Best Antivirus Software for Windows 10 Windows Central 2020
Using live malware samples, we tested and evaluated 20 antivirus programs. McAfee Total Protection is the best antivirus software for PCs running Windows 10 because of how well it stops threats before you're infected, the minimal amount of system resources it uses while running and the number of extra protections included with this program.
- Best Overall: McAfee Total Protection
- Best Value: Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2020
- Social Media Protection: VIPRE Advanced Security
- Free Security: Avast Free Antivirus
- Resource Friendly: Kaspersky Anti-Virus
- Virus Free Guarantee: Norton Antivirus Plus
- Perfect Protection: Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security
- Fast Protection: Webroot AntiVirus
Best Overall: McAfee Total Protection
For many years McAfee ranked near the bottom for cybersecurity. It caused computers to drag and lots of malware to sneak through. However, since cutting ties with Intel in 2017, McAfee has worked hard to become more secure while using fewer computer resources, and it has paid off. In the last two years, security test labs, have seen McAfee become one of the best in malware detection and protection. This year we can clearly see it earns the top spot.
On top of earning a perfect 100 percent in both protection and performance - which looks at how much slowdown it causes on your computer - McAfee has a long list of advanced security tools. This list includes a firewall that keeps hackers, snoops and identity thieves from sneaking in through your network and boots off anyone trying to steal or piggyback on your internet connection. Its PC Boost scans your entire system for any vulnerabilities. It looks for outdated software programs and helps you bring them up to date, which makes it harder for ransomware to attack. It encrypts and saves your files to McAfee's online backup storage. Its robust parental controls allow you to manage when and how long children can be online and what they have access to while there. Last, but not least, McAfee's webcam monitoring makes sure no person or software accesses your computer's video camera without your permission.
Because of the sheer number of features included with McAfee Total Protection, it becomes a little overwhelming to find some of them on the dashboard. It took us a couple of hours of consistent use to become familiar enough to re-find what we needed on later occasions. Even then a few of them weren't as intuitively placed as we'd like, so it took a few tries to find them. Since most tools are already set up and enabled, there wasn't a lot that we needed to do to feel fully protected by McAfee Total Protection.
- Perfect malware protection
- Doesn't drain resources
- Webcam monitoring
- Personal firewall
- Parental controls
- Challenging to navigate
Number one pick for PC protection.
McAfee earned perfect scores for both malware protection and for the limited amount of resources it uses while running. It comes with a personal firewall, password managers, safe banking tools, and parental controls. Plus, McAfee guarantees to help remove threats and restore your computer if it does become infected.
Best Value: Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2020
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus provides fantastic protection against system-crippling viruses and other annoying malware, and for the price, Bitdefender is the best. Where other antivirus programs give you a single user license, Bitdefender gives you three to protect multiple PCs at once. It also includes several advanced protection tools that basic antivirus programs typically don't have, including a VPN, safe banking tools and a password manager.
During our tests of the best antivirus software, Bitdefender consistently stopped threats before they had a chance to start the download process, including ransomware, Trojans, and rootkits. When we attempted to visit a website that harbored malicious links and files, Bitdefender usually blocked them and displayed a warning message about what was lurking there. It did an excellent job of blocking phishing schemes, including those designed to look like social media and banking login pages. A couple of threats Bitdefender wasn't sure were completely dangerous, but instead of letting them go free, the files were placed in the quarantine folder. This folder allowed us to look at them first before allowing Bitdefender to take care of them. When Bitdefender stops a threat, it scrubs your system to make sure it is clean. It then permanently removes the malware in a way that it can't escape and re-infect your computer.
Virus and system scans take a bit longer than other antivirus solutions. Most antivirus programs take about five minutes to perform a quick scan and 20 for deep scans. Bitdefender took twice as long. However, Bitdefender doesn't use a lot of system resources, so you can still work and play online without noticing any slowdown. I was able to upload and download files, send email messages, watch videos, and play online games while Bitdefender scanned our computers. I didn't experience any slowdown or interruption from the program.
- Real-time protection
- Extra security tools
- Multiple user licenses
- Takes time to scan
- No firewall
Excellent protection at a great price
This antivirus monitors your computer in real-time to stop malicious files before they have a chance to start downloading. It consistently scores high for malware protections and includes three user licenses at a price point where other programs charge for one.
Social Media Protection: VIPRE Advanced Security
VIPRE Advanced Security is one of my favorite antivirus programs because of how easy it is to use. Its minimal use of computer resources and how quickly it stops malware from infecting computers were also strong reasons to recommend it. In my tests of the best antivirus for Windows 10, VIPRE stopped all malware downloads before they had a chance to infect my computers. While it was doing that, it ran so quickly and lightly I could hardly tell an antivirus program was installed. Safe browsing is enabled from the VIPRE dashboard instead of requiring you to install and activate browser extensions. VIPRE also scans your Facebook timeline and lets you know if anyone has posed a malicious link or is trying to break into your account.
This program has a few extra security tools, including a firewall, a tool not many basic antivirus programs include but an important one to have. It monitors email messages and blocks and links or downloads sent in them. If you are sent suspicious messages, like phishing schemes, VIPRE sends a copy of the message to its quarantine folder. Here you can open and read messages in a secure space without worrying about anything dangerous being let out.
The biggest complaint is VIPRE has a bit of a learning curve. Even though its dashboard isn't cluttered, and it is a basic antivirus program, come of the file and features take a bit to locate. We had to relearn where some of the tools were - usually found by scrolling down further. After a day or two, we got the hang of it.
- 99 percent protection score
- No computer slowdown
- Includes firewall
- Quarantines email messages
- Bit of a learning curve
Social Media Protection
Scans Facebook accounts for malicious links.
VIPRE doesn't cause computer slowdown as it protects you from malware threats. It has a firewall and quarantines email messages so you can read them without worrying about threats downloading from them.
Free Security: Avast Free Antivirus
For a free program, Avast Antivirus does an excellent job. In our test of the best antivirus software, I saw Avast stop 98 percent of all threats. It did have trouble blocking a few phishing schemes, but Trojans, rootkits and ransomware were all easily stopped. Avast stops malware files as they are downloading, and before they have a chance to infect your computer. And if you try to access a dangerous website, including most phishing schemes, Avast displays a warning message and has a popup warning, too.
One impressive quality of this free program is the amount of extra security tools that come along with it. It includes a VPN and password managers. We were particularly impressed with the deep system scanner that looks for all types of vulnerabilities on your computer, like loopholes in your browsers and outdated drivers and software. These are weak spots where ransomware and hackers tend to sneak in, so we're always impressed when an antivirus solution includes them. Avast doesn't have a firewall, but its Wi-Fi monitoring tool watches out for anyone trying to steal, or piggyback on your internet connection.
Because it is a free program, you will see a lot of pop-up ads asking you to upgrade your subscription. The Avast Antivirus dashboard lists all the tools available from Avast, but clearly marks those you cannot access unless you pay for them. These include a personal firewall, data shredder, and webcam monitoring. Also, we found Avast Free Antivirus uses up a lot of computer resources that resulted in test computers running noticeably slower.
- Free virus protection
- Wi-Fi monitoring
- Password managers
- Passive mode
- Lots of popup ads
- Creates a little slowdown
- No firewall
The best option for free protection.
If you are on a budget and don't mind being inundated with ads, Avast is our top pick for free antivirus. It stops threats in real-time, includes a password manager and keeps a close eye on your Wi-Fi connection for anyone attempting to steal or piggyback on your service.
Resource Friendly: Kaspersky Anti-Virus
We could tell from the beginning that Kaspersky is a very light program. We didn't need to wait long for the program to set up and be ready to use. While it was performing deep scans, we were able to use our computers without experiencing any slowdown. Kaspersky Anti-Virus is a very basic program without a lot of extra security tools, but even its more advanced applications, like Kaspersky Internet Security or Total Security that have several more tools that still don't cause computer drag.
One of the features we like about Kaspersky Anti-Virus is its virtual keyboard. This digital keyboard pops up in the web browser and lets you "type" without worrying about keyloggers or other internet snoops seeing what you are entering. This is ideal for shielding usernames and passwords as you log into online accounts. It also a good security measure when entering in bank account or credit card information while shopping online.
The biggest downfall of Kaspersky Anti-Virus is the black eye it received in 2017 when Kaspersky was accused of using its computer protection programs to gather classified information from government computers and filter that information to the Russian government. The U.S. government has since required Kaspersky removed from all its agencies' networks and has asked its workers not to use it on personal devices, especially if they do any work from home. Kaspersky's official statement claims, "As a private company, Kaspersky Lab has no ties to any government, and the company has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts." Germany's BSI found no evidence that Russian hackers used Kaspersky, and the U.S. Government never placed sanctions against Kaspersky that would have banned its use entirely in the United States, even among private users. In short, we haven't seen any evidence that suggests Kaspersky isn't safe enough for consumer use.
- Uses minimal resources
- Safe browsing
- Virtual keyboard
- Lacks advanced tools
- Not recommended for government workers
Excellent protection without the slowdown.
Kaspersky is a top-notch security program that stops malware before it downloads and doesn't use up a lot of system resources while running. It includes a virtual keyboard to shield anything you type online from keyloggers and trackers
Virus Free Guarantee: Norton AntiVirus Plus
Norton AntiVirus Plus comes with a few extra features that aren't commonly included with basic antivirus programs, including a firewall and a password manager. Both are essential tools, beyond stopping malicious downloads, for keeping your entire computer safe and protecting your online identity. The firewall monitors your internet connection to make sure nothing is sneaking in, or sensitive information is accidentally being sent out. This is an excellent way to stop hackers and some ransomware threats. The password manager helps you create and save complicated passwords for logging into online accounts. This makes it more difficult for trackers and internet snoops to swipe your login credentials, but also lets you create passwords that are difficult to hack without requiring you to memorize them.
Another great feature of Norton AntiVirus Plus is access to 2GB of online storage. This is a great way to save sensitive documents and files in case your computer becomes infected with ransomware and to hide essential data from hackers. It's also helpful when restoring your computer after a system crash or virus attack.
In our tests of Norton AntiVirus Plus, it stopped most malware files we attempted to download. We did notice a couple of threats we were told were stopped had still downloaded completely. Norton AntiVirus found these threats during a deep scan and took care of them. It was a bit disheartening that a couple of threats got through but also encouraging that Norton was still able to recognize and clear them at some point. It is also comforting to know that if our computers had become infected to the point that the threats couldn't be removed that Norton's virus-free guarantee would have given us access to its experts to help clean and restore our systems.
- Guaranteed protection
- Extra security tools
- Slows down computer
Virus Free Guarantee
Guaranteed to block malware or your money back.
Norton's advanced antivirus solutions come with a 100 percent virus-free guarantee. If your system becomes infected, Norton will remove the threat and restore your computer, or give you a refund. Even without the guarantee, Norton does a decent job stopping most internet threats in the first place.
Perfect Protection: Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security
Trend Micro is impressively good at stopping malware threats. In our tests, Trend Micro was only one of two antivirus programs that successfully prevent every single one of the over 350 malware samples used. And it didn't wait until after the file was downloaded entirely before snatching the threat. Instead, it stopped malware during the download process, so there was no chance of our computers becoming infected. Trend Micro also prevented us from accessing phishing schemes and other dangerous websites known to harbor malicious links by displaying a warning message with some information about what was being stopped. This is done by using web reputation technology that looks for signs of a fake site and quickly marks it as dangerous.
This antivirus program includes Pay Guard, a tool specifically designed to shield your online banking and shopping transactions so personal, account, financial and other sensitive information isn't tracked or stolen. Pay Guard lets you store credit card numbers and bank accounts in it, so you don't have to pull out your credit card every time you shop online, much like a password manager stores passwords, so you don't have to remember them. However, Pay Guard has a lot more protects to keep your information more secure from being stolen.
As impressed as we are of Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security, it did create a noticeable slowdown on our computers while installed and created a lot of lag while running virus scans. It was frustrating trying to download or upload files or even navigate the web because our mouse couldn't keep up with our movements. In between scans, the lag wasn't as bad, but it did take websites longer to load and apps more time to open.
- Perfect protection score
- Web reputation technology
- Pay Guard
- Creates noticeable lag
- Difficult to set up
Perfect score for malware protection.
This program uses web reputation technology to stop malware before it infects your PC. It's also very effective at blocking phishing schemes, and dangerous websites know to harbor malware. Trend Micro is one of the few program tests that earned a perfect protection score.
Fast Protection: Webroot AntiVirus
Webroot AntiVirus is impressively fast when stopping threats. Downloads were stopped and websites blocked before we had a chance to blink. And where other antivirus programs took an average of five minutes to perform deep virus scans, Webroot took under a minute. During tests using live malware, Webroot stopped 98 percent of these threats, which is above average for most antivirus programs. And Webroot didn't create any lag or drag on our computer while either installed or while scanning.
We were impressed to see Webroot AntiVirus includes a personal firewall, a tool that is incredibly important for the overall security of your computer, but not often included with bare-boned antivirus programs. This firewall watches your internet connection to make sure hackers, ransomware, or other snoops aren't trying to sneak in through your Wi-Fi. It also makes sure sensitive information from your system isn't leaving through this connection without your permission. Webroot's firewall also ensures no one is trying to steal or piggyback on your internet, which would cause your connection to run slower or use up monthly data use quotas quicker.
As great as Webroot is, we did find it a little challenging to navigate through the user dashboard. There is a lot of text, and not all of the text is links. Several tools are found by clicking on a link that then expands. And even then, a few tools redirect you to the Webroot webpage where you are taken step-by-step through the process of enabling them. Some tools can't be used from the main landing page; instead, you need to find the setting icon and click through to more links and tools. Webroot does offer other computer security programs that have more tools available to them. These are still listed on your dashboard but clicking them won't give you access to use them until you pay for them.
- Stops threats fast
- Firewall included
- Tricky to navigate
- Redirects from dashboard
Stops attacks in a blink of an eye.
This antivirus solution is a little tricky to navigate, but it quickly stops 99 percent of malware without causing lag to your computer. It includes a firewall and tools that protect against identity theft.
Windows Defender is pretty good at stopping a lot of threats from infecting your computer, but in both our own and in other third-party lab tests, results show it isn't foolproof. We strongly recommend installing an extra pair of eyes to help stop malicious downloads before they get the chance to attack your system. We like McAfee Total Protection because of how quickly and efficiently it stops malware, the small footprint it leaves on your system, the number of extra included security tools and the overall value of the program.
If you don't need the bells and whistles of a full internet security suite, we suggest using VIPRE Advanced Security. This antivirus program doesn't use a lot of your computer's resources so that you won't experience a slowdown, plus it does an excellent job stopping malicious downloads. Though it's a basic program, VIPRE still includes a personal firewall and vulnerability scanner, two advanced tools we personally feel are essential in addition to malware protection.
Updated July 30, 2019: We refreshed this list to ensure you're still getting the absolute best options when it comes to your PC's antivirus.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Nicole Johnston is a staff writer for Windows Central covering internet security and privacy programs. She has a keen eye for pinpointing good solutions that comes from over 12 years of research and writing experience in both the public and private sector, including six years testing and reviewing consumer products and four evaluating antivirus software, parental controls, and identity theft services.
Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, and accessory coverage, as well as the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech..
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