Short on time? Here’s the best Windows antivirus for 2020:
Norton 360: Powerful malware protection against viruses, spyware, ransomware, adware, and more. Comes with a VPN, parental controls, secure storage, and a password manager on its low-cost 360 Deluxe plan.
I kept getting confused as to how to find a good Windows antivirus, since all of them were advertised as “the best”.
After testing 47 antivirus programs for Windows, I was surprised to find that even some well-known brands did not offer the level of protection I expected. Some had decent detection rates, but they kept me giving me false positive scan results. Other programs either slowed down my PC, were too buggy, or were extremely overpriced.
After weeks of testing, I found 10 Windows antiviruses which do a great job of fully protecting all Windows machines for all purposes — home and office PCs, gaming PCs, multimedia PCs, and more.
Here are my top picks for Windows antiviruses in 2020:
- 1. Norton — Best antivirus and malware protection for Windows in 2020.
- 2. McAfee — Secure antivirus with a PC optimizer and web protection.
- 3. TotalAV — Easy to use antivirus with optimization tools and a VPN.
- 4. BullGuard — PC antivirus for gaming or watching movies.
- 5. Avira — Lightweight antivirus with great extra features.
1. Norton 360 — Best PC Security Suite in 2020
Norton 360 is the gold-standard of antivirus software. The antivirus engine — powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning — is excellent in terms of its protection against all cybersecurity threats.
I’ve tested many Windows antiviruses for overall security, but Norton’s range of security features for the price makes it the best value and the most powerful PC antivirus software out there.
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. If you need more info, read more in our full Norton 360 review.
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 no-risk money-back guarantee, so you can try it out and see if you like it.
2. McAfee Total Protection — Best for Identity Theft Protection
McAfee Total Protection offers some of the best features of any antivirus. It’s fast, great at scanning, and comes packed with a lot of different things to help keep PCs safe.
Total Protection’s features include:
- 100% virus protection. Top of the line antivirus and malware scanning engine with a perfect detection rate across all of my tests.
- PC battery optimization. Offers an option to reduce battery drain (great for laptops).
- Quick clean. Improves computer’s performance by erasing unnecessary files that may slow down PC operations.
- File shredder. Disposes sensitive files safely and securely.
- Vulnerability scanner. Scans and installs important Windows and application updates.
- Secure VPN. Encrypts internet traffic with decent bandwidth speeds and unlimited browsing data.
McAfee also includes powerful identity protection tools that use advanced dark web and credit score monitoring to search for signs of ID theft. When my girlfriend had her Galaxy S10 hacked via the public Wi-Fi in a train station, we really didn’t know how much info the hackers had stolen. When testing McAfee’s dark web scanner, I found some of her online account passwords had been leaked on the dark web!
The Total Protection package is really a great value for the money, especially when you spread the cost of protection across multiple devices — it’s a fraction of the cost of most other antivirus packages. McAfee is currently offering an over 40% discount on the first year of Total Protection.
McAfee offers excellent value — especially if you need cross-platform protection for multiple users. This, combined with comprehensive identity protection tools, makes it an excellent antivirus suite (especially since it also covers Android and iOS devices). McAfee’s antivirus scans can sometimes impact device performance, but the wide range of additional features, including the Secure VPN, more than make up for this. For more info on McAfee, you can read our full McAfee review.
3. TotalAV — Best for Windows Performance Optimization Tools
TotalAV has really good antivirus scanning, real-time protection, and identity protection tools, and its PC performance optimization tools are some of the best that 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 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.
I tested TotalAV using the 7-day free trial which comes with the free version of their software. I found that they offer big first-year discounts, but the full price of protection gets a little expensive — especially as you have to pay extra for features like the password manager and the ad blocker.
TotalAV is my favorite antivirus for device cleaning and optimization tools. They make speeding up PCs really simple — even my non-tech girlfriend found it easy to use. The antivirus protection is decent, but the price of protection can get a bit expensive if you don’t take advantage of TotalAV’s 65% off discount.
4. BullGuard — Best for PC Gamers
BullGuard offers a decent range of tools, including identity theft tools, parental controls, and a secure browser. But after reading a lot about BullGuard being the best antivirus for gamers, I wanted to test its Game Booster mode.
I tried it on my little brother’s gaming PC with a few different games, including Fortnite, Team Fortress, and Minecraft. To recreate a CPU-intensive scenario, we kept a few programs running on his PC, including Chrome, Word, and a video editing program. But as soon as we started playing games, Game Booster basically stopped the other programs from using up CPU power and enabled all the games to run 100% smoothly — no lagging frame rates or loading times.
The other features are also impressive, including the antivirus scanner — which had almost perfect detection rates in my test scans. But I’m personally not a huge fan of the user interface, as I think it looks clunky and pixelated.
I tested the BullGuard Premium Protection package which is more expensive than competitors like Norton — who include their VPN in their 360 package for much cheaper. But I believe it’s worth the money if you’re an avid gamer, as you can’t really argue with totally smooth, lag-free gaming. And they offer a 30-day trial of all packages, with no payment info required, so it’s 100% worth trying out.
Game Booster is BullGuard’s unique selling point, and it worked perfectly when I tested it, heightening gameplay and increasing CPU power. All other features worked pretty well, too. I’m personally not a fan of the user interface, as I think it’s a little basic and unimpressive, but that’s just my preference. The Premium Protection plan is a little bit expensive, especially as it doesn’t include BullGuard’s VPN. But it’s 100% worth trying using the 30-day free trial, especially if you’re a PC gamer.
5. Avira Prime — Best for Fast Scans & Automated Software Updates
Avira’s Prime package really impressed me with its 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. Panda Dome — Best for File Encryption & Rescuing Infected PCs
- 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. All I had to do was right-click on the files, select Password Depot > Encrypt, and enter a password.
The Rescue Kit disinfects PCs that are already blocked by malware. Simply use a working PC to load a bootable version of Panda onto a USB drive, plug in the USB drive into the infected device, boot it, and the Rescue Kit will clear all infections. It took around 10 minutes for it to completely fix one of my old and heavily infected home PCs.
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 the best features, like the VPN, password manager, and premium 24/7 customer support. You can read more about Panda in my full review.
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.
7. Bitdefender Premium Security — Best for Advanced Malware Protection
Bitdefender Premium Security really stood out during my testing because of its use of multiple smart tools to detect and block any suspicious behavior. These tools provided layer after layer of protection — and that’s how the Bitdefender’s 100% detection scores were achieved.
One of Bitdefender’s strengths is ransomware protection, offering 3 levels of protection from ransomware:
- Advanced threat defense. Uses machine learning to recognize malware (including ransomware) by continuously analyzing the PC for suspicious behavior, blocking threats immediately.
- Ransomware remediation. Backs up important data if any suspicious activity is detected, and restores it after the threat is removed.
- Safe files. Does not allow any unauthorized programs to access files or folders.
Bitdefender easily detected and blocked the malware I was trying to install. It even blocked TeamViewer — a popular (and legitimate) program that hackers can use to gain control over a person’s PC (if you need to use software like TeamViewer for legitimate purposes, you can add it to the exceptions list).
Other great features of this antivirus include microphone and webcam protection, a dedicated safe online banking browser, social network protection, and easy-to-use parental controls. You can read more about Bitdefender here.
Bitdefender’s Premium Security package is also a really good value for the money. I tested this package using their 30-day free trial, and they also have a 30-day money back policy — meaning you can try it for 60 days completely risk-free.
Bitdefender Premium Security delivers complete protection with a state-of-the-art antivirus, backed by machine learning. This antivirus offers smart multi-layered protection, and it’s packed with cutting-edge privacy and security features, including safe online banking, social network protection, and webcam protection. With the 30-day free trial, and a 30-day money-back guarantee, it’s 100% worth trying to see if it works for you and your PCs.
8. Kaspersky Total Security — Best for Ease of Use
Kaspersky has been one of the heavyweights of the antivirus industry for years. So, I was not surprised to see that Kaspersky Total Security delivered the quality and level of protection from malware, viruses, and cyber threats that I expected.
But it is the extra features and ease of use of this antivirus that made it stand out during my testing.
The features that impressed me the most were:
- Application control. Lets you make sure that only trusted programs are allowed to run on your PC.
- System watcher. Constantly monitors PCs for signs of ransomware attacks.
- Safe money. A secure browser for secure shopping and banking.
- Password manager. Stores passwords in a secure vault (needs to be downloaded separately).
- Privacy protection. Ensure programs aren’t accessing webcams or microphones without permission.
When I’m testing for ease-of-use, I get my girlfriend to try the software because she’s not very techy at all. She loved how intuitive and easy for her to understand it was. We both really liked the dashboard’s layout, which made navigating the software really simple.
Kaspersky’s price is fine if you’re looking to only protect one PC. But the multi-device plans for up to 10 users (also for Mac, Android, and iOS) are much better value for the money. It’s Total Security plan is a similar price to Norton’s 360 Deluxe package — which I prefer overall. But you can do what I did and just take advantage of the 30-day money-back guarantee to see if Kaspersky is the best antivirus for you.
Kaspersky Total Security is a top-level security program that is super easy to use and navigate. While there are many customization options, it’s also an easy, set-and-forget solution. Protection for one device can be a bit pricey, but the multi-device package covering up to 10 users offers the best value. You can read the full Kaspersky review here.
9. ESET Smart Security Premium — Best Lightweight PC Antivirus
ESET Smart Security Premium is a lightweight, yet reliable antivirus that didn’t slow down my PC at all. ESET only took up a fraction of my PC’s CPU and memory when compared with other antiviruses on my list.
ESET’s virus scanner was extremely effective in detecting all sorts of malware. I particularly like the Ransomware Shield, which monitors and evaluates the behavior of all applications, blocking anything that looks like ransomware.
Other impressive features of ESET Smart Security Premium include:
- Password manager. Keeps passwords secure and has form-filling capabilities.
- Secure vault. Encrypts and stores sensitive data, like photos and legal documents.
- Banking & payment protection. Protects banking and credit card details when shopping online.
- Webcam protection. Sends a notification if an app is trying to access the computer’s webcam.
- Anti-theft. Helps locate lost or stolen devices via the ESET Anti-Theft online dashboard.
We tested the anti-theft feature by leaving my girlfriend’s laptop at her friend’s house and marking it as missing on the ESET site. The laptop’s location was accurately shown on the map, and a few pictures of our friend opening the laptop were uploaded to the site — so if my laptop was actually stolen, I’d be able to clearly see the thief and report the images to the authorities.
While ESET isn’t super cheap for one device, its multi-year plans make it more affordable. The most advanced plan offers protection for up to 5 devices, which also helps to spread the cost. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can test out ESET to see how it works for you.
ESET won’t slow down your PC while using innovative technology to protect your computer from viruses, ransomware, and theft. ESET also has good additional features, including a password manager, secure storage, a safe banking browser, and advanced anti-theft tools. It can be quite expensive for just one device, but opting for multi-year and multi-device plans makes ESET a much better value for the money.
10. Trend Micro — Best for Safe Browsing & Online Banking
Trend Micro’s internet security tools are what impressed me the most about the software. It made it really easy for me to spot malicious sites in Google’s results by using a color-coding system — search results that are highlighted red = unsafe sites.
It also includes:
- Scam email detection.
- Browser (“Pay Guard”) to protect me when I’m banking online.
- Password manager that works with the Pay Guard browser for easy online banking logins.
I tested the Pay Guard browser using a few phishing sites that mimic PayPal and popular banking sites, and it blocked all of them straight away. And I loved how the password manager that’s integrated into the Pay Guard browser saved me so much time when logging into my accounts.
The software does include decent antivirus protection, but its scanning engine isn’t as advanced as Norton or McAfee. The pricing is decent, and they do offer a first-year discount, but I don’t think it’s the best value for the money — especially when compared to Norton 360 Deluxe package, which is a cheaper price and offers more features.
Trend Micro makes banking and online browsing safe and easy. Thanks to the password manager integrated into the Pay Guard browser, I saved a lot of time when logging into my online banking portal and PayPal account. Other features like the antivirus scanner and email phishing protection worked well when I tested them. But for the price, I’d much rather use Norton or McAfee.
How I Rated the Best Antiviruses for Windows in 2020
During my testing I was surprised to find that many big-name Windows antivirus brands — that often come highly recommended by other comparison sites — do not provide enough protection for my PC.
To make sure that I picked the brands that offer the most reliable cybersecurity protection, all software was tested for:
- Detection rate. All of the antiviruses on this list have either perfect or well above average detection rates.
- Low false positives. There’s nothing more annoying than being needlessly alarmed by false positives! All of the antiviruses on this list keep those false positives to the absolute minimum.
- 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.
- Value. All of the antiviruses on this list provide advanced cybersecurity protection at a decent price.
- 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.
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 already have an antivirus installed?
Yes, most Windows 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 an okay 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 antivirus of 2020 — 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.