Updated on: March 1, 2023
Short on time? Here’s the best antivirus for laptops:
- 🥇 Norton 360: Excellent real-time malware scanning along with tons of internet security features, including a firewall, web protection, a virtual private network (VPN), a password manager, parental controls, dark web monitoring, cloud backup, and much more.
There are hundreds of antiviruses on the market, and I wanted to find the ones that provide the best protection for laptops in 2023. So I tested a ton of different products on my Windows 11 laptop and my MacBook Air.
I analyzed each antivirus’s security, features, and whether or not they provide a good value. Unfortunately, I discovered that many antiviruses charge a lot of money for very basic or downright inadequate protection.
But I’m pleased to say that I did find a few good laptop antiviruses, with real-time malware protection, advanced scanning engines, firewalls, and anti-phishing protection. These products also offer useful extras like Wi-Fi security, VPNs, and performance optimization tools.
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Quick summary of the best antiviruses for laptops in 2023:
- 1.🥇 Norton 360 — Excellent antivirus with a VPN, cloud backup, dark web monitoring, & more.
- 2.🥈 Bitdefender Total Security — Great malware protection with tons of extras.
- 3.🥉 McAfee Total Protection — High-quality antivirus with excellent web protections.
- 4. TotalAV Internet Security — Advanced malware detection and an excellent VPN.
- 5. Avira Prime — Powerful scanning with an intuitive interface.
- Bonus. Intego Mac Premium Bundle X9 — Mac-specific malware detection and removal.
- Comparison of the Best Antiviruses for Laptops in 2023.
🥇1. Norton 360 — Best Antivirus for Laptops in 2023
Norton 360 is my favorite laptop antivirus in 2023 — it performed exceptionally well in my tests, blocking 100% of the malware samples on both my PC and my MacBook. Norton’s antivirus engine is excellent. It uses advanced heuristics, known malware databases, and machine learning to detect all kinds of new and emerging threats.
Norton’s antivirus scanner runs extremely smoothly. During testing, I could do a lot of CPU-intensive tasks while running the full disk virus scan. This was really great — other antiviruses like McAfee can somewhat slow down your computer while the full scan is running.
Norton 360 also includes:
- Wi-Fi scanner.
- VPN (with unlimited data).
- Parental controls.
- Webcam protection.
- Dark web monitoring.
- Identity theft protection (US only).
- And more…
I really like Norton’s Wi-Fi scanner — it analyzes Wi-Fi networks for security issues, so you can avoid the Wi-Fi networks that hackers are using to steal information. I tested this with several public (unsecured) Wi-Fi hotspots, and Norton instantly flagged all the potentially unsafe ones, asking me if I was sure I wanted to connect to them.
The Smart Firewall did a great job of detecting every network intrusion I threw at it — including ones that the built-in firewalls on my Windows laptop and MacBook failed to block. There are heaps of customization options for advanced users too, but it’s fine to just let the firewall run on its default settings.
Norton’s VPN is also good. It has servers in over 30 countries, a no-logs policy, good speeds, and an easy-to-use interface. During my tests, Norton’s VPN could access content on Netflix and Amazon Prime without major slowdown, but I wasn’t able to access Hulu or Disney+. Overall, Norton’s VPN is a good choice for web browsing, streaming, and gaming, but it doesn’t allow torrenting on all servers. I also really like how the VPN comes with unlimited data on all plans — Avira and Bitdefender both have strict data limits on their lower-tier plans.
I’m a huge fan of Norton’s dark web monitoring — it scans the dark web for all kinds of personal information, including stolen bank details, phone numbers, insurance documentation, gamer tags, home addresses, and more. Once it finds any stolen information linked to you, Norton alerts you and advises you on the next steps. It’s great to know that there are real human agents actively searching for your data on the dark web, rather than simply using the Have I Been Pwned database like many competitors do.
Norton 360 Deluxe ($24.99 / year) is a the best-value plan, with extra features like parental controls, 50 GB of cloud storage, and coverage for 5 devices. Norton Antivirus Plus ($19.99 / year) is a good entry-level plan for single users, and Norton 360 with LifeLock (starts at $69.99 / year) is great for US-based users who want to get identity theft protection (including up to $1 million insurance coverage). All Norton purchases are backed by a risk-free 60-day money-back guarantee.
Norton 360 is an excellent antivirus — it blocked all malware in my tests without slowing down either my Windows or Mac laptops. It also has a ton of internet security features for complete protection, including a Wi-Fi scanner, a VPN, a firewall, webcam protection, dark web monitoring, and a lot more. Norton Antivirus Plus is a good deal, but Norton 360 Deluxe is the best value for most users, adding parental controls and protection for up to 5 devices. You can try out all of Norton’s plans with the company’s 60-day money-back guarantee.
🥈2. Bitdefender — Best for Advanced Malware Protection With a VPN & Anti-Theft Features
Bitdefender Total Security has an advanced anti-malware engine that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify threats. In my tests, it scored a perfect 100% for malware detection, blocking trojans, rootkits, spyware, and more. Because the scanner is cloud-based, it didn’t slow down my system, and I could use my laptops as normal while the full scans were running.
Bitdefender’s extra features are pretty great too. They include:
- Safepay (online transaction protection).
- VPN (200 MB/day limit).
- Anti-theft features (Windows & Android only).
- System tune-up.
- Time Machine backup protection (for Mac users).
- Password manager.
- Parental controls.
- And more…
I really like Safepay, the secure encrypted browser window Bitdefender offers. It provides a secure way to access your finances online, and loads faster than Kaspersky’s Safe Money. Safepay stops hackers from accessing your personal data by blocking screenshots and giving you a virtual keyboard to prevent keylogging. It also automatically turns on Bitdefender’s VPN to further protect your privacy. I do most of my shopping on my laptop, so having Safepay is a great layer of additional protection.
Bitdefender’s VPN is one of the fastest antivirus VPNs I’ve tested. However, I don’t like how it’s limited to only 200 MB per day with most plans — this is barely enough for browsing. That said, you can purchase the premium VPN with unlimited data separately at checkout, and it’s pretty cheap, or you can get it as part of Bitdefender’s excellent Premium Security plan ($59.99 / year) that also includes a full-featured password manager with unlimited password storage and coverage for up to 10 devices.
Bitdefender’s anti-theft feature is also very good. I was impressed with how accurately it managed to pinpoint my Windows HP laptop’s location, and how I could remotely lock and wipe my laptop’s hard drive from Bitdefender’s online dashboard to avoid having my data stolen. It’s a shame that the anti-theft tools only work for Windows and Android, meaning I couldn’t use them on my MacBook. However, Mac’s in-built anti-theft features are fairly good, so that’s not a huge issue.
Bitdefender Internet Security ($32.99 / year) includes most of Bitdefender’s features and covers up to 3 Windows devices, but if you need protection for your Mac laptop, you’ll need to go for the Total Security plan ($35.99 / year), which adds coverage for up to 5 Windows, Android, Mac, or iOS devices. All plans are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Bitdefender offers great protection against malware and ransomware. It has more features than most competitors, including excellent web protection, online transaction protection, anti-theft features, and much more. It’s a shame the VPN is limited to 200 MB per day, but you can purchase the premium VPN separately or as part of Bitdefender Premium Security. All Bitdefender plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full Bitdefender review here >
🥉3. McAfee Total Protection — Best for Web Protection
McAfee Total Protection has one of the fastest and most comprehensive antivirus scanners around — it detected all of my malware samples during a single full system scan. Its real-time anti-malware engine is also very effective, blocking all of the malware files and malicious scripts that I tried to launch — including spyware, ransomware, rootkits, and trojans. However, the scan slowed my system down slightly, but I could still browse the internet and watch videos without any issues.
I think McAfee has the best web protection around. Its anti-phishing protection caught more malicious websites than Chrome and Safari’s built-in phishing protection tools did. I also like the Secure Search feature, which uses color coding to inform you if a URL is safe or dangerous before you click on it (suspicious URLS are marked with a red exclamation mark, and safe URLS are marked with a green tick).
McAfee’s VPN is also surprisingly fast, barely slowing down my internet connection while encrypting my web traffic and hiding my IP address. It’s great that the VPN includes unlimited data with all plans (so long as you enroll in auto-renew), unlike Bitdefender where you have to pay extra for the VPN with no limitations.
McAfee Total Protection offers additional features like:
- Web performance optimization.
- System cleanup tools.
- Wi-Fi network scanner.
- Drive encryption.
The system cleanup tools were also very useful and easy to use. McAfee deleted over 6 GB of junk files left on my hard drive, removing duplicate video files, temporary files, and more. My laptop doesn’t have a lot of storage space, so it was great to reclaim much-needed hard drive space (instead of buying another removable flash drive).
I also like how McAfee includes an optional extension called Web Boost. When I downloaded it to Chrome, it increased my web browser’s speed by stopping videos on the web from auto-playing. Users on a good ISP won’t necessarily need this feature, but it’s great for those with slower internet connections. However, Web Boost is only available for Chrome, and I’d like to see support extended to Firefox and Safari.
McAfee’s Plus plan ($39.99 / year) provides an excellent value, with coverage for up to 5 devices for a low price. And if you need to cover more devices, McAfee Premium (starting at $54.99 / year) adds extras like parental controls (on the family plan) and protection for unlimited devices. McAfee backs all annual plans with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
McAfee is a powerful antivirus for both Windows and Mac laptops — it has a fast and thorough malware scanner that caught all of my test malware files. I especially like its anti-phishing tools, blocking fake websites better than both Chrome and Safari’s native anti-phishing protections. And I’m a fan of McAfee’s VPN, which is fast, secure, and performed extremely well during testing. All of McAfee’s annual packages come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
4. TotalAV Internet Security — Best for Easy-to-Use Device Optimization Tools
TotalAV is really good at virus detection — its scanner operates in the cloud, meaning even its full disk scans take up very little CPU (which makes it a great choice for laptop users). While TotalAV is excellent at virus protection, it’s missing some of the advanced web-based malware technology that McAfee and Norton offer.
I was really impressed with TotalAV’s easy-to-use device optimization tools. I was able to quickly and easily delete over 10 GB of junk and duplicate files, remove useless and unwanted apps, clear browser cookies, and a lot more — significantly improving the overall speed of both my Windows and Mac laptops.
TotalAV also comes with:
- Ad blocker.
- VPN (with unlimited data).
- Password vault.
- Data breach monitoring.
TotalAV’s VPN performed exceptionally well in my tests. It obscured my IP, encrypted my data, and I could easily access all popular streaming services, including Netflix and Hulu. Avira’s VPN, on the other hand, was unable to access Netflix in my tests. TotalAV’s VPN is also very fast, very easy to use, and it allows torrenting — which is why it’s ranked as the best antivirus with a VPN in 2023.
I’m also a fan of TotalAV’s anti-phishing protection (Web Shield). The Web Shield was able to block several malicious sites that Chrome and Firefox failed to alert me to. It’s also available as a free download, which is pretty cool. However, I think Norton’s anti-phishing protection is even better, as it managed to block every single phishing link in my tests.
The data breach monitoring tool is also pretty good. It monitors your email address and alerts you if it’s found in any data breaches. While it’s easy to use, this feature is a bit basic compared to Norton’s dark web monitoring tool, which scans the dark web for stolen credit card info, online banking details, passport details, and more.
On the other hand, I wasn’t impressed with TotalAV’s password vault. It lacks most of the features I want to see in a good password manager, like multi-device syncing, biometric login, password sharing, and two-factor authentication. That said, it can generate and store complex passwords, and its auto-fill is pretty good. It doesn’t work on mobile, but if you just want a basic password manager for your laptop, it’s not a bad choice.
TotalAV Internet Security ($39.00 / year) provides coverage for 5 devices, whereas TotalAV Total Security ($49.00 / year) covers 6 devices and includes the password vault and an ad blocker. All TotalAV‘s annual plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
TotalAV has a really good virus scanner and easy-to-use optimization tools. It caught virtually all of my malware samples during testing, and it cleared out a lot of space from both of my laptops. TotalAV’s higher-tier plans also include a password vault and a VPN. I’d like the password vault to include more features, but the VPN is exceptionally good — secure, fast, easy to use, and capable of accessing popular streaming services. All TotalAV’s annual plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full TotalAV review >
5. Avira Prime — Best for Privacy Optimization
Avira is a beginner-friendly antivirus with an excellent cloud-based malware scanner (the same one that TotalAV uses). During my tests, Avira’s malware engine scored a perfect 100% for detection and removal of all of my test malware.
Avira also has a wide range of privacy optimization tools that stop companies from tracking and harvesting private data. It removes browser cache, browser history, and chat logs, and permanently deletes files — all in just one click!
Avira also comes with:
- VPN (with unlimited data).
- Password manager.
- Web protections.
- System cleanup & speedup tools.
Avira’s VPN offers unlimited simultaneous connections — this is very rare even among standalone VPNs! It’s also one of the fastests antivirus-bundled VPNs I’ve ever tested, it’s very secure, and it allows torrenting, but unlike Norton’s VPN it’s unable to access Netflix.
I also like Avira’s Browser Safety extension — which prevents phishing attacks and blocks tracking links. Avira’s Safe Shopping browser extension even recommends better deals from shopping sites — a huge improvement over most “safe web” plugins that don’t do much to enhance the online shopping experience.
The system cleanup and speedup tools are also very good. I was able to easily remove hundreds of junk files from my system and also significantly improve my laptop’s startup time from around 45 seconds to 25 seconds. I really like how Avira’s startup optimizer showed me which programs were slowing down the boot time on my Windows 11 laptop, giving me the option to stop these programs from booting on startup or remove them completely.
Avira’s password manager is also excellent, with advanced features including password vault auditing, data breach monitoring, and two-factor authentication. I love how easy the password manager is to use too. That said, it is missing a couple of features that the best standalone password managers offer, like password sharing and dark web monitoring. Nonetheless, it’s one of the best antivirus-bundled password managers out there in 2023.
Avira Prime ($59.99 / year) is the best deal, offering all of Avira’s features for up to 5 devices. There’s also Avira’s basic antivirus package — Avira Antivirus Pro ($57.99 / year) — which comes with the malware scanner and web protections, and Avira Internet Security ($45.99 / year), which also includes the password manager. All of Avira’s paid plans are covered by a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.
Avira is a fast, secure, and easy-to-use antivirus with really good privacy protections. Its cloud-based malware scanner performed very well during my tests, and I really liked how quick and easy it was to optimize my laptop’s privacy settings. Avira also has a very user-friendly interface, and it comes with a good range of additional tools, including a decent VPN, helpful anti-phishing tools, an excellent password manager, and a browser extension that helps you find the best online shopping deals. You can try out all of Avira’s premium plans risk-free with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Bonus. Intego Mac Premium Bundle X9 — Best for MacBook Users
Intego is my favorite antivirus for MacBooks in 2023. During my tests, Intego detected and removed all of the malware samples from my device, including Mac-specific spyware and ransomware.
Intego also comes with data backup options that are a lot better than Apple’s built-in backup features. It can sync data backup between multiple devices, back up custom folders, and also make a bootable backup that includes your device’s latest Mac OS X version. This means you can easily reboot your files and operating system onto any Mac device.
Intego also includes:
- Wi-Fi network security.
- System cleanup.
- Parental controls.
Intego’s firewall blocked all network-based attacks in my testing, while also giving me the option to stop third-party apps (including spyware) from potentially sending my sensitive data across the internet. It also analyzed my Wi-Fi network for all possible security issues. I like that I could customize both the firewall’s controls and how they changed automatically depending on my location (home, work office, or public) — something I haven’t seen any other Mac-based antiviruses provide.
I was also very impressed with Intego’s system cleanup and organization tools. I was able to run scans for junk files and duplicate files, and even quickly organize files into smart folders — perfect for me as my MacBook is usually very unorganized with hundreds of screenshot files on my desktop screen. I also really like how Intego gives detailed explanations of its cleanup scan results, so there’s very little chance of you accidentally deleting something you need.
Intego has great parental controls as well, which let users create lists of allowed websites and block access to entire categories, like gambling or adult sites. The parental controls also include chat monitoring, which sends you an alert if your kids engage in risky chats. Some competitors like Avira don’t offer any parental controls at all, so Intego is a better choice for keeping your kids safe online.
Mac Internet Security X9 ($19.99 / year) is Intego’s basic package that comes with the malware scanner and the firewall and covers up to 5 Macs. The Mac Premium Bundle X9 ($34.99 / year) adds on parental controls, backup tools, and advanced Mac optimization features. Both of Intego’s plans include a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
Intego is the best way to improve on a Mac’s built-in security features. Apart from perfect detection against Mac-based malware, Intego’s data backup offers multi-device syncing, its smart firewall has different settings for public and private Wi-Fi networks, and its parental controls are more specific and secure than Apple’s native protections. You can try out Intego on your MacBook risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Comparison of the Best Antiviruses for Laptops in 2023
|Antivirus||Starting Price||Firewall||System Cleanup & Optimization Tools
||VPN||Free Version||Money-Back Guarantee|
|1.🥇 Norton||$54.99 / year||✅||✅||✅||✅||Unlimited data||❌||60 days|
|2.🥈 Bitdefender||$23.99 / year||✅||✅||✅||✅||200 MB/day||✅||30 days|
|3.🥉 McAfee||$39.99 / year||✅||✅||✅||✅||Unlimited data||❌||30 days|
|4. TotalAV||$19.00 / year||✅||✅||✅||❌||Unlimited data||✅||30 days|
|5. Avira||$45.99 / year||❌||✅||✅||❌||Unlimited data||✅||60 days|
|Bonus: Intego||$1.67 / month||✅||✅||❌||✅||No (only available as separate purchase)||❌||30 days|
How to Choose the Best Antivirus for Your Laptop in 2023
- Look for advanced security features. You should look for an antivirus that offers advanced protection against a wide range of malware, including viruses, trojans, spyware, and ransomware. I tested all the antiviruses on this list to ensure they provide an excellent level of security against all kinds of malware.
- Install an antivirus with low impact on system performance. You need an antivirus that runs smoothly and seamlessly on any laptop. All the antiviruses on my list are lightweight and fast — top brands like Norton and Bitdefender didn’t slow down my system at all, and I was able to use my laptops as normal throughout their full malware scans.
- Check for extra features. As well as great anti-malware protections, a good antivirus should offer some extra features to improve your overall cybersecurity. I tested all the products on this list to confirm that the extra features they offer are genuinely useful. For example, Norton offers excellent dark web monitoring, and TotalAV has a really good VPN.
- Pick an antivirus that’s easy to use. An antivirus should be easy to download, install, set up, and use on your laptop. In my tests, I ranked products based on these factors, and on how simple it was to access, understand, and use each feature. I gave extra points for in-app instructions and good customer support services, like a detailed knowledge base, live chat support, and 24/7 availability. All the brands that made it onto my list are easy to use with good support options.
- Choose a plan that offers a good value. The antivirus you choose should offer a good value. I analyzed how many useful features each antivirus provides, how many devices it covers, and whether or not it has a free trial or a money-back guarantee. The brands that made the cut all offer a good range of features and cover multiple devices at a competitive price.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut
- Kaspersky — Kaspersky is a good antivirus with excellent malware detection rates. However, its extra features aren’t quite as impressive as the ones my top brands offer, and its customer service could use some improvement.
- Heimdal — Heimdal has a very good malware scanner, and it comes with some advanced cybersecurity tools, but it’s much more complex to understand than most other antiviruses, so it’s not the best choice for most users.
- Webroot — Webroot’s cloud-based malware scanner is good because it doesn’t take up space or slow down your system. However, Webroot doesn’t have many good internet security features, and it’s too expensive for an antivirus that only provides basic protection.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are my laptop’s built-in protections good enough?
In most cases, no. Both Windows and Mac have some built-in security tools that provide a little protection against certain viruses. But they’re not able to protect your laptop against advanced threats like phishing, adware, spyware, and ransomware.
The best laptop antiviruses have advanced anti-malware engines that can detect even the most sophisticated cybersecurity threats, and they also include tons of extra tools that improve a laptop’s overall security, such as:
- Network firewalls.
- Wi-Fi security scanners.
- Anti-phishing protection.
- VPNs (virtual private networks).
- Webcam protections.
For example, Norton 360 has an advanced antivirus scanner, a VPN, parental controls, anti-phishing, dark web monitoring, and a lot of other internet security protections to ensure laptop users stay fully protected.
Can I use a free antivirus for my laptop?
Free antiviruses are okay for basic protection. If you only use your laptop to watch YouTube videos or check emails, a free antivirus is probably good enough. But if you’re using your laptop for online shopping or banking, or if you’re storing a lot of sensitive or personal files like credit card information, account logins, photos, or Word docs, you really can’t rely on a free antivirus to keep all of that stuff secure.
That said, some free antiviruses like Avira Free Antivirus have a good virus scanner and some privacy optimization tools. However, they’re missing a lot of other cybersecurity features like a firewall, Wi-Fi scanning, dark web monitoring, and advanced malware protection.
Premium antiviruses like Norton 360 and Bitdefender Total Security are way better than any free antivirus, and they provide complete online protection (for a really low price).
Do laptops really need antivirus software?
All laptops need antiviruses, especially ones that run on Windows (although MacBooks need protection, too). Since each operating system only offers basic antivirus protection, most laptops don’t come with:
- Real-time malware protection.
- Advanced malware scanning.
- Anti-phishing protection.
- Ransomware protection.
- Dark web monitoring.
- A VPN (virtual private network).
- A password manager.
- Many other important protections…
On the other hand, a good laptop antivirus will protect your laptop from all types of malware, keeping your identity and data secure while also preventing any damage to your device.
Top-rated antiviruses like Norton, Bitdefender, and Avira all have excellent malware scanners and additional protections such as VPNs, anti-phishing tools, dark web monitoring, and more.
Which antivirus is best for laptops?
My personal favorite is Norton 360. It has a powerful malware scanner that detected 100% of the test malware on my laptops, and it uses very little CPU, meaning you can use your laptop pretty much as normal during scans. Norton also has excellent Wi-Fi scanning capabilities and a VPN with unlimited data, both of which are particularly useful if you ever connect to public Wi-Fi on your laptop. Norton’s plans are affordable, and Norton 360 Deluxe offers all Norton’s features for up to 5 devices.
While Norton is definitely my number 1, you can’t go wrong with any of the other antiviruses on my list either — they’ll all keep your laptop protected in 2023.
Will an antivirus slow down my laptop?
It depends on which antivirus you choose to install. The antiviruses on this list won’t slow down your laptop — even if your device is pretty old.
Also, antiviruses like Norton 360 and Avira have device optimization tools that actually improve overall system performance, so your laptop will ultimately perform much better.