Short on time? Here’s the best antivirus for Windows 10:
- 🥇 Norton 360: Powerful malware protection against viruses, spyware, ransomware, adware, and more. Comes with a VPN, parental controls, secure storage, and a password manager.
I tested the most popular antiviruses on the market on multiple Windows 10 devices, and I rated them on malware detection, internet security, and overall value. I found ten Windows 10 antiviruses which were the best of the best.
But it wasn’t easy. There’s a lot of really bad software out there. Even some well-known brands didn’t offer the level of protection I expected. Even if they had decent malware detection rates, many of them kept giving me false positive scan results. Others either slowed down my PC, were too buggy, or were extremely overpriced.
But the antiviruses listed here protect all kinds of Windows devices — home PCs, office PCs, gaming PCs, and multimedia PCs — for a reasonable price.
Here are the top Windows 10 antiviruses for 2021:
- 1.🥇 Norton — #1 antivirus and malware protection for all Windows machines.
- 2.🥈 Bitdefender — Advanced cloud-based malware detection and a ton of additional features.
- 3.🥉 TotalAV — Easy-to-use antivirus with optimization tools and a VPN.
- 4. McAfee — Secure antivirus with a PC optimizer and web protection.
- 5. Avira — Lightweight antivirus with great extra features.
🥇1. Norton 360 — Best PC Security Suite in 2021
Norton 360 is the gold-standard of antivirus software. The antivirus engine — powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning — is excellent at protecting against all cybersecurity threats.
I’ve tested many Windows 10 antiviruses for security, and Norton was among the best, scoring a 100% detection rate. Norton’s malware-fighting SONAR system provides guaranteed virus protection against all cyber threats.
Norton’s 360 package includes:
- Antivirus protection. Guarantees 100% protection against the most advanced viruses and malware, including ransomware and spyware.
- Cloud backup. Securely store up to 75 GB of important files to Norton’s dedicated cloud.
- Integrated firewall. Scans at the network level for cybersecurity threats.
- Parental controls. Advanced settings to ensure kids are safe online.
- Secure VPN. Fast bandwidth speeds with unlimited data and a wide range of server locations.
Norton also offers a range of browser extensions designed for internet security, all of which performed really well in my tests — blocking all phishing links and malicious sites that I tried to access.
Norton is pretty easy to use for first time users, and it didn’t slow down my PC, unlike many other antiviruses I tested. The scanning engine is pretty lightweight — I was able to watch movies and edit videos while the antivirus scanner was running without any drain on my CPU.
All of Norton’s 360 packages are an incredible value for the money. My girlfriend and I first tested Norton’s 360 Deluxe package thinking we could just get a refund within the 60-day money-back guarantee period if we didn’t like it. But after trying almost all other antivirus software, this was the one we decided to keep.
Norton’s range of cybersecurity features performs far better than most other antiviruses. The software is fast and easy to use, and Norton guarantees that all PCs will remain completely protected against cybersecurity threats. If you need a high-powered Windows antivirus, Norton is the best there is. There’s a 60-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it out and see if you like it.
🥈2. Bitdefender Total Security — Best for Advanced Malware Protection
Bitdefender Total Security uses a powerful cloud-based anti-malware engine that doesn’t slow down Windows computers — I was extremely impressed with how smoothly Bitdefender ran on my PC, not affecting my CPU or RAM (even during full scans).
Bitdefender offers 3 layers of malware protection to keep Windows computers safe:
- Advanced threat defense. Uses machine learning to recognize malware (including ransomware) by continuously analyzing a PC for suspicious behavior, blocking threats immediately.
- Ransomware remediation. Backs up important data if any suspicious activity is detected and restores the data after the threat is removed.
- Safe files. Blocks unauthorized programs from accessing files or folders, similar to iOS’s secure sandboxing protection.
Bitdefender offers some excellent additional features as well, including comprehensive anti-phishing protections, a lightning-fast VPN (limited to 200 MB per day), and some of the best parental controls on the market.
Bitdefender caught more phishing sites in my testing than most competitors, the VPN removed geo-strictictions without a significant speed drop, and the parental controls made it easy for me to filter unsafe content and receive alerts when my children left a predefined safe location.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus includes features like real-time antivirus scanning, anti-phishing protection, and Wi-Fi network scanning, while the Internet Security plan offers a secure firewall and Bitdefender’s parental controls. Both of these plans cover up to 3 Windows devices, but if you’re looking for coverage on up to 5 devices, including Macs, Androids, iPhones, or iPads, then Bitdefender Total Security is the best choice.
Bitdefender Total Security delivers complete malware protection with a cloud-based antivirus backed by machine learning. Bitdefender offers smart multi-layered protection and it’s packed with cutting-edge privacy and security features, including secure sandboxing, anti-phishing protections, a fast VPN, and good parental controls. You can try out Bitdefender risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
🥉3. TotalAV — Best for Windows Performance Optimization Tools
TotalAV has a really strong anti-malware engine — with good antivirus scanning, real-time protection, identity protection tools, and some of the best PC performance optimization tools I’ve tested.
The performance optimization tools include:
- Junk and duplicate file cleaner.
- Easy-to-use application uninstaller.
- Startup program manager.
- Web browser junk file cleaner.
My girlfriend and I both tested these features on our Windows 10 devices. My girlfriend found over 18 startup programs which were seriously slowing down her laptop’s startup times. The Startup Manager feature made it really easy to remove all of these unnecessary startup programs — which sped up the startup time by around 4 minutes.
The junk cleaner found over 8 GB of useless files that were clogging up my hard drive, so I could actually make room for my video software.
TotalAV has 3 plans — Antivirus Pro comes with the anti-malware engine and the optimization tools, and it covers 3 devices. Internet Security adds on a VPN, and it covers 5 devices. Total Security adds on an ad blocker and a password manager, and it covers 6 devices. And all TotalAV purchases come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
TotalAV is my favorite antivirus for device cleaning and optimization tools. The antivirus protection is really good, and it makes cleaning and speeding up PCs really simple — even my non-tech girlfriend found it easy to use. And both the antivirus engine and the PC optimizer come with TotalAV’s cheapest plan. You can test it out using the 30-day money-back guarantee.
4. McAfee Total Protection — Best for Additional Security Features
McAfee Total Protection has an excellent malware scanner — detecting over 99.7% of the malware in my testing. It’s also got some of the best features of any internet security suite, including:
- Web protection tools. Comes with Wi-Fi scanning, smart firewall, and anti-phishing protection.
- Battery optimization. Offers an option to reduce battery drain on laptops.
- System tune-up. Improves a computer’s performance by erasing unnecessary files that may slow down PC operations.
- File shredder and file encryption. Securely deletes files or renders them unreadable in case of theft.
- Vulnerability scanner. Scans and installs important Windows and application updates.
- Secure VPN. Encrypts internet traffic with decent bandwidth speeds and unlimited browsing data.
- Identity theft protection (US only). Monitors credit reports for unusual activity and includes a sizable insurance payout.
I really like McAfee’s web protections — McAfee detected phishing sites that Chrome and Edge missed, and the Wi-Fi network scanner gave me notifications whenever any changes occured on my network. Plus, the firewall provides active protection against network-based hacking threats.
McAfee Total Protection is a great value, offering tons of excellent features for up to 10 devices (including Androids, Macs, and iOS devices), as well as an excellent discount for 2-year subscriptions.
McAfee offers excellent malware protection along with a huge variety of additional security features. I was really impressed with McAfee’s web protections like anti-phishing, Wi-Fi scanning, and the secure VPN. McAfee also comes with useful extras like system tune-up tools, a file shredder, and identity theft protection (US users only), has one of the most affordable 2-year plans of any antivirus on my list, and provides a no-risk 30-day money-back guarantee.
5. Avira Prime — Best for Fast Scans & Automated Software Updates
Avira’s Prime package really impressed me with it’s antivirus engine — it got exceptionally high detection rates and low false positives during my testing. Utilizing cloud-based technology to make scan speeds super quick and accurate, it scored a 100% detection rate against both old and new malware samples.
In addition to the state-of-the-art virus scanner, Avira offers:
- PUA shield. Protects against potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) that can be hidden within legitimate software.
- Firewall manager. Optimizes firewall settings based on desired levels of security.
- Web protection. Protects against all kinds of malicious web content and phishing sites.
- Email protection. Scans email attachments to check for malware and harmful links.
- Software updater. Automatically updates many popular programs.
Outdated programs can expose systems to threats, so I was happy to discover that Software Updater identifies outdated programs and automatically updates them. It found 17 programs on my PC that desperately needed updating — some of which hadn’t been updated for 5 years — and it downloaded and installed all updates automatically.
I tested the Avira Prime package which includes Avira’s Phantom VPN (with unlimited browsing data) and protects up to 5 devices, including Macs, Androids, and iPhones. While it’s not as cheap as Norton’s 360 Deluxe package, all of the additional features this package offers still makes Avira Prime a great value for the money.
Avira is definitely one of the most reliable antivirus programs around — its perfect detection rates are hard to beat. It is powerful, yet extremely lightweight at the same time. My favorite extra feature is the Software Updater, as it makes life so much easier by automating the boring yet important task of keeping software up-to-date!
6. BullGuard — Best for PC Gamers
BullGuard offers a really good anti-malware engine with some decent extras and a unique game booster which optimizes PC performance during gaming.
I tried BullGuard on my gaming PC with a few different games, including Half-Life: Alyx, Destiny 2: Beyond Light, and Fortnite. I tested my CPU performance, RAM usage, frame rate, and load times — and I was surprised to find that BullGuard significantly improved my computer’s performance in each of these categories!
Performance boosting aside, BullGuard also offers some other internet security protections, such as:
- Parental controls.
- Cloud backup manager.
- VPN (separate purchase only).
- Identity theft protection (US, Canada, and EU only).
I found BullGuard’s extra features to be hit or miss. The firewall is really good, but the parental controls failed to block most of the inappropriate content in my testing. However, BullGuard’s identity theft protections are excellent, providing real-time credit monitoring through Experian’s international network. BullGuard’s VPN is decent, but I wish it was bundled with BullGuard’s premium plans instead of asking users to pay extra.
The most basic package — BullGuard Antivirus — is just the antivirus and the game booster, and it only covers 1 device. If you want all of the other features, you’ll need to get BullGuard Internet Security (most of the features listed above) or BullGuard Premium Protection (adds the ID protection and a network scanner).
BullGuard has a good malware scanner, a decent range of extras, and an advanced game booster that increases frame rate and decreases load times during gameplay. I’m not a fan of BullGuard’s user interface, and the parental controls could be much better. However, all of the other features are good — if you’re looking for an affordable and secure antivirus for your gaming PC, then BullGuard is a good option.
7. Panda Dome — Best for File Encryption & Rescuing Infected PCs
Panda Dome has a good antivirus scanner and a few unique security features that are really useful.
These were the protections that made Panda stand out in my testing:
- File encryption.
- File shredder.
- PC Rescue Kit.
Panda Dome made it super easy for me to encrypt really important work documents behind a secure password to safeguard them from malware and ransomware.
The Rescue Kit disinfects PCs that are already blocked by malware — this is useful for those emergency situations where a device is completely inaccessible. Simply load the Rescue Kit onto a USB drive, plug in the USB drive into the infected device, boot it, and Panda will automatically erase malware and make the device usable again.
Panda’s most advanced packages are quite expensive compared to other brands that offer a similar range of features (and cover more devices) for less money. But I downloaded the reasonably priced Panda Dome Essential package — which includes real-time malware scanning, a Wi-Fi scanner, and even a VPN (with 150 MB per day).
Panda’s antivirus scanner performed perfectly in my tests, and I really liked some of the additional features — especially the Rescue Kit. I wasn’t impressed with some of the other features, though, and I also think that Panda’s packages are a little overpriced. That said, they do offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so it’s 100% worth trying Panda to see if it’s the best antivirus for your PC.
8. Kaspersky Total Security — Best for Ease of Use
Kaspersky provides a secure malware scanner for Windows along with some excellent additional features and a very intuitive dashboard.
Kaspersky’s real-time malware scanning engine detected an impressive amount of viruses, spyware, and ransomware in my testing.
Kaspersky also has:
- Anti-phishing. Blocks deceptive websites from stealing your data.
- Safe money. Secures shopping and banking in a special secure browser.
- Privacy protection. Ensures outside programs aren’t accessing webcams or microphones without permission.
- Parental controls. Blocks unsafe content and track device location.
Kaspersky’s Antivirus plan is fine if you’re looking for essential protection for Windows. But the multi-device plans for up to 10 devices (including Mac, Android, and iOS) are a much better value. Kaspersky’s Total Security plan is a similar price to Norton’s 360 Deluxe package — but Kaspersky could be a good option for users who need a more basic interface.
Kaspersky Total Security is a top-level security program that is super easy to use and navigate. If you’re looking for an easy, set-and-forget antivirus for your Windows PC, Kaspersky is a decent option — and it comes with a commitment-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
9. ESET Smart Security Premium — Good Malware Scanning & Advanced Diagnostics
ESET provides an advanced anti-malware engine and diagnostic tools for security experts — while ESET is a good choice for highly tech-minded users, most users should look elsewhere.
That said, ESET’s malware scanner uses advanced heuristics to catch zero-day malware threats — scoring near-perfect detection rates on all of my tests.
ESET also has:
- Advanced diagnostics.
- Data and device encryption.
ESET’s advanced diagnostic tools are some of the best on my list — they provided a comprehensive list of all of my device’s files, drivers, and registry entries so any expert could easily analyze any changes to my system in an emergency.
ESET is a good anti-malware tool with some unique security features — the best value plan is ESET Internet Security which also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
ESET provides secure antivirus protection along with some unique features for advanced users. If comprehensive system usage reports and device encryption tools sound like an appealing extra, then ESET is a great choice. If you have no idea what those features are, then check out one of the other programs on my list.
10. Trend Micro — Best for Safe Browsing & Online Banking
Trend Micro has a good malware scanner and decent internet security tools for Windows users.
I think it’s really cool how Trend Micro shows users which sites are safe — it offers a simple color coding system to rank Google search results from green (safe) to yellow (unsafe) to red (dangerous).
Trend Micro also includes:
- Data breach monitoring.
- Password manager.
- Secure browser.
I really like Trend Micro’s data breach monitoring, which uses encryption to search online databases for passwords, logins, and even credit card information that could be susceptible to hackers.
Trend Micro’s VPN doesn’t provide a very fast connection, especially to international servers, but it’s an effective way to keep your online activity private.
If you’re looking for intuitive web protections and a good malware scanner, then Trend Micro is a decent choice — but I think it needs to provide a few more premium features to compare with similarly priced competitors like Norton and Bitdefender.
Trend Micro has a good cloud-based malware scanner as well as decent extras like data breach monitor and email phishing protection. I think it’s a little bit overpriced, but it’s a lightweight program that has some good internet security protections.
Bonus: Cylance — Malware Scanning with Zero Interruptions
Cylance has a minimalistic anti-malware scanner that uses artificial intelligence to run smoothly in the background — it’s honestly pretty good, catching the vast majority of malware in my testing.
However, Cylance’s machine learning technology still isn’t as advanced as other antiviruses on this list, and the program lacks most of the features I expect to see in a premium Windows antivirus, which is why it’s not higher on this list.
Cylance is an ok choice for users without any previous experience using an antivirus, but there are much better choices, even for non-technical users. That said, my parents really like Cylance — I use the program’s remote access feature to check on their device security and they don’t have to do anything!
Cylance provides a good AI-based malware scanner and not much else. It’s a decent option for beginner users, but I don’t think that Cylance’s machine learning technology is sophisticated enough to compete with big names like Norton and Bitdefender. Cylance is available for up to 10 users, and it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
How I Rated the Best Antiviruses for Windows 10
I wanted to make sure that I could find programs that offer significant improvement over the built-in security protections offered by Windows — here’s what I looked for in my testing:
- Malware detection rate. All of the antiviruses on this list have either perfect or well above average malware detection rates.
- Web protection. I tested features like anti-phishing protection, VPNs, secure browsers, and anti-tracker tools to make sure that these antiviruses could keep users safe online.
- Performance. I need my antivirus software to operate seamlessly in the background without slowing down my computer. All of the software on this list performs well without draining my PC’s resources.
- Innovative features. I always add extra points for any exciting and genuinely useful — not gimmicky! — features. I tested each antivirus to see if their additional features were actually worth it.
- Value. All of the antiviruses on this list provide advanced cybersecurity protection at a decent price.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut
Some top Windows antivirus brands didn’t make it to my top 10 list despite being recommended by many other review sites:
- Heimdal. Offers advanced protection at the network layers — blocking malware before it can be delivered to your device. But this software is far too complex for most home users, and it lacks many additional features that other antiviruses provide for the same price.
- Webroot. Light, fast, and easy-to-use antivirus that has a decent range of features, but its detection rates just weren’t good enough when I was testing it, so I can’t put it with the others on this list.
- AVG/Avast. Avast and AVG, which are owned by the same company, were alleged to be selling user data to third-parties. They’ve broken my trust and don’t deserve to be on this list. You can read more about the allegations here.
Antiviruses for Windows – Frequently Asked Questions
Doesn’t Windows 10 already have an antivirus installed?
Yes, most Windows 10 computers come pre-installed with Windows Defender, which is much more useful now than it was a few years ago. However, it does not provide the same malware protection that the other antiviruses on this list do.
For protection against ransomware, spyware, adware, and other dangers like phishing and identity theft, Windows Defender won’t help. While Windows Defender is OK for basic protection, it doesn’t protect against any kind of advanced malware.
If you’re extremely careful and don’t have anything important to protect on your PC, Windows Defender is fine. But if you keep any kind of sensitive info on your computer — logins, passwords, banking info, photos, etc. — you should get something guaranteed secure like Norton 360.
Are free antiviruses good enough?
While there are a few free Windows antiviruses that do a decent job of protecting your PC, none of them will fully protect all of your data. They always lack necessary functions that are needed for 100% cybersecurity protection, like:
- Web protection.
- Ransomware protection.
- Phishing protection.
- Theft protection.
- A VPN.
- Encrypted file storage.
- Automatic backups.
- And a lot more…
Will an antivirus slow down my computer?
It depends on how you use your computer.
The wrong antivirus will become a problem if:
- you’re a gamer.
- you need to use CPU-intensive apps.
- you own an older computer.
- you do a lot of online streaming.
All of the antiviruses on this list will run smoothly, quickly, and without performance issues.
The top Windows 10 antivirus of 2021 — Norton 360 — will not slow down your PC system at all, regardless of how you use it.
Which antivirus is best for both Windows and Android/iOS/Mac?
Many antiviruses cover multiple operating systems across Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac devices, including most on this list.
All of these antiviruses have been ranked and rated for Windows, but they all have other OS support which is equally as impressive. For instance, my favorite Windows antivirus — Norton 360 Deluxe — includes 5 licenses across all Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac devices.