Windows devices come as standard with the in-built Windows Defender software, which means you must be protected online, right? Besides the horror stories of weak firewalls, messed-up file systems and accidental Admin account blocking, there’s so much more, security-wise, that could go wrong. You know that your device would be better protected, and yet, there’s a lot of antivirus choice out there. And that’s before we even go into the ‘free versus paid’ debate. On top of this, it’s hard to tell which software stands out from the others, as most of them utilize the same features. How can you tell which is right for your Windows device, or is compatible with its software? Which antivirus program will have the security features you need, such as a strong firewall, phishing protection, or ransomware protection (which don’t come as standard)? Of course, there are free antivirus software, but you get what you pay for with those. Free ones are never as reliable, nor do they provide as many features as paid software. Think about it this way: if you cheap out on a pair of shoes, don’t be surprised when they fall apart quickly. However, with so many paid antivirus software out there, how do you know which are worth your money? That’s where we come in. We’ve tested almost 40 antivirus programs, including Bitdefender, Avast and AVG, to find you the best antivirus for Windows.
The Best Antivirus for Windows Features to Look For
Regardless of your antivirus software, you’re going to want something installed to protect your operating system while browsing the web. Even the lowest level of security is better than nothing. However, some offerings provide more than others. The best antivirus for Windows are constantly updated, easily customized, and ready to defend you from the online world. Lesser antivirus fail to do so, are constantly behind, and will surely lead to your device getting infected. If you end up with a weaker antivirus software, you may wake up one day and find your device full of malware and other viruses! These are just a few reasons that you need an antivirus for Windows program you can trust, and luckily, we’ve put together a list of the most trusted antivirus for windows programs! After all, if you don’t have an antivirus program, you’re taking your personal online security into your own hands: you could wake up tomorrow with a locked device, with none of your personal files, memories and important details (social security number, anyone? Bank details?) gone with the wind. When examining the different antivirus out there, we take all of this into account, and more. The most important security features we always examine:
- Immediate virus scans and device cleanup/optimization
- Real-time defense, and firewall
- Detecting suspicious behavior
- Protection from spyware – possibly with a built in VPN
- Defense against phishing and ransomware
- Wi-Fi inspection
- Protection from keyloggers
For instance, some antivirus software protects against ransomware, while others help speed up your machine. Others make sure to secure your most important data from any suspicious activity. We’ve researched over 40 of the antivirus market’s most popular programs, looking specifically for:
- Security features: obviously, you have to be protected online, but how, and how secure will these features keep you? ‘Antivirus’ is actually a catch-all term, and while an antivirus program has to protect your device, the way in which it does this varies according to the type of virus it’s up against. Not all antivirus software will include anti-phishing functions, for example.
- Reliability and accuracy: it’s better for an antivirus program to be over cautious, but otherwise, you want your chosen program to be as accurate and reliable as possible.
1st Place – Comodo – Best For Its Gamer Mode
$4.99 / year
- Gamer mode helps to hide popups while playing
- Free plan has a good amount of features
- Auto Sandbox Technology allows you to test software safely
We don’t like Comodo is another antivirus service that provides a free offering. This unpaid plan has a whitelist, internet security features, an application controller which checks that only uncorrupted apps are installed, and more. However, when it comes to a paid plan, this service offers users a Game Mode, which hides any virus pop-ups while a user is playing a game. Also noteworthy is Comodo’s “Auto Sandbox Technology.” This is a space where the user can launch a new file, which is basically a virtual environment that protects the system from potential harm. If marked as safe, the file can then be launched in the traditional Windows system. The platform also provides a fantastic support system, with most tickets being handled in less than an hour on top of responsive live chats. Then there’s the streamlined user interface that ensures users of all skill ranges can handle the program with no problems. However, Comodo sends out a ton of notifications, which can be annoying. The service also has some false positives, and sometimes the Sandbox launches programs that are perfectly safe. The program is a reliable antivirus protector, but it sometimes its extra features fall a little flat.
- Many false positives can be annoying
- Sandbox isn’t perfect, sometimes tests software that is perfectly safe
2nd Place – McAfee – Best For Its Extensive Malware Library
$34.99 - $44.99 / year
- Has an extensive library of malware to protect against
- Checks for more than just malware
- Provides a social media protection service
We don’t like McAfee is one of the longest standing Windows antivirus software. Because of this, it’s been around for most malware attacks, and has a huge database of stored knowledge to protect you. Its security scan does a little more than competitors, not only checking for malware but also keeping tabs on strange behavior like programs launching themselves or files mysteriously moving. It also has a quality web protection service, which prevents malware from spreading through your browsing. This combines with McAfee’s Home Network Security, which provides Wi-Fi protection, a better firewall, 24/7 support, and a dashboard to help manage it all. Most notable is the software’s Social Media Guard. Here, McAfee keeps an eye on your social media browsing and protects you from spam accounts, messages that include malware links, and more. It’s ideal for kids using the internet, who are much more prone to manipulation. Finally, McAfee does little to affect my computer speed. It’s a well-optimized software that runs in the background without damaging my device performance. That said, some of the pricing plans start a little high, and the cheapest one only protects one Windows device.
- Higher plans are a little expensive
- Not a lot of extra features
- Basic plan only supports one device
3rd Place – BullGuard – Best For Quick Malware Deletion
$23.96 - $29.98 / year
- Easy white/blacklist
- Quality parental controls to keep kids safe
- Age-based security templates for a quick setup
We don’t like BullGuard is an award-winning Windows antivirus that has a ton of extra features when compared to its rivals. To start, its parental controls are out of this world. Not only does it quickly import all of the user accounts on the device, but it even offers security templates based on a user’s age, on top of maximum interest usage periods and whitelists/blacklists. Interestingly, BullGuard’s service automatically points out all potentially hackable chat programs for you to double-check. Of course, these platforms can be easily whitelisted, but the real-time checks are super useful. There’s also a quality home network scanner, which provides pop-ups any time a new device connects. From here, you can customize its name, view IP addresses, and organize Windows machines through categories. The entire software is easy to use, with everything available from one well-designed dashboard. Notifications are kept in a center so they aren’t constantly distracting you, and the BullGuard’s support teams were all fairly responsive in case of an emergency. However, one should note that BullGuard’s ransomware scanner is relatively weak. Sure, it does a great job protecting against malware and unsecured networks, but there isn’t a focused ransomware scanning feature.
- Live chat responses are a little slow
- Ineffective ransomware scanner
- Doesn’t manage passwords
4th Place – Panda – Best For Its Included VPN
$23.49 - $77.49 / year
- Free VPN included with the plan
- Automatic USB scans to keep your device safe from threats
- Customizable firewall for web protection
We don’t like Panda, which often receives some of the highest praise from big antivirus testing labs, includes a free VPN in all of its packages. While it’s limited at 150mb of bandwidth per day, the offering is just one more way to keep yourself secure while connected. The service’s security offerings are of the greatest quality, detecting every single malware attack we threw at it. However, it does sometimes give some false positives, where the software claims an infection, but it ends up being false. That said, it’s better to be more secure than less secure. Panda also automatically scans every single USB device inserted. It doesn’t need your permission to do so, and is constantly keeping an eye on all of your browsing to keep you safe. The software’s firewall is another feature to note. This is completely customizable, and always running in the background. Here you can import or export previous settings from other firewalls, and pick and choose exactly which web services you allow on your Windows device. Also, Panda’s basic plans are a bit barebones. The first tier fails to include any parental controls, with only the top one providing 24/7 technical support. Even the cleanup tool doesn’t come in until the third pricing tier. These more expensive plans do provide quality service, however.
- Too many false positives
- Expensive packages
- Basic plan misses parental controls
5th Place – Norton – Best For Its Longevity
$39.99 - $259.99 / year
- Proactive Exploit Protection
- SONAR scanning service
- Refund policy ensures you can properly test before buying
We don’t like Norton has been around for a similar time as McAfee, meaning it has an in-depth threat database that’s better than most. That and the service has had time to flesh out its support offerings, providing 24/7 live chat and agents who know what they’re talking about. One of Norton’s most useful features is its Proactive Exploit Protection (PEP). Thanks to this, Windows computers are protected from “zero-day” attacks – those that just pop up without any protection against them. Thanks to PEP, this software protects vulnerable software right away instead of waiting for the threat to be noted by the community. SONAR, Norton’s scanning service, is also of note. This feature constantly manages your running programs and seeks out hints of malware. SONAR also pings you if you’ve turned this service off for a long amount of time, ensuring your safety is its prime concern! A nice surprise is Norton’s Virus Removal Assurance. Essentially, this means that if your Windows device becomes infected while running Norton, the company will provide you with a full refund, assuming you’ve purchased it first-party. That’s a confident approach that users can feel safe with.
- Basic plan is lacking features
- Constant reminders to set up new features
- Multi-device support is expensive
6th Place – NANO – Best For Its Customization
$8.99 - $39.99 / year
- Fully featured free plan
- Web/File Guard
- Event log helps you keep an eye at what’s been going on
We don’t like NANO provides a ton of customization options such as scheduled scanning, a task manager, and a very useful File Guard. This latter option ensures your Windows device is protected from any software threats upon opening a program. There’s also NANO’s Web Guard, which manages email, internet, and FTP traffic as well. Users can customize this to automatically stop any dangerous network connections. Also interesting is the service’s Event Log. Here, users can go through and look at anything the software has done, with a detailed report attached to each action. Also nice is the “false positive” section, which houses software that was wrongly marked for users to go back and view. This isn’t an incredibly common situation within NANO, but having a system to catch such cases is really useful. Fortunately, a ton of these features are offered for free as well, something you don’t see a lot in the world of antivirus. That said, NANO isn’t perfect. There’s no built-in firewall, for example. Users will have to install their own to complement NANO’s security features. That and the software isn’t always friendly to the Windows operating system. For example, sometimes the internet will cut out when running a ton of different scans. The software may also miss some scans if you don’t run it as an administrator.
- No built-in firewall
- Occasional compatibility issues will slow down your system
- Doesn’t always run all of its scans for whatever reason
7th Place – Webroot – Best For Its Light Background Usage
$29.99 - $59.99 / year
- Doesn’t take up much processing power
- Potentially unwanted applications section
- A simple app – easy for beginners
We don’t like Webroot is notable due to its simplicity. While it’s a solid malware protection service, it doesn’t pack in a ton of features when compared to its rivals. That said, its lack of features means the software hardly affects Windows device performance due to it being so light. The antivirus offers full system scans, quick scans, deep scans, and customizable scans to boot. On top of this is something the program calls “Potentially unwanted applications” (PUAs), which stores useless software such as extra browser toolbars or adware. There’s also a Web Shield browser extension that works with Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Google Chrome that notes potentially dangerous websites. That said, the service missed a couple of obvious phishing websites in our testing, so you may want to use another web blocker instead. However, the software does provide 25GB of cloud back-up. But, while files are encrypted during the upload, they aren’t as safe within the online service. This is a good service that provides some extra space, but it isn’t ideal for full-system backups.
- Unencrypted cloud storage
- Lack of features
- Weak browser extension
8th Place – Avira – Best For Its Free Offerings
$26.38 - $38.50 / year
- Beginner-friendly with its free plan and toolbar removal feature
- Toolbar protection ensures you’re not getting malware from accidental downloads
- Free offering allows you to test the product
We don’t like Avira is a beginner-friendly Windows antivirus a near perfect rating for malware protection. From the start, this program offers the ideal protection without needing any customization from the user. Unlike most antivirus, Avira provides a free plan that brings with a scanning tool, ransomware protection, private browsing, and a Google Chrome web extension. While the paid plan is worth getting into, this free offering is something to admire. Even when not initiating a manual scan, Avira is constantly checking your device for malware and other attacks. However, it’s a shame that this software doesn’t provide its own firewall. Instead it offers help setting up Windows’ official firewall to prevent attacks. A nice touch is Avira’s toolbar removal system. Less experienced internet users might install a ton of toolbars without realizing it, surely leading to malware and other threats. This service helps protect against them and even removes them without much input from the user. That said, the company’s live chat takes a couple of hours to respond each time. On top of this, their emails took a few days to get back as well. Finally, Avira keeps tabs on your installed software and lets you know when to update them. This ensures your device is constantly protected from threats, and is simply an easy way to manage your programs.
- No firewall – you have to download a separate one
- Slow live chat support takes hours to respond
- Only two pricing plans leaves little wiggle room
9th Place – Heimdal – Best For Its Threat Education
$23.98 - $29.99 / year
- Always-on traffic scanner
- Education Center is great for newbies
- X-Ploit Resilience feature
We don’t like Heimdal goes above and beyond other Windows antivirus in one respect – its education center. Here, users can browse different sections like the “Windows 10 Security Guide,” “Cybersecurity for Beginners,” and more to educate themselves on online safety. Тhe service also includes something called the DarkLayer Guard, which is an always-on traffic scanner that takes note of DNS, HTTP, and HTTPS traffic and automatically blocks any malware connections. On top of this is the X-Ploit Resilience feature which allows users to choose which internet-connected applications to constantly monitor, for example a web browser. This tells Heimdal to give these programs scan priority, and users can even turn on auto-update to keep the software as safe as possible. Another feature of note is Heimdal’s virus scanning division tool. With this, the software splits threats into “infected files” and “suspicious files.” It doesn’t do anything with them, instead users must go in and choose what they’d like to do with threats. Surprisingly, however, is the service misses a live chat and telephone support options. Instead, users must receive help through an email ticketing service. Unfortunately, these options aren’t accessible within the application, either. One must head to the Heimdal website to get assistance. Heimdal calls itself the “most advanced security suite” ever. While it’s a solid offering, this is simply untrue and such a bold claim can mislead less educated users.
- Missing live chat and telephone support
- Basic free plan doesn’t offer many features
- The service exaggerates its offerings, it misses too many extra features to be the “most advanced security suite ever”
10th Place – TotalAV – Best for Security on Multiple Devices
$19.95 - $59.95 / year
- TotalAV is highly respected in the antivirus market
- Remote firewall control, allows for remote control of your security
- Quality Disk Cleaner, something that many antivirus software lack. A top-tier disk cleaner will keep your computer running as quickly as possible.
We don’t like Though it may not be as old as many other antivirus, TotalAV provides some of the best value we’ve ever seen in a Windows antivirus. The platform specializes in security over internet protection, meaning it’s better for any on-device threats as well. Even as a newer software, TotalAV’s security features are just as good or better than its competitors. When we tested it, the service found all of infected malware we’ve put in place. There’s also some online protection with Web Shield, with TotalAV stopping most malicious websites. Interestingly, the antivirus software also has a remote controlled firewall service, ensuring you can protect your Windows device even when away from it. On top of all this is TotalAV’s VPN, which isn’t always included in antivirus plans. It provides a safe browser experience on every single one of your devices. Customers have been known to complain about TotalAV’s billing practices, and any sneaky repeat subscriptions, however. And sometimes the customer service isn’t as timely as we’d like it to be – it took an average of a few days for customer service to respond by email. But, the software is so good that you shouldn’t have to rely on it much. Plus, there’s an in-depth knowledge base on the app’s website.
- Customer service isn’t always responsive
- Confusing billing practices, it’s not always clear how to pay for services
- VPN sometimes takes a while to connect
Other Antivirus for Windows Features We Look For
While it would be best if your Windows antivirus software ran perfectly all the time without any issues, that’s not a realistic expectation. Despite having some of the best software out there, some attacks will still break through the protection. Heck, even when the software does catch an attack, how do you prevent it from happening again? Who knows where the malware came from and where else it could have spread? A good antivirus software will have a solid support team on-hand to assist you through these scenarios. Because of this, we search for different levels of support to ensure your experience is a good one. Support features we place emphasis on:
- Phone, email, and live chat support
- Available 24/7
- Online FAQ and knowledge base
The best Windows antivirus software isn’t free, but you shouldn’t get ripped off either. Of course, the amount you pay is dependent on your needs and how many licenses you have to acquire. It’s also important to know what you’re getting for with your dollar, and if other software provides more for free. Plus, some antivirus offers different pricing tiers for you to take advantage of – some worth more than others. What we look for when gauging price:
- Different plans and their prices
- How many licenses come with
- Package value