this, we looked at the past 10 test scores from AV-Test, an independent lab. In our own tests, Norton flawlessly detected all 1,200 malware and phishing attempts as they happened.
SONAR isn’t just another scan tool; it’s a smart one. Using heuristic analysis and machine learning, it spots both known and emerging threats based on odd behavior, not just known bad code.
Norton’s Smart Firewall isn’t just “smart”—it’s genius. It monitors both incoming and outgoing traffic, stopping threats before they wreak havoc. By contrast, Windows’ built-in firewall only checks what’s coming in. Norton even hides inactive ports, thwarting hacking attempts like port scanning.
We’re big fans of Norton’s unlimited VPN. Speedy and rock-solid, it’s encrypted with AES-256 and uses OpenVPN. While competitors like Bitdefender cap daily data at 200 MB, Norton’s VPN has no data limits and it’s included at no extra charge. It also supports torrenting, has an auto-connect feature, a kill switch, ad tracker blocking, and even a split tunnel.
Managing passwords is a breeze with Norton. We found the auto-fill feature accurate and quick. Plus, the biometrics support—whether fingerprint or facial recognition—adds an extra layer of convenience and security.
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 for Gamers costs € 35 (Europe) or $ 45 (USA). It adds a gamer optimizer. 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: With the Safe Web extension, malicious websites don’t stand a chance.
- Cloud Backup: Securely store your crucial files.
- Parental Controls: Keep tabs on your kids’ online activities.
- Privacy Monitor: Track down who has your personal info.
- Webcam Protection: Stop unwanted eyes from hijacking your webcam.
- Dark Web Monitoring: Know when your information ends up in shady places.
- LifeLock Identity Theft Protection: This is a U.S.-only feature, but it’s incredibly effective at spotting and remedying identity theft.
Conclusion: Is Norton the Best Antivirus Software of 2024?
In a word, yes. Norton offers an all-in-one solution that’s more than just a malware bouncer. It’s a comprehensive security suite that keeps your devices, privacy, and identity safe. And with a generous 60-day return policy, you can try Norton 360 without risking a dime.
There you have it. Norton is not just good; it’s the best we’ve tested.
Ranked #2 out of 28 Antivirus
Bitdefender is ranked #2 of 28 antivirus brands.
Bitdefender is one of the best antivirus of 2024. It has perfect anti-malware protection, no impact on the speed of your PC, many security features, and an excellent price.
Buy it if you want outstanding protection. But keep in mind that you will get anti-malware, anti-phishing, a firewall, and a few bonus features. Not the password manager or unlimited VPN.
- Malware protection: 100%. Bitdefender detected and removed each of the 1,200 malware samples in our test.
- Speed impact: 100%. Bitdefender’s anti-malware engine is lightweight and did not slow down our test PC.
- Features: 80%. Bitdefender has anti-malware, anti-phishing, and a firewall, but it misses a password manager and a VPN.
- Price: 100%. Although Bitdefender misses a few features, it has an excellent price, which gives it good value for money.
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Bitdefender Antivirus Review: Updated for 2024
Bitdefender stands out for its high-quality antivirus engine, rich security features, and efficient use of system resources. We dug deep into these offerings to provide you an up-to-date and accurate assessment.
We tested Bitdefender against a suite of 1,200 malware samples. It detected each one without fail. On top of that, it scored an impressive average of 95% across the last 10 AV-Test trials. This positions Bitdefender ahead of most rivals, lagging only behind Norton, McAfee, and Kaspersky.
Advanced Threat Defense
Bitdefender’s real-time protection, known as Advanced Threat Defense, goes beyond traditional virus-signature methods. It observes app behavior in real-time, blocking them if unusual activity, like code injection, is noticed. In our own trials, Bitdefender identified new strains of malware instantly and with very few false positives.
Bitdefender’s firewall effectively blocks both incoming and outgoing connections. It’s smart enough to detect and prevent port scans, a common hacking technique. We found this feature extremely reliable in safeguarding our test network.
The free VPN offering from Bitdefender is limited to 200 MB/day. This roughly equals 5 minutes of 720p video streaming or browsing 100 websites. We noted that Bitdefender employs Aura’s VPN tech but with its proprietary apps. The VPN is fast, robustly encrypted (AES-256 & HydraVPN), and keeps no logs. Extra perks include start-up, auto-connect, kill switch, and split tunneling. For unlimited data, you’d need to upgrade to a premium plan.
It’s important to note that the password manager is not bundled with Bitdefender’s basic antivirus packages. To get it, you must purchase it separately or opt for the Bitdefender Premium Security suite.
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 tools protect you from malicious websites.
- Vulnerability Scan: Scans your OS, applications, and network.
- Ransomware Remediation: Helps recover ransomware-encrypted files.
- Anti-Spam: Custom settings available for Outlook and Thunderbird.
- Safepay: Launches a secure browser for safe online banking.
- Video and Audio Protection: Secures your webcam and microphone.
- Anti-tracker: A browser extension to remove tracking cookies.
- Parental Advisor: Monitors your children’s online activities.
- Anti-theft: Locate and wipe your devices remotely.
- One-click optimizer: Cleans hard drive and browser junk.
- Data Protection/File Shredder: Securely erases files.
Conclusion: Is Bitdefender the Best Antivirus Software of 2024?
Bitdefender excels in almost every category we tested. From malware detection to VPN services, it is a comprehensive solution. However, its premium features like the password manager and unlimited VPN data come at an additional cost. Norton offers some of these perks in their standard package, making it a worthy competitor. But thanks to Bitdefender’s 30-day return policy, you can give it a test run risk-free.
Ranked #3 out of 28 Antivirus
TotalAV is ranked #3 of 28 antivirus brands.
TotalAV is one of the best antivirus of 2024. It has near-perfect anti-malware test scores, an intuitive design, no impact on the speed of your PC, and lots of security features.
Buy it if you want an easy-to-use antivirus at a great price. You will get anti-malware, anti-phishing, a password manager, and a VPN, which will protect your privacy online. But no firewall.
- Malware protection: 99.8%. TotalAV detected and removed nearly all of the 1,200 malware samples in our test.
- Speed impact: 100%. TotalAV’s anti-malware engine is lightweight and did not slow down our test PC.
- Features: 90%. TotalAV includes anti-malware, anti-phishing, VPN, and a password manager. But it doesn’t have a firewall.
- Price: 90%. TotalAV offers generous discounts in the first year, but high renewal prices in the second year.
Discount: Save 80% on this secret page
TotalAV Antivirus Review: Updated for 2024
TotalAV offers affordable, intuitive, and straightforward protection.
TotalAV impressed us with its nearly flawless malware detection. Using Avira’s engine, it offers Quick, System, Smart, and Custom scans. Our System Scan took about an hour and had minimal impact on performance. The software caught 99.8% of various malware, including ransomware and spyware. Its real-time protection also halted malicious downloads immediately.
TotalAV’s Safe Browsing VPN performed well, with 48 server locations and solid speeds. It’s compatible with popular streaming services and supports P2P file sharing. Features include a kill switch and auto-connect on public networks. While not as fast as standalone VPNs, it’s a strong bundled offering.
We tested Total Password and found it reliable and secure, thanks to 256-bit AES encryption. It offers auto-save and auto-fill, two-factor authentication, and a user-friendly vault. Though lacking some advanced features like hardware-based 2FA, it covers all the basics effectively.
Additional features include identity theft protection by Aura and a system tune-up suite featuring a Startup Manager and Junk Cleaner, among others.
Conclusion: Is TotalAV the Best Antivirus Software of 2024?
In conclusion, TotalAV is a robust, affordable antivirus solution. It offers strong anti-malware capabilities, a solid VPN, and a useful password manager. The 30-day refund policy makes it risk-free to try. Recommended for comprehensive, hassle-free security.
For more details, read the full TotalAV review.
Ranked #4 out of 28 Antivirus
McAfee is ranked #4 of 28 antivirus brands.
McAfee is an excellent antivirus program in 2024. It has perfect anti-malware protection, no impact on the speed of your PC, an intuitive design, and all the security features you need.
Buy it if you want complete protection. You will get anti-malware, anti-phishing, a firewall, a password manager, a VPN, and, depending on where you live, identity theft protection.
- Malware protection: 100%. Mcafee detected and removed each of the 1,200 malware samples in our test.
- Speed impact: 100%. McAfee’s anti-malware engine is lightweight and did not slow down our test PC.
- Features: 100%. McAfee includes anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, password manager, and more.
- Price: 90%. McAfee is slightly more expensive than Norton, but allows you to protect an unlimited number of devices (in the US).
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McAfee Antivirus Review: Updated for 2024
McAfee Total Protection distinguishes itself by offering unlimited device protection for customers in the United States, a rarity in the antivirus world.
We’ve personally tested McAfee’s anti-malware capabilities, and our findings mirror its stellar reputation. With a consistent 100% score in AV-Test’s protection tests since April 2020, it sets the gold standard. In our own rigorous evaluation, McAfee caught all 1,200 malware samples we threw at it, effectively eliminating both online and offline threats.
The efficacy of McAfee’s Scan Engine is notable. Here’s why:
- It runs thorough scans to match files against known malware samples.
- It isolates and tests suspicious code in a sandbox.
- Utilizes heuristic methods to detect novel malware.
- It cleans corrupted files by removing harmful code.
In our testing, we found McAfee’s firewall robust and versatile. It monitors both incoming and outgoing traffic efficiently. Plus, it conceals open ports, foiling hackers who rely on port scanning techniques.
VPN: Safe Connect
McAfee offers a free VPN, Safe Connect, with unlimited data. We found it quick and secure, employing AES-256 encryption. The VPN is also private, not storing any activity logs. It features servers in 45 countries, supports Netflix streaming, and allows torrenting. A minor drawback: not all features like the kill switch and split tunneling are available on every OS. Also, turning off auto-renew restricts you to 500 MB/day.
Password Manager: True Key
True Key, McAfee’s password manager, impressed us. It makes password creation and storage simple, and its auto-fill feature is spot-on. Biometric login options like facial recognition and fingerprint scans add an extra layer of security, putting it on par with top competitors 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.
- Secure Apps: Scans for needed security updates.
- App Boost: Enhances the performance of frequently used apps.
- Browser Security: Anti-phishing browser extension.
- Web Boost: Stops auto-playing videos.
- Tracker Remover: Erases tracking cookies.
- ID Protection: Scans the dark web for your personal data.
- File Shredder: Deletes files securely.
- File Lock: Creates password-protected file vaults.
- Anti-Spam: For Outlook and Thunderbird.
- Safe Family: Parental controls for online safety.
Conclusion: Is McAfee the Best Antivirus Software of 2024?
Based on our extensive testing, McAfee stands out as one of the best antivirus solutions available. Its flawless anti-malware performance, excellent password manager, free unlimited VPN, and user-friendly design make it a top pick. The premium plans are particularly attractive for users in the United States, providing comprehensive device, privacy, and identity protection features.
Interested in giving McAfee a spin? You can do so risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee.
For more details, read the full McAfee review.
Ranked #5 out of 28 Antivirus
Panda is ranked #5 of 28 antivirus brands.
Panda is an excellent antivirus program in 2024. It has near-perfect anti-malware protection, no impact on the speed of your PC, all the security features you need, and flexible pricing.
Buy it if you want great protection and customization options. You will get anti-malware, anti-phishing, a firewall, a password manager, and an unlimited VPN, which will protect your privacy online.
- Malware protection: 99%. Panda detected and removed nearly all of the 1,200 malware samples in our test.
- Speed impact: 100%. Panda’s anti-malware engine is lightweight and did not slow down our test PC.
- Features: 100%. Panda Dome includes anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, password manager, and more.
- Price: 80%. Compared to similar products at Norton, Panda Dome is expensive. However, its flexible pricing is excellent.
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Panda Dome Antivirus Review: Updated for 2024
Panda offers a highly versatile pricing structure for its antivirus packages, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious users.
In our extensive testing, Panda Antivirus scored an impressive 99.9% in real-world protection. However, we did notice that it had more false positives than competitors like Norton and McAfee, meaning it sometimes incorrectly flagged benign files as threats.
We generally rely on AV-Test for independent evaluations, but since Panda does not participate in their tests, we used data from AV-Comparatives. Both labs offer unbiased assessments of malware detection efficacy.
Technologically, Panda leverages big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to scrutinize every app on your system. This multi-layered approach enables it to tackle a broad spectrum of threats, including zero-day malware and ransomware.
Panda’s firewall does an excellent job of managing network traffic. It auto-assigns permissions to applications based on their risk profiles. However, for those who like to take control, the settings can be manually adjusted per app, which we found to be a user-friendly feature.
We found that Panda’s built-in VPN has a daily data limit of 150 MB. While secure and speedy—thanks to Aura’s underlying technology—it’s fairly limited for streaming or heavy browsing. The lack of a kill switch also stands out, making the €50.00 pricing seem steep compared to the competition.
We were particularly impressed with Panda’s password manager. It makes password generation and storage a breeze, while its auto-fill feature worked flawlessly in our tests. The two-factor authentication and biometric login support add an extra layer of security.
The user interface is consistent across all platforms, offering a seamless experience whether you’re on an Android, iOS device, or using a browser extension on Chrome or Firefox.
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: Effectively blocks malicious URLs and phishing sites.
- Dark Web Scanner: Searches the dark web for compromised email addresses.
- PC Cleanup: Efficiently deletes cookies and files to optimize system performance.
- Wi-Fi Protection: Analyzes and enhances Wi-Fi security.
- Anti-Theft: Locates lost or stolen PCs.
- File Encryptor: Password-protects sensitive files.
- File Shredder: Permanently erases files beyond recovery.
- USB Protection: Scans USB drives for malware, which is a handy addition.
Conclusion: Is Panda the Best Antivirus Software of 2024?
Panda delivers solid performance in our tests, particularly excelling in its password manager and its versatile pricing plans. However, we lean toward Norton as our top pick due to its unlimited VPN offering and more comprehensive protection for Mac and mobile devices.
If you’re exclusively a Windows user, Panda’s excellent internet security suites are worth considering. Plus, the 30-day money-back guarantee allows for a risk-free trial.
So, while Panda may not be the unequivocal best in the market, it’s a robust contender that offers reliable protection and a plethora of useful features.
For more details, read the full Panda review.
Ranked #6 out of 28 Antivirus
Avira is ranked #6 of 28 antivirus brands.
Avira is an excellent antivirus program in 2024. It has perfect anti-malware protection, no impact on the speed of your PC, all the security features you need, and a great design.
Buy it if you want excellent protection and intuitive design. You will get anti-malware, anti-phishing, a password manager, and a VPN. On top of that, Avira finally includes an excellent firewall.
- Malware protection: 100%. Avira detected and removed all of the 1,200 malware samples in our test.
- Speed impact: 100%. Avira’s anti-malware engine is lightweight and did not slow down our test PC.
- Features: 100%. Avira includes anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, password manager, and more.
- Price: 90%. Avira has a great price. But with Norton, you’ll get a few more features for the same amount of money.
Discount: Save up to 70%
Avira Antivirus Review: Updated for 2024
We thoroughly tested Avira and found it to be a top performer. It caught every virus, providing a 100% protection score. The free plan is excellent, and paid plans offer great value for money. Avira is strong on both security and value.
We tested Avira’s anti-malware tools and were very impressed. The cloud-based scanner identified all malware quickly without slowing down our system. The Smart Scan feature went beyond malware, flagging privacy risks and system issues, making it a one-stop solution for both novices and tech-savvy users.
Avira’s firewall is highly customizable. It uses algorithmic rules to monitor data and allows you to set rules per app. Intruder prevention is also available to block unauthorized data extraction.
We found Avira’s Phantom VPN adequate for basic online activities, with a speed reduction of only 25-30%. Security is tight, featuring 256-bit AES encryption. P2P is supported, but it struggled with bypassing geo-restrictions on streaming services.
The password manager is feature-rich, offering unlimited storage even in its free version. It uses 256-bit AES encryption and two-factor authentication for added security. However, a password generator is missing from the browser extension.
The device optimizer freed up over 1GB of space during our tests. Avira also offers a startup optimizer, driver updater, and game booster. The battery manager could be improved by adding features to identify power-draining apps.
Conclusion: Is Avira the Best Antivirus Software of 2024?
Avira Antivirus Prime is a top-tier antivirus solution offering robust security features and great design. Its 30-day return policy makes it risk-free to try. For those considering alternatives, Norton 360 Deluxe is similarly priced but offers extra features like parental controls.
For more details, read the full Avira review.
Ranked #7 out of 28 Antivirus
Avast is ranked #7 of 28 antivirus brands.
Avast is an excellent antivirus program in 2024. It has near-perfect anti-malware protection, no impact on the speed of your PC, all the security features you need, and one of the best designs we’ve seen.
Buy it if you want excellent protection and superb design. You will get anti-malware, anti-phishing, a firewall, and a VPN. However, Avast does not include a password manager.
- Malware protection: 100%. Avast detected and removed all of the 1,200 malware samples in our test.
- Speed impact: 100%. Avast’s anti-malware engine is lightweight and did not slow down our test PC.
- Features: 80%. Avast one includes anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, and more. But no password manager.
- Price: 100%. Considering Avast’s excellent security features and design, its price is more than fair.
Discount: Save up to 50%
Avast Antivirus Review: Updated for 2024
We tested Avast One and found it to be a reliable antivirus solution. Its malware detection is on par with industry leaders like Norton and Bitdefender.
Paid plans offer a rich set of tools including an unlimited VPN and system cleanup. It works on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, and supports multiple devices.
Overall, it’s a top choice for robust, multi-platform security.
We scanned over 1,200 malware samples using Avast; it caught all of them. Full scans took around 54 minutes. Real-time protection stopped even encrypted malware downloads. On the downside, the free version pushes upsells aggressively.
Avast’s firewall lets you monitor network traffic and manually block apps. It lacks the user-friendliness and automation found in Norton and Bitdefender. A notable absence is the Wi-Fi Inspector tool for Windows, which identifies vulnerable devices.
We tried the Avast One Essential’s VPN and found it adequate for free users, offering 5GB of data per week. However, paid plans lagged in speed and unblocking features compared to competitors like Bitdefender.
Avast also includes a range of utility tools: browser data clearing, software updating, password protection, ransomware shielding, and email security. Some features are premium-only, like tracking prevention.
Conclusion: Is Avast the Best Antivirus Software of 2024?
Avast offers comprehensive security features, excelling in malware protection. It lacks a password manager, but otherwise, it’s a strong contender. If you’re looking for a password manager or parental controls, consider Norton 360 Deluxe as an alternative. Avast’s 30-day return policy allows for a risk-free trial.
For more details, read the full Avast review.
Below, we compare the following products:
- Norton 360 Standard
- Bitdefender Internet Security with the Premium VPN
- TotalAV Total Security
- McAfee Plus
- Panda Dome Premium
- Avira Prime
- Avast One
Our focus was on cost-effective plans that offer protection for at least one PC with these key features:
- Anti-Phishing (Web Protection)
- Password Manager
- Unlimited VPN (no data limit)
Compare them in the table below.
Test score comparison
We not only relied on our in-house tests but also evaluated data from AV-Test, a German lab known for stringent antivirus testing. Their scores are based on three factors:
- Protection (1-6): How well the software blocks malware.
- Performance (1-6): How much the software slows down your computer.
- Usability (1-6): How often the software makes errors like false alarms.
To offer a unified measure, we calculated a final score using the formula: 60% Protection + 20% Performance + 20% Usability.
If a brand doesn’t appear in the AV-Test analysis, like Panda, ESET, and Sophos, that’s generally a red flag.
Price matters. So, we compared the second-year prices in the U.S. for each software, rounding up for simplicity (e.g., $99.99 becomes $100). Note that some brands lack key features, affecting their overall value.
To make it a fair comparison, we looked at what it would cost us, to protect a single Windows PC with the most essential features:
- Anti-phishing (web protection)
- Password manager
- Unlimited VPN (no data limit).
Prices vary outside the U.S., so check the brands’ websites for your local pricing.
TrustPilot scores offer another perspective. But caution is advised. Some brands, like TotalAV, are notorious for aggressive marketing that can inflate their scores. We found scores between 4.0 and 4.5 to be realistic and trustworthy. Anything higher is suspect, and lower scores (like McAfee’s) raise alarms about product or service quality.
Antivirus software buying guide
What is antivirus software?
Antivirus software, often referred to as anti-malware software, is a type of utility developed for detecting, preventing, and eliminating malicious software or “malware.” This includes viruses, which are a specific type of malware, along with other harmful threats such as worms, trojans, ransomware, spyware, and more.
This software forms a crucial part of a defense-in-depth strategy for cybersecurity, designed to provide protection at multiple layers. These tools offer real-time scanning of data as it arrives at your system, perform scheduled and on-demand system scans, and provide remediation services to remove or quarantine detected threats.
By doing this, antivirus software helps keep your devices safe from cyber threats, thereby securing your personal and sensitive information.
For more, read our blog post on what antivirus software is.
How does antivirus software work?
Antivirus software operates using a range of detection strategies to identify harmful threats. These methods usually incorporate signature-based detection, heuristic analysis, and behavior-based detection. Let’s explore each of these mechanisms in detail.
Signature-based detection is one of the oldest and most common methods used by antivirus software. It works by comparing files against a database of known malware signatures – essentially, unique pieces of code identified in previous malware samples.
When a file is scanned, the antivirus software searches for sequences of code that match these stored signatures. If a match is found, the file is flagged as malicious.
This method is highly effective against known threats but struggles with newly emerging malware, for which no signature exists yet. Therefore, antivirus vendors constantly update their signature databases to stay current with evolving threats.
Heuristic analysis is a more sophisticated approach designed to detect new or modified malware that might evade signature-based detection. Instead of relying on known signatures, heuristic analysis looks at the structure and characteristics of a file to determine if it behaves like malware.
Heuristics can identify suspicious or abnormal behavior patterns, such as code that attempts to hide itself, manipulate other programs, or exploit system vulnerabilities. While this method is potent against previously unknown threats, it can sometimes result in false positives, where legitimate files are incorrectly marked as malicious.
Behavior-based detection, also known as behavioral analysis, focuses on the actions and behaviors of programs rather than their code. This method monitors program activities in real-time, looking for behaviors typical of malware, like attempts to modify system settings, delete essential files, or monitor keystrokes.
If a program begins to act suspiciously, the antivirus software can block it immediately, potentially preventing an infection. This method can effectively tackle zero-day threats and ransomware, which are often missed by other detection techniques. However, as with heuristic analysis, behavior-based detection can also yield false positives.
For more, read our blog post on how antivirus software works.
Do you need antivirus software?
The question of whether you need antivirus software is one that invites varied opinions. However, looking at the current digital landscape, the argument favoring antivirus software becomes more compelling. Here’s why:
In an increasingly connected world, the risk of encountering malware, viruses, and other cyber threats grows exponentially. Every day, new forms of malware emerge, designed to infiltrate systems, steal personal data, or cause harm to software and hardware. And while built-in security features in modern operating systems have improved significantly, they often fail to counter advanced threats.
This is where the role of antivirus software becomes crucial. Antivirus programs offer a comprehensive security layer that goes beyond the capabilities of built-in protections. They employ advanced detection techniques, like heuristic and behavior-based analysis, to identify and block emerging threats that could otherwise bypass standard security measures. By providing real-time protection, antivirus software minimizes the risk of infection and shields sensitive data from cyber threats.
Additionally, antivirus software comes with features designed to improve your digital security further. This includes firewalls to monitor network traffic, VPNs for private browsing, password managers to secure your online accounts, and parental controls to ensure a safe online environment for kids.
Regular system scans conducted by antivirus software can also help optimize system performance. They can identify and remove unwanted software or ‘bloatware’ that may be slowing down your system.
However, it’s also important to remember that antivirus software is just one part of a holistic approach to online safety. It cannot substitute for responsible online behavior, such as avoiding suspicious links, regularly updating software, or using strong, unique passwords for online accounts.
In conclusion, while antivirus software might not be a foolproof solution to all digital threats, it serves as an essential protective layer in the fight against malware and cybercrime. Given the rapid evolution of online threats, the value of this additional layer of defense is hard to overstate.
For more, read our blog post on whether Windows 11 needs antivirus.
How do we test antivirus software?
When testing antivirus software, we apply a thorough and systematic methodology, which includes six factors, each with a different weighting:
- Anti-malware protection (30%)
- Security and privacy features (30%)
- Speed impact (10%)
- False positives (10%)
- Price (10%)
- Ownership and reputation (10%)
Each of these factors plays an essential role in our overall assessment of an antivirus software, thus enabling us to present a comprehensive, well-rounded review for our readers.
Anti-malware protection (30%)
When it comes to testing antivirus software, our process is comprehensive, rigorous, and designed to mimic the real-world threats that users face every day. Our approach is two-fold, encompassing both our own proprietary in-house tests and an analysis of independent test results from the respected AV-Test institute.
In our own in-house tests, we recreate the conditions under which a typical computer might come under attack. We expose the system, which is guarded by the antivirus software under test, to hundreds of malware samples. These malware samples are delivered via a USB drive to simulate threats from external storage devices, a common source of infections.
After introducing the malware, we check if the antivirus software’s malware scanner successfully identifies and eliminates each threat. This test is crucial in understanding the antivirus’s ability to detect and neutralize threats present in a system.
In a separate test, we conduct what we term as ‘active attacks.’ These involve running malware files and launching ransomware attacks on the system. Our aim here is to gauge the software’s real-time protection capabilities. We’re looking to see whether it can promptly identify and halt these attacks, thus safeguarding the system.
Analyzing AV-Test Results
In addition to our in-house tests, we also factor in results from the AV-Test institute. AV-Test is a highly reputable independent testing organization that evaluates antivirus software across multiple platforms, including Windows, Mac, and Android.
AV-Test scores antivirus software on three key parameters: Protection, Performance, and Usability. Protection assesses how well the software shields a system from malware attacks. Performance looks at the system slowdown caused by the antivirus, while Usability measures the frequency of false alarms and interruptions caused by the software.
By incorporating both our in-house tests and AV-Test’s comprehensive evaluations, we ensure our antivirus software reviews are as accurate, reliable, and thorough as possible. Our goal is to provide readers with a comprehensive view of the capabilities and potential shortcomings of each antivirus software.
Security and privacy features (30%)
When it comes to antivirus software, the range of security and privacy features is critical. These features contribute to a comprehensive defense strategy, bolstering the primary function of malware detection and removal. Here’s a breakdown of the major features we examine and how we go about testing them:
Web protection (anti-phishing)
Web protection is all about safeguarding you as you navigate the internet. Anti-phishing tools are especially important, as they help thwart attempts to steal sensitive information through deceitful websites or emails. We test this feature by attempting to visit known phishing sites or opening phishing emails to see whether the software alerts us to the danger.
Firewalls monitor all incoming and outgoing network traffic and can block unauthorized access. We test this feature by attempting to access the protected system via different network protocols. The software should detect and block these attempted intrusions.
Password managers securely store all your passwords, often with encryption, and can auto-fill forms when you log in. We assess the password manager by storing multiple passwords and checking how effectively and accurately it auto-fills login forms. We also examine how secure the encryption process is.
Virtual private network (VPN)
A VPN encrypts your internet connection, ensuring your online activities remain private and protecting you from snooping. To test a VPN, we evaluate the speed, encryption technology, server locations, privacy policies, and whether it effectively masks our IP address.
Parental controls allow parents to monitor and control their child’s internet usage. We evaluate these features by setting various restrictions and observing if they’re correctly enforced. We also assess how detailed and helpful the monitoring reports are.
Identity theft protection
This feature monitors personal information online to detect potential identity theft. We test it by checking how effectively it alerts us when our personal information appears in a risky context online, such as on data breach databases or the dark web.
Secure cloud storage (cloud backup)
Secure cloud storage provides an offsite backup for your valuable data, protecting it from local threats like ransomware or hardware failure. We test it by backing up and restoring various types of files, assessing both the ease of use and speed of the process.
Anti-ransomware tools protect your files from being encrypted and held hostage by ransomware. We test this feature by running ransomware simulations and checking if the antivirus can detect and block them before any files get encrypted.
Dark web monitoring
Dark web monitoring services scour dark web forums and databases for your personal data, alerting you if it’s found. We test this feature by observing how promptly and accurately it alerts us when our information appears on the dark web.
An antivirus program can come with various entry-level functions, such as spam filters and secure browsers, and premium options like online storage with enhanced security. We consider the following bonus features worthy of your consideration:
- Ad Blocker
- Email protection
- File encryption
- File shredder
- Gaming mode
- Microphone protection
- PC maintenance features
- Secure browser (hardened browser to protect your online banking)
- Spam filter
- Startup optimizer
- Tune up tools
- Virtual keyboard
- Webcam protection
Speed impact (10%)
A vital aspect of antivirus software is the impact it has on a device’s performance. The most effective antivirus software offers robust protection without noticeably slowing down your device.
To evaluate this, we rely on the performance tests conducted by AV-Test, a reputable independent organization. These tests simulate everyday activities like launching programs, downloading and installing applications, copying files, and browsing websites while the antivirus software is running.
From these tests, we get a clear understanding of how each antivirus software might affect the performance of your device during daily use.
False positives (10%)
The term “false positive” refers to when antivirus software incorrectly identifies a harmless file or action as malicious. While it’s crucial that antivirus software is vigilant, too many false positives can be disruptive and lead to a user potentially overlooking a genuine threat.
To assess the frequency of false positives, we refer to the usability tests conducted by AV-Test. These tests monitor the antivirus software as it operates on a system, taking note of how often it mistakenly flags safe files or activities. A low rate of false positives is an indicator of a precise and reliable antivirus program.
The cost of antivirus software is a key consideration. While protection is important, it’s also crucial to achieve good value for money. In our evaluation, we analyze the pricing structure of each product, bearing in mind that there can be significant differences between the first and second-year prices.
Some antivirus providers offer significant discounts for the first year, which can increase substantially in the following years. We present a transparent and comprehensive overview of these costs to help you make an informed decision.
Ownership and reputation (10%)
An antivirus company’s reputation and ownership are fundamental aspects to consider. After all, you are entrusting them with the security of your sensitive data.
Not all companies operate with the same level of transparency and respect for user privacy. For instance, Avast faced a significant scandal when it was discovered they were selling user data through a subsidiary called Jumpshot. This violation of trust significantly tarnished their reputation.
We take a close look at the ownership structure and past conduct of each company to provide a detailed perspective on their ethical standing in the industry. By examining these factors, we ensure that the recommended antivirus software comes from reliable and trustworthy sources.
For more, read our blog post on how we test antivirus software.
How to choose the best antivirus software?
Selecting the ideal antivirus software can feel like a daunting task, given the multitude of options available in the market. However, by focusing on a few critical aspects, you can make an informed decision that suits your specific needs and circumstances. Here are the primary considerations:
Reliable protection from malware
At the core of any antivirus software is its ability to reliably protect your devices from a wide variety of malware. This includes viruses, trojans, worms, ransomware, spyware, and more. An efficient antivirus solution will consistently detect and neutralize these threats. Checking independent test scores, like those provided by AV-Test, can provide a clear picture of an antivirus program’s efficacy against various types of malware.
Cyber threats are continuously evolving, and new malware is being developed daily. To keep up with these threats, your antivirus software must offer regular and prompt security updates. These updates ensure that your antivirus software is equipped with the latest virus definitions and can protect against the newest threats.
In addition to basic malware protection, look for antivirus solutions that offer additional security features. These can include web protection (to guard against phishing attacks), a firewall (to monitor network traffic), a password manager (to safeguard your online credentials), a VPN (for anonymous browsing), and more. Choose a solution that offers the security features that best fit your requirements.
Even the most secure antivirus software is of little use if it significantly slows down your device. Look for software that offers robust protection with minimal impact on your device’s performance. Check the performance test scores provided by independent testing labs like AV-Test to understand the potential impact on your system.
Even the most technologically adept users may sometimes need assistance with their antivirus software. Reliable and accessible customer support is essential. Look for antivirus providers that offer multiple support channels (like phone, email, live chat) and provide 24/7 assistance.
First-year and second-year price
Last but not least, consider the cost. While it’s important not to skimp on security, it’s also vital to ensure you’re getting good value for money. Look closely at the first-year and subsequent year prices, as they may differ substantially. Some providers offer a discounted introductory price that can increase dramatically in the second year. Understanding the long-term cost can help you make a more informed decision.
If you have a specific operating system that you would like to protect, we probably have a dedicated antivirus comparison for it:
- The best antivirus of 2024 – For all OS.
- The best antivirus for Windows 11 – For Microsoft’s latest desktop OS.
- The best antivirus for macOS – For Apple’s desktop OS.
- The best antivirus for Android – For Google’s mobile OS.
- The best antivirus for iPhone – For Apple’s mobile OS.
- The best antivirus with a VPN – For both security and privacy.
- The best VPN providers – For a dedicated privacy solution.
Click the links to be taken to your comparison of choice.
What cyber threats can antivirus protect you from?
Antivirus software is a critical tool in your defense against various forms of cyber threats. While it’s important to note that no solution offers absolute protection, antivirus software can significantly reduce your risk from a vast range of harmful software or malicious activities. Let’s take a closer look at some of these threats:
Malware, short for malicious software, is a broad term that encompasses various types of harmful software. This includes viruses, trojans, worms, ransomware, spyware, and more. Malware typically aims to damage or disrupt computers, networks, or servers, or to gain unauthorized access to systems to steal, encrypt, or delete your data.
Adware is a type of software that automatically delivers unwanted and intrusive advertising material, such as pop-up ads, to a user’s computer or browser. While not always harmful in itself, adware can be incredibly annoying, disrupt your user experience, and sometimes come bundled with spyware, which can track your online activities.
A botnet is a network of compromised computers, which are controlled by a third party and used to carry out coordinated functions. This might include spreading malware, launching Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, or sending spam emails. Antivirus software can detect and remove botnet malware before it takes control of your system.
Keyloggers are a type of spyware that tracks and records your keystrokes. Cybercriminals can use this data to steal sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, and other confidential information. Antivirus solutions with anti-spyware capabilities can detect and eliminate keyloggers.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a user’s files or locks the computer, then demands a ransom to restore access. Antivirus software can help prevent ransomware infections by blocking the malware before it can encrypt files and by removing the malicious software.
Rootkits are a type of software designed to provide unauthorized access to a computer or an area of its software that would not otherwise be allowed (for example, to an administrator). They are hard to detect, as they can camouflage themselves as necessary parts of the operating system. Antivirus software with rootkit detection can uncover these threats.
Spyware is software that secretly monitors and collects information about users without their knowledge or consent. It can gather a variety of information, such as internet surfing habits, and can interfere with user control of the computer in other ways. Antivirus software can help detect and remove spyware, keeping your data secure.
Trojans are malicious programs that disguise themselves as legitimate software. Users are typically tricked into loading and executing Trojans on their systems, and once activated, cybercriminals can access your systems to steal sensitive data or harm your computer. Antivirus software can scan for and remove Trojans from your device.
A computer virus is a type of malicious code that replicates by copying itself to other programs, computers, or files. Viruses can damage your system software, corrupt or delete your data, and spread to other computers via network connections or email. Antivirus software can prevent, detect, and remove viruses.
Worms are a type of malware that can replicate and spread themselves to other computers over a network, without any user action. They can consume bandwidth or overload a system’s resources, slowing it down or causing it to crash. Antivirus software can help detect and eliminate worms, preventing their spread and the damage they can cause.
What cyber threats can antivirus not protect you from?
While antivirus software plays a vital role in securing your digital environment against various types of malware, it’s crucial to acknowledge its limitations.
There exist several cyber threats which an antivirus may not effectively protect against. These threats often revolve around tricking the user rather than directly exploiting system vulnerabilities, making human awareness and vigilance crucial. Here are some examples:
Phishing is a type of online scam where cybercriminals impersonate legitimate organizations in emails, text messages, or other communication forms, aiming to trick individuals into providing sensitive data. This could include login credentials, credit card numbers, or social security numbers.
Antivirus software can sometimes detect phishing attempts if they involve known malicious websites or file attachments. However, they can’t fully protect against phishing because this threat primarily exploits human vulnerabilities rather than technical ones. Therefore, education about recognizing and avoiding phishing attempts is essential.
Similar to phishing, online scams often rely on deception and manipulation rather than malicious software. These can range from advanced fee scams, where you are promised a large sum of money in return for a small upfront payment, to romance scams, where the scammer forms a relationship with their victim to exploit them financially.
While antivirus software can block known scam websites, it can’t protect you from scams that occur via email, social media, or other platforms, or make judgments about the trustworthiness of online offers or relationships. This is where personal vigilance and internet safety knowledge become critical.
For more, read our blog post on online scams.
Social engineering attacks exploit human psychology to trick users into revealing confidential information or performing actions that compromise security. These manipulative tactics can occur via phone, email, social media, or even in person. Examples include pretexting, baiting, and tailgating.
While antivirus software can offer some protection against malware that might be used in conjunction with social engineering, it can’t protect users from the manipulation tactics themselves. Once again, user awareness and education play a crucial role in defending against these threats.
For more, read our blog post on social engineering.
Zero-day exploits are attacks that take advantage of a security vulnerability on the same day that the vulnerability becomes generally known. There are zero days between the time the vulnerability is discovered and the first attack. Since antivirus software relies on known threat signatures for detection, it often struggles to protect against zero-day exploits.
Some advanced antivirus solutions offer heuristic analysis and behavior-based detection techniques to catch such threats, but these methods are not always successful. To minimize the risk of zero-day exploits, regular software and system updates, along with a robust security infrastructure, are highly recommended.
For more, read our blog post on zero-day exploits.
What antivirus software have we tested?
We have tested 39 antivirus software from 28 brands. These range from free antivirus programs, to entry-level paid antivirus programs, mid-range paid antivirus software, and full-featured internet security suites.
These are the programs we recommend:
- Norton Antivirus Plus
- Norton 360 Standard
- Norton 360 Deluxe
- Norton 360 Advanced
- Norton 360 for Gamers
- Norton Antivirus for Mac
- Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
- Bitdefender Internet Security
- Bitdefender Total Security
- Bitdefender Premium Security
- TotalAV Antivirus
- McAfee Antivirus LiveSafe
- McAfee Total Protection
- Panda Dome Antivirus
- Avira Antivirus Prime
- Avast Antivirus One
- Intego Antivirus
- Kaspersky Antivirus Standard
- Kaspersky Antivirus Plus
- Kaspersky Antivirus Premium
- AVG Antivirus
We believe that Norton Antivirus Plus is the best entry-level antivirus software and Norton 360 Deluxe the best antivirus all around.
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Author: Tibor Moes
Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab