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The best free and paid antivirus software 2021

Your Windows PC needs protection against malware You can read about free and paid antivirus software in our news.

Even if you browse the internet in a secure browser and use threat detection software, it can be very easy to install a sneaky program on your machine, which can lead to chaos such as identity theft. Therefore, anyone with a Windows PC should install antivirus software on their machine as soon as it comes out of the box and update it regularly to stay ahead of the emerging and evolving cyber risks. Antivirus software is an important tool in your identity protection toolbox, and these days your computer has too much personal information to risk a day without online threat protection.

Since not all antivirus software programs are created equal, we regularly research and test our options to decide which software leads the package. It is a program that includes features such as best antivirus software, malware protection, monitors downloads, and monitors your system’s effectiveness for malware and suspicious behavior. It also provides a secure browser experience in the process.

If you are looking for malware protection and antivirus software with the best security features, the first thing you should know is that Microsoft Defender Antivirus, the free antivirus software and antivirus program that comes with Windows 10, is a good antivirus tool to protect your computer and offer internet security. (Surprisingly, Microsoft did not provide built-in protection for Windows in windows 98 and XP days.) Using Microsoft Defender for threat detection should be your starting point for the best antivirus security in Windows, and most people will find that they don’t need to go any further when it comes to finding an antivirus solution for identity theft protection.

However, keeping your personal data safe and protecting your privacy extends beyond virus protection, and third-party antivirus software shines here. A full AV software protection package can track your Windows operating system as well as MacOS, iOS and Android devices, and include a password manager, secure online backup, identity theft protection, VPN, parental control, webcam protection, protection against phishing and malicious websites, and more – all valuable security package tools that can keep your data safe and protect your privacy.

To help you decide on the best antivirus software for your needs, I’ve put together a list of the best antivirus products for Windows 10, covering both free antivirus programs and subscription options. These selections of the best antivirus programs are a combination of our own hands-on testing, as well as recommendations from independent third-party laboratories AV-Test, AV-Comparatives and SE Labs. This list of best antivirus software is updated periodically.

We would also like to point out that antivirus software is not the only security feature you need to invest in. A secure VPN to protect your internet traffic, a password manager to track login information, and an end-to-end encrypted messaging app to prevent others from spying on your communications are essential to protect your personal information online. Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and high-profile attacks like the Columbia Pipeline hack are becoming more common, which is worrying.

Our recommendations

Looking for free antivirus protection, malware protection or virus detection, are you willing to pay for an antivirus program that offers extensive internet security coverage on all your devices, including ransomware and phishing, or do you need to remove a computer virus or malware from your computer right now? When looking for the best antivirus software for your needs, here’s where to start.

Best free Windows antivirus

microsoft free version? Yes, free antivirus built into Windows 10

Paid version: Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection is available for a fee to enterprise users

To be honest, if you do secure computing – if you keep your software up to date, if you use strong passwords (with the help of a password manager), stay away from unexpected emails and don’t click on suspicious links that may be phishing attempts – you can probably avoid zero-day attacks and ransomware attacks. With free Microsoft Defender Antivirus software running in Windows 10, you have a anti-malware security network if you let it down. In fact, it is one of the best antivirus software. (Note that Microsoft has changed the name of Windows Defender to Microsoft Defender and has extended the service to other platforms.) This free antivirus program is built into Windows and is turned on by default, so let it do its job and this antivirus solution will cover the basics of internet security. Microsoft frequently enforces new updates. Defender also allows you to set the level of protection you want, giving you control over potentially unwanted applications and protecting folders and files from ransomware attack.

Note that Windows 10 will automatically disable its own Windows Defender antivirus software when you install third-party antivirus software. If you remove third-party protection, Windows 10 will turn back on its own antivirus software.

Best antivirus subscription for Windows

Norton 360 Choice
Platforms with LifeLock: Windows 10 plus MacOS, Android, iOS

Cost: $150 a year for five devices, on sale for $100

For a long time, Norton Security, now called NortonLifeLock and no longer part of Symantec, received high marks from AV-Test, AV Comparatives and SE Labs for virus and malware detection. A five-device subscription to Norton 360 with LifeLock Select is normally $150, but you can sign up for this antivirus for $100 for the first year to get mobile security coverage between your PCs, Mac devices, Android devices, iPhones, and iPads. (Note, we do not think antivirus is very useful outside the Windows realm.) In addition to malware and virus protection for your computer and mobile device, this security package provides 100GB of backup to the cloud, secure scanning tools, a secure VPN, password manager, parental controls, and LifeLock identity theft protection and fraud alert. While not all of these services are necessarily the best in their class, getting them all in one package is a challenging option.

The best free antivirus alternative for Windows

Bitdefender Antivirus
Free EditionBitdefender
Platforms: Windows 10 plus MacOS, Android, iOS

Free version? Yes

Paid version: $40 a year for five computers

If you want to take a step towards securing your computer without taxing your wallet, Bitdefender’s free antivirus software for Windows 10 is hard to beat. Windows security software provides real-time monitoring for viruses, malware, spyware, and ransomware protection. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is easy to install and stay out of your way until you need it. And the protection offered by this antivirus product is robust. Bitdefender antivirus software consistently earns the best grades for antivirus protection and availability from the reputable AV-Test independent testing lab. The free antivirus version covers a Windows PC. For wider protection, Bitdefender Total Security 2020 is usually $90 and is currently available for $40 for the first year. The subscription antivirus package allows you to protect five devices (Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android), set up parental controls on a child’s computer, and run a VPN.

Best optional Windows malware removal

Platforms: Windows 10 plus MacOS, Android

Free version? Yes, after the 14-day trial period expires

Paid version: $30 per year for one device, $80 per year for five devices

Malwarebytes protects your computer from a virus or malware attack and scores pretty well in recent independent tests to protect against malware threats. But that’s not really what Malwarebytes is known for. If you find yourself in trouble, malwarebytes is the disinfectant to go to for many people. You can get protection and disinfection for $30 a year for a device, regularly $40. $80 for a year’s paid antivirus software to cover five devices, any combination of Windows, MacOS and Android. To get the free antivirus version of the antivirus company, an optional cleaner with fewer features that detect and remove viruses and malware when you run an optional antivirus scan after 14 days.

Also noteworthy

In addition to the four antivirus applications that we recommend above, a handful of other anti-malware software is notable among the best antivirus protection if you find it at a better price or prefer to use it according to our above selections.

Robust subscription antivirus alternative

McAfee Total Protection
Platforms: Windows 10 plus MacOS, Android, iOS

Cost: $100 a year for five devices, on sale for $35

McAfee’s 80s feel like he existed on his own, then as part of Intel starting in 2010, and again in Intel 2017. And it exists forever because it creates a robust, modern antivirus software that protects your computer from quarter to quarter. (In the latest assessments by AV-Test, it had high scores in terms of both protection and performance.) McAfee Total Protection protects five devices against viruses and offers ransomware protection, protects malicious websites and includes a password manager for $35 (usually $100) for the first year. If you agree to automatically renew your security package subscription, you can access McAfee ID Theft Protection Essentials, which monitors identity fraud.

Another good subscription option

Trend Micro Maximum Security
Platforms: Windows 10 plus MacOS, Android, iOS

Cost: $90 a year for 10 devices, on sale for $50

Perhaps this antivirus provider is not well known to consumers because of its focus on corporate security, Trend Micro quietly brings home business expertise with trend micro maximum security tools. Trend Micro’s software gets high marks from AV-Test – consistently scoring well to detect sub-zero attacks, common viruses, and malware. And Trend Micro is doing a good job of not taxing system resources. Trend Micro’s 10 device subscription for computers and mobile devices is $90, but is currently discounted at $40.

Valuable subscription alternative

ESET NOD32 Antivirus
Platform: Windows

Cost: $80 a year for five computers

If you’re looking for something easy to install and use, ESET NOD32 antivirus can meet your needs. It earns high ratings for availability and offers robust virus protection. The five-device option is $80 for a year with a 30-day free trial.

Alternative free Windows antivirus

Sophos Home
Platform: Windows plus MacOS

Free version? Yes

Paid version: $42 per year for 10 PCs

The free antivirus version of Sophos Home offers virus protection for three Windows computers that use the company’s highly rated antimalware tool, and a 30-day trial of the company’s antimalware tool. You can cover 10 computers with an annual subscription of $45.

Antivirus basics: What to look for

Choosing the best antivirus software for Windows means finding software that keeps your computer safe, doesn’t get a lot of system resources, is easy to use, and stays off the road until you need it. Here’s what you need to watch out for.

Activity. Antivirus software, of course, runs virus scans for known viruses and malware and can provide real-time protection. And it monitors 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 as yet unidentified viruses and malware. You want antivirus software that can successfully identify these unknown online threats without pointing too many false positives.

Light to system resources. You don’t want antivirus software that taxes your computer’s resources. If websites open slowly after installing the program, applications are slowly downloaded or opened, or if file copies take longer than expected, you may want to try another service. The good news is that all our choices offer a free trial to allow you to try the antivirus program, so if your system feels sluggish after installation, you may want to continue searching.

Costs and discounts. Don’t just pay the tag price for antivirus protection. Before purchasing, check a company’s website for discounts. Another way to save money: The prices listed above are for 10 devices – if the company offered this package – but you only need to cover three or five devices, you can reduce your cost with antivirus packages. Discounts can also be found on an app’s Amazon page.

Privacy. To be effective, antivirus software must monitor what is happening on your computer and consult company servers about unusual behavior. Companies say they make this technical data as anonymous 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 find out what companies are doing with the information you share.

Protection for other platforms. Microsoft is by far the biggest target for viruses and malware. But Android is second, slightly less than 1% of apps installed on Android devices with Google Play Protect in the potentially harmful app or PHA category.

The threat to macOS, and especially iOS, is low, in part because of the tight control Apple has over app stores. Although the Mac is attacked through side-installed apps, it is rare, and you should be fine without an antivirus app on Apple devices only if you download apps from Mac and iOS app stores and protect your guard when clicking links and downloading files.


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