Malwarebytes Review: Quick Expert Summary
Malwarebytes is a minimalistic, easy-to-use antivirus program that provides good protection against malware, but it doesn’t have a lot of the important protections that the best antiviruses of 2023 include in their plans.
During my testing, it detected 95% of the malware files I had previously downloaded to my device, which is a pretty good result. In terms of real-time protection, it successfully blocked 98% of the malware files, which is also excellent.
Malwarebytes also offers a couple of additional features. I really like Browser Guard, a free web security browser extension that blocks trackers, pop-up ads, phishing sites, and exploit attacks. You also get a secure VPN if you upgrade to the Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy VPN plan. It’s a decent option for hiding online activity, but it’s missing a lot of the features and functionalities found in standalone VPN competitors.
Unfortunately, Malwarebytes lacks many of the essential features of a premium antivirus, including a firewall, data breach monitor, device optimization tools, parental controls, and a password manager — but it’s a decent choice for users who want a simple antivirus without a lot of extras. However, when competitors offer better antivirus protection along with more features (and for a similar price), it’s hard for me to wholeheartedly recommend Malwarebytes.
|🏅 Overall Rank||#10 out of 74 antiviruses|
(with unlimited data)
|🎁 Free Plan||✅|
|💰 Money-Back Guarantee||60 days|
|💻 Operating Systems||Windows, Android, Mac, iOS, Chromebook|
Malwarebytes Full Review
Malwarebytes has all of the core security features of an antivirus program, including real-time malware protection, ransomware protection, and web protection. But unlike so many of its competitors, it hardly offers any additional features, like a firewall, system tuneup tools, a password manager, or parental controls.
That said, Malwarebytes is set to add several features. It recently acquired Cyrus Security and has plans to integrate more tools (including identity theft monitoring) into Malwarebytes products. It isn’t clear exactly how this will work, but it should enhance Malwarebytes’s offering.
For now, Malwarebytes is still an excellent low-cost option if you’re looking for a basic, no-frills antivirus that offers good malware protection.
Malwarebytes Security Features
Malwarebytes’s virus scanner is very good — it provides both on-demand scans and real-time protection to block the vast majority of malware on Windows, Mac, and Android devices. Its scanner uses a large database containing millions of known malware threats, including trojans, worms, ransomware, spyware, and rootkits, as well as heuristic analysis to flag new malware files that haven’t yet been added to its database. Malwarebytes also employs machine learning technology that is capable of learning about new threats without any human input.
Malwarebytes for Windows offers 3 types of scans:
- Threat Scan. Scans key areas of your device’s system, memory, and startup programs.
- Quick Scan. Checks your memory and startup programs for active infections.
- Custom Scan. Lets you pick any file or folder you want to scan (including the entire disk).
Note that Malwarebytes doesn’t have a default full system scan option, so if you want to check your entire system for malware, you need to use the custom scan and select your C: drive from the available options (which is a little annoying!).
During my tests, the Threat Scan was fast — it took 1 minute and 33 seconds to scan over 260,000 files on my device. This is on par with competitors’ quick scans, which usually take anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes.
When testing the scanner against malware samples, I got decent results. Before installing Malwarebytes on my Windows device, I downloaded around 1,000 malicious files (viruses, trojans, spyware, etc.) to my test PC. Once Malwarebytes completed the Threat Scan, it found around 76% of the files. But the full disk scan detected 95% of malware (although it took about 3 hours, which is pretty long for a full disk scan). While this is a good score, competitors like Norton and Bitdefender, have a perfect 100% malware detection rate.
You can also easily review and save the scan results, and if you want to know more about the individual detections, just click on them, and Malwarebytes will take you to a webpage dedicated to that type of malware, with an explanation on how it works and how it most likely ended up on your computer. This can help you identify false positives so you don’t accidentally remove them.
Overall, Malwarebytes has an industry-average detection rate of around 95%, which is pretty good. The Threat Scan is a good option for users who want to quickly check their files for malware, and I found it easy to select whether to scan a single folder or my entire disk with the Custom Scan option.
Malwarebytes’s real-time protection (available only on the paid plans) includes 4 different layers of protection:
- Malware and potentially unwanted program (PUP) protection.
- Web protection.
- Ransomware protection (PC only).
- Exploit protection (PC only).
Malwarebytes’s real-time malware protection performed really well in my tests, successfully blocking 98% of the malware I attempted to download to my device. This is a great result that’s comparable to most premium antiviruses — Malwarebytes blocked worms, viruses, trojans, and even web-based exploit attacks before they had a chance to make any changes to my test PC.
I also like Malwarebytes’s web protection and exploit protection features — these tools work in the background regardless of which browser you’re using, and they can block phishing attacks as well as malicious web scripts that try to hack your computer through your browser. In my testing, the web protections blocked more phishing and exploit attacks than the built-in protections in Chrome or Mozilla.
However, Malwarebytes’s ransomware protection isn’t as good as its other real-time protections. I used a ransomware simulator to see whether or not Malwarebytes could detect and block ransomware, and Malwarebytes only blocked around two-thirds of the ransomware files on my device. When I used the same simulator on Norton and McAfee, all ransomware simulations were instantly blocked.
Overall, Malwarebytes’s real-time protection is decent. The ransomware protection needs some work, but the real-time virus protection and web protections are on par with the best antiviruses on the market.
Malwarebytes’s Browser Guard is a free browser extension for Chrome, Edge, Safari, and Firefox that does a great job blocking phishing sites, but it doesn’t work very well as an ad-blocker. The extension protects against malware, pop-up ads, trackers, phishing scams, and PUPs.
Browser Guard is very easy to use, as all of the protections are turned on by default. However, if you’d like to turn off certain layers of protection — for example, if you know a website is safe but the extension is blocking necessary pop-ups — you can easily toggle each protection on or off.
During my testing, I visited 40 known phishing sites, and Browser Guard blocked 39 — a success rate of nearly 98%, which is great.
Malwarebytes claims Browser Guard can make your browser run 4x faster by blocking ads and other unwanted content, so I also tested the extension against sites filled with ads. However, Browser Guard didn’t block all of the ads on these websites — it blocked around a third of the ads on most sites I visited, whereas competing brands like Avira blocked almost all of the ads on the same sites.
Overall, Browser Guard isn’t a good ad blocker, but it’s effective at detecting phishing sites.
Privacy VPN (Virtual Private Network)
Malwarebytes’s Premium + Privacy VPN plan comes with Malwarebytes’s Privacy VPN, which has pretty good privacy protections, including:
- Over 500 servers across 40+ countries. This is a good number of locations for a VPN that comes bundled with an antivirus — Norton and TotalAV both offer approximately 30 server locations.
- WireGuard protocol. This is one of the fastest and most secure protocols, which many standalone VPNs like Private Internet Access (PIA) offer.
- Strict no-logs policy. Malwarebytes doesn’t log or store user data, including browsing history or connection logs.
There’s also a kill switch on Windows and Mac. A kill switch shuts off your internet connection in case your VPN connection fails and is a really important VPN feature.
Malwarebytes Privacy VPN has decent connection speeds. To assess its speeds, I first ran a speed test without the VPN, and then I ran another test when I was connected to a local server (I’m in the US). I also tested the VPN’s speeds while connected to distant servers.
As you can see, my connection speeds were slowed down — this is to be expected with any VPN, but I was disappointed to see my download speed cut to one-fifth of its original speed. By comparison, ExpressVPN only cuts download speeds in half when connecting to servers on another continent.
Using Malwarebytes’s VPN, I was unable to access popular streaming sites like Netflix. If you’re looking for a good streaming VPN, I recommend an antivirus+VPN bundle like TotalAV or standalone competitors like ExpressVPN or Private Internet Access.
Malwarebytes’s VPN supports torrenting. It also includes the handy split-tunneling feature, which allows you to decide which app traffic will go through your VPN and which app traffic will bypass it, letting you avoid unnecessary slowdowns on trusted apps.
However, Malwarebytes’s VPN doesn’t work in restricted countries. If you’re looking for a good VPN to bypass firewalls in countries with internet censorship, I recommend ExpressVPN.
Overall, Malwarebytes’s VPN is basic, and there are better options out there. While it has some nice advanced features, like the WireGuard protocol and split-tunneling, it won’t provide you with access to streaming services when you’re overseas. But if you’re only interested in hiding your online activity and staying anonymous online, Malwarebytes’s VPN is a decent option.
Malwarebytes Plans & Pricing
Malwarebytes offers 1 free plan and 2 paid plans:
- Malwarebytes Free.
- Malwarebytes Premium.
- Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy VPN.
All of Malwarebytes’s paid plans include a risk-free 60-day money-back guarantee (the same as Norton). This is pretty generous compared to most competitors, which usually only offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. There’s also a 14-day free trial of Malwarebytes Premium for Windows and a separate 7-day free trial of Privacy VPN (unlike the Malwarebytes Premium trial, it requires a credit card).
Here’s a quick overview of all of Malwarebytes’s plans:
|Free||Premium||Premium + Privacy VPN|
|Platforms||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Chromebook||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Chromebook||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Chromebook|
|Price||Free||$44.99 / year||$99.99 / year|
|Number of device licenses||1||1 or 3||1, 3, or 5|
|Malware scanning & removal||✅||✅||✅|
|VPN (unlimited data)||❌||❌||✅|
|Webcam & microphone protection||❌||❌||❌|
|System tune-up tools||❌||❌||❌|
Malwarebytes Free — Decent Option for Virus Removal
Malwarebytes Free only includes the on-demand malware scanner and Browser Guard extension. I only recommend this plan to users looking for a quick way to remove an existing malware infection from their device.
However, if you want comprehensive protection, Malwarebytes Free isn’t good enough, as it doesn’t have real-time protection. While most free antiviruses aren’t that good, there are competitors like Avira Free that include both real-time malware protection and additional features like system tuneup tools and a VPN. So if you want a free antivirus, there are better options.
That said, Malwarebytes Free comes with a 14-day free trial of Malwarebytes Premium, so you can test all of the premium features risk-free.
Malwarebytes Premium — Strong Antivirus Protection
Malwarebytes Premium offers malware scanning, real-time protection, and web protection. With this plan, you can cover either 1 or 3 devices (with a slight price increase), including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.
The real-time protection alone is worth the upgrade to premium from the free plan. It means you get layers of added protection against online scams, phishing, ransomware, PUPs, and exploit attacks that use software bugs to hack your computer.
At $44.99 / year, Malwarebytes Premium for 1 device is a bit cheaper than top competitors (like Norton or Bitdefender). That said, both Norton and Bitdefender have better malware detection rates, better phishing protection, and a ton of additional features.
Malwarebytes Premium isn’t as good as the best antivirus software in 2023, but it’s a good option for users looking for a simple but effective internet security solution. Malwarebytes offers a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy VPN — Antivirus With a VPN
Malwarebytes’s top-tier plan includes all the features of its Premium plan plus a VPN. This is a good plan for users who want to combine Malwarebytes’s strong antivirus and phishing protection with a reliable VPN. The VPN has a kill switch, supports P2P file sharing, and has split-tunneling, but it doesn’t work with streaming sites or in restrictive countries. If you’re looking for a good VPN for streaming and full internet freedom, I recommend ExpressVPN.
At $99.99 / year, Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy VPN isn’t the best bargain out there: it’s more expensive than the top antivirus competitors that come with way more features. For example, Norton 360 Deluxe offers real-time malware protection, web protection, a firewall, a VPN, a password manager, identity theft protection, 50 GB of cloud storage, and more, for just $49.99 / year. At $35.99 / year, Bitdefender Total Security is also more affordable than Malwarebytes, and Bitdefender offers more extra features than most other brands. But if you’re interested in Malwarebytes, you can test the antivirus and VPN with a 60-day money-back guarantee and see whether or not it’s the right choice for you.
Malwarebytes Ease of Use & Setup
Installing, setting up, and using Malwarebytes is very simple — it took me only a couple of minutes to download and set up the software, and I had no problems using all of the provided features.
Malwarebytes doesn’t ask for your personal information to activate the free Premium trial. Most competitors ask for your email address or even credit card number, so I like that Malwarebytes really does offer a zero-commitment free trial.
Malwarebytes’s interface is clean, simple, and easy to navigate. Choosing which scan you want to run, setting up a Custom Scan, and scheduling scans is pretty straightforward. All of the real-time protections are also turned on by default, so most users won’t need to customize anything to be fully protected. There’s a Light and Dark theme, too, and 3 backgrounds you can choose from to customize the interface to your liking.
However, I was disappointed to find that the macOS app lacks crucial real-time protections like ransomware protection and exploit protection, which are both available on its Windows version. The macOS-only feature, App Block, which prevents apps from untrusted developers from running on your device, hardly makes up for the loss.
Malwarebytes didn’t noticeably slow down my computer’s performance. In fact, I barely noticed it was there at all. Some antiviruses can slow down a system’s performance, especially during full system scans, but Malwarebytes ran quietly in the background throughout all of my tests.
When you install it on Windows, Malwarebytes automatically registers in the Security Center, too. This means it takes on the role of the antivirus in charge, while the built-in Windows antivirus gets turned off. If you want to use it alongside another antivirus, you can easily change this in Malwarebytes’s Settings.
I like that Malwarebytes has a simple Play Mode on Windows devices, which hides notifications when certain apps are in full-screen mode — this is great for gaming and streaming. However, I don’t like that users need to add the apps, as competitors like Norton automatically suspend scans and notifications when an app is in full-screen mode (Norton also improves gaming performance with its excellent game booster).
There’s also Trusted Advisor, a helpful and intuitive tool that serves as a quick way to optimize your security. It gives you a security score and tells you what actions you can take to close vulnerabilities. For example, it let me know that I should add Browser Guard.
Overall, Malwarebytes is really intuitive and easy to use, it doesn’t cause system slowdown, and it even has a simple Play Mode for pausing notifications when playing games or watching movies. But its macOS app is severely limited in security features.
Malwarebytes Mobile App
Malwarebytes is available on both iOS and Android — both apps are well-designed and easy to use, but the Android app offers more functionality than the iOS app. During my tests, both worked well. I found it easy to install and use the apps, as well as access and customize all of the available settings.
The Android app has almost all of the same features as the desktop app (malware scanning, web protection, and exploit protection), but it also includes a couple of useful extras, like spyware protection and a privacy audit tool. I like this tool because it allows users to check which apps have what permissions. For example, you can view apps that can read your personal information, track your location, monitor calls, cost you money, and much, much more.
The iOS app doesn’t have as many features as the Android app, but that’s not really Malwarebytes’s fault — Apple doesn’t allow antivirus scanners in the App Store, and it doesn’t even permit apps that scan or block other apps. That said, the iOS app has decent web protection, ad blocking, SMS filtering, and scam call blocking. While this isn’t much, I like how simple it is to use the app.
Malwarebytes also offers its Privacy VPN app for Android and iOS users — but unfortunately, all of my complaints about Privacy VPN’s desktop app hold true with its mobile app. Privacy VPN is slower than competitors, it doesn’t work with streaming sites, and it won’t enable you to browse the internet freely from anywhere. Top standalone VPNs like ExpressVPN provide much better speeds and functionality.
Overall, there are better antivirus apps for both Android and iOS users — Norton is my favorite Android antivirus (includes malware protection, an app advisor, and Wi-Fi protection), and it’s also my top choice for iOS protection (comes with web protection, dark web monitoring, a VPN, and much more). But Malwarebytes’s Android and iOS apps are also good, and I would recommend them for beginner or less tech-savvy users.
Malwarebytes Customer Support
Malwarebytes’s customer support is decent — it has a useful knowledge base, a chatbot, and email support. That said, I’d really like to see it add phone support. Most competitors offer a wider range of options — TotalAV, for example, provides email, phone, and live chat support.
The bot serves as a search tool within Malwarebytes’s knowledge base. Upon posing a question, the bot promptly generates a list of relevant article links to assist you. The knowledge base comprises highly informative articles, offering comprehensive explanations on program usage and its various features.
Bear in mind that a bot may not always accurately interpret your questions. If it encounters difficulty understanding your query, it might offer answers to similar but different questions. This can be somewhat annoying when you’re in need of a speedy resolution.
If the knowledge base articles don’t answer your questions, you can contact email support. I submitted a ticket on the official website, and I got a helpful response in around 24 hours. While this is a decent response time, I’d really like to see Malwarebytes include a live chat option so users can immediately get answers to their questions. Competitors like Norton and McAfee provide 24/7 live chat, so real people are always on hand to help answer your questions.
Overall, Malwarebytes’s extensive knowledge base can answer most questions, but the chat bot is pretty basic and not that helpful if you need immediate assistance with a complex issue. The email support team is also very friendly and knowledgeable, but I really missed having the option to chat with a company rep using a live chat feature.
Is Malwarebytes Premium Worth the Price?
Malwarebytes provides excellent real-time malware protection, good phishing protection, and a decent VPN, all for a good value. However, it lacks a lot of the features that I expect to see in a premium antivirus — it doesn’t have many of the extras that top competitors include even in their basic plans (firewall, system optimization, password manager, etc).
During my tests, Malwarebytes’s antivirus scanner performed well, detecting 95% of my test malware files. While this is a very good result, competitors like Norton and Bitdefender have 100% malware detection rates. Malwarebytes’s real-time protection was better than its malware scanner, though — real-time protection blocked 98% of the malware files I tried launching, which is comparable to the top antiviruses on the market.
Malwarebytes also has a secure VPN and web protection (with a detection rate of 98% against phishing sites). Unfortunately, the VPN is unable to access streaming services like Netflix, and it doesn’t work in countries with internet restrictions.
Malwarebytes is not a full-featured internet security suite. For more than basic protection, I recommend Norton 360 Standard or Bitdefender Total Security (both have better malware protection and come with a wider range of top-notch extras, plus they offer low-cost plans that cover multiple devices across all operating systems). And since Malwarebytes is compatible with other antiviruses, you can always use it alongside a more feature-rich antivirus solution.
Overall, Malwarebytes is an easy-to-use, install-and-forget antivirus scanner, which might be enough for some users. Plus, it offers a 14-day free trial and a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Malwarebytes have a free plan?
Yes, Malwarebytes has a free plan, but it’s very limited. It only has a malware scanner and a browser extension that provides anti-phishing protection and ad blocking (but it’s not very good at blocking ads).
But if you don’t mind paying for premium protection, Malwarebytes Premium is a decent antivirus with a 95% malware detection rate (98% for real-time protection). And you can try out Malwarebytes Premium with a risk-free 14-day free trial (no credit card required), or a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Is Malwarebytes’s free version any good?
Malwarebytes’s free antivirus is pretty limited in features. It has the ability to scan for and remove malware already present on your computer, plus its free browser extension, Browser Guard, can block ads, trackers, and malware. But it lacks real-time protection, which stops malware from infecting your device in the first place, and a host of other security features available on premium antiviruses.
If you’re not dead set on a free solution, I recommend checking out Malwarebytes Premium. It has a 14-day free trial (no credit card required) and a 60-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it out risk free.
Does Malwarebytes offer identity theft monitoring?
No, Malwarebytes doesn’t come with identity theft monitoring — but that will change soon. Having recently purchased Cyrus Security, Malwarebytes plans to integrate that brand’s features into its main service. Cyrus offers online account monitoring, identity theft protection (including insurance), and other services designed to protect your data and personal information.
Though we don’t know when these features will come or exactly how they’ll be implemented, it’s safe to say that Malwarebytes will offer identity theft and dark web monitoring in the near future.
Is Malwarebytes safe?
Yes, Malwarebytes is safe. It has a decent antivirus scanner, multiple layers of real-time protection against malware, system vulnerabilities, and online threats, and a browser extension that blocks phishing and malicious sites.
Malwarebytes isn’t as good at detecting malware as the best antiviruses of 2023, but it’s a good program for beginners, non-tech-savvy users, or users looking for basic antivirus functionality.
The VPN that comes with Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy VPN is also very safe — it uses 256-bit AES encryption, offers the high-security WireGuard protocol, and doesn’t log user data.
Is Malwarebytes compatible with my device?
Malwarebytes is available on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Chromebook devices. All of Malwarebytes’s apps are easy to use, intuitive, and work well — and the Malwarebytes Privacy VPN is available for mobile devices as well as Windows and Mac.
Malwarebytes is a good antivirus for users looking for a minimalistic antivirus that’s very, very easy to navigate. During my tests, I had no problems finding and accessing all of the features, and the antivirus didn’t slow down my system, even during a full disk scan on my Windows PC.
Is Malwarebytes worth buying?
It depends on your needs. If you want a really simple antivirus with only real-time malware protection and web protection, then yes, Malwarebytes Premium is a good enough product.
But there might be better options out there. For example, Norton is easy to use, provides perfect malware detection rates, and comes with a wide variety of additional protections (firewall, system tuneup, password manager, VPN, etc.).
Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy adds a secure and reliable VPN, but the VPN doesn’t work with streaming sites like Netflix or in restrictive countries. If you want a good VPN, I recommend taking a look at standalone VPNs like ExpressVPN.
Does Malwarebytes slow down your computer?
All antiviruses will have some impact on your device’s performance. However, the best antiviruses in 2023 are able to avoid noticeable slowdowns except during the most intensive activities such as when you’re rendering video or playing high-end video games. Malwarebytes, for example, is incredibly lightweight, allowing it to run quietly in the background and to complete scans quickly with little CPU usage.