10 Best Antiviruses for PC Gaming in 2024 — With Game Boosters

Updated on: May 3, 2024
Fact Checked by Katarina Glamoslija
Raven Wu Raven Wu
Updated on: May 3, 2024

Short on time? Here’s the best gaming antivirus in 2024:

  • 🥇 Norton : Excellent antivirus with a game booster that significantly improves CPU performance. It has 100% malware detection rates, comes with a wide range of extras, including advanced web protection and parental controls, and backs all purchases with a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.

I tested all of the popular antiviruses for security, performance, and pricing — I wanted to find the ones that provide excellent anti-malware protection, don’t slow down a PC during high-performance gaming, and offer a good value for all types of gamers.

I ran the tests on my budget gaming rig, which includes a 1 TB Intel SSD, Ryzen 3 3300X CPU, and Nvidia GTX 1660 Super GPU. I’m mostly playing Apex Legends and Counter-Strike 2 these days, so I tested each product by using low, medium, and high graphics settings with each game.

Most of the top-tier antivirus programs have some kind of gaming mode in their internet security packages, but typical gaming modes only suspend virus scans and notifications so your gaming experience isn’t interrupted by notifications and CPU-intensive scanning. This is pretty useful, but there are some additional tools that the best antiviruses use to improve performance for PC gamers, such as:

  • Cloud-based scanning — Runs scans from “the cloud”, preventing your antivirus from hogging CPU and keeping it free for games.
  • Game boosters — Reallocates background processes so that your CPU can focus on running games. This can actually make your computer run faster.
  • Device cleaning — Removes junk files, cached files, and background processes to free up space. This also frees up RAM and memory to improve system performance.

I only found a few good gaming antiviruses that provide some combination of these performance-optimizing features, which you’ll find in the list below. My top pick is Norton 360 for Gamers, which has perfect malware detection rates, powerful performance-boosting features, and tons of other features on top.

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Quick summary of the best antiviruses for PC gaming in 2024:

  • 1.🥇 Norton — Best antivirus for gamers in 2024 (comes with a booster to improve overall performance).
  • 2.🥈 Bitdefender — Lightweight malware scanner with an automatic gaming mode, VPN, and optimization tools.
  • 3.🥉 TotalAV — Fast and easy-to-use antivirus with system clean-up tools and a really good VPN.
  • 4. McAfee — Advanced antivirus protections, plus parental controls, a firewall, and more.
  • 5. Malwarebytes — Minimal antivirus, good for gamers on a budget.
  • Plus 5 more!

🥇1. Norton — Best Overall Antivirus for PC Gaming

Approved by our experts
Norton
Approved by our experts
Most readers pick Norton
Malware detection rate
100%
Key Features
AI-based scanner & VPN
Number of devices
Up to 10
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
60 Days
norton.com

Norton 360 for Gamers is by far the best PC gaming antivirus I’ve tested. It provides one of the best anti-malware engines on the market, comprehensive web protection, and some really cool perks for gamers. It flagged down 100% of the malware that I threw at it (Norton is ranked #1 for best antivirus in 2024), and it didn’t have any effect on my frame rate, load times, or RAM usage during gaming.

I was also really impressed with Norton’s game booster and performance optimizer (Norton GO) that’s only offered with Norton 360 for Gamers. Norton GO automatically detects when you’re gaming and suspends background processes, delays virus scans, and optimizes processing power. And it works exactly as promised — while playing Baldur’s Gate 3 and Apex Legends, I was able to increase my graphics settings without experiencing any slowdown whatsoever!

🥇1. Norton — Best Overall Antivirus for PC Gaming

I’m also a huge fan of Norton’s dark web monitoring feature — it scans breach databases and dark web forums to make sure your financial information, passwords, emails, and even your gamertag haven’t been leaked to hackers.

If your kids are into gaming, Norton’s parental controls are some of the best on the market — they let you monitor and schedule usage, set limits on devices or even specific apps, and block sensitive online content to help keep your kids safe. I used Norton to ensure that my daughter was focused on her lessons during school hours, unlocking all of her games only after dinner on school nights. It’s not quite as good as having a dedicated parental control app like Qustodio, but it’s great for monitoring your kids’ video gaming time.

Other features included in this plan that gamers will appreciate include:

  • Secure VPN — Norton’s VPN is one of the best antivirus-bundled VPNs on the market: it’ll keep you safe from a DDoS attack by hiding your IP address, it’s great for streaming, plus it can block annoying ads as you browse the web, and much more.
  • Notification optimization — reduces the number of notifications to just the most important ones, providing you with a more immersive gaming experience.
  • Webcam protection — Norton will notify you if anyone tries to access your webcam without your permission and help you block them.
  • Cloud backup — gives you 50 GB of cloud space to store your game clips online.
  • Password manager — secures your game and other accounts by helping you create strong passwords and lets you store your credentials and sensitive information in an encrypted vault.

🥇1. Norton — Best Overall Antivirus for PC Gaming

Overall, Norton 360 for Gamers is a great choice for gamers who want to keep their devices (up to 3 PC, Mac, iOS, or Android devices) as secure as possible without diminishing (and potentially improving) CPU performance — and at $44.99 / year*, it’s a pretty good value.

Norton 360 Deluxe is another excellent option for gaming. It includes most of the features in Norton 360 for Gamers, but it cannot suppress notifications while gaming and doesn’t include the optimization features found in Norton GO. Still, it does provide coverage for up to 5 devices instead of just 3 for a similar price.

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Bottom Line:

Norton 360 for Gamers is the best internet security suite for PC gaming on the market — its antivirus engine detected all of my test malware and its game booster feature noticeably improved my system performance during gameplay. With great family protections, dark web monitoring, and a lot of other useful features, Norton is one of the most full-featured programs on this list. All of Norton’s plans come with a 60-day money-back guarantee.

Read the full Norton review >

🥈2. Bitdefender — Lightweight Scanner With an Automatic Gaming Mode

Malware detection rate
100%
Key Features
Cloud-based scanner
Number of devices
Up to 10
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
bitdefender.com

Bitdefender is also an excellent choice for PC gaming. It doesn’t provide a game booster, but it has a cloud-based malware engine and useful system tune-up tools, plus some nice extras like a VPN and parental controls.

It offers one of the most powerful anti-malware scanners on the market, returning 100% malware detection rates in my testing. The scanner uses a combination of signature-based scanning, advanced heuristics, and machine learning to detect virtually all threats — and because all the scanning is performed in the cloud, Bitdefender will barely slow your system down, even during full system scans.

🥈2. Bitdefender — Lightweight Scanner With an Automatic Gaming Mode

Bitdefender’s scanner also uses its proprietary Photon technology to speed up scans. This tech works by adapting to each specific PC configuration over time, figuring out which processes need monitoring and which do not. As a result, there are fewer files that need ongoing monitoring, and less system resources are used to keep an eye on entirely safe programs, allowing the scanner to focus all of its attention on potentially harmful files without slowing down your system.

Bitdefender also includes an automatic gaming mode — it detects when your device enters fullscreen mode and automatically suspends scans and notifications. While Bitdefender’s gaming mode is good, I really wish it also included a game booster, like Norton does.

That said, I really like Bitdefender’s device optimization tools. Its OneClick Optimizer is super simple to use and can remove junk files, detect out-of-date software, and get a slower device running significantly faster. Unfortunately, it’s only included with the Total Security and pricier packages.

Streamers will also appreciate Bitdefender’s microphone and webcam protections, which offer real-time detection and removal of any unknown applications that attempt to access your device — Bitdefender was successful at blocking several popular eavesdropping malware files during my testing.

🥈2. Bitdefender — Lightweight Scanner With an Automatic Gaming Mode

Starting at just $17.49 / year, all of Bitdefender’s plans are affordable, but parents will want to check out Bitdefender Internet Security ($42.49 / year) or Bitdefender Total Security ($49.99 / year), which also includes Bitdefender’s excellent parental controls. Users who also want a really good antivirus-bundled VPN should take a look at Bitdefender Premium Security ($79.99 / year) — it’s the only plan to include the unlimited-data VPN (the other plans limit you to 200 MB per device per day).

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Bottom Line:

Bitdefender provides lightweight antivirus protection that won’t slow down a gaming computer. In my testing, Bitdefender automatically suspended scans and notifications whenever I was gaming, and its powerful real-time malware detection kept my device safe without affecting my framerate at all. All of Bitdefender’s plans are feature-rich, affordable, and backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read the full Bitdefender review >

🥉3. TotalAV — Fast Scanner & Best System Tune-Up Tools for Gamers

Malware detection rate
99.60%
Key Features
Beginner-friendly apps
Number of devices
Up to 8
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
totalav.com

TotalAV provides a number of features that are really helpful for PC and Mac gamers. Like Bitdefender, TotalAV’s lightweight scanner offloads computation to the cloud to provide a 99.6% malware detection rating without slowing down your device during scans.

TotalAV also offers an excellent suite of system tune-up tools, including junk file removal, startup booster, browser file cleanup, duplicate file scanner, and a handy application uninstaller. In my testing, TotalAV was able to find and remove more junk files than any other system tune-up tool.

I like TotalAV’s WebShield, too, which protects you from phishing scams and provides basic data breach alerts. Another one of its features is Safe Search, which will flag all potentially harmful websites in your search results, while Quiet Mode will mute all in-browser notifications.

🥉3. TotalAV — Fast Scanner & Best System Tune-Up Tools for Gamers

Unfortunately, TotalAV doesn’t have a game booster like Norton, or the ability to suspend scans and block notifications while gaming in full screen like Bitdefender. That said, during my testing, I was able to play AAA games like Elden Ring on the highest graphics settings with zero slowdown thanks to TotalAV’s cloud-based scanner.

Total AdBlock is not the best ad blocker I’ve used, but it does a decent job blocking most ads, including in-game video ads. It’s also customizable, allowing you to whitelist certain websites whose advertisements you don’t mind seeing.

TotalAV is my favorite antivirus with a VPN in 2024, providing encrypted browsing on dozens of servers around the globe, a kill switch for secure torrenting, great streaming support, and fast connection speeds. It isn’t the best VPN for gamers on the market — there are some better standalone options, but if you’re looking to bundle, TotalAV is your best bet.

🥉3. TotalAV — Fast Scanner & Best System Tune-Up Tools for Gamers

Gamers can pick up TotalAV at a really low cost with the Antivirus Pro bundle, which offers TotalAV’s core security and optimization features on up to 4 Windows, macOS, Android, or iOS devices for just $19.00 / year. To get the unlimited VPN, ad blocker, and password manager, you’ll need the Total Security package for $49.00 / year.

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Bottom Line:

TotalAV is a lightweight antivirus with near-perfect malware detection ratings and an excellent system tune-up suite. It detected 99.6% of the malware in my testing, and its system tune-up features helped me optimize my startup, get rid of junk files, and clean up my cached browser files. I’m also a big fan of TotalAV’s fast VPN, which is comparable to some standalone VPN apps. TotalAV offers a 30-day money-back guarantee with all of its plans.

Read the full TotalAV review here>

4. McAfee — Best Parental Controls for Gamers

Malware detection rate
100%
Key Features
Great web protection
Number of devices
Unlimited
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
mcafee.com

McAfee Total Protection is a full-featured internet security suite with an advanced antivirus scanner. Its anti-malware engine performed really well in my standard series of tests, catching 100% of the malware files I placed on my gaming PC.

McAfee’s family plans also come with comprehensive parental controls. The controls provide content filtering, device usage limits, and even device tracking for mobile users. During testing, I was able to easily set time limits on my test PC’s internet time and block specific apps and games. The only downside is that they don’t work with macOS, so if your kids like to game on a Mac computer, you should check out Bitdefender or use McAfee alongside a standalone parental control app like Qustodio.

4. McAfee — Best Parental Controls for Gamers

Its secure firewall is also really good for gamers — it was able to detect a wide variety of network attacks during my testing. I was disappointed by the lack of detailed reports and customization options, but it’s still a great added layer of defense.

But unlike Norton, McAfee doesn’t have a gaming mode or a game booster. While this isn’t ideal, the good news is that you can easily schedule scans to avoid having gaming interrupted. Gamers with computer problems can also make use of TechCheck, a free McAfee tool that diagnoses issues that might be affecting game performance. If these problems are severe, McAfee’s TechMaster is an optional paid service (not included in any McAfee plan) that provides remote tech support to help speed up your PC’s performance.

Starting at $39.99 / year, McAfee’s Total Protection plans offer a really good value — there are several plans to choose from, including plans for individuals and families. Both options allow you to cover up to 5 or an unlimited number of devices (select countries only) and include features such as web protection, a firewall, a secure VPN, and identity monitoring. Only the family plans come with parental controls.

Bottom Line:

McAfee Total Protection has excellent extra features, including parental controls and a firewall. It’s easy to schedule scans with McAfee’s intuitive interface, and parents will appreciate the ability to monitor, block, and schedule app usage, internet access, and device activity. McAfee is really reasonably priced, and there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans.

Read the full McAfee review >

5. Malwarebytes — Minimal Antivirus for PC Gamers on a Budget

Malware detection rate
95%
Key Features
Secure browser extension
Number of devices
Up to 20
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
60 Days
malwarebytes.com

Malwarebytes provides advanced anti-malware protection, good web protections, and an optional VPN for a low price. But it lacks a lot of the additional features that the other programs on this list have — it doesn’t have a game booster, parental controls, or a firewall. However, for users who are looking for a decent antivirus program that won’t take up too much CPU space, Malwarebytes is an ok option.

In my tests, Malwarebytes scored a 95% malware detection rating (Norton and Bitdefender scored 100%), and it also blocked most of the unsafe and phishing websites I tried opening. Malwarebytes also automatically recognizes when your system is in fullscreen mode, delaying all scans and notifications while you’re gaming or watching videos.

5. Malwarebytes — Minimal Antivirus for PC Gamers on a Budget

Malwarebytes’s Privacy VPN is basic but decent — it offers servers in 40+ countries, uses the WireGuard protocol and military-grade encryption, and it has a kill switch and a strict no-logs policy. It offers good speeds for browsing but it’s not as fast as the top standalone VPNs, so if you’re relying on a VPN connection to play in a different region on a game like Valorant, it may not be good enough for you.

Malwarebytes Standard ($59.99 / year) is a good low-budget option for gamers, but users who also want a fast VPN for secure web browsing should take a look at Malwarebytes Plus ($79.99 / year).

Bottom Line:

Malwarebytes offers a low-impact anti-malware program with good malware detection rates and affordable pricing. During my tests, Malwarebytes detected 95% of my test malware and blocked nearly all phishing websites. Malwarebytes also comes with an automatic gaming mode, and users can upgrade to get a pretty fast VPN as well. All of Malwarebytes’s plans include a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.

Read the full Malwarebytes review >

6. Panda — Good for Ease of Use

Malware detection rate
95%
Key Features
PC Rescue Kit & game mode
Number of devices
Unlimited
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
pandasecurity.com

Panda is an intuitive and easy-to-use antivirus with a solid gaming mode and good web security protections. Its cloud-based virus scanner turned up every piece of malware I tested against it, including tricky rootkits and ransomware files, and it didn’t slow me down too much during a heated bout of Apex Legends.

You also get some pretty good Windows optimization tools in the form of PC Cleanup. It comes with 3 main tools: a defragmenter, an effective junk cleaner, and a startup manager for decreasing boot times to get you gaming faster. You can also schedule regular PC Cleanup scans so your computer is always running at its full potential (it’s also easy to schedule malware scans so they don’t interrupt your gaming sessions). PC Cleanup is available as a standalone purchase and comes bundled with the Complete and Premium plans.

6. Panda — Good for Ease of Use

Panda’s gaming mode activated whenever I entered fullscreen mode, suspending scans and notifications to avoid slowing down my CPU. However, I was a bit disappointed to learn that Panda’s gaming mode didn’t improve PC performance during gaming (Norton has a game booster that does that).

Panda has several plans to choose from, and they’re all affordable. Panda Essential ($23.99 / year) has an antivirus scanner and a VPN, Panda Advanced ($28.49 / year) also includes ransomware protection and parental controls, and Panda Complete ($42.99 / year) adds system clean-up tools and a password manager.

Bottom Line:

Panda has cloud-based scanning that won’t slow down gameplay and an automatic gaming mode that starts up when a game starts running. It’s a decent choice for non-technical users looking for a simple antivirus, coming with extras like a VPN, a password manager, and parental controls. You can try out Panda with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read the full Panda review >

7. Avira — Cloud-Based With a Good Free Plan

Malware detection rate
100%
Key Features
Device optimization tools
Number of devices
Up to 5
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
60 Days
avira.com

Avira is a secure, cloud-based antivirus with perfect malware detection and a good free plan. It had no trouble identifying the wide variety of malware files I put on my test PC, including ransomware, trojans, spyware, keyloggers, rootkits, and more. I also like how lightweight its antivirus scanner is — I didn’t notice any slowdowns on my device, even during a full system scan. Most antiviruses have some impact on device speed during full scans.

7. Avira — Cloud-Based With a Good Free Plan

It also has a game booster, which improved my CPU’s performance by closing background apps and optimizing network settings. But I still think Norton has a better gaming booster because it also allowed me to increase my graphical settings without suffering any framerate drops.

Avira’s free plan doesn’t come with gamer-specific features, but it’s still a good free antivirus plan for PCs. It provides tons of customization options, includes ransomware protection, and comes with other features like:

  • Safe browsing and shopping extension.
  • System tune-up tools.
  • VPN (1 GB monthly limit with registration).
  • Password manager.

I was really impressed with Avira’s safe browsing and shopping extension — it blocked annoying ads from YouTube, eliminated web trackers, and even recommended deals for products I was shopping for — including games and gaming accessories.

I recommend most gamers check out Avira Prime, which adds the game booster, a VPN with unlimited data, multi-device coverage, and password and online account breach monitoring for $59.99 / year.

Bottom Line:

Avira’s cloud-based malware scanner is great for PC gaming — it barely takes up any CPU power while still providing 100% malware protection for your devices. It also comes with a really good game booster that increases CPU performance. Avira’s free plan doesn’t include gaming features, but it still comes with an excellent ad-blocking web extension and good system tune-up tools. Users looking for a VPN with unlimited data, multi-device coverage, and a game booster should upgrade to Avira Prime, which also comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee.

Read the full Avira review >

8. Kaspersky — Most Extra Features for Gaming

Malware detection rate
100%
Key Features
Great parental controls
Number of devices
Up to 20
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
kaspersky.com

Kaspersky has everything I expect to see in a premium antivirus suite for gamers — it has a good anti-malware scanner, an automatic game mode, and a variety of internet security protections.

I like that Kaspersky’s gaming mode turns on automatically in full-screen mode, suspending notifications and scans. However, Kaspersky’s gaming mode doesn’t offer the same level of customization and performance optimization as Norton.

Kaspersky also comes with additional features like:

  • Online shopping and banking protection.
  • Password manager.
  • VPN.
  • Parental controls.
  • PC clean-up tools.

I really like the PC cleanup tools Kaspersky offers. For example, it has PC Speed-Up, which finds registry issues or unused files that you can fix or remove respectively, Quick Startup, which lets you see the apps that are booted when your computer starts up and to disable them for faster startups, and a hard drive health monitor, which informs you of the condition of your hard drive and alerts you to any issues.

8. Kaspersky — Most Extra Features for Gaming

Priced at $34.99 / year, Kaspersky Standard is a decent choice for gamers, but if you’re after a VPN, password manager, and parental controls, it’s worth considering Kaspersky Premium. It covers up to 20 devices for $67.49 / year and, like all Kaspersky plans, it comes with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

Bottom Line:

Kaspersky is a comprehensive antivirus suite with a built-in gaming mode. Kaspersky’s gaming mode doesn’t have a lot of features, but it gets the job done. Kaspersky also has a variety of useful extra features, including online shopping and banking protection, a password manager, a VPN, and system clean-up tools. Plus, all Kaspersky purchases have a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read the full Kaspersky review >

9. Webroot — Simple & Lightweight Antivirus

Malware detection rate
93.10%
Key Features
Password manager
Number of devices
Up to 5
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
70 Days
webroot.com

Webroot is a good product for gamers looking to economize disk space. It’s significantly smaller than any other antivirus on the market — you only install about 15 MB of data on your computer, and the rest of the program is hosted on the cloud.

I was impressed with Webroot’s antivirus engine, which scanned all of my files in a matter of minutes without having an impact on my PC — most competitors take as long as a couple of hours to perform a full system scan.

9. Webroot — Simple & Lightweight Antivirus

Webroot is super lightweight. The program barely affected my CPU and RAM usage while I was playing Destiny 2. I also like that it has an advanced setting that reduces the amount of resources it uses if it detects that you’re gaming, watching videos, or using other intensive applications. But for improving gaming performance, I still prefer Norton.

Priced at $23.99 / year, Webroot’s plan for gamers also comes with a range of useful extras — it protects your webcam from malware hijacking, has good network protections, and comes with a system optimizer that automatically clears up your background files to free up RAM.

Bottom Line:

Webroot is a simple and lightweight antivirus that hardly takes up any disk space. It won’t directly improve your computer’s performance when gaming, but it’s designed to stay in the background, so it won’t slow down your gaming sessions either. You can try out Webroot with a generous 70-day money-back guarantee.

Read the full Webroot review >

10. Trend Micro — Decent Virus Protection With a Mute Mode

Malware detection rate
100%
Key Features
Social media scanner
Number of devices
Up to 10
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
trendmicro.com

Trend Micro detected the majority of malware samples I downloaded to my PC, but its detection rates weren’t as good as premium competitors like Norton and Bitdefender. On the other hand, Trend Micro’s anti-phishing protection is on par with the best antiviruses — it detected scam sites and exploit attacks more accurately than Chrome or Firefox in all of my tests.

10. Trend Micro — Decent Virus Protection With a Mute Mode

Of interest to gamers, Trend Micro does have a few optimization tools and a Mute Mode that will disable notifications while gaming. You have to first activate Mute Mode manually, but it’s quite easy to do and you can set it up to start automatically once you have. Meanwhile, the optimization tools are basic. You can use them to reduce boot time, remove junk files, clear privacy data, and update your OS. All of these are nice, but they won’t make a big difference when it comes to game performance.

Trend Micro isn’t my top choice for gamers, but I still think its internet security suites are a good value for both individuals and families — and they’re cheaper than most other products, with prices starting at just $19.95 / year.

Bottom Line:

Trend Micro is a good antivirus program with helpful extra features, including a Mute Mode that pauses scans and notifications. Trend Micro’s malware scanner detected the vast majority of malware samples during my testing, and its Mute Mode worked well during gameplay — but the Mute Mode needs to be manually activated at first. All of Trend Micro’s plans have a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read the full Trend Micro review >


Quick Comparison Table

Antivirus Starting Price Gaming Mode Increases CPU Speed During Gaming System Cleanup Tools Cloud-Based Scanner Parental Controls
1.🥇Norton $44.99 / year* ✅ (with game booster)
2.🥈Bitdefender $17.49 / year
3.🥉TotalAV $19.00 / year
4. McAfee $39.99 / year
5. Malwarebytes $59.99 / year
6. Panda $23.99 / year
7. Avira $59.99 / year ✅ (with game booster)
8. Kaspersky $34.99 / year
9. Webroot $23.99 / year
10. Trend Micro $39.95 / year

Why Do I Need an Antivirus for Gaming?

Cybercriminals can target gamers in a number of ways. For example, phishing links are often circulated in in-game messaging systems or in malicious emails coming from hackers posing as game admins in an attempt to gain your login details or payment information. Cybercriminals can also trick gamers into downloading shady game files that actually contain keyloggers or other malware. And sometimes, even genuine games can be exploited by third parties with malicious intentions.

Protecting yourself from malware isn’t the only reason to get an antivirus for gaming. Good gaming antiviruses (like Norton) can even boost your device performance through features like game boosters and system tune-up tools — all while minimizing their impact on your gameplay by suspending scans and notifications when you’re in game or by using cloud-based scanners. Just make sure you pick the right antivirus, since not all gaming antiviruses include all of these features.

Testing Methodology: Comparison & Ranking Criteria

I used our methodical testing system to analyze and ultimately rank the different antiviruses on the market. I considered several factors including what gamers need in an antivirus. In essence, I took the following steps:

  • I thoroughly tested the anti-malware engines. A good gaming antivirus should have close to 100% malware detection rates. It should be able to detect viruses and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) that might negatively impact gaming performance. I put dozens of antiviruses to the test by downloading hundreds of malware samples. Every product that made it on this list had a near-perfect detection rate. Some (like Bitdefender) went further, scoring 100%.Testing Methodology: Comparison & Ranking Criteria
  • I looked for gamer-specific features. A good gaming antivirus should include specific features to enhance your device’s performance while gaming and minimize interruptions. Extra features like Norton’s game booster, which increases your CPU’s speed while gaming by suspending unnecessary background processes, earned antiviruses a higher score. Every program on the list has some features gamers will love, whether that’s a gaming mode or optimization tools.
  • I considered web security features. Gamers tend to spend a lot of time online, meaning they are frequently targeted by hackers through deceptive links designed to extract account or payment information. I tested each antivirus’s web protections to see whether they were effective at blocking phishing sites and other threats. I can report that every product on this list offers users strong defenses in this area.Testing Methodology: Comparison & Ranking Criteria
  • I measured the performance impact of the antivirus. An antivirus will protect you from threats, but some have an unfortunate habit of hogging resources. For gamers, this can be a problem. I used software to see how much RAM each antivirus used as I tested them. The ones that made this list are all fairly lightweight, meaning you can game without issue while they’re on.
  • I evaluated the value proposition. Even if there were a perfect antivirus out there with flawless protection and great features for gaming, I wouldn’t recommend it if the price were astronomical. With this in mind, I weighed the cost of each antivirus against its effectiveness and features. After considering numerous factors, I determined that every product covered in this article is reasonably priced.

Antiviruses and Gaming Performance

The best security suites actually improved my gaming performance, and they’ll likely improve yours, too. There are several reasons why this is the case. Firstly, you could have malware slowing down your system and a premium antivirus will remove that malware. This includes cryptojackers, botnets, and other types of malware that may impact your gaming performance. If you do have malware, you’ll likely experience huge gains after removing all threats from your machine with an antivirus.

Even if you don’t have any malware on your system, antiviruses can help in other ways. For one, most of the antiviruses on this list come with top-notch optimization tools. While some tune-up tools are focused on saving space on your hard drive and won’t provide you with big performance gains, others will have a more noticeable effect.

Some antiviruses come with features to better distribute your computer’s RAM, too (Norton is good at this). Given that RAM is critical to how well a game can perform, this is huge for gamers. Other antiviruses, including TotalAV, will help you by providing tools to automatically update your drivers. Without the latest drivers installed on your graphics card, many games won’t work. Updating your drivers allows certain games to function while having an impact on performance and closing vulnerabilities.

It’s also true that antiviruses can negatively impact performance, but these pitfalls can all be avoided if you know what you’re doing and choose the right antivirus. Any antivirus scan will use up resources that could otherwise be used for gaming. This isn’t a big problem, as you can simply run regular scans when you aren’t playing a game. Regardless, some scanners use far more resources than others. Cloud-based scanners like Bitdefender use far fewer resources than antiviruses that don’t get help from the cloud.

Finally, antiviruses can negatively affect gamers by issuing annoying alerts at inopportune moments. A notification from your antivirus will interfere with games you’re playing in fullscreen. At best, this will cause a dramatic performance drop for a short period. At worst, it’ll minimize your game and could crash it. Some antiviruses generate a lot of notifications, so this is a problem for gamers. It’s one thing to get a pop-up when there’s an immediate threat, but some providers take it further, annoying you constantly with offers to upgrade your account or learn more about a specific feature.

The good news is that the best antiviruses don’t spit out too many unnecessary notifications and they provide useful tools for gamers concerned about performance. Many of the antiviruses on this list come with gaming modes. Among other things, running an antivirus in gaming mode will eliminate all but the most urgent of notifications.

How to Set Up an Antivirus With Gaming Mode

Enabling gaming mode on an antivirus is very straightforward. However, the exact steps differ depending on the antivirus product. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow using Norton 360 as an example:

  1. Open the Norton 360 app. Make sure you’ve set Norton to the classic view, or you won’t be able to access the necessary settings. It should look something like this:How to Set Up an Antivirus With Gaming ModeIf your copy of Norton doesn’t look like this, click on the cog symbol, go to Launch View, and click Classic.
  2. Open the settings menu. Then select Administrative Settings.How to Set Up an Antivirus With Gaming Mode
  3. Scroll down to Silent Mode. If you want, you can click the toggle here to activate Silent Mode straight away (skip to step 5 if you do). This will turn off Norton’s notifications no matter what you’re doing, but if you only want to toggle Silent Mode when you start a game, move on to the next step.How to Set Up an Antivirus With Gaming Mode
  4. Choose your settings and click Apply. Make sure you toggle Full Screen Detection on. Doing this will automatically turn on Silent Mode when Norton detects a fullscreen application — including your video game. You can also add a user-specified program, and Silent Mode will automatically activate if it detects that program. This is good for games that don’t run in full screen.How to Set Up an Antivirus With Gaming Mode
  5. Optional step: if you’re manually toggling silent mode, you’ll be prompted to select a timeframe for it to be active. You have 5 options: 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours, or 1 day. If you’re using Full Screen Detection or a user-specified program, however, this step won’t apply, and Norton will automatically deactivate Silent Mode when it no longer detects the game or application running.How to Set Up an Antivirus With Gaming Mode
  6. Launch your game and start playing with no distractions!

Top Brands That Didn’t Make The Cut

  • Sophos. Sophos offers a good internet security suite which has high malware detection rates, doesn’t cause slowdown during scans, and is very easy to use. However, Sophos doesn’t have a gaming mode or game booster, so it’s not a good choice for gamers.
  • ESET. ESET has a powerful malware scanner and some of the most advanced diagnostics tools on the market. However, it falls flat in terms of user-friendliness — many of its features are poorly explained and difficult to use. Its additional features are also pretty lacking, and its system cleanup features are especially disappointing.
  • Intego. Intego’s antivirus for Macs is one of the best in 2024, and it even has excellent system tune-up tools for Mac gamers. However, I’m not a big fan of Intego’s antivirus for Windows, and the vast majority of gamers are on Windows in 2024.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best antivirus for PC gaming?

Norton 360 for Gamers is the best antivirus for gaming. It has perfect malware detection rates, good anti-phishing protection, and includes tons of gamer-specific features like a game booster, which optimizes your computer’s performance for gaming, and a gaming mode, which suspends virus scans and suppresses notifications while you’re gaming. Norton can even scan the dark web for your gamertag to see if your account or personal information has been leaked.

Can I just turn off my antivirus while my games are open?

You can, but hackers are expecting you to do this — gamers are a huge target for cyber attacks because of their reputation for connecting to the internet without protection.

However, there are many gaming-optimized antivirus options on the market today that won’t slow down your PC, so there’s no reason why you should ever turn off your antivirus, even during intense gameplay. And some antiviruses like Norton 360 for Gamers even provide specialized game boosters that actually improve your PC performance during gameplay.

Are all gaming modes in antivirus software the same?

No, not really. Many of the top-tier antivirus programs now include a “game mode” which will suspend notifications and scans while you’re in fullscreen mode. But then there are some — like Norton — which will boost your PC’s performance and actually increase your frame rate and CPU processing power.

Is there a free antivirus that offers a gaming mode?

No, I wasn’t able to find a good free antivirus with a gaming mode. While some free antiviruses like Avira are pretty good, I still recommend getting an affordable paid antivirus that comes with a gaming mode or game booster — like Norton.

Is Microsoft Defender enough to protect me while gaming?

Honestly, no. Though it does have some good features and offers pretty decent protection against phishing attacks, ransomware, and viruses, it isn’t foolproof and didn’t detect every malware sample in my tests. Using a third-party antivirus like Norton 360 is the best way to protect yourself while gaming, since it has a 100% malware detection rate and other important security features like a VPN, a dark web monitor, and a password manager.

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About the Author
Raven Wu
Raven Wu
Writer
Updated on: May 3, 2024

About the Author

Raven Wu is a freelance writer, editor, and translator. He is a strong advocate of internet freedom and is very passionate about technology, and he’s honed his craft by researching and writing about a variety of other topics including education, literature, health, pop culture, and games. Outside of work, he's an amateur novelist and history enthusiast who enjoys hard games, spicy food, and thinking way too hard about everything.