BEST ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE DEALS THIS WEEK:
McAfee Total Protection for 10 devices — $34.99 ($90 off)
Norton Antivirus Plus Annual Membership — $50 off
Webroot Secure for five devices — save up to $50
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus for three devices — save $45
ESET NOD32 Antivirus — save 25%
It’s important to have a great antivirus software package that can protect your PC from threats while you browse online. Viruses, malware, ransomware, and phishing threats are all potential dangers when you’re online, even if you think you’re being careful. New threats are emerging every day, which is why many antivirus software manufacturers take a holistic approach, protecting your system from all kinds of potential threats, not just the obvious ones.
There is no shortage of options out there for protecting your system from viral threats, but it’s important to have the right solution for you. Free apps are available of course, but they typically offer far fewer features and can sometimes be updated less frequently and reliably than paid antivirus software. Generally, you get what you pay for, and when it comes to keeping your PC secure from security threats, who wants to scrimp on protection?
A dangerous virus or piece of ransomware can lock you out of your system, meaning if you don’t have a reliable backup, you could lose banking details, private documents, and personal photos that can never be recovered. Fortunately, if you install the right paid antivirus software, you won’t have to worry about that being an issue.
It’s worth remembering that even though it might seem like having multiple antivirus software apps installed is the best solution, this often causes issues. A far better idea is to pick one and stick with it so that they don’t clash with each other. Nowadays, many threats emerge from phishing attempts such as scam emails or websites that are disguised as something reputable. The best paid antivirus software appreciates that, so it looks out for anything that could be suspicious as well as more obvious virus files.
It’s also important that your antivirus software has an on-demand malware scan as well as checks for vulnerabilities along the way. That way, it can keep an eye out for issues before they develop. Some paid antivirus software also detects files that are behaving suspiciously, giving you a head’s up so you can determine if you want to trust it or not. Viruses and security issues are fast-moving, so this is a great method for ensuring that potential issues are spotted even before a new virus is officially identified.
I have a Mac. Do I need antivirus software?
Plenty of people tout Macs as impenetrable fortresses when it comes to viruses and other issues of the like, but they’ve been misled. While Macs are generally more secure than PCs — Apple software and hardware are all in-house, where Windows tends to have security vulnerabilities because they work with multiple manufacturers — that doesn’t mean they’re invincible. Albeit smaller than PCs, there are still holes in the system that can be infiltrated.
So yes, if you have a Mac, that doesn’t mean you should immediately write off picking up a high-quality antivirus software package. Many Mac users who carry the notion that they cannot be affected by malware tend to skip out on antivirus software because they feel like they don’t need it, and malicious hackers have caught onto this. As a result, Mac users are more targeted than ever when it comes to cyber attacks. (We have a roundup of antivirus software *just* for Mac users as well.)
Don’t be a part of that statistic. Protect your computer, whether it’s a PC or a Mac.
Viruses, malware, and ransomware
There are slight differences between them, but they’re worth knowing about so you can spot issues more easily as they come up. Just like all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares, all viruses and ransomware are malware, but not all malware is a virus or ransomware. Got it? No? Well, let’s go a little deeper.
Malware, which is a term used for malicious software, covers any software that is meant to cause harm to a computer, server, network, or the user themself. This ranges from the seemingly innocuous nuisance, like pop-up ads, to the actually dangerous situations, like webcam hacking (maybe pick up a webcam cover, just to be safe).
Now that we’ve established the malware umbrella, we can understand what a virus is. Viruses are a form of malware that self-replicates, effectively causing an “infection” on your computer (hence “virus”). Viruses can be picked up from things like email attachments, links with dangerous code embedded in them, disguised pop-ups, and downloads that haven’t been properly vetted.
Ransomware is another form of malware that has a different purpose from a virus. A ransomware attack blocks access to a specific system until a “ransom” is paid, basically creating a hostage situation. Average computer users don’t have to be all that concerned about ransomware, as these types of attacks usually target larger institutions and businesses that hold a lot of capital.
A good antivirus software package will work to fight all of these things, and while it still won’t make your device 100% impervious to attacks, it’ll still supply you with enough protection and peace of mind to keep your anxieties from running wild about getting hacked all the time.
Get a VPN, too
If you use a public network in any capacity, a VPN is a great thing to have by your side, and many antivirus software packages include them. Unsecured public networks are a hacker’s dream, which you can find present in places like coffee shops, airports, hotels, and more. Since connecting to public networks requires no authentication, hackers are easily able to get in and wreak all kinds of havoc.
Thankfully, VPNs add a level of encryption that most public networks do not — they connect you to a secure server and provide you with an extra layer of protection around your data. Next time you’re on a public network, a secure VPN can keep you safe from people eavesdropping on your emails, stealing personal information, or sending you malware. Plus, they’re great for watching exclusive Netflix offerings that are specific to other countries, as a little bonus.
Password managers — are they necessary?
A lot of us do it: We repeat the same password for every single account we make, or at least some variation of that password. Even though it’s the more convenient option, seeing as you don’t have a billion passwords to remember at all times, it can also potentially be very dangerous. Think about it — if a hacker can get access to that master password of yours (which isn’t all that difficult, FYI), they can then get access to anything you used that password with, whether it’s your Amazon account or your online banking information. Bad news.
That’s where a password manager comes in, and most antivirus software packages thankfully include them. A password manager has the ability to store all of your passwords in one place so that you don’t have to remember them, meaning you can create a completely new and unique one every time you need to without worrying about possibly losing it. This will make it way harder for anyone trying to get access to any of your multiple accounts across the internet, which is better for you in every way.
So, what’s the best antivirus software?
There are a lot of options out there, but we were able to narrow it down to eight packages that we think are worthwhile for you to check out. Here are our top picks for the best antivirus solutions, no matter your network situation:
One of the cheaper solutions • Browser identifies dangerous links • Removes adware and blocks ad tracking
Automatically installs VPN, which isn’t free
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus has a great reputation for detecting viruses, malware, and pretty much all other nasties you could need to spot.
Bitdefender Antivirus PlusBitdefender Antivirus Plus has a great reputation for detecting viruses, malware, and pretty much all other nasties you might need to spot.
Up to 5 devices:
$69.99 (first year)
Up to 10 devices:
$79.99 (first year)
In terms of its most basic features, it has a strong antivirus component, real-time behavioral monitoring for any pesky suspicious files, and ransomware protection. Scanning speeds are reasonably efficient with a quick scan taking a matter of seconds, and a full scan gradually taking less time the more you use it. For many, that’s all you’re ever going to need, but Bitdefender throws in a few more features along the way too — malicious website blocking, a password manager tool, and ransomware detection are also included.
Overall, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is the kind of software you can leave running in the background and it simply just works. It also doubles up well as a form of security suite, rather than simply virus protection tool.
Great at detecting malware and exploits • Low performance hit • Plenty of configuration options
Slightly confusing UI
A familiar name, Norton Antivirus Plus will make the majority of its users feel safe and protected, even if the options are a double-edged sword.
Norton Antivirus PlusThe familiar name will make the majority of its users feel safe and protected, even if the options are a double edged sword.
Norton AntiVirus Plus:
Norton 360 Standard:
Norton 360 Deluxe:
Norton 360 with LifeLock Select:
That’s immediately noticeable from the outset with Norton, which urges you to install not just the antivirus software, but multiple browser extensions. As part of its ability to protect you from dangerous search results, there’s Norton Safe Search, along with Norton Toolbar, which assigns each site a safety rating, and Norton Identity Safe (its password management tool). Such a wealth of options continue throughout the software, which is why it can be a little confusing for some, albeit very secure. Extra features include a smart firewall that monitors any potential unauthorized traffic, a SafeCam mode that detects if anyone tries to access your webcam, and the aforementioned VPN and Identity Safe password manager.
Low performance impact • Works across multiple different devices • Firewall support
URL blocking is ineffective
McAfee isn’t perfect at eliminating all threats, but it’s a bargain for those with multiple systems to protect.
McAfee Total ProtectionMcAfee Total Protection isn’t perfect at eliminating all threats, but it’s a bargain for those with multiple systems to protect.
Two years (up to 10 devices):
Its scan takes an average length of time compared to its competitors, but it does a solid job of detecting most threats. Similarly, the built-in firewall detects most threats automatically, without much need for you to tweak or fiddle around with any settings (unless you want to, of course). In all cases, McAfee Total Protection hardly slows down the system it’s installed on, amply reminding you of why it’s worth the investment. Being able to use one program across multiple devices is a huge help in simplifying security matters at home, and it’s pretty effective too.
Very fast scanning • Easy to configure • Compatible with both Mac and PC • Lightweight and perfect for old computers
Limited test results • Limited scan options
If your PC is rapidly aging, Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus is an ideal solution that won’t slow it down any further.
Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet SecurityIf your PC is rapidly aging, Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus is an ideal solution that won’t slow it down any further.
One year (up to three devices):
Occupying only about 15MB of disk space, Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus takes predictably little time to install. Impressively, its system scan is also as speedy, taking less than a minute. Impressively, there’s room for a sandbox feature too, an unusual addition for any antivirus package, that lets you run dubious programs in an isolated environment to see if they are actually worthy of your suspicion or not.
The sole issue arises from the lack of independent test results for Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security, but it’s a relatively small issue in something that, anecdotally, has consistently garnered good results.
Plenty to tweak for experts • Lots of useful features • Essentially a security suite
Expensive • Free version is the better option
A great antivirus tool that doubles as a security suite, but many of its best features are available in the free version.
Avast Premium SecurityAvast Premium Security is a great antivirus tool that doubles as a security suite, but many of its best features are available in the free version.
One year (up to 10 devices):
Fine-tuning is immediately demonstrated during the installation process. There are over a dozen different modular options to choose from, ranging from browser extensions to opting to install a password manager. You won’t be left with unwanted features installed on your system.
Where Avast Premium Security really differs from its free alternative is the addition of Real Site, a secure DNS system that protects you from DNS hijacks. Essentially, it’s an extra layer of protection against spoof websites. There’s a sandbox tool too, although (as usual) it’s unlikely that many people will feel the need to use it.
Licenses for up to 10 systems • Powerful advanced features • Compatible with Windows and Mac
Features aren’t needed for most • Dependent on changing settings via browser
If you’re the tech support for the whole family, this is a convenient way of controlling their security from wherever you are.
Sophos Home PremiumIf you’re the tech support for the whole family, this is a convenient way of controlling their security from wherever you are.
One year (up to 10 devices):
Two years (up to 10 devices):
Three years (up to 10 devices):
Additionally, there’s keylogger protection and a safe browser option for keeping you safe while checking your online banking. Unlike other virus protection software, Sophos extends things to include webcam protection too.
So, what’s the downside? Sophos Home Premium is fairly unwieldy at times and a little intimidating given its wealth of options. More importantly, if you want to change a simple setting, you still need to dive into the remote management portal in your web browser, which makes it a less attractive proposition for one system use. Still, if you’re the family’s tech support, this is an ideal way of circumventing various common issues.
Mute mode • Spam filter • Extensive ransomware detection
Little slower than the competition
If you need to be able to pause your security protection, such as when gaming, this is a great option.
Trend Micro Antivirus+ SecurityIf you need to be able to pause your security protection, such as when gaming, Trend Micro is a great option.
One year (for one PC):
Much of that is down to Trend Micro’s Folder Shield component. It blocks all access to protected files by any program or app that isn’t on your dedicated trusted list. By default, it covers the usual documents and pictures folders, but you can extend it to anything else of your choosing.
Elsewhere is the addition of Mute mode. This pauses all Trend-Micro-Antivirus+-Security-related activities as well as Windows Update while you’re otherwise preoccupied. Playing a game and don’t want to be disturbed by a pop-up? This is where you go, and is exactly why Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security is so good for gamers.
Extensive security protection • Includes VPN • Safety tools for kids
Only one device is protected • Not perfect at virus detection
Not perfect by any means, but Kaspersky Total Security is good if you want a one-stop solution to your home security.
Kaspersky Total SecurityIf you want an all-around security solution that also protects your kids while they browse, this is a reliable bet.
One year (up to five devices):
Two years (up to five devices):
One year (up to 10 devices):
Two years (up to 10 devices):
It offers URL filtering that is pretty good at detecting spoofed websites, as well as a System Watcher module that monitors any suspicious changes that are trying to be forced through on your system. In terms of detecting theoretical threats, it does a great job. It also offers a vulnerability scan that lets you know if any settings are dangerously misconfigured on your PC, keystroke detection protection, and a privacy cleaner that tidies up your browsing history as and when you want it to.
There’s also a firewall, basic VPN, spam filter, and a specialized browser for checking your online bank accounts. A parental controls module completes the package so you can easily check your kids’ activity, limit access to certain websites, and monitor their location. For a bit of everything, it’s a good family choice.