Best Antivirus Software to Protect Your Devices

We talked to an IT security expert to find the best antivirus and anti-malware software.
Best overall
Expert recommneded
Malwarebytes Premium
  • Icon Cons  Light
    No email integration
  • Icon Cons  Light
    May slow computer
  • Icon Pros  Light
    99.6% effective
Best for families
Norton 360 Premium
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Email integration
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Doesn’t slow computer
  • Icon Pros  Light
    100% effective
Best for computer speed
ESET Smart Security Premium
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Email integration
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Doesn’t slow computer
  • Icon Cons  Light
    98.9% effective
Best quick scan
Webroot Internet Security Complete
  • Icon Cons  Light
    No email integration
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Doesn’t slow computer
  • Icon Cons  Light
    No test data available

Bitdefender earns our vote for the best and most affordable way to keep computer viruses and malware at bay. We especially love the Total Security package, which combines effective antivirus and anti-malware protection with parental controls, a password manager, and a VPN.

But it’s a tight race, so we’ve listed out some of our other favorite antivirus and anti-malware programs to help you make a confident choice.



Compare the best antivirus and anti-malware software

Product
Best for
PriceIcon Tooltip  Dark
Number of devices
OS compatibility
Learn more
Read Review
Bitdefender online security boxBitdefender
Best overall
5
Windows
macOS
iOS
Android
Malwarebytes Premium
Expert recommended
5
Windows
macOS
Android
Norton 360 Premium
Best for families
10
Windows
macOS
iOS
Android
ESET Smart Security Premium
Best for computer speed
1
Windows
macOS
Android
Webroot Internet Security Complete
Best quick scan
5
Windows
macOS
iOS
Android
Chromebook

*Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Best antivirus and anti-malware reviews

1. Bitdefender Total Security: Best overall and best for budgets

Best overall
Bitdefender online security box
Bitdefender Total Security
$19.99 (1-year subscription)

*Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Bitdefender’s Total Security package balances features and price better than any other antivirus or anti-malware software on the market. It integrates with your email, network, and social media to block phishing scams, detects new types of malware and ransomware by analyzing their behavior, and includes a ton of extra features like a password manager and VPN for extra protection against nosy hackers.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Email integration
Pro Bullet Network integration
Pro Bullet Real-time malware detection
Pro Bullet Heuristics learning
Pro Bullet Daily updates
Pro Bullet Gamer mode
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Some false positives

Bitdefender sells several different packages, but we like the Total Security option because it protects five devices (sufficient for most couples) running Windows, MacOS, iOS, or Android, and it includes a built-in speed optimizer.

True to its name, the Total Security package also includes extras like parental controls, identity theft protection, a virtual file shredder, a computer firewall, and microphone and webcam protection. We also like that Bitdefender’s scans don’t slow down your computer—something that big names like Norton LifeLock tend to struggle with.

2. Malwarebytes Premium: Expert recommended

Expert recommended

*Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Recommended by IT security expert and SafeWise advisor Pete Canavan, Malwarebytes Premium promises to clean up your computer even if it’s already infected with malware. It’s a little more expensive than Bitdefender for the first year. Malwarebytes also doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles like parental controls or microphone and webcam protection.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Free cleanup
Pro Bullet Behavior-based detection
Pro Bullet Gamer mode
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet No email integration
Con Bullet Some false positives
Con Bullet May slow computer

Hinted at in its name, Malwarebytes is especially good at detecting, preventing, and cleaning malware, but it also has an antivirus feature for full protection. We also like that it comes with uninstall protection so that malware can’t get rid of it.

You can download a free trial from the Malwarebytes website if you want to explore its features and dashboard.

Third-party tests indicate that Malwarebytes is more likely to slow down your computer than the other options on our list, but our product tester Alina said this has never been an issue for her.

“Malwarebytes is my go-to antivirus software because it is incredibly easy to use and doesn't bog down my computer while it scans.”
—Alina B., SafeWise product tester

Screenshot: Alina Bradford, SafeWise

3. Norton 360 Premium: Best for families

Best for families
Norton 360 Premium
$54.99 (1-year subscription)

The Norton 360 Premium package includes parental controls, which isn’t revolutionary in itself—all of the other antivirus packages on our list have parental controls too. The difference is that Norton’s parental controls are actually good. That little tidbit combined with Norton’s 10-device antivirus license make this brand a no-brainer for families.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Email integration
Pro Bullet Network integration
Pro Bullet Real-time malware detection
Pro Bullet Parental controls included
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Pricey

Plus, Norton manages to block 100% of all harmful files and sites, making it one of the most effective antivirus and anti-malware solutions in the industry.1 

As if that’s not enough praise to pile onto Norton, it’s also unlikely to slow down your computer. Only ESET—reviewed below—was slightly more consistent than Norton in third-party speed tests.

Learn more in our full Norton Antivirus review.

4. ESET Smart Security Premium: Best for computer speed

Best for computer speed
ESET Smart Security Premium
$59.99 (1-year subscription)

If you’ve ever disabled your antivirus software because it slowed your computer to ‘95 speeds, you’ll appreciate ESET’s light load. Computers running ESET were consistently able to run programs, browse the internet, and download files at their usual speedy rate according to AV Test’s biannual speed reports.2,3,4

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Email integration
Pro Bullet Network integration
Pro Bullet Real-time malware detection
Pro Bullet Advanced machine learning
Pro Bullet Daily updates
Pro Bullet Gamer mode
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Additional device protection costs extra

Other brands like Norton and McAfee had great scores on some tests but poor scores on subsequent tests. ESET earned our trust thanks to its consistent performance. It caused minor lags only when the computer copied files.

The one thing we don’t like about ESET is that you have to pay an extra fee (about $10—$15) for each device. That adds up fast for families.

That said, the ESET Smart Security Premium package is a solid deal at about $60 a year for one device. It gets you antivirus protection with advanced machine learning to thwart unknown attacks, plus anti-phishing and anti-spam protection, a firewall, parental controls, webcam protection, and tons more. It even includes a monthly security report so you can see how many attacks it’s saved you from.

You can also check out our in-depth review of ESET NOD32 Antivirus, which is a scaled-down and more affordable version of ESET Smart Security Premium.

5. Webroot Internet Security Complete: Fastest scans

Fastest scans
Webroot Internet Security Complete
$79.99 (1-year subscription)

*Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Webroot Internet Security Complete is great for anyone budgeting their money or time. This speedy antivirus software takes only 20 seconds to scan your entire system for threats. It’s a cloud-based service too, so it won’t eat up too much space on your computer.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Daily updates
Pro Bullet Few false alarms
Pro Bullet Gamer mode always on
Pro Bullet Works with Chromebook
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Limited iOS functionality
Con Bullet No email integration

Webroot offers real-time scanning for threats and makes quick work out of what it finds. You can use one license on up to five devices.

While Webroot has fewer extras than our other choices, it still has some goodies in store. It misses out on any parental control tools, but it has webcam protection for gamers and remote students and integrates with the LastPass password manager. You can also bundle this antivirus software with Webroot’s VPN for extra privacy and protection.

Other antivirus software we considered

Avast

We used to enthusiastically recommend Avast, but now we do so with caution. In December 2019, Avast collected unnecessary user data such as browsing history and activity through Avast subsidiary Jumpshot. Its privacy policy defends storing user data since it’s anonymized, but the company offered no clear policy on the length of data retention.

Avast has since severed ties with Jumpshot, though we still hesitate to recommend the software.5 Learn more in our full Avast review.

McAfee

McAfee is a well-known brand in the world of antivirus software, but we found it to be more expensive than competitors without offering significantly better protection. But it’s about as lightweight as ESET and Norton, so running McAfee shouldn’t interfere with your device usage.

Final word

Bitdefender Total Security protects your files, passwords, and identity without siphoning too much of your paycheck. If you’re not sure whether it’s right for you, take advantage of the company’s 30-day trial period. If you’re not happy with its performance or speed, consider one of the other antivirus options on our list.

How we reviewed antivirus software

For our review of the best antivirus software and anti-malware protection, we leaned on the expertise of our IT security advisor Pete Canavan, as well as the performance and speed tests conducted by the AV-Comparatives group. We also relied on our team’s first-hand experience using antivirus and anti-malware software.

To learn more about how we review products, visit the SafeWise methodology page.

Related articles on SafeWise


Sources

  1. AV-Comparatives, “Real-World Protection Test July–October 2021,” November 2021. Accessed March 29, 2022.
  2. AV-Comparatives, “Performance Test October 2020,” November 2020. Accessed March 29, 2022.
  3. AV-Comparatives, “Performance Test April 2021,” May 2021. Accessed March 29, 2022.
  4. AV-Comparatives, “Performance Test October 2021,” November 2021. Accessed March 29, 2022.
  5. Ondřej Vlček, Avast, “A Message Drom Avast's CEO,” January 2020. Accessed March 29, 2022.
Disclaimer

*Product prices and availability are accurate as of post date and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.

Cathy Habas
Written by
Cathy Habas
With over seven years of experience as a content writer, Cathy has a knack for untangling complex information. Her natural curiosity and ability to empathize help Cathy offer insightful, friendly advice. She believes in empowering readers who may not feel confident about a purchase, project, or topic. Cathy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Indiana University Southeast and began her professional writing career immediately after graduation. She has contributed to sites like Safety.com, Reviews.com, Hunker, and Thumbtack. Cathy’s pride and joy is her Appaloosa “Chacos.” She also likes to crochet while watching stand-up comedy specials on Netflix.

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