The Best Virus Protection Guidelines
These protections, further described below, combine to support best-practice protection from viruses and malware. There are additional protections, particularly on a Mac with Apple silicon, to limit the potential damage of malware that does manage to execute. See Protecting app access to user data for ways that macOS can help protect user data from malware, and Operating system integrity for ways macOS can limit the actions malware can take on the system.
The Best Virus Protection Guidelines
We're here to help you find the antivirus software that best fits your needs. These picks of the best antivirus programs are a combination of recommendations from independent third-party labs AV-Test, AV-Comparatives and SE Labs, as well as CNET's own anecdotal hands-on testing.
Whether you're looking for free antivirus protection or are willing to pay for a program that offers more security features, we have you covered. Here's where to start when looking for the best antivirus software for your specific needs.
Honestly, if you practice safe computing -- you keep your software up to date, you use strong passwords (with the help of a password manager), you steer clear of unexpected emails and you don't click suspicious links that may be phishing attempts -- you probably can avoid zero-day attacks and ransomware attacks. And with the free Microsoft Defender Antivirus software running on Windows 10, you have a malware protection safety net if you do let your guard down. In fact, it is one of the best antivirus software options.
(Note: Microsoft changed the name of Windows Defender to Microsoft Defender and has expanded the service to other platforms.) This free antivirus program is built into Windows, and it's turned on by default, the antivirus engine does its thing, and this antivirus solution will cover the basics of internet security. Microsoft pushes new updates frequently. Defender also lets you tune the level of protection you want, giving you control over blocking potentially unwanted apps and protecting folders and files from a ransomware attack.
Windows 10 and 11 will automatically disable its own Windows Defender antivirus when you install third-party antivirus. If you uninstall the third-party protection, Windows will turn back on its own antivirus.
For a long time, Norton Security -- now called NortonLifeLock, and no longer part of Symantec -- has earned high marks from AV-Test, AV Comparatives and SE Labs for virus and malware detection. Norton antivirus provides industry-leading security software for PC, Mac and mobile devices. Their products include Antivirus Plus, Norton Secure VPN, Norton 360 for Gamers, Norton 360 with LifeLock Select and more. A five-device subscription for Norton 360 with LifeLock Select is normally $180 per year, but you can get your first year for $80 off. In addition to malware and virus protection for your computer and mobile device, this antivirus suite provides 100GB of backup to the cloud, safe-browsing tools, a secure VPN, password manager, parental controls and LifeLock identity theft protection and fraud alert. While not all of those services are necessarily best in their respective class, getting them all in one package is a compelling option.
If you'd like to take a step up in securing your PC without taxing your wallet, it's hard to beat Bitdefender's free antivirus software for Windows 10 and 11. The Windows security software offers real-time monitoring for viruses, malware, spyware and ransomware protection. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is easy to set up and stays out of your way until you need it. And the protection this antivirus product offers is solid. Bitdefender antivirus software consistently earns top marks for its antivirus protection and usability from the respected AV-Test independent testing lab. The free antivirus version covers one Windows PC. For broader protection, you can choose Bitdefender Total Security or Bitdefender Antivirus Plus. The subscription antivirus suite lets you protect five devices (Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android), set up parental controls on a kid's computer and run a VPN.
Malwarebytes does protect your PC from a virus or malware attack, scoring reasonably well in recent independent testing for guarding against malware threats. But that's not really what Malwarebytes is known for. If you find yourself in trouble, the go-to disinfectant for many is Malwarebytes. You can get protection and disinfection for one device for $34 a year, regularly $45. To cover five devices -- any combination of Windows, MacOS and Android -- it's $80 for a year of antivirus software. To get the antivirus company's free antivirus version, download this trial version, which "downgrades" to a no-fee on-demand cleaner with fewer features that detects and removes viruses and malware when you run an on-demand antivirus scan after 14 days.
In addition to the four antivirus apps we recommend above, a handful of other anti-malware tools are worth considering among the best antivirus protection if you find them at a better price or just prefer to use one over our picks above.
It feels like McAfee Antivirus has been around forever, first on its own in the '80s, then as part of Intel starting in 2010, and then again on its own when Intel spun it off in 2017. And McAfee Total Protection has been around forever because quarter after quarter it creates solid, modern antivirus software that protects your PC. (In recent evaluations by AV-Test, it had high scores on both protection and performance.) McAfee Total Protection guards devices against viruses and offers ransomware protection, wards off malicious websites and includes a password manager for $30 (usually $90) for the first year. If you agree to auto-renew your antivirus suite subscription, you get access to McAfee ID Theft Protection Essentials, which monitors for ID fraud.
If you're looking for something easy to set up and use, ESET NOD32 antivirus may meet your needs. It earns high scores for usability and offers solid virus protection. A five-device option is $90 for a year, with a 30-day free trial.
The free antivirus version of Sophos Home gives you virus protection for 10 Windows PCs or MacOS devices, and unlimited Android and iOS devices -- using the company's high-scoring anti-malware tool -- plus a 30-day trial of the company's malware-removal tool. Annual subscriptions typically cost $60, but right now you can sign up for less.
Avast started saying the right things about taking its customers' privacy seriously, but it only came to that point after reacting to investigative reporting that revealed the Jumpshot practices. (The CCleaner revelations, while concerning, were self-disclosed, which is important to building user trust.) We hope Avast's more privacy-friendly policies mean that there will be no further Jumpshot-style activities and that it returns to glory as one of the best antivirus software options. In the meantime, we'd recommend using one of the many other solid choices in this realm (listed above).
Based in Moscow, Kaspersky Lab has for years produced some of the best antivirus software for business antivirus needs and home customers. But in 2017 the US government prohibited Kaspersky security cloud software on federal government computers because of alleged ties between Kaspersky and the Russian government.
Picking the best antivirus software for Windows means finding one that keeps your PC safe, doesn't take up a lot of system resources, is easy to use and stays out of the way till you need it. Here's what to look for.
Effectiveness: Antivirus software runs virus scans for known viruses and malware, of course, and can offer real-time protection. And it watches for shady websites and suspicious links to keep you out of trouble. It can also offer ransomware protection and monitor unexpected behavior that may be a sign of new and not-yet-identified viruses and malware. You want antivirus software that can successfully identify these unknown online threats without flagging too many false positives.
Cost and discounts: Don't just pay the sticker price for antivirus protection. Before you buy, check for discounts on a company's website. Another way to save: The prices we list above are for 10 devices -- if the company offered that package -- but you can trim your cost with antivirus packages if you need to cover three or five devices. You may also find discounts on an app's Amazon page.
Privacy: To be effective, antivirus software needs to monitor what's going on with your PC, check in with company servers about unusual behavior and should provide sound banking protection. The companies say they anonymize this technical data as much as possible to protect your privacy. But if you want to know more, the security companies on our list post privacy policies on their websites, so read their privacy statements to learn what the companies do with the information you share.
To a degree, yes. Some antivirus programs can do things like warn you or block you from visiting a suspected phishing site. Others may also automatically block suspicious emails that appear to come from a malicious sender or contain phrasing common in phishing emails. However, you cannot count on an antivirus program to be a failsafe solution for phishing protection. You still need to be vigilant and know what to look out for on your own when it comes to phishing, because an antivirus program won't be able to catch everything.
There is a common misconception that Macs are inherently immune to malware. But as Macs continue to increase in popularity, they're increasingly attractive targets for cybercriminals looking to deploy malware designed for the MacOS operating system. MacOS has a built-in antivirus solution called XProtect that can detect and remove malware. It works in the background and updates automatically to keep up with the latest threats, but it still may not catch everything that a third-party antivirus program will. So if you want to play it safe and boost the malware protection on your Mac, it's a good idea to add a third-party antivirus solution. 041b061a72