The best antivirus software keeps you safe online and by you that means your digital self – you know, the one that has all your banking and personal details stored. To keep them tucked away safe and private, the best antivirus software works to fight blackmailing, identity theft and more so you don't have to worry about being exposed online.
The best antivirus software on your machine means your banking details are kept private, your emails are not shared and any other personal data is kept between you and only those who you choose to share it with.
Sure, Microsoft does throw in Defender with Windows 10 and this now works better than ever, offering some serious protection minus the cost. But there are still holes here where a dedicated antivirus program can offer more security. It's worth noting that this isn't just a Windows phenomenon – Mac, iOS and Android devices are also at threat which is why a good antivirus software will cover more than one device on a plan.
So find the best antivirus software, get it installed on your machine and enjoy worry-free internet access anywhere. So which is the best for you?
1. Bitdefender Total Security
The best antivirus software overall
Bottom line: Super powerful security tools that cover a massive range and keep you secure with some of the most up to date and high-strength security out there right now.
Bitdefender Total Security is one of the best antivirus software options out there right now and was our top pick for best antivirus 2021. Sure, it's not the cheapest, but for the price you get a 100 percent detection rate for both viruses and malware. This also combines a digital signature matching engine with heuristic monitoring, when it comes to antivirus to detect both known and unseen threats. The malware detection is 100 percent for both 0-day attacks (web and email) as well as for detection of the most common spread malware in the last four years.
You get protection against viruses, malware, phishing, spyware and dangerous websites. You also get Privacy Protection, Parental Controls, Password Management across devices and safe money features - to name just a few. Plus you get a VPN thrown in and an anti-theft and specific platform software for Mac, Android and iOS with one license covering up to five devices.
Bitdefender is fast with very little slow down when carrying out common tasks like launching websites. There is some decent customer support on offer and for the price you really do get a lot of features.
When it comes to antivirus options, there is absolutely no shortage out there. Odds are that by now you have heard of brands like Bitdefender, Avira, Norton, and more. Knowing which ones of these to pick is probably the hardest part of the process. Over the years there has been a lot of stuff said about antivirus software, and people tend to have very strong opinions about whether or not you even need to be using it.
Unfortunately, creators of malware and viruses aren't going anywhere, and they are actually only getting smarter. They continue to look for new ways to get in and infect your PC, but luckily the antivirus companies are getting smarter as well. You may not find a need on a daily basis to have one of the best antivirus software options installed on your computer, but that's ok. If you are looking for some peace of mind and extra security, it's well worth checking out the whole list here and spending a bit of money to keep your stuff protected.
A few bucks a month proves to be a very small amount of money in the grand scheme of things when you think about how much personal data is on your computer that you need to protect. Let's continue looking at the other options for best antivirus software in 2021 for your computer now.
2. Avira Antivirus Pro
Cheapest premium Windows antivirus software
Bottom line: If you want the features that a top premium software will offer but without the large price tag, you can't do any better than what Avira offers. The company offers award-winning antivirus protection, has discrete browser add-ons and much more.
Not everyone is looking to spend a ton of money on antivirus software each year, especially if you are unsure of the actual value it will provide for you. Protection is something that you should have on any computer you connect to the internet, and Avira's Antivirus Pro is the perfect affordable option for everyone. This highly-rated software offers all of the necessities, like anti-scam protection, antivirus protection, a built-in VPN, and more.
With the Pro service, you'll automatically have all of your downloads, torrents, and cloud storage files scanned as they are being downloaded on to your computer. With the included browser safety checks Avira will automatically block most of the URLs that are known to host malware, and the device protection allows you to whitelist / blacklist USB devices on your computer.
Avira is more of a "full service" company than just a standalone antivirus company. It offers VPN, a password manager, a performance optimizer, and much more. The value is not hard to see when it comes to comparing the features and offerings from Avira at its price to some of what the others are offering at 4 or 5 times the cost per year.
Be sure to get in on this limited-time offer to save big on Avira while protecting your PC from all the bad stuff out there.
3. Norton 360 with LifeLock
The best antivirus software for a feature rich experience
Bottom line: Affordable for new users, this offers some of the best protection across the board no matter what your device is.
NortonLifeLock, as it's known since splitting off from Symantec, still offers one of the best antivirus software solutions with its 360 system. This means both malware and virus protection with a 100 percent guarantee but with plenty of other features thrown-in. Not only do you get the very easy to use antivirus setup but there are extras too like a VPN and a massive 100GB of cloud storage available to you.
Other protections include phishing scams, malicious websites, adware, trackers and cookies. You even have your passwords, when logging into sites, protected to avoid them being taken. Parents can also block content so that children are protected when online.
While this works on lots of devices including Windows, Mac, iOS and Android - with unlimited licenses – it does run slower on smartphones where you may actually notice the slow-down, depending on the age of your device.
4. Avira Antivirus Free
A great free antivirus that works on mobile
Bottom line: If you aren't looking to spend any money on a third-party antivirus option for your computer or phone, Avira is one of the absolute best options to try.
Avira offers a great paid premium antivirus that we've covered above, but the company's free option is also worth a mention in our list. While it may not have the same features and options, it's quite comprehensive when it comes to antivirus protection. It offers a free VPN, anti-scam technology, and is completely ad-free still.
The company does not sell user data as part of the free program, so be sure to download it today and give it a try!
5. Microsoft Defender
the best free antivirus software
Bottom line: Microsoft Defender comes pre-installed on your computer, which means you don't need to do anything to get it going. It may not have the biggest feature set, but it's free and designed for Windows users.
For a simple to use and free option Windows Defender is now a great bit of kit. This comes bundled free with Windows 10, which might make it sound basic, but in reality it's not a really powerful antivirus solution. Turned on as standard this will be working in the background – without using much processing power – to keep viruses at bay.
Windows Defender is also good for zero-day attacks and ransomware protections. By default Microsoft will upload suspect items from your machine to get an online analysis (which you can opt out of if you don't want that). Daily updates should be enough to keep you secure locally with malware signatures constantly monitored and updated.
We particularly like the sandbox feature which will place any rogue code into a safe section so that it can be executed without affecting the rest of the system. The tamper protection, which stops malicious apps from changing settings, is also a really useful feature. Emails are screened and this will even stop fileless-malware from being injected into the RAM thanks to a memory integrity feature.
6. Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security
The best easy to use software
Bottom line: Simple yet very effective protection that you can leave running without having to do anything yourself
If you want an antivirus software you can install and leave to do its thing then Trend Micro is a great option. Yes, it's not the most customizable, but that's because it just works and works well. This has some superb antivirus defenses while remaining very user friendly.
Antivirus defenses go beyond realtime behaviour monitoring with anti-ransomware which it calls Folder Shield. Unlike older versions of this software the resources consumed have dropped a lot and this runs without you noticing it as much when in the background.
In the case of the Trend Micro Internet Security you get a rather unique feature that specifically protects you on social networks. Go for the full Trend Micro Maximum Security and you can expect Mac and mobile protection as well as Windows with 10 devices covered in total. You also get a password manager and secure file vault thrown in for good measure.
7. Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus
The best lightweight antivirus system for speed
Bottom line: A very lightweight software that won't use up system resources while still offering great protection
If you want all out speed from an antivirus software that doesn't lean heavily on your machine's resources then this is a top option. Webroot offers an installation that takes, at 15MB, just seconds. This starts as it means to go on as the lightweight software runs rapidly on any machine.
Despite the speed there are no compromises on security. You get solid malware protection, very fast virus scans and even a smart firewall monitoring system. There's also a real time anti-phishing features, identity theft protection and plenty more.
Depending on the level you go for this can protect both Windows and Mac as well as mobile devices with up to five devices covered and a password manager included. The tip top tier also offers a 25GB cloud based backup tool as well as more online privacy features.
All that's topped off with a sweet 70-day 100 percent money-back guarantee, so this is well worth a try.
8. Sophos Home
The best family friendly software system
Bottom line: An antivirus system aimed at families offers protection across devices, for free.
A great free option, aimed at families, is the Sophos Home antivirus software. This is, according to the company, business-grade security, which is built for families. That means it's very simple to use with a non intrusive build. It also means it works across lots of devices – 10 PCs, for example, all without paying a cent.
Since the control of each device can be managed in the cloud, this is a great setup for parents that want to keep their kids' devices locked to a safe level without them adjusting it on the device itself.
The software offers both virus protection and anti-malware as well as anti-phishing and even content controls – again perfect for parents. There is also a premium version available for anyone that wants even more features at cost.
9. Avast Antivirus
The best feature rich software suite
Bottom line: Get lots and lots of features backed by a famed antivirus protection engine
For a feature rich solution the Avast Premium Security setup is a superb option. This not only uses the famously powerful Avast antivirus engine but also crams in lots of extras. That means you get a Ransomware Shield, anti-phishing protection at a high level, secure browser, password manager, Wi-Fi network inspector and a file shredder.
Customization is also a big plus here, with lots of options to tweak and personalize this software to suit your needs. Go for the Ultimate option and you also get a VPN to add to that list of tools you can adapt to suit your needs.
On the downside the slowdown this can cause is observable at times so having a more powerful machine will help with all this feature rich cover.
10. ESET Antivirus
The best expert level software for experienced users
Bottom line: This is a great option for expert users that want top level protection that they can configure as needed
If you're not afraid of diving into some fairly complex menu options to tweak your antivirus as you want it then ESET is a great setup. Not for beginners, this software offers a highly configurable way to streamline an already light-on-resources software.
Expect to enjoy heuristic protection, to keep you safe from more unknown threats as they appear. You also get URL filtering for safer browsing. The NOD32 plan offers some of the best features while keeping the overall system strain low.
This is complicated for new users and some independent testing has returned mixed results. But with a Ransomware Shield, UEFI Scanner, Exploit Blocker and cloud powered scanning across up to five Windows devices, this is a very compelling option.
11. AVG AntiVirus Free
A great free antivirus choice to consider
Bottom line: If you are looking for something that is free, AVG is one of the best options that you can pick. It's easy to use, installs in minutes, and if you ended up wanting more from it you could move it to a paid subscription.
AVG's free antivirus program is one of the easiest to install and use. Its dashboard uses icons for each function with those available colored green and those not ready in red. It does have a lot more features listed on its dashboard than are available with the free program. If you decide to upgrade to a paid subscription, these icons will turn green, too.
One of the best features of AVG is that is works in tandem with other antivirus programs, including Windows Defender. Other programs, during the install process, will notify you of other antivirus programs installed and require you to uninstall them before using their program. AVG lets you use both. It automatically recognizes when your other program is running in the primary position and will take a back seat. With its excellent protection ability, it will snatch up any threats your first security program misses. AVG does a great job of blocking phishing schemes, too.
During testing, I did notice that AVG does have some lag issues. It was most noticeable when I first opened a browser, or while waiting for a video to download or a page to fully load. Once the initial startup was done for any of these functions, I didn't have any issues. Of course, since this is a free antivirus program, you will notice some ads enticing you to upgrade to AVG's paid antivirus program. This does add to the slowdown issue a bit, but more often, it's simply just annoying.
Here's why Bitdefender dominates
Over the five years we have been testing antivirus programs, Bitdefender (opens in new tab) has held the top spot most of the time. This year is no exception. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2021 has all the great features you need to secure your computer from some of the nastiest threats, including ransomware, Trojans, worms, and rootkits. It did an excellent job of recognizing phishing schemes designed to look like login pages of popular websites like Facebook and PayPal.
I love that Bitdefender stops infected files before the download process even begins and scrubs the threats clean from your computer immediately. If Bitdefender does come across a new threat or a suspicious file it doesn't recognize, it places it in quarantine for a few days before permanently removing it.
The only real downside is how long it takes to scan your computer for viruses. Where other programs take under five minutes, Bitdefender quickly takes five times longer. I do appreciate that Bitdefender is so thorough, and I like that it doesn't take up too many resources so I can keep working or playing online during these scans and not worry about being disrupted by any slowdown.
Antivirus software and data sharing
There has been a lot of news about antivirus companies using its software to collect user information. For example, in 2019, Avast acknowledged it collected user information, such as search results and online browser histories, and sold it to third-parties, such as Google. It has since discontinued this program, but every antivirus solution still collects and uses customer data in some form or another.
The first reason for antivirus programs to collect user data is to ensure updated malware information is logged in threat databases quickly. Zero-day threats, which are malware files so new they haven't had a chance to be named, yet, are the most common threats picked up on user computers then shared with these databases. Without this information, too many systems would be vulnerable to malware attacks because it would take too long for antivirus programs to figure out these threats and how to stop them on each computer. Getting this information to shared databases quickly is the best way to protect everyone.
The second reason for collecting user information is for product research. It's helpful for many software companies to know how their clients interact with the world wide web. Security software, especially, gathers information to create better programs that recognize spam messages, phishing schemes, and websites that tend to harbor malicious files. It's also helpful to know information, such as how often users download videos and games, or shop and bank online, to better design and optimized protection tools for these activities.
The third reason for user data is to make money. It isn't a secret that websites and software gather information about its users and send it along to business partners. These partners then use this information to created targeted ads. This is why, after searching for a blender on Amazon, you are suddenly inundated with blender ads on Facebook.
It might make you uneasy to think about your information being gathered and shared. However, each antivirus program does give you the chance to opt-out of its data collection program. Every software I tested asked me during the initial download and set up if I wanted to participate in its collection program. In each instance, I opted out, though I could change my mind and opt back in simply by adjusting the appropriate settings. However, even when opting out of these programs, there is still going to be some information gathered. It is the only way software programs can better serve its users.