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, 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.
There are heaps of products out there that claim to offer the best laptop protection, but most of them fail to deliver on their promises. 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 was able to find several brands that offer truly comprehensive internet security packages for laptops. The antiviruses that made it to my list have perfect malware detection scores and offer a wide range of top-quality features such as advanced firewalls, anti-phishing protections, web protections, virtual private networks (VPNs), password managers, parental controls, data breach monitoring, and much more.
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Quick summary of the best security packages for laptops:
- 🥇 1. Norton 360 — Best overall internet security package for laptops.
- 🥈 2. Bitdefender Total Security — Advanced malware scanner with excellent internet security.
- 🥉 3. McAfee Total Protection — Feature-rich antivirus with excellent malware detection.
- 4. TotalAV Total Security — Good scanner with an intuitive laptop app.
- 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 — it’s 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 our tests. For this round of testing, I downloaded over 500 malware samples before installing Norton, and once the antivirus was all set up, I launched the full scan, which found every single test file within just 40 minutes. Norton also marks previously scanned files as safe so future scans are completed even faster (my second scan took about 30 minutes). Best of all is I could use my laptop as usual while the scan was running — there was no system slowdown whatsoever (unlike with most competitors).
Unsurprisingly, the real-time protection worked just as well in testing. When I tried to download the same malware files I has previously used for testing the scanner, the real-time protection immediately identified them as malicious and blocked them. Noront’s malware engine is so good because it doesn’t just rely on a malware database to detect known threats, but it also uses machine learning that’s able to detect if a new file is malicious based on behavior.
Norton 360 also comes with some great extras, including:
- Smart firewall.
- Anti-phishing protection.
- Web protection.
- Parental controls.
- Password manager.
- Dark web monitoring (in 20+ countries).
- Device optimization.
- Cloud backup.
- And more…
Norton’s Safe Web browser extension provides some of the best web protection in the industry. I tested it on my Chrome and Safari extensions, and it consistently stopped me from visiting phishing sites and other risky websites. Another really useful tool is the Wi-Fi scanner, which alerts you if Norton detects an unsafe Wi-Fi connection — this is common on shady Wi-Fi networks at hotels, cafes, and other public places.
Norton’s password manager is also the best antivirus-bundled password manager around. It offers unlimited password storage, multi-device sync, a password generator, two-factor authentication (2FA), password health auditing, and form and password auto-filling. Norton’s password manager is included with all of its plans, but it’s also available as a standalone download 100% free.
I like Norton’s VPN too (it’s also one of the best antivirus-bundled VPNs) — it allows unlimited data on all plans, includes essential VPN security features like 256-bit AES encryption and a kill switch, and offers advanced security features like full leak protection. It also has fast speeds on both nearby and distant servers, works with top streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime (even many standalone VPNs struggle with accessing streaming sites), and allows torrenting on dedicated servers.
Another standout feature is Norton’s intuitive parental control app. In my tests, it was easy to block inappropriate websites and apps, keep track of the videos my kids watch on YouTube, monitor their searches on Google and other search engines, and set time limits for when they’re are allowed to use their devices. It’s also one of the rare parental control apps that allow you to monitor an unlimited number of devices. 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 $24.99 / 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 with minimal impact on system performance. 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 the malware in my tests. In addition, I was 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:
- Web shield.
- Password manager.
- VPN (only 200 MB daily).
- Parental controls.
- Device optimization.
- Webcam and microphone protection.
- And more…
I’m a big fan of Bitdefender’s web shield. It prevented me from visiting known phishing sites and other suspicious sites that contained malware. Plus, Bitdefender lets you know why it blocked the website and also gives you the option to whitelist the site if you know it’s 100% safe (but this really isn’t recommended, plus Bitdefender didn’t give any false positives during my tests).
I also really like SafePay, which is Bitdefender’s secure web browser that you can use when making online purchases. It’s an encrypted browser that prevents hackers from remotely accessing your laptop, includes a virtual keyboard that stops keystroke tracking, and doesn’t allow you to take screenshots.
The VPN works great, and I love how it uses Hotspot Shield’s proprietary Hydra protocol to maintain high speeds for browsing and torrenting. Unfortunately, the VPN is capped at 200 MB 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, as it lets you easily set up device limits 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 monitoring YouTube videos or keeping track of your kid’s online searches.
Bitdefender offers a variety of plans, but my top choice is the Premium Security plan $59.99 / 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 VPN has just 200 MB of daily data and the password manager comes with only a 90-day free trial. 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 probably any competitor. It comes with excellent anti-phishing and anti-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 and the full-featured password manager. Bitdefender backs all plans with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full Bitdefender review
🥉 3. 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 hidden on my Windows laptop. However, my laptop slowed down somewhat during scans, as 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 (I plan all of my scans to run overnight).
McAfee also comes with:
- Web browsing protection.
- VPN (unlimited data).
- Password manager.
- ID monitoring.
- Parental controls.
- File shredder.
- Personal data cleanup.
- Performance optimization tools.
McAfee’s VPN is powered by top standalone VPN TunnelBear. TunnelBear’s no-logs policy is independently audited and confirmed each year, and the VPN issues a transparency report that also proves it doesn’t store or share any user data. 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, McAfee’s VPN isn’t as fast as Norton and Bitdefender’s VPNs.
Another great feature is McAfee’s identity theft monitoring tool, as it lets you scan the internet to see if your personal information is exposed, including 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 — and I like how it provides steps for how to remove the 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 authorization, password vault auditing, password breach monitoring, and more.
While the parental control app is good for filtering content and limiting device usage, it’s not as good as Norton’s. 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. Both the plans for individuals and families are very affordable, 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 you get 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.
4. TotalAV Total Security — Good for Non-Tech Savvy or Casual Laptop Users
TotalAV has an intuitive interface that makes it a great choice for beginners 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 was still really impressive at about 99%.
TotalAV includes some great extra features for laptops such as:
- Web Shield.
- Password manager.
- System cleanup.
- Ad blocker.
- Data breach monitoring.
- Identity theft monitoring (US only).
TotalAV’s Web Shield provides really good anti-phishing protection. In my tests, it flagged phishing sites that my 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 our top antivirus-bundled VPN, but make note that top standalone VPNs like ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access are even better. They both have the fastest speeds in the industry, 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 mention above. At $19.00 / year, TotalAV’s Antivirus Pro plan is really good for an introductory price, 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 and Bitdefender’s priciest plans — they both 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. TotalAV allows up to 6 devices and backs all plans 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 MacBook laptops — its software has been 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, there really isn’t a better option than Intego.
Intego’s scanner detected 100% of Mac-specific malware files (including spyware, ransomware, and trojans), and its 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 on previous scans — so my second scan was completed in less than 45 minutes.
Other great features Intego offers include:
- Optimization and cleaning tools.
- Parental controls.
- Personal backup.
One of my favorite things about Intego is its advanced firewall, NetBarrier, which is far superior to the built-in firewall on macOS laptops. I love how you choose whether you’re using your home, work, or public network, and then Intego automatically changes your security settings to keep your MacBook secure. For example, it boosted my protection level when I connected to my hotel Wi-Fi network during a recent business trip. It’s also very customizable, allowing you to block or allow incoming and outgoing internet connections, and incoming and outgoing local connections.
Intego’s 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).
Intego’s VPN is powered by Private Internet Access, which is one of the best VPNs on the market, but it’s only available as a separate purchase and doesn’t support mobile devices. Also, Intego doesn’t have a password manager.
The Intego Mac Premium Bundle X9 costs $34.99 / year, includes all the features mentioned above, 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||$23.99 / year||100%||✅||✅||✅
Unlimited (with Bitdefender Premium Security)
|3. 🥉McAfee||$39.99 / year||100%||✅||✅||✅
Unlimited data (with automatic subscription renewals)
|4. Total AV||$19.00 / year||99%||✅||✅||✅
Unlimited data (with TotalAV Internet Security)
|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
- Malware detection rate. I only recommend antiviruses with scanners that were able to consistently detect more than 99% of the malware I downloaded for testing.
- 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.
- Performance. Laptop users should consider the effect that running a scan has on system performance. A good internet security package should run in the background without interrupting or drastically slowing down your other activities. Bitdefender, for example, is cloud-based, meaning it has a very minimal impact on performance.
- Optimization. I also looked for products that help to optimize your laptop’s performance by tuning up your system. Intego has a great Washing Machine for MacBooks that helps you clear junk files and get your laptop running faster.
- 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 a VPN, a password manager, data breach monitoring, parental controls, and more.
- 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.
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.
Norton 360 offers the best internet security out there — its malware scanner has a 100% detection rate, it includes a Safe Web browser extension that prevents you from accessing phishing sites and protects your financial information, and it offers Wi-Fi protection that detects unsafe Wi-Fi connections. Plus, Norton has a good password manager to secure all of your login credentials, a VPN to encrypt all of your online traffic, one of the best parental control apps in the industry, and much more.
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. So 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 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.
There are many top-notch antivirus programs that bundle an excellent malware scanner and internet security features at affordable prices for your laptop. Norton 360 Deluxe is my favorite internet security suite in 2023 — you get a powerful antivirus scanner, as well as a fully-featured internet security package that includes a smart firewall, anti-phishing protections, some of the best parental controls on the market, a fast VPN that works with top streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and an intuitive password manager.
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.