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10 Best Antiviruses for PC Gamers [2022] (with Game Boosters)

Ben Martens Ben Martens
Updated on: May 1, 2022
10 Best Antiviruses for PC Gamers [2022] (with Game Boosters)

Short on time? Here’s the best gaming antivirus in 2022:

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

I tested all of the antiviruses on the market for security, performance during gameplay, 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 Destiny 2: Beyond Light 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 a 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” to keep your CPU free for games. Keeps an antivirus from hogging the CPU during scans.
  • Game boosters — Reallocates background processes so that your CPU can focus on running games. Actually makes your computer run faster.
  • Device cleaning — Removes junk files, cached files, and background processes to free up space. Frees up RAM and memory to improve system performance.

I only found a couple of antivirus programs that provide some combination of these performance-optimizing features. Whether you’re looking for a full security suite for your family, a performance-boosting beast without additional security features, or a super-lightweight cloud-based antivirus package, you’ll find what you’re looking for on this list.

Quick summary of the best antiviruses for gaming in 2022:

🥇1. Norton — Best Internet Security Suite for Gamers

🥇1. Norton — Best Internet Security Suite for Gamers

Norton 360 for Gamers provides one of the best anti-malware engines on the market, comprehensive web protections, and some really cool perks for gamers.

Norton 360 for Gamers flagged down 100% of the malware that I threw at it (Norton is ranked #1 for best antivirus in 2022), 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 GO, a game booster and performance optimizer that’s only offered with Norton 360 for Gamers. Norton GO suspends background processes, delays virus scans, and optimizes processing power during gaming. And Norton GO works exactly as promised — while playing Destiny 2 and Apex Legends, I was able to increase my graphics settings without experiencing any slowdown whatsoever!

I’m also a huge fan of Norton’s dark web monitoring feature that 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 working during school hours, unlocking all of her games only after dinner on school nights.

Overall, Norton 360 for Gamers is a great choice for gamers who want to keep their devices as secure as possible without diminishing CPU performance — and at $29.99 / year, it’s a pretty good value. Norton 360 for Gamers isn’t available in all locations, but Norton 360 Deluxe is also a top choice for gaming, as it’s fast, allows for uninterrupted gaming, and provides coverage for up to 5 devices.

Bottom Line:

Norton 360 for Gamers is the best internet security suite for PC gamers on the market — its antivirus engine detected all of my test malware and its game booster feature noticeably improved my system performance during gameplay. And 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.

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

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

Bitdefender doesn’t provide a game booster, but its cloud-based malware engine and useful system tune-up tools make it an excellent choice for PC gamers.

Bitdefender 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.

Bitdefender also includes an automatic gaming mode that detects when your device enters full screen 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.

I also really like Bitdefender’s device optimization tools, which can remove junk files, detect out-of-date software, and get a slower device running significantly faster.

Streamers (or really anyone who uses voice chat) 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.

Starting at just $23.99 / year, all of Bitdefender’s plans are affordable, but parents will want to check out Bitdefender Internet Security ($32.00 / year) or Bitdefender Total Security ($36.00 / year), which also include Bitdefender’s excellent parental controls. Users who also want a really good antivirus-bundled VPN should take a look at Bitdefender Premium Security ($69.99 / year).

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.

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🥉3. McAfee — Best Parental Controls for Gamers

🥉3. McAfee — Best Parental Controls for Gamers

McAfee Total Protection is a full-featured internet security suite with an advanced antivirus scanner, a secure firewall, and comprehensive parental controls. 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.

I also really like McAfee’s parental controls, which provide content filtering, device usage limits, and even device tracking for mobile users. I was able to set time limits on my test PC’s internet time and block specific apps (which can be really useful if your kids need internet access for school work, but you don’t want them to get distracted playing games).

McAfee’s secure firewall is also really good for gamers — it was able to detect a wide variety of network attacks during my testing, and I could also set rules that allowed the games on my device and friends on my network to connect online.

Unfortunately, unlike Norton, McAfee doesn’t have a built-in gaming mode or a game booster, but you can easily schedule scans to avoid having gaming interrupted.

When it comes to McAfee’s Total Protection plans, I recommend the 2-year subscriptions for most users, because they provide a really good value — Total Protection Plus offers web protections, a firewall, a secure VPN, and identity monitoring for up to 5 devices for only $49.99 / year, while the Premium plan covers up to 10 devices and includes McAfee’s excellent parental controls for $54.99 / year.

Bottom Line:

McAfee Total Protection provides 100% malware detection rates along with excellent extra features, including parental controls and a smart 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 (especially its 2-year subscriptions), and there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans.

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4. Avira — Lightweight with a Good Free Plan

4. Avira — Lightweight with a Good Free Plan

Avira is a secure, cloud-based antivirus with a good game booster. There’s also a really good free plan — but it doesn’t come with the game booster.

During my tests, Avira’s antivirus engine detected all of the malware files on my PC. And because it’s hosted in the cloud, it barely slowed down my system at all during scans.

I like Avira’s game booster — in my tests, it 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, Avira Free Security, doesn’t come with gamer-specific features, but it’s still one of the best free antivirus plans 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 (500 MB monthly limit).
  • 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.

That said, I still recommend most gamers check out Avira Prime, which adds a really good 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 gamers — 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 game booster should upgrade to Avira Prime, which also comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee.

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5. Kaspersky — Most Extra Features for Gaming

5. Kaspersky — Most Extra Features for Gaming

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.

Kaspersky’s malware scanner detected every single malware file in my testing, including advanced ransomware and spyware.

I also like Kaspersky’s gaming mode that 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 (300 MB per day).
  • PC clean-up tools.

Priced at $29.99 / year, Kaspersky Anti-Virus is a decent choice for gamers looking to protect only Windows PCs, whereas users who want protection for all of their devices should consider upgrading to Kaspersky Internet Security, which costs $39.99 / year, or Kaspersky Total Security, which costs $59.95 / year and also adds a password manager and parental controls.

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.

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6. BullGuard — Decent Antivirus with a Good Game Booster

6. BullGuard — Decent Antivirus with a Good Game Booster

BullGuard provides protection against all types of malware (100% perfect detection score in my tests) and comes with a good game booster that optimizes memory usage and reroutes background apps.

I tested BullGuard’s game booster while running Destiny 2, and my frame rate increased, my load times were faster, and I didn’t have any of the shudders and screen tearing that I usually see on higher graphic settings.

BullGuard also has customizable game profiles that automatically adjust which files to scan, which programs to let through the firewall, and which ports to connect to depending on the game you’re playing. These profiles are automatically updated for major releases, and it’s also pretty simple to adjust the settings for games that aren’t in BullGuard’s directory.

While BullGuard’s gaming features are pretty good, I’m disappointed that its parental controls aren’t very good at filtering inappropriate content. I also don’t like that its VPN is only available as a separate purchase. Competitors like Norton have excellent game boosters, as well as advanced parental controls and bundled VPNs.

Other than the game booster, BullGuard’s cheapest Antivirus plan ($23.99 / year) also has a malware scanner and coverage for 1 device. BullGuard Internet Security ($29.99 / year) adds a firewall, parental controls, cloud backup, and coverage for multiple devices, and BullGuard Premium Protection ($40.00 / year) also has a network scanner and identity theft protections.

Bottom Line:

BullGuard provides good malware protection and a good range of gaming features. Its game booster mode speeds up CPU performance, and it also has customizable game profiles that adjust the program’s settings depending on the game you’re playing. BullGuard’s malware scanner and game booster are both available with the cheapest Antivirus plan, but upgrading to BullGuard Premium Protection also gets you Wi-Fi scanning, identity theft protection, and parental controls. All of BullGuard’s plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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7. Malwarebytes — Minimal Antivirus for Gamers on a Budget

7. Malwarebytes — Minimal Antivirus for Gamers on a Budget

Malwarebytes provides advanced anti-malware protection, good web protections, and an optional VPN for a low price.

Malwarebytes 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 full screen mode, delaying all scans and notifications while you’re gaming or watching videos.

Malwarebytes Premium ($39.99 / 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 Premium + Privacy ($99.99 / 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 fast VPN as well. All of Malwarebytes’s plans include a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.

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8. Panda — Good for Ease-of-Use

8. Panda — Good for Ease-of-Use

Panda is an intuitive and easy to use antivirus with a solid gaming mode and good web security protections.

Panda’s cloud-based virus scanner turned up every piece of malware I tested, including tricky rootkits and ransomware files, and it didn’t slow me down too much during a heated bout of Apex Legends.

Panda’s gaming mode activated whenever I entered full screen, 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 Essential ($28.79 / 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 running when a game starts running. Panda is 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.

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9. Webroot — Best Lightweight Antivirus

9. Webroot — Best Lightweight Antivirus

Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus for PC Gamers is a good product for gamers looking to economize disk space. Webroot is significantly smaller than any other antivirus on the market — you only install about 4 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 manner of minutes — most competitors take as long as a couple of hours to perform a full system scan.

Webroot doesn’t have a gaming mode, but the program barely affected my CPU and RAM usage while I was playing Destiny 2. While this is great, I’d still like to see Webroot include some type of gaming mode or other features that improve gaming performance (like Norton and Avira have).

Priced at $29.99 / year, Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus for PC Gamers also 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. Webroot doesn’t have a gaming mode, but it’s designed to stay in the background, so it won’t slow down your gaming sessions. You can try out Webroot with a generous 70-day money-back guarantee.

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10. Trend Micro — Decent Virus Protection with a Manual Mute Mode

10. Trend Micro — Decent Virus Protection with a Manual Mute Mode

Trend Micro provides good anti-malware protection, along with a decent range of internet security tools, including a Mute Mode that suspends scans and notifications.

In my testing, 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 protections are on par with the best antiviruses — these protections detected scam sites and exploit attacks more accurately than Chrome or Firefox in all of my tests.

I also like Trend Micro’s Mute Mode, but I found it frustrating that I had to click through a few different sub-menus to access and activate this mode — most of the competitors on this list automatically detect when you’re gaming and immediately activate their gaming modes.

While Trend Micro isn’t my top choice for gamers, 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. All of Trend Micro’s plans have a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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Comparison of the Best Antiviruses for Gamers

Antivirus Starting Price Gaming Mode Increases CPU Speed During Gaming System Cleanup Tools Cloud-Based Scanner Parental Controls
1.🥇Norton $29.99 / year Yes (with game booster) Yes Yes No Yes
$23.99 / year Yes No Yes Yes Yes
3.🥉McAfee $49.99 / year No No Yes No Yes
4. Avira $59.99 / year Yes (with game booster) Yes Yes Yes No
5. Kaspersky $29.99 / year Yes No Yes No Yes
6. BullGuard $29.99 / year Yes (with game booster) Yes Yes No Yes
7. Malwarebytes
$39.99 / year Yes No No No No
8. Panda $28.49 / year Yes No Yes Yes Yes
9. Webroot $29.99 / year No No Yes Yes No
10. Trend Micro
$39.95 / year Yes No Yes No Yes

How to Choose the Best Antivirus for Gaming in 2022

  • Protection. I only recommend programs that come with in-depth malware databases, powerful scanning engines, and secure gaming modes.
  • Optimization. Good gaming antivirus programs are optimized for high framerates, fast connections speeds, and low RAM and CPU usage. None of my top picks decreased my PC’s performance — in fact, brands like Norton even enhanced it!
  • Ease of use. All the antiviruses on this list are easy to use (even for users who aren’t too tech-savvy) — they come with intuitive layouts, helpful submenus, and responsive and helpful tech support.
  • Extra features. All the antivirus programs I recommend include extra features like game boosters, webcam protection, VPNs, and parental controls.
  • Good value. I only recommend programs that cover multiple devices, have good deals for first-time buyers, and offer money-back guarantees.

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.
  • Avast/AVG. A lot of sites are paid to recommend Avast and AVG, but after we found out about the credible allegations that both companies steal and sell user data, we couldn’t continue to support them on our site. You can read more about our decision here.
  • TotalAV. TotalAV’s antivirus suite comes with an excellent malware scanner, a fast VPN, and good performance optimization tools which clear out junk files and organize running processes to significantly improve CPU speed (great for users with old and buggy PCs). Unfortunately, TotalAV’s gaming mode isn’t as advanced as the other programs on my list.

Will an antivirus affect my gaming?

Most antiviruses affect gameplay, yes. Virus scans are notorious for their high-CPU load, and pop-up notifications may jump on screen at bad moments. This can cause noticeable lag and other performance glitches.

But the best gaming antiviruses won’t affect gameplay at all. These antiviruses have one or more features that keep your antivirus software and games running smoothly together, including:

  • Gaming mode. Suspends virus scans and notifications while you’re gaming.
  • Game booster. Reallocates background processes to free up CPU processor for gaming.
  • Cloud-based scanner. Doesn’t use your CPU to run scans, limiting system strain during routine scans.
  • System optimization. Cleans out junk files, speeds your bootup, and increases RAM and memory availability.

Antiviruses like Norton and Avira will actually increase your CPU performance with their game booster features. Other products on my list have automatic gaming modes and cloud-based scanners, so you won’t have to worry about a headshot being interrupted by a security notification!

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, so there’s no reason why you should ever turn off your antivirus, even during intense gameplay.

All of the products on this list have excellent malware scanners and game modes, so you can stay protected while gaming without any interruptions. 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 full screen mode. But then there are some — like Norton and Avira — 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 or Bitdefender.

About the Author

Ben Martens
Ben Martens
Senior Editor
Updated on: May 1, 2022

About the Author

Ben Martens is a cybersecurity journalist with a background in internet ethics, malware testing, and public policy. He resides in Oregon, and when he's not advocating for the rights of internet users, he's walking with his dog and inventing stories with his daughter.