Updated on: September 9, 2023
Short on time? Here’s the best internet security package for laptops in 2023:
- 🥇 Norton 360: In addition to providing a powerful anti-malware scanner that uses machine learning and is capable of detecting both known and zero-day threats, it also has excellent anti-phishing protection and other features. These include a firewall, a VPN with unlimited data, a password manager, parental controls, and many other industry-leading internet security features for laptops.
I spent several weeks testing the most popular internet security packages to see which ones provide the best protection for laptops. As laptops generally have less processing power than desktop computers, a good laptop antivirus needs to offer good malware protection and advanced internet security features without being too resource-intensive.
Most products fail to deliver on their promises to give laptop users the best protection. Many brands are unable to detect sophisticated malware (like spyware or cryptojackers), offer very few useful internet security features, or are pretty difficult to use. In addition, some internet security programs perform pretty well on desktop computers but aren’t optimized for laptops, which may drastically impact your laptop’s performance and speed.
That said, I found several brands with comprehensive internet security packages for laptops. The antiviruses that made it onto my list have perfect malware detection scores and offer a wide range of top-quality features such as advanced firewalls, anti-phishing protections, and web protection. Many, like Norton, also come with virtual private networks (VPNs), password managers, parental controls, data breach monitoring, and much more.
Quick summary of the best security packages for laptops:
- 🥇 1. Norton 360 Deluxe — Best overall internet security package for laptops.
- 🥈 2. Bitdefender Total Security — Advanced malware scanner with excellent internet security.
- 🥉 3. TotalAV Total Security — Good scanner with an intuitive laptop app.
- 4. McAfee Total Protection — Feature-rich antivirus with excellent malware detection.
- 5. Intego Mac Premium Bundle — Best internet security for MacBooks.
- Comparison of the Best Internet Security Packages for Laptops.
🥇 1. Norton 360 — Best Overall Internet Security Package for Laptops
Norton 360 is my favorite internet security package for laptops in 2023 — its malware scanner is capable of detecting both simple and sophisticated threats, and it includes industry-leading internet security tools to keep your laptop secure.
Norton’s scanner is the best around, consistently detecting all of the malware samples in my tests. I downloaded over 500 malware samples before installing Norton, and it found every single file after a 40-minute scan. Best of all, I could use my laptop as usual while the scan was running — there was no slowdown whatsoever (unlike with most competitors).
The real-time protection worked just as well. When I tried to download the same malware files I used earlier, the real-time protection immediately identified them as malicious and blocked them. Norton’s malware engine excels because it uses artificial intelligence, as well as a huge malware database to identify threats.
Norton 360 also comes with great extras, including:
- Smart firewall.
- Anti-phishing protection.
- Web protection.
- Parental controls.
- Password manager.
- VPN (unlimited data).
- Dark web monitoring (in 20+ countries).
- Device optimization.
- Cloud backup.
- And more…
The Safe Web browser extension provides excellent web protection — some of the best in the industry. I tested the Chrome and Safari extensions, and they consistently blocked phishing pages and other risky websites.
Norton’s password manager is the best antivirus-bundled password manager around. It offers unlimited password storage, multi-device sync, a password generator, two-factor authentication (2FA), seamless auto-filling, and more. The password manager is included with all of its plans and is also available 100% free as a standalone download.
I like Norton’s VPN, too (it’s also one of the best antivirus-bundled VPNs). It’s available on all but the cheapest plan, and there’s no data limit. What’s more, it comes with essential VPN security features like 256-bit AES encryption and a kill switch, plus advanced security features like full leak protection. The speeds are pretty good, and it even works with top streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime and allows torrenting on dedicated servers.
Another standout feature is Norton’s intuitive parental control app. It’s easy to block inappropriate websites and apps, keep track of the videos your kids watch on YouTube, monitor their searches on Google and other search engines, and set time limits for when they’re allowed to use their devices. You can also monitor an unlimited number of devices. Overall, Norton has the best parental controls from an antivirus, and it’s also ranked #3 on our list of the top standalone parental controls in 2023.
Norton’s antivirus bundles start at just $54.99 / year, but my top choice is the 360 Deluxe plan, which costs $49.99 / year and includes all of the features listed above, plus 50 GB of cloud backup, and allows 5 simultaneous device connections across all operating systems. All of Norton’s packages are covered by a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.
Norton 360 is the best internet security package for laptops that I tested. It’s lightweight and provides comprehensive malware protection, including scheduled and real-time scanning with 100% detection rates, top-notch web protections, a great password manager, a secure VPN, really good parental controls, and many other tools. All plans are covered by a 60-day money-back guarantee so you have plenty of time to test it for yourself.
🥈 2. Bitdefender — Advanced Malware Scanner With Feature-Rich Laptop App
Bitdefender has a highly effective cloud-based malware scanner that’s great for laptop users. The scanner uses a massive malware database along with machine learning and advanced heuristics to provide protection against all types of online threats. It was able to discover and purge 100% of malware in my tests. I was also impressed by the low impact Bitdefender had on my CPU — I was able to use my laptop normally even during full system scans.
Bitdefender also comes with:
- A firewall.
- Anti-phishing protection.
- Web protection.
- A password manager.
- VPN (200 MB/day).
- Parental controls.
- Device optimization tools.
- Webcam and microphone protection.
- And more…
I’m a big fan of Bitdefender’s web protection. It prevented me from visiting phishing sites and other malware-laced pages. Plus, Bitdefender gives a reason whenever it blocks a page and gives you the option to whitelist sites if you know they’re 100% safe.
SafePay, Bitdefender’s secure browser, is good, too. It’s encrypted, making it a great choice whenever you need to make a payment. SafePay stops hackers from accessing your laptop — you can’t even take screenshots while using it!
The VPN works great — it uses Hotspot Shield’s proprietary Hydra protocol to maintain high speeds for browsing and torrenting. Unfortunately, the VPN is capped at 200 MB of data daily (which isn’t enough for even an hour of browsing) on all but the most expensive Premium Security plan, and it doesn’t work with any popular streaming services (unlike Norton’s VPN).
I also think Bitdefender’s parental control app is pretty good. It’s easy to set up device and time limits, monitor apps, and create geo-fence perimeters from your laptop. However, it’s missing other features that Norton and the top standalone parental control apps offer, such as YouTube and search monitoring.
Bitdefender offers a variety of plans, but my top choice is the Premium Security plan ($49.99 / year). It includes all of Bitdefender’s features, plus a full-featured password manager, and a VPN with unlimited data. For users looking for a more budget-friendly package, check out the Total Security plan ($35.99 / year), which has all of the features of Premium Security except the unlimited VPN and the password manager. All Bitdefender’s plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Bitdefender has an advanced cloud-based malware scanner and more internet security features than any competitor. It comes with excellent anti-phishing and ransomware protection, real-time protections, a firewall, webcam and microphone protection, device optimization tools, and a secure browser for making online transactions. However, the parental controls aren’t as feature-rich as top competitors, and only the most expensive plan includes the unlimited-data VPN. Bitdefender backs all plans with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
🥉 3. TotalAV Total Security — Good for Non-Tech Savvy or Casual Laptop Users
TotalAV’s intuitive interface makes it a great choice for beginners who want to secure their laptops. When I tested TotalAV, it took just a couple of clicks to start the scan, which quickly found, quarantined, and/or removed the vast majority of suspicious files on my Windows and MacBook laptops. While TotalAV didn’t catch 100% of my malware samples like Norton or Bitdefender, it found more than 99%, which is pretty impressive.
TotalAV includes some great extra features for laptops such as:
- Password manager.
- System cleanup.
- Ad blocker.
- Data breach monitoring.
- Identity theft monitoring (US only).
TotalAV’s WebShield provides really good anti-phishing protection. While using my laptop, it flagged phishing sites that the Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge browsers failed to detect.
I’m a big fan of the Safe Browsing VPN — it offers very fast speeds, unlimited data, works well with all the major streaming sites, and allows torrenting. It’s fully laptop-compatible and is our top antivirus-bundled VPN, but make note that top standalone VPNs like ExpressVPN are even better, offering advanced security features like RAM-only servers and bigger server networks.
TotalAV’s Internet Security package ($39.00 / year) is my favorite plan. It allows 5 devices and comes with most of the features mentioned above. At $19.00 / year, TotalAV’s Antivirus Pro plan is really good for an introductory plan, and it covers up to 3 devices. However, I’d probably pass on TotalAV’s Total Security plan ($49.00 / year). Although it adds the password manager and covers up to 6 devices, it’s very expensive and doesn’t offer as good a value as Norton’s priciest plans, which allow more devices and offer more features. All TotalAV plans are covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
TotalAV offers a powerful antivirus engine with a user-friendly app for laptops. It has very good anti-phishing protection, includes the best VPN bundled with an antivirus package, and comes with a decent range of useful internet security features. The priciest plan can cover up to 6 laptops and all plans are backed with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
4. McAfee Total Protection — Powerful Malware Scanner & Feature-Rich Apps
McAfee provides laptop users with an excellent antivirus scanner and a wide range of internet security features. During my testing, McAfee had a perfect malware detection rate, finding every single malware file I put on my Windows laptop.
However, my laptop slowed down somewhat during scans (I experienced a lot of buffering while watching videos and playing video games). The good news is you can schedule scans for when you’re not using your laptop, so I plan all of my scans to run overnight.
McAfee also comes with:
- A firewall.
- Web browsing protection.
- A VPN (unlimited data).
- Password manager.
- ID monitoring.
- Parental controls.
- A file shredder.
- Personal data cleanup.
- Performance optimization tools.
McAfee’s VPN is powered by top standalone VPN TunnelBear. It has a verified no-logs policy and undergoes an independent audit every year. The VPN comes with no data limits, it’s super-easy to use, and it’s able to access most of my favorite streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime. However, it isn’t as fast as Norton and Bitdefender’s VPNs.
Another great feature is McAfee’s identity theft monitoring tool, which scans the internet to see if your personal information is exposed. You can check up to 10 email addresses, phone numbers, credit cards, usernames, and bank accounts, as well as other items like your social security number and passport number. I like that it provides steps on how to secure any leaked data.
The password manager is good but basic. It’s ok for generating and securing passwords, but it doesn’t measure up to standalone alternatives or Norton’s password manager, which all have a range of advanced security features like two-factor authentication, password vault auditing, password breach monitoring, and more.
The parental control app is good for filtering content and limiting device usage, but it’s not as good as Norton. For example, McAfee’s parental control app is missing key features such as YouTube video monitoring and search monitoring on sites like Google and Yahoo, and the iOS app is pretty limited in terms of features (you can check out our list of the best parental controls for iOS here).
McAfee offers several plans that all provide great value, including affordable plans for individuals and families starting at just $39.99 / year. McAfee covers all plans with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
McAfee has a perfect malware detection rate and an array of useful internet security features, including an unlimited-data VPN, excellent data theft monitoring, a minimal but decent password manager, good parental controls, and more. Its scanner is very effective, but it had more of an impact on my laptop’s performance than Norton or Bitdefender. McAfee’s plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
5. Intego Mac Premium Bundle X9 — Best Option for MacBooks
Intego offers the best internet security package for MacBooks — it’s specifically designed for Macs and is much better than Apple’s built-in protections. Honestly, while Norton and Bitdefender have really good products for Mac users, if you’re just looking for protection for your MacBook, Intego really is the best option.
Intego’s scanner detected 100% of Mac-specific malware files (including spyware, ransomware, and trojans) when I tested it on my MacBook. The full scan took about an hour, which is similar to the other brands on this list. Like Norton, Intego bypasses files that have been identified as safe in previous scans — so my second scan took less than 45 minutes.
Other great features Intego offers include:
- Optimization and cleaning tools.
- Parental controls.
- Personal backup.
Intego’s Washing Machine system optimization tool worked really well in my tests. In addition to it finding tons of old and unused files on my laptop, I really like how the tool allows you to filter a scan to find up to five different types of files, including caches, downloads, and logs.
Intego also has really good parental controls, called ContentBarrier. On top of the standard features, ContentBarrier includes really useful anti-predator tools like chat filtering, which allows you to choose words and phrases that your kid is not allowed to send or receive (there’s also an option to manually add words).
The Intego Mac Premium Bundle X9 costs $34.99 / year, includes all the features mentioned above, plus a VPN, and covers up to 5 devices. Another slightly cheaper option is the Intego Internet Security X9 plan, which starts at just $19.99 / year, covers up to 5 devices, and comes with VirusBarrier and NetBarrier. All Intego’s plans are covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Intego is the best internet security package for Mac users. It comes with high-end malware protection and an advanced firewall, really good parental controls, and system optimization tools, which clean old junk files to help speed up your laptop. All Intego plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Comparison of the Best Internet Security Packages for Laptops
|Internet Security Package||Starting Price||Malware Detection Rate||Firewall||Web Protection||VPN||Password Manager||Parental Controls||System Optimization||Money-Back Guarantee|
|1.🥇Norton 360||$54.99 / year||100%||✅||✅||✅
|2.🥈Bitdefender||$14.99 / year||100%||✅||✅||✅
Unlimited (with Bitdefender Premium Security)
|3.🥉Total AV||$19.00 / year||99%||✅||✅||✅
Unlimited data (with TotalAV Internet Security)
|4. McAfee||$39.99 / year||100%||✅||✅||✅
Unlimited data (with automatic subscription renewals)
|5. Intego||$1.67 / month||100%||✅||❌||❌
(only available as a separate purchase
How to Choose the Best Internet Security Packages for Your Laptop in 2023
- Opt for impeccable malware detection capabilities. I only consider antiviruses whose scanners consistently identify at least 99% of test malware (for instance, both Norton and Bitdefender achieved a 100% detection rate).
- Make sure it offers web protection. A good internet security suite provides protection against a wide range of cyber attacks. All of the antiviruses listed above include excellent web protections, such as anti-phishing protections, secure browser extensions, and anti-tracking tools.
- Consider performance. Laptop users should consider the impact of running a scan on their system’s performance. A quality internet security suite should operate in the background without significantly slowing down your other tasks. Bitdefender, for example, is cloud-based, meaning it minimally impacts performance.
- Pick a suite that includes optimization tools. Every program I recommend comes with optimization tools for laptops. For example, Intego optimizes your device and cleans junk through its Washing Machine for MacBooks.
- Look for extra features. As well as having powerful malware detection, a comprehensive internet security package for laptops should include other features to improve your online security and device functionality. All of the antiviruses listed here include extras like a VPN, a password manager, data breach monitoring, parental controls, and more.
- Opt for a package that offers value. It’s important that an antivirus includes a variety of plans that include top-notch security features, useful extras, and allow multiple devices at a reasonable price. Also, I only recommend antiviruses that offer a money-back guarantee — Norton’s plans are covered by a generous 60-day money-back guarantee, meaning you can try it risk-free for almost 2 months.
Why Do Laptop Users Need an Internet Security Package?
Online security is extremely important for laptop users. The main reason for this is that laptops don’t stay in one place. If you have a laptop, you probably take it out with you and connect to lots of networks, some of which almost certainly aren’t secure.
This makes features like a VPN and Wi-Fi monitoring essential. A proactive desktop user can take steps to ensure their home network is secure, but laptop users don’t have that luxury. The truth is you can’t trust other network operators to take the steps necessary to ensure that their system is 100% secure. So it’s important to take extra steps to ensure your laptop doesn’t become a carrier for malware or other nasties.
Similarly, most laptop users have other devices that stay at home. But if your laptop goes out in the world and connects to the internet in less secure places, it could become the vector that will infect your home network. A good internet security package eliminates these risks.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut
- Malwarebytes. Malwarebytes has really good anti-phishing protections and is very easy to use. Unfortunately, its on-demand scans didn’t have as high a malware detection rating as the products that made it to my list, and the package is missing many other key features like a firewall, data breach monitoring, a password manager, and parental controls.
- Panda Dome. Panda has a fairly extensive selection of features available, including a VPN, password manager, anti-theft tools, and a data shield. However, many of these features are pretty basic, and they’re only available with the most expensive plan.
- Sophos. Sophos has good malware detection, easy–to-use apps, and affordable plans, but it’s missing key extras like performance optimization, system clean-up tools, and a VPN.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is internet security important?
Internet security is crucial for protecting all of the data that you store online, including financial information (bank accounts and credit cards), personal information (social security numbers), passwords, and much more. Unfortunately, hackers can gain access to your sensitive data through sophisticated phishing attacks and other types of cyber attacks — leaving you vulnerable to financial scams, identity theft, and fraud.
The good news is you can protect your data with a good internet security package. A quality antivirus doesn’t just protect your device from getting infected with malware, but it also comes with robust internet security features like a firewall, anti-phishing protection, dark web monitoring, a password manager, and a VPN.
What makes an internet security package good for laptops?
Laptops generally have less processing power, so it’s particularly important that any security products aren’t too CPU-intensive. It can be tricky to find a good internet security package that can protect your laptop while running seamlessly in the background.
However, the top internet security packages all perform well on laptops and many offer features specifically designed to improve laptop performance. For example, Norton includes good disk optimization and file cleanup tools, Bitdefender has a cloud-based scanner that takes up very little disk space during a scan, McAfee offers cookie removers, Intego comes with cleanup tools for macOS, and TotalAV has a wide range of optimization options like a browser cleanup, junk cleaner, and duplicate file finder.
What’s the difference between “antivirus” and “internet security”?
An internet security package provides a lot more than a simple antivirus. An antivirus scans your device to detect, block, and prevent it from getting infected with malware, which includes ransomware, spyware, rootkits, trojans, and more.
Internet security protects your laptop, PC, or mobile device from online threats. Internet security suites use many different tools to protect your laptop, such as a firewall to block unauthorized network intrusions, anti-phishing protections to stop you from accessing suspicious websites, and data breach monitoring to alert you if your information was involved in a security breach. They also come with a VPN to boost your online privacy, a password manager to secure your logins, parental controls to keep tabs on the websites your kids are visiting and videos they’re watching, and more.
Are there any free internet security packages for laptops?
Generally, full internet security packages aren’t offered for free. Free plans will always impose strict limits on users that can lead to a frustrating or even unsafe experience. If you’re on a really tight budget and only looking for a free plan for your laptop, check out our top picks for Windows here and Macs here.
Rather than compromising on your laptop’s internet security with a free plan, I recommend trying out a premium package like Norton 360. Not only does it offer powerful antivirus protection without heavily impacting performance, but it also has a firewall, anti-phishing protection, webcam protection, cloud backup, a password manager, a VPN, and more. All of Norton’s plans are covered by a 60-day money-back guarantee.