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 for Windows 11.
- 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 for Windows 11
Windows 11 is Microsoft’s safest operating system yet. But cybercrime always finds a way. Phishing attacks are after your financial details. Ransomware attempts to lock up your files. Data breaches reveal your passwords. And your identity can be stolen. But we are here to help.
We rigorously tested 39 antivirus programs from 28 brands. We bombarded a test PC, running on Windows 11, with 1,200 malware samples. We evaluated firewalls, took password managers for a spin, checked anti-phishing capabilities, and tested VPN services for both speed and safety.
These are the best antivirus for Windows 11:
- 🥇 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 for Windows 11 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
Is Norton really the ultimate antivirus solution? Let’s dig into it.
Norton shines in malware protection. Boasting a 100% score, it’s at the top of the list. We didn’t just rely on stats; we put Norton through the paces ourselves. In our tests, it detected all 1,200 instances of malware and phishing attempts in real-time.
The secret sauce? Norton SONAR. It uses heuristic analysis and machine learning to find new and unknown threats based on odd behavior, not just code.
Norton’s Smart Firewall doesn’t just sit there; it’s active. It monitors both incoming and outgoing connections to catch any fishy activities. Compare that to Windows Firewall, which only scans incoming traffic. Plus, Norton hides inactive ports from prying eyes, making it tough for hackers to exploit.
We loved Norton’s unlimited VPN. It’s zippy and robust, with AES-256 & OpenVPN for security. Unlike competitors like Bitdefender, which cap data at 200MB per day, Norton offers unlimited data. It also supports torrenting, has an auto-connect feature, a kill switch, ad tracker blocking, and even a split tunnel. This is a game-changer for streaming or secure browsing.
Password management is a breeze with Norton. We had zero issues creating or auto-filling passwords. A bonus? You can unlock your vault with fingerprint or facial recognition.
Prices & Packages
- Norton Antivirus Plus costs € 15 (Europe) or $ 20 (USA). It offers antivirus, a firewall, and a password manager. It protects 1 PC or Mac.
- Norton 360 Standard costs € 30 (Europe) or $ 40 (USA). It adds a VPN and dark web monitoring. It protects 1 (Europe) or 3 (USA) devices.
- Norton 360 Deluxe costs € 35 (Europe) or $ 50 (USA). It adds a privacy monitor and parental controls. It protects 5 devices.
- Norton 360 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: Norton’s Safe Web extension nabs malicious sites.
- Cloud Backup: Stash your key files in a secure cloud.
- Parental Control: Keep tabs on your kids online.
- Privacy Monitor: Checks if your data’s being sold.
- Webcam Security: No unauthorized peeping.
- Dark Web Monitoring: Scans for your info in the web’s dark corners.
- LifeLock: Fixes identity theft (U.S. only).
Conclusion: Is Norton the Best Antivirus for Windows 11?
Hands down, Norton wins in our book. It goes beyond just malware protection, offering a holistic suite for device security and online privacy.
Try Norton without worry—the 60-day return policy has you covered.
Ranked #2 out of 28 Antivirus
Bitdefender is ranked #2 of 28 antivirus brands.
Bitdefender is one of the best antivirus for Windows 11. 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.
Discount: Save 50% on this secret page
Bitdefender Antivirus Review: Updated for 2024
Is Bitdefender worth your hard-earned cash? Let’s see how it stacks up.
Bitdefender impresses with its 95% average protection score based on the last 10 AV-Test trials. In our testing, it identified all 1,200 malware samples. It’s just a hair behind top dogs like Norton, McAfee, and Kaspersky.
Advanced Threat Defense, its real-time protection feature, stands out. It ditches old-school virus signature checks and watches app behavior instead. If something funky, like code injection, happens, it halts the app. This method gave us solid detection rates and few false positives.
Bitdefender’s firewall is vigilant, blocking both incoming and outgoing connections. Plus, it sniffs out and blocks port scans, a common hacker move. We found it an excellent line of defense for local networks and internet connections.
The free VPN has a 200MB daily limit, enough for quick tasks but not for streaming. The VPN tech, courtesy of Aura, is robust with AES-256 & HydraVPN. Bitdefender’s extra features like start-up, auto-connect, and a kill switch are a nice touch. For unlimited data, though, you’ll have to upgrade.
Here’s a downer: the password manager isn’t part of the standard packages. It’s a separate buy or part of the Premium Security package. For the cost, we hoped it would be included.
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: Nails malicious sites.
- Vulnerability Scans: Checks OS, apps, and network.
- Ransomware Remediation: Undoes ransomware damage.
- Anti-Spam: Tweaks spam settings in Outlook and Thunderbird.
- Safepay: Secure browser for online banking.
- Video & Audio Protection: Shields your webcam and mic.
- Anti-Tracker: Kicks tracking cookies out.
- Parental Advisor: Keeps an eye on your kids.
- Anti-Theft: Find and erase lost devices.
- One-Click Optimizer: Cleans disks and browsers.
- File Shredder: Wipes files for good.
- Data Protection/File Shredder: Securely erases files.
Conclusion: Is Bitdefender the Best Antivirus for Windows 11?
Bitdefender is a powerhouse, scoring high in anti-malware, firewall, and VPN tech. But the extra costs for unlimited VPN and password management make it a pricier choice than Norton, which bundles these in.
It’s still a top pick for us, but weigh the costs. You have 30 days to change your mind, thanks to its return policy.
Ranked #3 out of 28 Antivirus
TotalAV is ranked #3 of 28 antivirus brands.
TotalAV is one of the best antivirus for Windows 11. 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
We tested TotalAV and found it to excel in malware detection, clocking a 99.8% success rate. It’s easy on the wallet, supports multiple platforms, and offers a 30-day refund policy. Extras include web protection, a VPN, and identity theft safeguards for U.S. users.
In our tests, TotalAV’s System Scan took around an hour and had minimal impact on system performance. It offers four scan types: Quick, System, Smart, and Custom. The software detected nearly all malware types, including ransomware and spyware. Real-time protection was impressive, instantly blocking malicious downloads and ransomware simulators.
We found TotalAV’s Safe Browsing VPN to be solid but not as fast as standalone options like ExpressVPN. It has 48 servers in 30+ countries and supports streaming and torrenting. Additional features include a kill switch and auto-connect on public Wi-Fi.
Total Password, part of TotalAV’s package, is secure and straightforward. It offers auto-save, auto-fill, and uses 256-bit AES encryption. Two-factor authentication is available but lacks hardware-based options. The vault allows unlimited storage of passwords and secure notes but doesn’t offer password sharing or emergency access.
Other Security Features
TotalAV provides identity theft protection powered by Aura and a System tune-up feature with a Startup Manager and Junk Cleaner.
Conclusion: Is TotalAV the Best Antivirus for Windows 11?
TotalAV offers near-perfect malware detection, a good VPN, and a reliable password manager. It’s budget-friendly and comes with a risk-free 30-day trial. However, it lacks a firewall. Overall, we highly recommend it for comprehensive, low-impact 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 for Windows 11. 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).
Discount: Save 70% on this secret page
McAfee Antivirus Review: Updated for 2024
McAfee has upped its game in recent years. Is it worth considering for your cybersecurity needs? We break it down.
McAfee shines with a 100% protection score in AV-Test trials since April 2020. Our testing mirrored these results; it caught all 1,200 malware samples we threw at it.
McAfee’s Scan Engine is the star player:
- Scans files, matching them to known malware.
- Runs risky code in a safe space, known as a sandbox.
- Uses heuristic techniques to spot new threats.
- Scrubs bad code from corrupted files.
We found McAfee’s malware defense to be top-notch, thanks to these features.
McAfee’s firewall is robust, checking both incoming and outgoing traffic. We especially liked that it hides open ports, thwarting hackers’ port scanning methods.
Safe Connect, McAfee’s VPN, is solid. It’s free with unlimited data, and it’s fast. Our tests also showed AES-256 encryption and a no-log policy. However, some features like a kill switch are OS-dependent. Also, if you opt out of auto-renew, data drops to 500MB per day.
True Key, McAfee’s password manager, is great. Creating passwords is a breeze, and the auto-fill function is spot-on. You can also use facial recognition or fingerprints to log in. In our experience, it matches up well against top options 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: Checks your apps for updates.
- App Boost: Speeds up commonly used apps.
- Browser Security: Blocks phishing attempts.
- Web Boost: Stops videos from auto-playing.
- Tracker Remover: Clears tracking cookies.
- ID Protection: Scans the dark web for your data.
- File Shredder: Securely deletes files.
- File Lock: Password-protects your files.
- Anti-Spam: Filters spam for Outlook and Thunderbird.
- Safe Family: Parental controls that work.
Conclusion: Is McAfee the Best Antivirus for Windows 11?
McAfee is a standout in our tests, offering perfect virus protection, a superior password manager, and a generous free VPN. Its bonus features are plentiful and practical. The unlimited device coverage on premium plans is a big win, especially in the U.S.
If you’re in the market for comprehensive protection, McAfee is well worth considering. And with a 30-day return policy, you’ve got nothing to lose in giving it a try.
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 for Windows 11. 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.
Discount: Save 50% on this secret page
Panda Dome Antivirus Review: Updated for 2024
Wondering if Panda Dome antivirus is right for you? We’ve put it to the test to help you make an informed choice.
Panda scored an impressive 99.9% in real-world protection according to AV-Comparatives. However, we noticed it tends to flag false positives more often than rivals like Norton and McAfee.
Panda uses a mix of big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to scan apps, effectively tackling both known malware and emerging threats like zero-day exploits.
Panda’s firewall performs well, filtering both incoming and outgoing web traffic. It auto-assigns permissions to apps based on their risk levels, a feature we find very useful, although you can manually change these rules if needed.
The VPN is limited to 150 MB/day, good for quick tasks but not for heavy usage like streaming. It’s built on Aura technology, making it fast and secure (AES-256 & HydraVPN). However, it misses out on features like a kill switch, making its €50.00 price tag a bit steep.
We liked Panda’s password manager. It supports two-factor authentication and biometrics, making it secure and convenient. The Chrome and Firefox extensions are a mirror image of the Android and iOS apps, offering a smooth experience across platforms.
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: Blocks malicious websites.
- Dark Web Scanner: Checks if your email address is compromised.
- PC Cleanup: Removes unwanted cookies and files.
- Wi-Fi Protection: Audits your Wi-Fi security.
- Anti-Theft: Helps find your lost or stolen PC.
- File Encryptor: Adds password protection to important files.
- File Shredder: Deletes files securely.
- USB Protection: Scans USB drives for malware.
Conclusion: Is Panda the Best Antivirus for Windows 11?
Panda performs well in our tests, especially in the password manager and flexible pricing departments. However, it falls short of Norton, which offers an unlimited VPN and better cross-platform protection at a lower price point.
If you’re strictly a Windows user, Panda’s robust security suite could be a perfect match for you. Plus, a 30-day money-back guarantee lets you try before you commit.
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 for Windows 11. 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 found Avira to be a top performer, catching 100% of the malware in our tests. Its free plan is among the best we’ve seen, and paid plans deliver value for money. With an excellent password manager and robust online security, Avira stands out in a crowded field.
Avira aced our anti-malware tests with a 100% detection rate. Its Smart Scan not only found malware but also pointed out privacy risks and system issues. For tech-savvy users, it offers specialized scans like rootkit and external device scans. In summary, it’s a versatile and speedy anti-malware tool suitable for all users.
Avira’s firewall offers customized rules per app and intruder prevention features. It effectively monitors data traffic and gives you granular control to specify which apps can access the internet.
Avira’s password manager rivals standalone options, offering unlimited password storage even in its free version. It uses 256-bit AES encryption and supports two-factor authentication. However, it lacks a password generator in the browser extension, a minor downside.
We tested Avira’s Phantom VPN and found it adequate for most tasks, reducing our speed by only 25-30%. Security features include 256-bit AES encryption, a no-logs policy, and DNS leak protection. However, it struggled with geo-restrictions on streaming services and offers only 500 MB data on lower-tier plans.
Other Security Features
We liked Avira’s device optimization tools, especially the junk file cleaner that freed up significant space. The software also includes a Startup Optimizer, Driver Updater, and a decent Game Booster. However, the Battery Manager feature could be improved.
Conclusion: Is Avira the Best Antivirus for Windows 11?
Avira offers a full suite of security features, including perfect anti-malware detection, a strong firewall, and a versatile password manager. It’s a great buy for comprehensive protection with a user-friendly design. A 30-day return policy allows you to try it risk-free.
However, if you need extra features like a dark web monitor, consider alternatives like Norton 360 Deluxe.
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 for Windows 11. 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
Avast One proved to be an effective and feature-rich antivirus in our testing. With high malware detection rates and a suite of advanced tools like an unlimited VPN in its paid plans, it offers robust, multi-platform protection.
In our tests involving over 1,200 malware samples, Avast detected all of them. The scans were efficient, taking less than an hour. Real-time protection even halted zipped and encrypted malware downloads. However, the free version can be somewhat naggy with its upsell attempts.
Avast’s firewall allows you to monitor network traffic and manually block apps. The paid version adds advanced features like port scan and ARP spoofing alerts. However, it’s not as user-friendly as some competitors and lacks the Wi-Fi Inspector tool for Windows, which was a downside.
Avast’s VPN, powered by HideMyAss! SecureLine, offers a generous 5GB weekly data allowance in the free version. While not the fastest, it includes a reliable kill switch and prompts to connect on sensitive websites. Upgrading gives you unlimited data, but the speeds remained subpar in our testing.
Avast also features tools for clearing browsing data, software updating, and ransomware protection, among others. It includes performance-boosting utilities and even an Online Safety Score to help you improve security habits.
Conclusion: Is Avast the Best Antivirus for Windows 11?
Avast One is a strong contender in the antivirus market, boasting excellent anti-malware capabilities and a rich feature set. While it doesn’t offer a password manager, it covers most other bases effectively. Its 30-day return policy allows for risk-free testing.
If you need a password manager or parental controls, consider alternatives like Norton 360 Deluxe.
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
Each allows protection for at least one PC and includes features like Anti-Malware, Anti-Phishing, Firewall, Password Manager, and Unlimited VPN.
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 is not part of AV-Test’s analysis, this is generally not a good sign. Most reputable brands participate, although notable exceptions include Panda, ESET, and Sophos.
We’ve also checked out the prices for each of these products, focusing on how much it would cost to protect a single Windows PC with the following essential features:
- Anti-phishing (web protection)
- Password manager
- Unlimited VPN (no data limit).
- Missing features affect value for money.
- Listed prices are for the second year in the USA, without first-year discounts.
- Prices are rounded up for easy reading (e.g., $99.99 becomes $100).
Prices vary outside the U.S., so check the brands’ websites for local pricing.
We scrutinized user reviews on TrustPilot to gauge public opinion. Be cautious with these, as some brands might artificially boost their ratings. We consider scores between 4.0 and 4.5 to be good and realistic. Anything higher could be suspect, and lower scores often indicate problems with the product or customer service.
Antivirus software buying guide
What is antivirus software?
Antivirus software, sometimes known as anti-malware software, is a type of program designed to protect your computer against malicious software. This includes viruses, but also other harmful programs such as worms, trojans, ransomware, and spyware. The goal of antivirus software is to detect, neutralize or remove malware from your computer system, thereby preserving its health, performance, and security.
In addition to providing real-time protection against threats, antivirus software also typically includes features for periodic system scans, automatic updates for new malware definitions, safe web browsing, email protection, and more. It acts as a shield, guarding your devices against malicious activities and helping to keep your personal information secure.
For more, read our blog post on what antivirus software is.
How does antivirus software work?
Antivirus software operates using a variety of detection methods, each designed to identify and combat different types of threats. Here are three key methodologies that these programs often utilize:
Signature-based detection is the most traditional method used by antivirus software. It involves scanning files and comparing them to a database of known malware signatures – essentially, unique bits of code that are used to identify specific pieces of malware.
When a file matches a known signature, it’s flagged as malicious. This method is highly effective against known threats but is less capable of identifying new malware variants that don’t have an existing signature. Regular updates from the antivirus software provider are crucial to keep the database current with the latest malware signatures.
To counter the limitation of signature-based detection, heuristic analysis is employed. This method enables the antivirus software to identify unknown or new malware strains that do not have a known signature.
Heuristic analysis works by examining the code in files and looking for segments of code that are suspicious or resemble portions of known malware. It also analyses the behavior of the code, looking for actions that are typical of malware, such as self-replication, modification of system files, or attempts to hide in system processes.
However, one downside of heuristic analysis is that it can sometimes lead to false positives, flagging harmless files as potentially dangerous. This is because the algorithm is making educated guesses about potential threats, rather than matching them to a known signature.
Behavior-based detection, also known as behavioral monitoring, takes a different approach. Rather than examining the code of files, it monitors the behavior of applications and processes on your system.
This method watches for suspicious activities that might indicate a malware infection, such as unusual registry modifications, file changes, or network connections. If such behavior is detected, the antivirus software can take preventative action to stop the process, preventing potential harm.
Behavior-based detection is highly effective against zero-day threats – malware that exploits vulnerabilities in software on the day they become known and before a patch is available. However, like heuristic analysis, this method can also lead to false positives.
In conclusion, a robust antivirus software uses a blend of these detection methods to provide comprehensive protection against both known and unknown threats. When shopping for antivirus software, you should consider these aspects alongside factors such as user interface, customer support, compatibility with your operating system, and price.
For more, read our blog post on how antivirus software works.
Does Windows 11 need antivirus software?
Yes, it is certainly advisable to use antivirus software on Windows 11.
While Windows 11 comes equipped with robust security features, the nature of cybersecurity threats today demands an added layer of protection. To begin with, let’s look at the inbuilt security components of Windows 11.
Microsoft has integrated Microsoft Defender, a security tool that provides real-time protection against a range of potential threats, including malware and spyware. It employs machine learning, behavior analysis, and signature-based detection methods to safeguard your system.
Windows 11 also comes with Windows Firewall, a built-in network protection system that guards against inbound and outbound cyber threats. Plus, the operating system supports Secure Boot, a feature that ensures the loading of only trusted boot software, and BitLocker, a data protection feature that encrypts your device to shield your data if your device is lost or stolen.
However, while these features are comprehensive, they do not match up to the advanced protection offered by leading antivirus software such as Norton and Bitdefender.
According to the highly-regarded independent test labs, AV-Test and AV-Comparatives, Norton and Bitdefender consistently receive higher malware detection scores in their tests. They have proven to be more effective in identifying and neutralizing threats, thanks to their sophisticated detection engines and extensive threat databases. Their robust anti-phishing capabilities, proactive exploit protection, and advanced heuristic analysis provide a level of security that goes beyond Windows Defender’s offerings.
Moreover, these antivirus solutions provide additional security features that are not covered by Microsoft’s inbuilt tools. For instance, Norton and Bitdefender include a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. A VPN ensures private browsing, encrypting your data, and hiding your IP address, which significantly reduces the risk of online tracking and data theft.
They also provide a password manager that assists you in creating, storing, and managing unique, strong passwords for all your online accounts. Remembering countless complex passwords is daunting, and these password managers solve that problem while enhancing your online security.
Furthermore, Norton and Bitdefender offer dark web monitoring features. If your personal information, such as your email address or credit card details, is found on the dark web, these services will alert you, enabling you to take protective measures before you become a victim of identity theft or fraud.
In conclusion, while Windows 11 does have commendable security measures in place, investing in top-tier antivirus services like Norton or Bitdefender ensures a heightened layer of security. These antivirus solutions not only excel in malware protection but also offer comprehensive protection tools, each designed to safeguard you against the various facets of cyber threats. Therefore, for robust, all-encompassing protection, using antivirus software on Windows 11 is highly recommended.
For more, read our blog post on whether Windows 11 needs antivirus.
How do we test antivirus software?
When assessing antivirus software, we apply a thorough and systematic methodology, which includes six key evaluation elements, 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 aspects plays a critical role in our overall assessment of an antivirus program, thus enabling us to present a comprehensive, well-rounded review for potential buyers.
Anti-malware protection (30%)
A key performance indicator of any antivirus software is its ability to protect against a diverse range of malware. We dedicate 30% of our evaluation to this aspect because it is the most significant function of an antivirus program. Our approach to testing anti-malware protection consists of two main procedures: in-house testing and analysis of AV-Test results.
In our in-house tests, we expose our test computers to hundreds of malware samples via USB drives. These samples encompass a variety of malware types, including viruses, trojans, worms, spyware, and ransomware. This allows us to evaluate how effectively the antivirus software can detect and neutralize different threats.
Furthermore, we simulate real-world malware attacks by executing malware files and launching ransomware attacks on the test system. We monitor the antivirus software’s real-time protection capabilities to see if it can stop these attacks before they infiltrate or harm the system.
Our in-house tests are designed to mimic the threats that an average user might encounter. This approach gives us a good understanding of how an antivirus software performs under different attack scenarios, and how swiftly it responds.
To supplement our in-house tests, we also analyze the protection test results from AV-Test, an independent IT security institute known for conducting rigorous testing of antivirus products. We focus on their evaluations for Windows, Mac, and Android platforms, which provide us with a broader understanding of an antivirus product’s capabilities across different operating systems.
AV-Test rates antivirus software on protection, performance, and usability, including factors like detection of widespread and prevalent malware, detection of zero-day malware attacks, and false positives. Their evaluations are highly respected within the industry and offer valuable insights that complement our own testing results.
Together, our in-house tests and the AV-Test results form a comprehensive assessment of an antivirus software’s anti-malware protection capabilities. This ensures we provide a robust and in-depth evaluation to help users make an informed choice when buying antivirus software.
Security and privacy features (30%)
In addition to anti-malware capabilities, security and privacy features constitute 30% of our assessment, as they enhance the overall protection of your digital ecosystem. The more robust these features are, the more comprehensive the safeguarding of your data and online activities. We meticulously test these features to verify their effectiveness.
Web protection (anti-phishing)
Anti-phishing is a vital feature for protecting users against fraudulent websites that mimic legitimate ones with the intention to steal sensitive information. We test this by attempting to access a database of known phishing sites to check if the antivirus software successfully blocks them.
A good firewall controls network traffic and blocks unauthorized access to your computer. We test this feature by using a variety of network tools to attempt to penetrate the firewall. We also monitor its effectiveness at hiding the system from view during port scans and its ability to block incoming connections.
Password managers securely store your passwords and help you generate strong, unique passwords for every account. We evaluate this feature by checking its password generation capabilities, how it handles password change requests, and its ability to auto-fill credentials on websites and applications.
Virtual private network (VPN)
Parental controls allow parents to monitor and control their children’s online activities. We test this by setting up filters for inappropriate content, setting time limits for internet usage, and checking whether these rules are correctly enforced.
Identity theft protection
Identity theft protection tools monitor your personal information and alert you if they detect potential identity theft. We test this by checking how effectively the software monitors for misuse of personal information like social security numbers, credit cards, and bank accounts.
Secure cloud storage (cloud backup)
Secure cloud storage or cloud backup protects your data by keeping a copy of it off-site. We evaluate this feature by backing up and restoring files to the cloud to assess speed, reliability, and ease of use.
Anti-ransomware features protect against malware that encrypts your files and demands a ransom to unlock them. We test this by using ransomware simulators to see if the antivirus software can prevent the encryption of files.
Dark web monitoring
Dark web monitoring services scan darknet markets, forums, and websites to check if your personal data is being traded. We test this feature by checking how effectively and promptly the service detects and alerts us when our information appears on the dark web.
In all these tests, we also assess how these features impact the system’s performance and whether they are easy to use. Together, these tests provide a comprehensive understanding of the software’s security and privacy features, allowing us to rate them accurately.
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%)
Antivirus software should provide robust protection without noticeably slowing down your system’s performance. For this reason, we allocate 10% of our evaluation to the speed impact.
To guide our analysis, we utilize AV-Test’s performance tests, which measure the software’s impact on computer speed while conducting common tasks such as launching websites, downloading software, installing and running programs, and copying files.
A high-performance score from AV-Test indicates the software offers strong protection with minimal impact on system performance.
False positives (10%)
False positives occur when antivirus software incorrectly flags a safe file or website as malicious. This can disrupt user experience and, in some cases, interfere with system performance. Hence, false positives account for 10% of our evaluation.
To analyze this, we use AV-Test’s usability tests. These tests examine the frequency of false warnings or blockages when visiting websites, using legitimate software, or during the installation and use of legitimate software downloaded from the internet. A lower rate of false positives translates into a higher usability score from AV-Test.
We believe that value for money is a crucial aspect of any product, including antivirus software. Therefore, we dedicate 10% of our evaluation to the cost. We compare the range of features and level of protection offered against the price.
A crucial aspect we highlight is the disparity between first-year prices, often discounted to attract customers, and renewal prices, which can be substantially higher. We believe consumers should be aware of this pricing tactic to avoid unexpected expenses.
Ownership and reputation (10%)
Ownership and reputation matter because not all companies operate with the same level of integrity or transparency. We assign 10% of our evaluation to this factor. We take into account the company’s track record, customer reviews, and any notable controversies.
For instance, the Avast scandal, where user data was sold via a subsidiary called Jumpshot, highlighted the potential misuse of user data. Such practices significantly impact a company’s reputation and customer trust. We believe this information is vital for potential customers to make an informed choice.
For more, read our blog post on how we test antivirus software.
How to choose the best antivirus software?
When choosing the best antivirus software, it’s essential to consider several key elements that contribute to its effectiveness and usability. These elements include reliable protection from malware, security updates, security features, performance impact, customer support, and pricing strategy. Let’s delve into each of these factors.
Reliable protection from malware
At the core of any antivirus software is its ability to provide reliable protection from a wide variety of malware threats such as viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, and spyware. The software should effectively identify and neutralize these threats in real-time, preventing them from causing harm. Look for products that score high in independent anti-malware protection tests like those performed by AV-Test or AV-Comparatives.
Cyber threats are constantly evolving, with new malware being developed and released into the wild every day. Therefore, it’s crucial that your antivirus software provides regular security updates to counter these emerging threats. The best antivirus software will have a robust mechanism for delivering frequent, automatic updates that ensure you’re protected against the latest known threats.
In addition to basic malware protection, look for antivirus software that offers a range of additional security features. These may include a firewall, web protection (anti-phishing), password manager, VPN, parental controls, identity theft protection, secure cloud storage, anti-ransomware, and dark web monitoring. These features contribute to a more comprehensive protection strategy, safeguarding different aspects of your digital life.
While you want robust antivirus protection, it shouldn’t come at the cost of your device’s performance. Some antivirus software can slow down your system due to heavy resource usage. Look for software that provides strong protection while having a minimal impact on system performance, allowing you to continue using your device smoothly while being protected.
Quality customer support can be a deciding factor when choosing antivirus software. Ideally, the software provider should offer multiple channels for customer support, including live chat, email, and phone. A comprehensive knowledge base, FAQs, and community forums can also be valuable resources when you need help. Look at the company’s reputation for customer support responsiveness and effectiveness.
First-year and second-year price
Finally, consider the pricing strategy of the antivirus software. Many companies offer a significant discount for the first year, but the renewal price can be substantially higher. Be sure to understand what the software will cost you in the long run, and determine whether it offers good value for money, considering the range of features and level of protection provided.
In sum, the best antivirus software will strike a balance between reliable malware protection, a comprehensive range of security features, minimal impact on system performance, quality customer support, and fair pricing. Be sure to carefully consider each of these elements before making your choice.
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?
Malware is a broad term encompassing various forms of malicious software designed to harm or exploit any computing device or network. These include viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, and spyware. Antivirus software uses various methods to detect and neutralize malware, including signature-based detection, heuristic analysis, and behavior-based detection.
Adware is software that displays unwanted advertisements on your computer. While it may not be harmful in itself, adware can degrade system performance, be intrusive, and often comes bundled with spyware. Antivirus software can detect and remove adware.
A botnet is a network of computers infected by malware and controlled remotely by a cybercriminal, often without the knowledge of the device’s owner. Botnets can be used for DDoS attacks, sending spam emails, or distributing malware. Antivirus software can prevent your device from becoming part of a botnet.
Keyloggers are a type of malware that record your keystrokes to capture sensitive information like usernames, passwords, and credit card details. Antivirus software can detect and block keyloggers, protecting your sensitive data.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts the user’s files and demands a ransom to restore access. The advent of ransomware has led to substantial financial losses for individuals and businesses. Antivirus software can prevent ransomware infections and provide tools to recover encrypted files.
Rootkits are a type of malware that grant cybercriminals root or administrative access to a computer or network, allowing them to control the infected system undetected. Rootkits are notoriously difficult to detect, but advanced antivirus solutions often come with rootkit detection capabilities.
Spyware is malware designed to spy on the user’s activities, collect personal information, and send it to the attacker. This could include details like credit card numbers, passwords, and browsing habits. Antivirus software can detect and remove spyware, protecting your privacy.
Trojans are a type of malware that disguise themselves as legitimate software or are included in legitimate software that has been tampered with. They can provide a backdoor to your system, allowing an attacker to access your computer. Antivirus software can prevent Trojan infections by scanning downloaded files and blocking suspicious behavior.
Viruses are a well-known type of malware that can replicate themselves and spread to other devices, often damaging files or system structures. Antivirus software offers robust protection against viruses, scanning files for known virus signatures and monitoring for virus-like behavior.
Worms are a type of malware that can spread across networks without any user action. They often exploit vulnerabilities in operating systems. Like viruses, worms can replicate themselves, but they can do so without infecting other files. Antivirus software can prevent worm infections by patching the exploited vulnerabilities and removing the worm files.
What cyber threats can antivirus not protect you from?
While antivirus software is a crucial component of cybersecurity, it’s essential to understand its limitations. Certain types of cyber threats rely more on manipulating human behavior than on exploiting software vulnerabilities, making them challenging for antivirus software to counter effectively. Here are some of the cyber threats that antivirus may not fully protect you from:
Phishing involves cybercriminals attempting to trick you into revealing sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, or credit card details by pretending to be a trustworthy entity. This usually occurs via email, instant messaging, or fraudulent websites.
While some antivirus software includes features that help detect phishing emails or websites, it cannot guarantee protection as phishing techniques are continually evolving, and ultimately, it is up to the user to avoid falling for these scams.
Online scams can take many forms, from fraudulent online auctions to tech support scams. They usually involve deceiving the victim into parting with their money or personal information.
While some antivirus solutions may include web protection features that can help detect known scam websites, they can’t protect you from every possible scam, especially those conducted via phone, text, or social media.
For more, read our blog post on online scams.
Social engineering involves manipulating individuals into carrying out specific actions or divulging personal information. This could involve tactics like pretexting, baiting, or tailgating. Antivirus software can’t protect users from these types of threats as they target human vulnerability rather than software vulnerabilities.
For more, read our blog post on social engineering.
A zero-day exploit refers to a software vulnerability that’s unknown to the software’s vendor. This means there’s no patch available, and antivirus software often can’t protect against it. While some antivirus software may use heuristic and behavior-based detection to identify and block suspicious activities that could signal a zero-day exploit, they cannot guarantee complete protection.
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