Updated on: August 23, 2023
Short on time? Here are the best antivirus programs and VPNs in 2023:
- 🏅 Best antivirus in 2023: Norton 360. Provides a 100% malware detection rating for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices, as well as excellent anti-phishing protection, comprehensive parental controls, a robust firewall, live identity theft monitoring (for US users only), and backs each annual purchase with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
- 🏅 Best VPN in 2023: ExpressVPN. Has excellent security and privacy features, works with all of the top streaming sites, maintains blazing-fast speeds, has user-friendly apps for all devices, provides great value, and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Antivirus programs and VPNs (virtual private networks) are two essential internet security tools that protect users in different ways, but when you combine them together, they provide maximum security and privacy for your data and your devices.
An antivirus is software that blocks and removes all forms of malware on your device. And the top antiviruses on the market in 2023 also include advanced security features to keep your computer, smartphone, and other devices safe, including:
- Advanced firewall.
- Anti-phishing protection.
- Data breach monitoring.
- System tune-up tools.
- Parental controls.
- And much more…
However, a VPN is completely different from an antivirus — a VPN provides online privacy and protects a user’s online data with encryption. A top-notch VPN allows users to:
- Replace their personal IP address with a new virtual IP address.
- Access geo-restricted content while abroad.
- Use torrenting and other P2P sites anonymously.
- Bypass internet firewalls in restrictive countries.
- Securely access public Wi-Fi networks.
- And much more…
Basically, there is a difference between these two security tools. Antivirus software is designed to provide maximum internet security, while VPNs are designed to provide maximum online privacy — they’re both vital tools that you should have on your devices in 2023 to remain safe from cyber attacks and prying eyes.
Quick summary of the best antiviruses in 2023:
- 🥇 Norton — Best overall antivirus in 2023.
- 🥈 Bitdefender — Excellent virus scanner with lightweight cloud-based technology.
- 🥉 Intego — Best for Macs (with decent Windows software).
Quick summary of the best VPNs in 2023:
How Antivirus Software Protects Your Devices
The top antiviruses detect, block, and remove malware files, and they also provide a suite of other excellent internet security tools to protect your device and data.
The best antivirus programs provide real-time malware detection that scans downloads and running processes to prevent malware from infecting your device in the first place. But if your device is already infected with malware, you can use an antivirus to scan your disk and remove all of the suspicious files from your device.
Also, many antiviruses have web shields, which detect and block phishing sites and exploit attacks. They also come with network protections, which prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, spoofing attacks, and other cyber attacks. Other features include data breach monitoring, parental controls, identity theft protection, and password managers — all of these features help to provide a comprehensive set of protections against the latest cyber threats.
How a VPN Protects Your Data
Like an antivirus, a VPN also protects your data — but in a completely different way. The best VPNs protect your data with 256-bit AES encryption, which makes your online traffic completely unreadable (this is the same encryption used by banks and governments).
When you connect to a VPN server, all of your data is routed through an encrypted server, preventing hackers and your internet service provider (ISP) from spying on your online activities (such as browsing, streaming, torrenting, and gaming). For example, a cybercriminal or your ISP won’t see that you’re accessing facebook.com — instead, the VPN will encrypt your traffic, and a hacker or your ISP will only see random strings of characters like JHFh345=fsjuAGFH254jfuse.
VPNs also protect your online privacy. When you connect to a VPN server, the VPN replaces your IP address with a virtual IP address from the location that you’re connected to — all of the sites you visit will see only the VPN’s IP address and think you’re actually in that location. For example, if you live in the US and connect to a VPN server in the UK, you will get a UK IP address. Any website that you visit will only see your UK IP address and not your real IP address in the US.
Benefits of Using an Antivirus & VPN Together
There are many benefits to using both an antivirus and VPN. An antivirus protects your devices from dangerous malware attacks and other cyber attacks, and a VPN protects your data with high-end encryption and your privacy by assigning you a virtual IP address. But if you only have one of these online security tools, you may leave your device vulnerable to a serious cyber threat.
For example, I strongly recommend that you use a VPN when downloading torrent files. Thanks to a VPN’s encryption, other torrent users and your ISP won’t be able to see the files you download. And since a VPN assigns you a new IP address, no one will have access to your true identity.
But a VPN doesn’t provide the security features that an antivirus program offers, such as real-time protection and a web shield. Real-time protection blocks you from downloading malicious torrenting files, and a web shield blocks you from visiting malicious websites, such as phishing sites, that may distribute malware on your device.
Using an antivirus and VPN together provides the best security for your devices — and this is also why many antivirus companies include a VPN in their premium software plans.
Some Antiviruses Include a VPN
A lot of the top antivirus brands on the market have their own VPN, which is either included in the antivirus package or offered separately at an additional cost. However, most antivirus VPNs are only good for basic online activities like browsing — many of them don’t support streaming or torrenting, aren’t as fast as a standalone VPN, and set a limit on the amount of data you can use each month. But a lot of the VPNs from antivirus companies still provide good value for someone who is looking for a decent and secure VPN that’s packaged with an excellent antivirus.
My favorite antivirus with a VPN is TotalAV — it has unlimited data, maintains fast connection speeds, works with all of the top streaming services like Netflix and Disney+, and doesn’t keep logs of user data (websites that you visit and files you download).
That said, VPNs from antivirus companies are not as good as top standalone VPNs like ExpressVPN or Private Internet Access, which provide better security and privacy features, maintain faster speeds, work with all of the top streaming services, offer better torrenting support, have larger server networks, and also work in countries that restrict access to the internet.
3 Best Antiviruses in 2023:
🥇1. Norton 360 — Best for Comprehensive Internet Security
Norton 360 is the gold standard for antivirus programs in 2023, offering an unparalleled selection of security tools, such as:
- Malware scanner.
- Anti-phishing protection.
- Dark web monitoring.
- Password manager.
- Parental controls.
- Good mobile protection.
- Identity theft protection (US only).
- And much more…
Norton’s antivirus scanner and real-time malware protection are virtually flawless. Both have consistently scored 100% detection ratings in our testing, detecting a wide range of threats including trojans, ransomware, rootkits, and cryptojackers.
Norton’s web shield detects suspicious websites more accurately than Chrome or Firefox, and its dark web monitoring feature can alert you to a data breach before your accounts are compromised.
I also really like Norton’s password manager — it’s very secure and easy to use. And parents will love Norton’s parental controls, which can filter content, track mobile devices, and provide screen time limits. While Norton’s VPN (Norton Secure VPN) is secure, pretty fast, and works with Netflix and Amazon Prime, it only allows torrenting on a few select servers, it doesn’t work with Disney+, and it logs your IP address.
Norton offers a wide range of plans, from 1-device plans to multi-device family plans. Its plans start at $54.99 / year, and there’s a 60-day money-back guarantee on all purchases.
🥈2. Bitdefender — Excellent & Lightweight Antivirus
Bitdefender’s powerful antivirus scanner uses cloud-based technology to ensure that your devices don’t experience any slowdown, even during full disk scans. Bitdefender’s scanner scored a 100% malware detection rating in our 2023 tests, and I was really impressed with its minuscule impact on my CPU.
Bitdefender also has:
- Web protections.
- System optimizer
- Parental controls.
- Password manager.
- Webcam protection.
- And a lot more…
Bitdefender’s VPN is pretty good — it’s secure, fast, and great for users that want to torrent securely, but it wasn’t able to access Netflix in our testing. However, the VPN has a 200 MB daily limit on all plans, except for Premium Protection, which adds unlimited data (but you can also get the VPN as a separate purchase).
Bitdefender also has some of the best parental controls on the market, and its secure browser is a great way to handle finances online as securely as possible. But Bitdefender doesn’t provide dark web monitoring (unlike Norton), and its password manager is missing key features like two-factor authentication and password vault auditing.
Bitdefender offers a handful of affordable plans. It has a decent free (but very minimal) Windows scanner, two paid plans for Windows users, and a comprehensive multi-device plan for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Bitdefender’s plans start at $14.99 / year, and they’re all backed with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
🥉3. Intego — Best Antivirus for Mac Users
Intego provides substantial improvements on all of macOS’s built-in security features. In our testing, Intego caught 100% of Mac-specific malware threats, including spyware files, cryptojackers, and rootkits that macOS’s built-in protections failed to detect.
Intego also offers a robust set of additional features, including:
- System cleanup.
- Parental controls.
- System backup.
Intego’s firewall is easier to use, provides more customization and functionality, and is more reliable than macOS’s built-in firewall. I also really like Intego’s system cleanup tool, which can help you organize and remove files, as well as make it easy to find and remove apps.
Intego’s parental controls are kind of hard to set up, but they provide much more refined content filtering than Apple’s content and privacy restrictions. And while I love Intego’s Mac protection, its PC protections aren’t even close to competing with Norton and Bitdefender’s premium Windows security suites.
Intego’s Premium Bundle X9 plan costs $34.99 / year and provides all of Intego’s protections for a great price, along with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
3 Best VPNs in 2023:
🥇1. ExpressVPN — Best VPN in 2023
ExpressVPN is the best VPN in 2023 — it provides excellent security and privacy features, works with popular streaming sites, has the fastest speeds out there, and comes with great torrenting support.
On top of that, ExpressVPN comes with:
- Industry-standard VPN security features (including an audited no-logs policy).
- Advanced security features like RAM-only servers and perfect forward secrecy.
- Easy-to-use apps for all major platforms.
ExpressVPN consistently works with 100+ streaming apps, including Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and Max. In our speed tests, HD and 4K videos always loaded instantly and didn’t buffer when we skipped through them.
It’s also really good for torrenting because it allows P2P traffic in 90+ countries — it’s very easy to find a nearby server to get the fastest speeds. In our tests, we downloaded 20–30 GB torrents in just 15–20 minutes. Also, ExpressVPN works with popular torrenting apps like qBittorrent, uTorrent, and Vuze.
ExpressVPN’s payment plans start at $6.67 / month, which is a little more expensive than other VPNs, but ExpressVPN provides the best overall value. Plus, all plans are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
🥈2. Private Internet Access — Great VPN for Mobile Users
Private Internet Access (PIA) has excellent iOS and Android apps — they’re easy to install, have 1-click connections, make it simple to manually find and connect to a server, and have brief and helpful explanations for all settings and features.
PIA also has a kill switch on its iOS app (unlike most VPNs), and its Android app is very customizable (you can change the level of encryption, change the color of the app’s background, and more).
While PIA is very fast, ExpressVPN maintains faster speeds. That being said, during my PIA speed tests, websites loaded instantly, HD videos started in 2-3 seconds and a 20 GB file took just 25 minutes to download on distant servers with PIA.
PIA provides great security and privacy, including:
- No-logs policy that has been proven true in court documents.
- All of its apps are open-source.
- RAM-only servers.
PIA is one of the best VPNs for streaming and torrenting. It works with popular streaming sites like Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime and allows torrenting on all servers — and it supports port forwarding, which allows you to connect to more peers to get faster download speeds. Plus, PIA comes with a good ad blocker (PIA MACE), has split-tunneling (allows you to exclude apps and website IP addresses from the VPN tunnel), and even includes a feature that monitors if your email address was involved in a data breach.
Private Internet Access’s plans start at $2.19 / month, and there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee for all purchases.
🥉 3. CyberGhost VPN — Great VPN for New Users + Very Fast
CyberGhost VPN is one of my favorite providers for people who have never used a VPN. It’s so simple to download and install on any device, it has an intuitive interface that’s easy to navigate, it’s a breeze to find and connect to any server, there are explanations for all features and settings, and you have access to an extensive support library.
One of the best features it offers is Smart Rules, which allows you to customize your connection preferences. I love how you can set up the VPN to automatically connect to the fastest server, to a server in a specific country, or to even launch an app as soon as you connect to a server.
Plus, you also get other great perks, such as:
- Dedicated streaming servers that are optimized to work with 50+ streaming apps in 20+ countries.
- Dedicated torrenting and gaming servers that are optimized for speed and security.
- NoSpy servers that are housed inside CyberGhost’s headquarters.
In addition, CyberGhost maintains very fast speeds. While it isn’t as fast as ExpressVPN or Private Internet Access, CyberGhost still provides fast speeds for uninterrupted browsing, streaming, torrenting, and gaming.
With prices starting at just $2.19 / month, CyberGhost is very affordable. It backs all long-term plans with a lengthy 45-day money-back guarantee, while the 1-month plan has a 14-day money back guarantee.
How to Choose the Right Antivirus For You
Malware Protection & Internet Security Features
A good antivirus should include:
- Malware scanner with multiple scan types.
- Real-time malware detection.
- Anti-phishing and unsafe website detection.
- Secure firewall.
A good malware scanner blocks close to 100% of malware files, even during intensive stress-testing. SafetyDetectives uses a proprietary database of nearly 1,000 malware files for our antivirus scan tests, and top brands like Norton and Bitdefender both scored 100% in our testing. An antivirus should also offer a variety of virus scan types like full disk scans, quick scans, and custom scans, which can allow users to easily examine different parts of their systems. Real-time malware protection scans downloads and recently-opened files and runs processes to prevent malware from infecting your device.
Web protections detect and block phishing sites, exploit attacks, and suspicious web pages more accurately than built-in protections from browsers like Chrome and Firefox. And a secure firewall is necessary for detecting malicious network attacks as well as suspicious outgoing activity from compromised devices.
Today’s top-notch antivirus programs come with a ton of additional features, like parental controls, data breach monitoring, identity theft protection, system optimization, game boosters, and password managers. Check out our list of the top 10 antiviruses on the market so you can figure out which antivirus has the tools you need to stay protected.
Speed & Impact on System Performance
Malware scanners are great for removing malware, but they may slow down your computer. This is because a full disk scan compares every single file on your device against a massive database of millions of known malware files — it’s a pretty complicated process that can take up to 4 hours to complete.
Fortunately, there are technologies that help reduce the impact an antivirus has on your devices. Many antivirus programs (like Bitdefender and TotalAV) use cloud-based scanners, which allow servers in the cloud to scan your system instead of forcing your computer to do the heavy lifting. A cloud-based scanner won’t slow down your system at all, even during a full disk scan.
However, even conventional antivirus scanners have options to improve system performance. Most antiviruses include a scan scheduling feature, which allows you to run full disk scans when you’re away from your devices (such as overnight). Also, Norton and Intego use a smart file-caching feature, which skips over files that have already been deemed safe, so every scan after your first one takes less time. Plus, many antiviruses come with a gaming mode, which suspends a scan (and all notifications) when your device is in full screen mode.
Device Compatibility & Ease of Use
Mac and Android-based malware have been increasing in recent years, and iOS users are still susceptible to a variety of cyber attacks.
The best antivirus companies, like Norton, have excellent software for every major platform. But we also have breakdowns on the best antivirus programs for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and even Linux for users looking for device-specific protections.
When it comes to ease of use, you should look for internet security suites that are easy to install, include all of their features in one intuitive interface, and are user-friendly when it comes to customizing and setting up their additional features. I think TotalAV is one of the easiest antivirus programs to use in 2023.
Antivirus programs offer tiered pricing options — ranging from minimal single device plans like Norton AntiVirus Plus, which costs $19.99 / year, all the way up to Norton with LifeLock, which includes identity theft protection for US users and costs $99.99 / year.
Every antivirus in our top 10 list offers either a money-back guarantee or a free trial — most money-back guarantees last for 30 days, while Norton offers 60 days with all of its plans.
Most free antivirus options are frustratingly limited, so we don’t usually recommend them, but Avira Free Internet Security is a decent option if you’re dead-set against paying for antivirus protection. It comes with an antivirus scanner, real-time protection, a firewall, device optimization, and more.
Plans and pricing details on antivirus websites can be pretty confusing, but all of our antivirus reviews include comprehensive pricing breakdowns so you can choose which plan is best for you.
These are the main customer support options offered by antivirus programs:
- FAQs and online knowledge base.
- Phone chat.
- Live web chat.
- Email support.
- Remote access.
A good online knowledge base can be a huge time saver — for example, Bitdefender’s website provides a helpful search function, tons of well-written support articles, and even video tutorials, which should answer most of your questions. But if you’re still having an issue and are looking for personalized assistance, live chat and email are decent options, but phone support is my favorite option — Norton’s 24/7 phone support team is one of the best on the market. Also, Some providers, including Norton, can even remotely access your desktop computer and resolve your issue for you, which is really helpful for less tech-savvy users.
How to Choose the Right VPN For You
A secure VPN needs to have the following industry-standard VPN security features:
- 256-bit AES encryption — The same encryption banks and governments use.
- Kill switch — This feature disables internet access if your VPN connection drops to prevent data leaks.
- Leak protection — Good VPNs provide protection against IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks to keep your data from leaking on the web (ExpressVPN has full leak protection).
Some top brands also include advanced security features:
- RAM-only servers — Data is only saved to the RAM memory instead of the hard drive, and every time the server is rebooted all of the data on it is erased. ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access have RAM-only servers.
- Perfect forward secrecy — This feature changes encryption keys at a set interval or after each session to prevent hackers from compromising past or future keys to spy on your data. Many of the top VPNs have perfect forward secrecy, including ExpressVPN.
A good VPN protects your privacy with a no-logs policy, which prevents the VPN from storing your IP address and online traffic (the sites you visit and the files you download). Some top VPNs (like ExpressVPN) have had their no-logs policies independently audited and verified.
And some top VPNs provide even more privacy by having open-source apps (meaning anyone can inspect the code for cracks in security and privacy). Both Private Internet Access and Proton VPN include open-source apps — but Proton VPN’s apps have also been independently audited, and all “medium” and “minor” security risks that were discovered during the audit were quickly fixed.
Speed & Performance
All VPNs will slow down your speeds due to the encryption process. But the best VPNs are able to maintain fast speeds across all servers.
In my speed tests, top brands like ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access had the fastest speeds out there — they only slowed down my overall speeds by 20% on average. Websites instantly loaded, streaming content started almost right away and didn’t buffer, and I was able to download P2P files at lightning-fast speeds.
Streaming & Torrenting Support
Good VPNs work with all of the top streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+. My favorite VPN for streaming is ExpressVPN, which claims to work with 100+ streaming services.
Also, the best VPNs have excellent torrenting support — they allow P2P traffic on all servers (or a large number of dedicated P2P servers) and work with popular torrenting apps (qBittorrent, Vuze, uTorrent, etc.). Some VPNs also allow port forwarding, which lets you connect to more peers to get faster speeds. Also, other VPNs offer SOCKS5 proxy servers, which may provide faster speeds than regular VPN servers because they don’t use encryption. Private Internet Access is a great torrenting VPN — all of its servers support torrenting, it works with top P2P apps, and it has port forwarding.
The best VPNs provide excellent value by giving you access to additional features, such as:
- Split-tunneling — This feature lets you choose which apps use the VPN and which apps use your local network.
- Ad blockers — Blocks ads, trackers, and malicious sites.
- Double VPN — Routes your traffic through 2 VPN servers instead of 1 VPN server, protecting your data with an extra layer of encryption.
- Obfuscation — This feature prevents anyone from seeing your VPN traffic and helps you use VPNs in restrictive countries.
Device Compatibility & Ease of Use
I only recommend VPNs that have user-friendly apps for all major platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS. The best VPNs come with intuitive interfaces that are easy to navigate, include quick-connect features, and provide brief and easy-to-understand definitions for all settings and features.
Most VPNs offer affordable monthly and yearly plans, accept multiple payment methods, and many have a money-back guarantee.
There are free VPNs out there, but I don’t recommend that you use one. Free VPNs usually lack essential security features, log and sell your traffic, have slow speeds and buggy apps, and don’t work with streaming sites.
That said, if you’re only in the market for a free VPN, check out our top free picks in 2023 here. However, I think it’s best to purchase a low-cost premium VPN. You can check out our top premium picks in 2023 here.
Good VPNs provide the following customer support channels:
- 24/7 live chat.
- Email support.
- Setup tutorials
- Troubleshooting guides.
ExpressVPN offers all of the above options whenever you need assistance, plus helpful video guides. Some top VPNs, like IPVanish, provide phone support as well.
Antivirus vs. VPN Comparison Table
|Detects and removes malware||✅||❌|
|Blocks network-based cyber attacks||✅||❌|
|Provides parental controls||✅||❌|
|Monitors your system in real-time to prevent malware attacks||✅||❌|
|Protects your online data with 256-bit AES encryption||❌||✅|
|Replaces your IP address with an IP address from another location||❌||✅|
|Works with geo-restricted sites like streaming apps||❌||✅|
|Prevents you from downloading malicious files||✅||❌|
|Prevents you from visiting suspicious websites||✅||✅|
|Works in restrictive countries||❌||✅|
|Secures P2P traffic||❌||✅|
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between an antivirus and a VPN?
Combining an antivirus and VPN provides optimal security and privacy for your online activities. While an antivirus identifies, blocks, and removes malware and helps protect against other cyberattacks, VPNs use advanced encryption to safeguard your data and provide extra online privacy.
For those in search of a premium antivirus suite, Norton 360 is a top contender. It includes vital features like anti-phishing protection, data breach alerts, a smart firewall, parental controls, and a secure VPN with unlimited data usage.
A VPN replaces your IP address with a virtual IP address from a different location, allowing you to hide your internet traffic (browsing, streaming, torrenting, etc.) from your ISP, data trackers, hackers, and more. The best VPNs, like ExpressVPN, also include industry-standard VPN security features like 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, a strict no-logs policy, and full leak protection. Also, they come with advanced security features such as RAM-only memory and perfect forward secrecy, extra features (split-tunneling and an ad blocker), and work with all of the top streaming services.
Which antivirus has the best VPN?
TotalAV comes with the best VPN — it’s secure, fast, easy to use, works with top streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and allows torrenting on all non-US servers.
That said, TotalAV’s VPN still isn’t as good as the top standalone VPNs on the market. These VPNs provide better torrenting support, larger server networks, access to advanced security features, and faster speeds.
What’s the best free VPN and antivirus?
I typically don’t recommend free VPNs — free VPNs usually are missing basic security features, may log your data, set a limit on how much data you can use each month, and have slow speeds.
But if you’re looking only for a free VPN, check out these top options. Instead, I recommend a premium VPN like ExpressVPN — it has faster speeds, access to servers in 90+ countries, works with all of the popular streaming apps, supports P2P traffic, and allows 5 connections.
When it comes to free antiviruses, I think there are some good options that include features that you need to keep your devices safe.
If you’re looking only for a free antivirus program, Avira Free Internet Security is the best one out there — it provides 100% malware detection, a good web shield, and a decent password manager. But users who upgrade to a paid Avira subscription get a VPN with unlimited data, important password manager protections, and a full suite of system tune-up features.
Do I need an antivirus and a VPN?
Yes, I strongly recommend that you use both security tools together — an antivirus protects your devices from malware infections and other cyber threats, while a VPN encrypts your online traffic and provides extra privacy while you’re online.
There are dozens of good antivirus programs out there in 2023 — I recommend Norton for its unbeatable malware protection, ease of use, and wide variety of security features, including anti-phishing protection and webcam protection.
And out of the top VPN brands on the market, I prefer ExpressVPN because it has high-end security features, maintains blazing-fast speeds, works with all of the top streaming sites, and is very user-friendly