Best Antivirus Software to Protect Your Devices

We narrowed down the top five antivirus and antimalware programs for protecting desktops and mobile devices.
Best overall
Bitdefender Antivirus Logo
Bitdefender Total Security
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Free option
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Up to 5 devices
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Parental controls
Expert recommended
Avast AntiVirus Logo
Avast Premium Security
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Free option
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Up to 10 devices
  • Icon Cons  Light
    No parental controls
Privacy pick
Kaspersky Antivirus
Kaspersky Internet Security v3
  • Icon Cons  Light
    No free option
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Up to 3 devices
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Limited parental controls

Bitdefender Total Security hits that sweet spot between affordability and proactive defense. It protects up to five mobile or desktop devices for about $40 per year. It defends you against newer malware like zero-day attacks and ransomware alongside classic threats like viruses, trojans, worms, and keyloggers. 

Bonus features include a secure VPN, parental controls, and password management features (just to name a few).

Compare the best antivirus software

Best overall Expert recommended Privacy pick Best for gamers and Linux users Best quick scan
Product or Brand
Bitdefender Antivirus LogoBitdefender Total Security
Avast AntiVirus LogoAvast Premium Security
Kaspersky AntivirusKaspersky Internet Security
logo of Eset 32 antivirusEset Advanced Protection
Webroot Cyber Security LogoWebroot SecureAnywhere
Free version available
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo
Max number of devices510351
Parental controls
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Learn more

Info current as of 03/10/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

* price as of 03/10/2021 at 8:55 a.m. (MT). Read full disclaimer.

Our approach

To find the best antivirus and antimalware programs, we researched common (and uncommon) threats in internet security. We looked into how antivirus and antimalware software works, what programs they attack, and what those extra features really do. 

But we didn’t do it alone. With some guidance from our expert advisor, Pete Canavan, we determined criteria for the software we reviewed. There are hundreds of antivirus and antimalware programs out there, but only the ones that met our standards made the cut. See what the experts look for below our reviews.

Best antivirus software reviews

1. Bitdefender Total Security: Best overall

Bitdefender Total Security combines protection, privacy, and performance for just under $40 per year. One license is enough for five devices, even if one is an Android phone and the others are a MacOS desktop and iPhone. 

For one annual fee, you get protection against old and new threats. It also offers an impressive collection of extra features like a 200 MB VPN, parental controls, as well as ransomware and multi-layer malware protection.

Pro Heading
Pro Bullet Updates regularly against newest malware
Pro Bullet Is cost effective
Pro Bullet Offers parental controls for social media and webcams
Con Heading
Con Bullet Has lower ratings for iOS security

Bitdefender Total Security combats spoofing scams from identity thieves, phishing emails, fraud, and spam. It even works on social media—a great feature for mobile users. Malware like ransomware and zero-day attacks are also on this antivirus software’s radar.

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What is a VPN and why should I use one?

A VPN, or virtual private network, creates a secure connection directly to the websites you’re using. They minimize opportunities for hackers and malware, proving helpful when you work out of a coffee shop or browse your phone in public.

New to VPNs? Learn more in our Introduction to VPNs for the basics.

This Bitdefender antivirus program also has parental controls to filter content, limit screen time, and track the location of mobile devices. And we like the webcam and microphone protection to keep your kids safe from hackers watching or listening in on them.

All the while, it updates automatically to keep your computer, phone, or tablet protected against the latest threats. 

Bitdefender also has privacy features to safeguard your information against prying eyes and brute-force attacks. Features like file encryption can protect information when you send it to others or store it on your hard drive. And the file shredder can delete sensitive data completely.

And Bitdefender Total Security offers performance tools like the OneClick Optimizer and battery-saving mode.

Bitdefender free antivirus software
Bitdefender also has a free version, but it lacks all the big features that make Total Security really special. Extras like parental controls, firewalls, webcam and mic protection, file encryption, and file shredding are just a few reasons the paid program is worth the annual charge.

2. Avast Premium Security: Expert recommended

When asked about the best antivirus software, SafeWise’s online security expert and IT security consultant, Pete Canavan, recommended Avast. After digging into its software and features, we can see why.  

Avast starts at $39.99 per year for one device. For $5 more, you can protect up to 10  Windows, Apple, Android, or iOS devices. If your family has a mixed ecosystem of smart devices, you can share one license with everyone.

Pro Heading
Pro Bullet Scans for threats in real time
Pro Bullet Features a digital sandbox for opening suspicious files and links
Pro Bullet Offers Avast Omni for smart homes
Con Heading
Con Bullet No parental controls
Con Bullet Expensive for 1 device

Avast Premium Security scans for threats in emails, files, and attachments in real time. So when a bug hits your network or laptop, Avast will catch it. The program works hard against DNS spoofing and redirects you to legitimate sites. This saves you from giving information like credit card numbers or your address to hackers.

Thumbs Down
2019 data breach

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.

We haven’t heard of any more data breaches since 2019. So, while Avast is a good product, we have to recommend this software cautiously because of its history.

Avast also scans your home Wi-Fi network and public networks you use for weaknesses that hackers could exploit. And brute-force access attempts? They’re stopped in their tracks. 

One unique feature we liked about Avast is its digital “sandbox.” This allows you to safely open suspicious files, links, emails, or attachments. With the sandbox, you can ensure that forwarded emails from your parents aren't dangerous.

Avast has been on our radar as one of the best antivirus software for a long time. Learn more about the program from our full review.

Avast Omni protects your smart home and IoT devices

From security cameras to laptops, if it’s connected to your home Wi-Fi, it needs to be protected. For $49.99 per year, the new Avast Omni device creates a protective shield for all the smart devices in your house. 

Learn more about how to protect your smart home from hackers.

3. Kaspersky Internet Security v3: Privacy pick

Kaspersky Internet Security v3 keeps hackers and virtual threats at bay by locking your data away. It features a 300 MB VPN for private surfing, a Safe Money browser for transactions and banking, and webcam protection (because we’re all Zooming more these days).

Pro Heading
Pro Bullet Sports a 300 MB/day VPN
Pro Bullet Protects transactions with safe browser
Pro Bullet Protects webcams
Con Heading
Con Bullet No password manager
Con Bullet Some Windows-only features

This version of Kaspersky Anti-Virus costs $39.99 per year and can protect up to three devices. Windows users get extra features like keylogger protection and an ad blocker program, but Kaspersky works for other major platforms like Android and MacOS.

Whether you’re on Windows or not, Kaspersky actively seeks out threats and vulnerabilities to help you protect your device. When it senses a cyberthreat, the software blocks and neutralizes it in real time.

Kaspersky VPN

The Kaspersky VPN can handle up to 300 MB of traffic per day—enough data for 12 hours of browsing, 300 podcasts, or three hours of music streaming. 

Check out our best VPN picks to see more options. 

Kaspersky Safe Money browser

The Safe Money browser is another one of Kaspersky’s useful privacy features. It works for Macs and PCs and keeps snoops from tracking your activity or important information like bank account or credit card data. 

If you bank or shop online frequently, it can protect your information from identity theft and spoofing. We have more tips for online shopping too. 

Kaspersky webcam protection and parental controls

With kids attending school remotely and many of us working from home, our webcams are getting a lot more facetime. Kaspersky protects your webcam from unauthorized access to prevent others from watching your webcam feed. 

Kaspersky has been on our radar before for its parental control features. In addition to webcam protection, it also has an adult-content blocker and screen-time manager. 

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Protect yourself online while working from home

If you work from home, look for antivirus software with features like webcam protection for those daily Zoom calls, a file shredder to delete sensitive documents, a VPN to protect yourself while on the web, and real-time scanning for viruses and malware. 

We have more tips for working from home and how to make your computer safer while working from home

4. Eset Advanced Protection: Best for gamers and Linux users

Eset Advanced Protection works for iOS, Windows, and Android. It’s also compatible with Linux (a rarity). And although most malware is designed for Windows, Linux users still need some layer of virus protection. The program also has some bonus features for gamers like “do not disturb” and “battery saver” modes to keep the party going.

Pro Heading
Pro Bullet Works for Linux, iOS, Windows, and Android
Pro Bullet Features tracking and stolen devices
Pro Bullet Saves battery life
Con Heading
Con Bullet No parental controls
Con Bullet Costs more
Con Bullet No VPN or firewall

For gamers

Eset Advanced Protection has a few key features that work well for online gamers—especially PC users who may be more prone to malware.

Eset has a battery-saving mode that keeps your computer running strong whether you’re gaming or not. It also has webcam protection that keeps snoops from jumping on your webcam feed. 

Its “do not disturb” mode was made specifically for gamers. Turn this feature on to avoid notifications and pop-ups from the antivirus tool while you’re in the middle of an intense shootout or raid. 

However, Eset may not be the best choice for parents of younger gamers. The program lacks the parental controls found in other antivirus programs and won’t be as effective at blocking inappropriate websites or content. 

Compare to NOD32 antivirus

Eset Advanced Protection is a step up from another SafeWise favorite, ESET NOD32 Antivirus, which we’ve reviewed before.

Advanced Protection costs $10 more but comes with handy anti-theft features that snap pictures of the perp and track your device.

If your computer goes missing, you can log into your eset profile online to mark your device as “missing”. This setting will track your computer and allow you to access your webcam. 

It’s also compatible with more devices than NOD32, which only covers the basics for Mac and Linux and doesn’t work with Android.

5. Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus: Best quick scan

Webroot Secure Anywhere 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. It’s also the cheapest of our picks at $29.99 per year.

Pro Heading
Pro Bullet Scans for threats in real time
Pro Bullet Saves space on your computer
Pro Bullet Takes 20 seconds to complete scans
Con Heading
Con Bullet Features fewer extras
Con Bullet Is compatible with desktop only

Webroot offers real-time scanning for threats and makes quick work out of what it finds. You can use one license on up to three computers (computers only) for about $8 more. 

While Webroot has fewer extras than our other choices, it still has some goodies in store. It misses out on any parental control tools or VPN services, but it has webcam protection for gamers and remote students.

More security software

There are dozens of antivirus protection options out there, so we couldn’t just stop at five. Here are some other choices worth looking into for protecting yourself online.


Malwarebytes was also recommended by Pete Canavan. It’s compatible with a long list of device types and operating systems, and it even has a basic free version available.


Bullguard has a few tiers of antivirus programs to choose from—each with features that cover the basics like regular scans and secure browsers. Bullguard is best for Windows users but works for macOS and Android. And, whichever tier you choose, you can connect with live chat support for questions.

Windows Security

If you currently use Windows 10, you probably already have this antivirus program installed. Windows Security is the free antivirus program pre-installed with Windows 10. It includes an antivirus program called Windows Defender Antivirus. It continuously scans for malware and viruses and has seen some big improvements over the years. 

While you’ll miss out on extras like a VPN and file shredder, it’s a great free alternative to paying for an antivirus program.

What to look for in antivirus software

The right antivirus software can protect you from identity theft and online scams. They also have tools that can protect your kids and older loved ones from threats.

Our expert advisor, Pete Canavan, gave us a few things to look for in the best programs.

The best antivirus software should do the following: 

  • Detect known and new viruses by recognizing malicious activity
  • Provide real-time protection for your email and browser
  • Clean, quarantine, and remove infected files
  • Update automatically
  • Scan all file types, including compressed and zipped files

The best malware protection software should do the following:

  • Scan into your registry and remove false or harmful info
  • Detect changes in your DNS records
  • Detect program behavior like crypto-mining and keylogging 
  • Catch real-time infections
  • Update frequently 
  • Learn and recognize new threats

Final word

Online threats evolve every day. Getting a program that recognizes malicious behavior can help protect you from new threats. Antivirus software like Bitdefender, Avast, and Kaspersky all come with extras that protect your device and your privacy. 

  • Bitdefender: Protect a family of devices
  • Avast: Expert recommended
  • Kaspersky: For online shopping and banking

Antivirus and malware protection FAQ

It depends on what features you want. If you want a basic defense against classic viruses like trojans and worms or known malware, your built-in antivirus or free antivirus programs may do the trick. 

Paying for antivirus software brings extras like parental controls, privacy features, and even performance boosters to make your machine run faster. Paid programs can also work with your other devices like phones and tablets.

Malware is an umbrella term for malicious software of any kind. While not all malware are viruses, all viruses are technically malware. But, like biological viruses, computer viruses self-replicate by inserting themselves into existing code.1

Ransomware is a nasty type of malware that freezes your screen or denies access to your system/data until you pay a ransom. It typically spreads through phishing or visiting an infected website.2

Other than using an antivirus and antimalware program, password protectors, VPN, and sticking to safe, well-known sites can keep your computer safe. We recommend defragmenting your computer regularly to keep it running smoothly too.

Related articles


  1. McAfee, “What’s the Difference between Malware and a Virus?” Accessed March 5, 2021.
  2. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, “Ransomware Guidance and Resources,” Accessed March 5, 2021.

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Katie McEntire
Written by
Katie McEntire
As a renter, pet-owner, and woman living alone, Katie McEntire takes safety seriously. She’s tested devices like pet cameras, home security systems, and GPS trackers in her own home and devices in the name of safety. In addition to testing, writing, and reviewing for SafeWise, she also makes videos for the site’s YouTube channel. She’s been featured on publications like TechGuySmartBuy, Forbes, Healthy Moms, and Digital Care. Katie has a Bachelor’s degree in Technical Writing from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. She’s held previous writing positions at and Top Ten Reviews.

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