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Malwarebytes Review (2021) — Is It Good Enough?

Rachel Ho
Rachel Ho
Published on: June 22, 2021

Malwarebytes Review: Quick Expert Summary

Malwarebytes is a minimalistic, easy-to-use antivirus program that provides decent protection against malware. During my testing, Malwarebytes detected 88% of the malware files I had previously downloaded to my device — this result isn’t great, but it’s not terrible either. In terms of real-time protection, Malwarebytes successfully blocked 98% of the malware files, which is excellent. However, Malwarebytes’s real-time protection was unable to block most of my ransomware simulations.

Other than the malware scanner, Malwarebytes has a web protection feature that is pretty good (it had near-perfect detection rates during my phishing tests). Users can also upgrade to the Premium + Privacy plan to get a VPN, which is ok for general web browsing (although slower than many VPN competitors).

While Malwarebytes is lacking many of the protections I’m used to seeing in top antivirus software (like device optimization tools, parental controls, and a password manager), I think Malwarebytes is an ok choice for users who want a simple, install-and-forget antivirus that’s able to detect and block the majority of malware.

Malwarebytes is pretty expensive for what it offers — competitors like Norton and Bitdefender offer way more features at a similar price. However, Malwarebytes does offer a 14-day free trial as well as a 60-day money-back guarantee on all premium plans, so there’s no risk in trying it out.

Overall Rank #11 out of 62 antiviruses
Firewall No
VPN Yes (with unlimited data)
Free Plan Yes
Pricing
Money-Back Guarantee 60 days
Operating Systems Windows, Android, Mac, iOS

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Malwarebytes Full Review

Malwarebytes Full Review

Malwarebytes has all of the core security features that I expect from an antivirus program, including real-time malware protection, ransomware protection, and web protection.

But unlike so many of its competitors, Malwarebytes hardly offers any additional features, like a firewall, system tuneup tools, a password manager, or parental controls. 

Malwarebytes’s top  plan does include a VPN, but competing brands like McAfee, Bitdefender, Avira, or Kaspersky all have better VPNs, along with a wider range of extra features.

That said, if you’re looking for a basic, no-frills antivirus that offers good malware protection, Malwarebytes may be a suitable choice for you.

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Malwarebytes Security Features

Virus Scanner

Malwarebytes uses a signature-based approach as well as heuristics to detect malware. This means that Malwarebytes has a malware database that it uses to detect malware on your system, and it also examines files for suspicious behavior in order to identify new malware that hasn’t yet been added to its database.

Malwarebytes has four different virus scans you can choose from:

  • Threat Scan. Scans key areas of your device’s system, memory, and startup programs.
  • Quick Scan. Scans your memory and startup programs for active infections.
  • Custom Scan. Scans any file or folder you want.
  • Single File/Folder Scan. Scans an individual file.

It’s important to 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 option and select all of the options.

My biggest concern is that without a full scan, Malwarebytes may miss malware files hiding in areas of your device that you haven’t told it to scan. Most other antivirus brands, including Norton, McAfee, Bitdefender, Avira, BullGuard, TotalAV, and Kaspersky, offer full system scans, so a full scan is definitely something Malwarebytes should add to its antivirus.

Malwarebytes Security Features

During my tests the Threat Scan only took 1 minute and 26 seconds to scan over 300,000 files on my device. This is comparable to competitors’ quick scan options, which usually take anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes.

Before installing Malwarebytes on my Windows device, I downloaded my standard set of malware samples to my test device, which includes around 1,000 malicious files (viruses, trojans, spyware, etc.). Once Malwarebytes completed the Threat Scan, it found around 76% of the files. But when I performed a Custom Scan that scanned my entire device (and took around 3 hours), Malwarebytes’s detection rate increased to 88%. While this is a good score, the best antivirus programs, like Norton or Bitdefender, have a perfect 100% malware detection rate.

Overall, Malwarebytes has an industry-average detection rate of around 90%, which is ok — but there are better options out there. I’d also like to see Malwarebytes add a full system scan to its scan options instead of forcing users to run Custom Scans to check their whole system. But I like how quick the Threat Scan is, taking around 2 minutes to check system areas where malware is commonly found.

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Real-Time Protection

Malwarebytes Security Features

Malwarebytes’s real-time protection (available only on the paid plans) includes four different layers of protection:

  • Web Protection.
  • Malware and PUP Protection.
  • Ransomware Protection.
  • Exploit Protection. 

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’s web protection was also very successful at blocking phishing websites, identifying around 90% of the known phishing sites I tried visiting.

However, I was really disappointed with Malwarebytes’s ransomware protection. I used a ransomware simulator to see whether or not Malwarebytes could detect and block ransomware, and Malwarebytes allowed most of the ransomware to freely run on my system. When I used the same simulator on Norton, McAfee, and Bitdefender, all ransomware simulations were instantly blocked.

Overall, Malwarebytes’s ransomware protection needs some serious work, but the real-time virus protection and web protections are on par with the best antiviruses on the market.

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Browser Guard

Malwarebytes Security Features

Malwarebytes’s Browser Guard is a free browser extension for Google Chrome, Edge, and Firefox. The extension protects against malware, ads and trackers, scams, and PUPs.

Browser Guard is very easy to use, as all of the protections are turned on by default and there’s nothing else for you to do. 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 preventing you from entering the site — you can easily toggle each protection on or off.

During my testing, I visited 40 known phishing sites and Browser Guard blocked 36 — a success rate of 90%, which is pretty good.

Malwarebytes Security Features

Because Malwarebytes claims that Browser Guard can make your browser run 4 times faster due to blocked ads and other unwanted content, 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.

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VPN (Virtual Private Network)

Malwarebytes Security Features

Malwarebytes’s Premium + Privacy plan comes with a VPN — it has:

  • Over 300 servers across 30 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 as well, whereas VIPRE’s VPN offers over 80.
  • WireGuard protocol — This is one of the fastest and most secure protocols, which many standalone VPNs like ExpressVPN and CyberGhost VPN offer.
  • Strict no-logs policy. Malwarebytes doesn’t log or store user data, including browsing history or connection logs. 

Malwarebytes’s VPN doesn’t include a kill switch. A kill switch shuts off your internet connection in case your VPN connection fails. This is a really important VPN feature, and antivirus competitors like Bitdefender and Kaspersky both offer a kill switch with their VPNs, so this is something I’d really like to see Malwarebytes include in its VPN, too.

Malwarebytes’s VPN also doesn’t have the best 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 nearby US server (I’m in Canada).

Malwarebytes Security Features

As you can see, my download speed and ping speed significantly decreased, which was noticeable as I was browsing the internet. Websites took an extra couple of seconds to load, and I also experienced a little bit of lag when I streamed content.

Using Malwarebytes’s VPN, I also tried accessing geo-blocked streaming services. However, Malwarebytes can’t bypass geo-restrictions on streaming sites, and I was unable to access Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Go, or BBC iPlayer. But it’s worth mentioning that some of my colleagues were able to access BBC iPlayer and HBO Go — they are located in the US, so their location may have played a factor.

Unfortunately, Malwarebytes’s VPN doesn’t allow torrenting copyrighted material. Malwarebytes is based in the US, so the company is subject to The Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Users that download copyrighted torrents are at risk of having their account disabled and/or terminated.

Malwarebytes Security Features

Malwarebytes’s VPN also doesn’t work in restricted countries. I asked my friends in China and the UAE to test Malwarebytes’s VPN and they were unable to connect to unrestricted sites. If you’re looking for a good VPN to bypass government firewalls, 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, Malwarebytes’s VPN is slow, isn’t able to access international streaming services, doesn’t allow torrenting, and is unable to bypass restrictions in high-risk countries like China. But if you’re only interested in hiding your online activity from your ISP and staying anonymous online, Malwarebytes’s VPN may be ok for you.

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Malwarebytes Plans & Pricing

Malwarebytes offers 3 plans:

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.

Malwarebytes also offers a lock-in rate — if you decide to auto-renew your subscription, the price of your next renewal will be the same as the initial price you paid (even if the prices have increased). This is something that not many other antivirus brands do, so it’s a really nice offering from Malwarebytes.

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Malwarebytes Free — Not Good for Most Users

Malwarebytes Plans & Pricing

Malwarebytes Free only includes the malware scanner and Browser Guard extension. I only recommend this plan to users that are looking to complement their existing antivirus software with another high-powered scanner.

However, if you want standalone 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.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to spend some money on an antivirus suite, Malwarebytes Premium may not be a bad choice for users looking for basic antivirus functionality. Plus, Malwarebytes Free comes with a 14-day free trial of Malwarebytes Premium, so you can test all of the premium features risk-free.

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Malwarebytes Premium — Decent Antivirus Protection

Malwarebytes Plans & Pricing

Malwarebytes Premium offers malware scanning, real-time protection, and the Browser Guard extension. With this plan, you can cover up to 5 devices, including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.

The real-time protection alone is worth the upgrade to premium from the free plan. With the real-time protection, you get layers of added protection against online scams, phishing, ransomware, PUPs, and attacks taking advantage of bugs and vulnerabilities in your device’s security.

However, Malwarebytes Premium is similarly priced as top competitors like Norton or Bitdefender, both of which have better malware detection rates, better phishing protection, and a ton of additional features.

While Malwarebytes Premium isn’t as good as the best antivirus software in 2021, it may be a decent option for beginner users or users looking for a minimalistic program. Malwarebytes offers a 60-day money-back guarantee.

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Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy — Not Worth the Upgrade

Malwarebytes Plans & Pricing

Malwarebytes’s most expensive plan includes all of the features of its Premium plan plus a VPN. Malwarebytes’s VPN is pretty bad, so I don’t really recommend upgrading to this plan, especially when many top competitors include a VPN with cheaper plans. If you’re looking for a good antivirus with a VPN, take a look at Bitdefender or Avira, and if you want a standalone VPN, my favorite VPNs are ExpressVPN and ProtonVPN.

Overall, Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy is priced similarly to the top competitors without offering nearly the same functionality. For example, Norton 360 Standard is cheaper than Malwarebytes, and Norton offers real-time malware protection, web protection, a firewall, a VPN, a password manager, identity theft protection, 10 GB cloud storage, and more. 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.

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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.

One thing I really appreciate is that Malwarebytes doesn’t ask you to provide any personal information in order to activate the free 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 Ease of Use & Setup

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.

Malwarebytes Ease of Use & Setup

During my testing, 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.

I also like that Malwarebytes has a simple Play Mode, 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 BullGuard automatically turn on a similar mode when an app is in full screen mode (BullGuard also improves gaming performance with its excellent game booster). 

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.

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Malwarebytes Mobile App

Malwarebytes Ease of Use & Setup

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 apps 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 all of the same features as the desktop app (malware scanning, ransomware protection, 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 this is understandable as iOS can’t get viruses (so they don’t need a malware scanner). That said, the iOS app has decent web protection, ad blocking, and scam call blocking. While this isn’t much, I like how simple it is to use the app.

There are better apps for both Android and iOS users — Norton is my favorite Android antivirus (includes malware protection, an app advisor, and Wi-Fi protection), whereas McAfee is my top choice for iOS protection (it comes with a malware scanner, anti-theft, a VPN, and more).

But Malwarebytes’s Android and iOS apps are also good, and I would recommend them for beginner or less tech-savvy users.

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Malwarebytes Customer Support

Malwarebytes offers a good knowledge base, a live chat, and email support. These are ok customer support options, but I’d like to see the company offer phone support as well. Most competitors have multiple options (for example, TotalAV has email, phone, and live chat support).

Malwarebytes Customer Support

In testing Malwarebytes’s customer supportI first accessed the support chat bot. The bot works as a search function for Malwarebytes’s knowledge base — when you ask the bot a question, it will provide you with a list of links to appropriate articles. The articles in the knowledge base are pretty good, with very detailed explanations on how to use the program as well as all of its features.

Malwarebytes Customer Support

If the articles don’t answer your questions, you can get in touch with Malwarebytes’s email support team. 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 could immediately get answers to their questions.

Malwarebytes’s most readily available customer support is pretty basic and not that helpful if you need immediate assistance with a complex issue. But the knowledge base is very thorough and can answer most questions. 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.

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Is Malwarebytes Premium Worth the Price?

Malwarebytes is a basic antivirus program that is easy to install and to use, but 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).

Malwarebytes’s antivirus scanner also isn’t as good as competing brands. During my tests, Malwarebytes detected 88% of my test malware files, whereas competitors like Norton, McAfee, and Bitdefender all have 100% malware detection rates. Malwarebytes’s real-time protection was better than its malware scanner, though — real-time protection blocked 90% of the malware files I tried launching (but this is still worse than most of the top antiviruses on the market). Having said that, Malwarebytes’s real-time protection was really bad at blocking ransomware simulations.

Malwarebytes also has web protection (with a detection rate of 90% against phishing sites), a browser extension that’s good for detecting phishing and malicious site (but not good for blocking ads), and a VPN, which is slow, unable to unblock Netflix and other streaming services, and unable to bypass government restrictions in countries like China. Plus, the VPN is only available with the most expensive plan, which costs more than Norton 360 Standard or Bitdefender Total Security (both have better malware protection and come with a wider range of top-notch extras).

But if you’re looking for a minimalistic antivirus scanner with good web protection, Malwarebytes may be ok for you. Plus, Malwarebytes has a 14-day free trial and a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.

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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).

While all free antiviruses have limited functionality, there are better free antiviruses than Malwarebytes — my favorite is Avira, which comes with an excellent malware scanner, real-time protection, device optimization, and even a VPN.

But if you don’t mind paying for premium protection, Malwarebytes Premium is a decent antivirus with an 88% malware detection rate (90% 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 safe?

Yes, Malwarebytes is safe. It has a decent antivirus scanner, real-time protection that offers multiple layers of protection against malware, system vulnerabilities, and online threats, and a browser extension that provides additional protection against phishing and malicious sites.

While Malwarebytes isn’t as good at detecting malware as the best antiviruses of 2021, it’s a decent program for beginners, non-tech-savvy users, or users looking for basic antivirus functionality.

The VPN that comes in the Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy 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.

While most of its features work across all operating systems, keep in mind that the VPN is only available for Windows and Mac computers. But Malwarebytes says that it’s working on making the VPN available on mobile, too.

All of Malwarebytes’s apps are easy to use, intuitive, and work well. 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, not even during a Custom Scan (which I set up to scan my entire system).

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, Avira, Bitdefender, and TotalAV are all easy to use, provide perfect or near-perfect malware detection rates, and come with a wide variety of additional protections (firewall, system tuneup, password manager, VPN, etc.).

Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy adds a VPN, but I don’t think the VPN is worth the upgrade, as it doesn’t have good speeds and can’t bypass restrictions imposed by streaming services or restrictive countries like China and Iran. If you want a good VPN, I recommend taking a look at standalone VPNs like ExpressVPN, ProtonVPN, or CyberGhost VPN.

Malwarebytes Products & Pricing

Bottom Line

Malwarebytes is a basic antivirus with an intuitive interface, good apps for mobile, and decent protection against malware. During my tests, Malwarebytes caught 88% of my test malware, its real-time protection blocked 90% of my test malware samples, and its web protection identified 90% of the phishing sites I attempted visiting. Malwarebytes’s most expensive plan also has a VPN, but it’s not very good (it’s slow, doesn’t unblock Netflix, doesn’t allow torrenting, and doesn’t work in China). Malwarebytes is similarly priced to competitors that offer better malware protection and have far more features. But it’s very easy to use, has a 14-day-free trial, and offers a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.

About the Author

Rachel Ho
Rachel Ho
Contributor

About the Author

Rachel Ho is a privacy and technology consultant with an interest in data protection and public policy. In her spare time, she can be found watching movies and pretending to be a coffee connoisseur.

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Malwarebytes User Reviews

23 37
Based on 60 review in 12 language 5.2
Language
You can trust the Community! Companies can't ask us to delete or change user reviews.
Gucci G
Gucci G
Germany
10.0
Perfect
Mac User
i had a "yahoo virus", the virus was deleted within a few minutes
United Kingdom
10.0
Good customer service
Android User
I had some difficulty installing Premium, after recommendation from my bank. I just succeeded in getting the basic version, probably because I did not follow precisely the instructions, or they were not clear, who knows now. (I am 68 years old and not too savvy with modern software loading etc). I contacted customer service by email for advice on getting Premium loaded. Not expecting a quick reply I was impressed with speedy reply within a couple of days. The email reply contained simple to follow instructions with pictures, and dialogue was personalised and friendly. Within seconds, following instructions I had Premium version installed.
madda
madda
Germany
10.0
Fast and Efficient!
Mac User
It took me about 2 hours to find this holy software. It was THE ONLY ONE who could find the malwares, incredible! I tried 4 antiviruses before and obviously i ended up in mackeeper...thanks god they tried to scam me quickly, so i could find malwarebytes and be free again.
Sofie
Sofie
Germany
10.0
Best Malware Software ever
Mac User
Cant tell how happy i am. Safari didn't work as i wanted and i was freaking out, because i had no clue for the reason. Malwarebytes was so quick to install and scan that everything is fine again after only 10 min. Thank you so much! Best thing ever!
Mr.Malware,Adware,freeware,and Spyware
Mr.Malware,Adware,freeware,and Spyware
United States
10.0
Malawarebytes Rocks
iOS User
Once I had a virus that could wipe out the BIOS chip But Malwarebytes saved my pc
robert heinemann
robert heinemann
United Kingdom
10.0
top antivirus
Windows User
works wonders. Had installed other antivirus but computer had too many issues especially the browser kept popping fake search engines. malwarebytes has completely restored my computer. only trust it and avast
Malcolm Hayter
Malcolm Hayter
United Kingdom
9.0
Great product
iOS User
Not a single infection of any type in the 5 years I have used Malwarebytes across 8 PCs and laptops.
I have now added Malwarebytes Privacy (VPN) to 5 PCs and laptops.
Alan
Alan
United Kingdom
6.0
Premium for Home no longer available (at least in UK)
Windows User
I see this review was written on 12 Sept 2020. Today (14 Sept) I got a renewal notice for MalwareBytes. I've used it for 6 or so years with no problems and quick support when I needed it (rarely).

Last few years I paid £20 to cover 3 devices. Today following the renewal link I was offered £30 for 1 device, £40 for 2, £50 for 3 and £70 for 5 devices. The public website just offers just £30 for 1 and £70 for 5 devices. It is getting rather expensive and they are offering nothing to loyal customers.

I've been a PC user for 40 years and I've seen many software companies with good products grow to the point they think they can milk their customers, usually accompanied by poor support and bloatware products full of ads.

I do have a separ...Show More
Terry P.
Terry P.
United States
5.0
Popups to sell you other Malwarebytes packages means I won't be renewing
Windows User
You need a popup blocker for Malware Bytes. I bought the PREMIUM product, not using the FREE version. So there is NO REASON I should be subjected to their constant popup abuse. They need to FIRE the whole team who came up with the idea to basically SPAM their own user base. The software itself it so-so. I agree with a lot of the negative comments posted by others and won't rehash them.
Peter
Peter
Canada
5.0
Service
Windows User
Lousy service though it can catch intrusions that BITDEFENDER will ignore. Too expensive !

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