In the current context, antivirus software for Windows is absolutely crucial for any user, regardless of his e-literacy level, skills, the scope of activity, and other aspects. Even if your computer is not connected to the Internet, you still need antivirus, as you can get infected via a USB drive or any external device. And if you use the Internet, it goes without saying that you need the best antivirus for Windows.
Still, with dozens of AV solutions on sale, it is often unclear which one is the best. We’ve analyzed all the popular current offers and compiled a list of recommended providers of the best antivirus software for Windows 10 as well as for the previous versions of the operating system.
Windows Defender vs Third-Party Antivirus Software for Windows
You are, probably, aware of the fact that Windows 10 is in many ways different from its predecessors. The latest version of the OS has a great built-in antivirus solution known as Windows Defender, which, however, elicited a controversial reaction of both experts and users. Some of them were absolutely charmed with the product, while others stayed skeptic about it. In fact, it really has some undisputable advantages:
- It is free.
- It is ideally integrated with the system and doesn’t have any impact on the performance.
- It effectively protects against the majority of known viruses.
- It uses a machine learning technology to detect newly created threats more effectively.
- It is automatically updated.
- It doesn’t offer any unnecessary and useless features that slow down the system.
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect in the world, and Windows Defender also has some drawbacks that can’t be ignored.
- In most tests of major labs, it scores lower than third-party AV software.
- It doesn’t cope with some advanced forms of malware effectively enough.
In general, nowadays, specialists tend to believe that the Defender is good as an entry-level solution. If you ask yourself: “Do I need antivirus for Windows 10?” – just try to analyze your Internet activity. If all you do is sending/receiving e-mails from trusted sources and browsing social media sites, chances are you may feel secure with the basic Windows protection. Otherwise, you’d better look for the best antivirus for Windows 10 from third-party providers in order to add another layer of protection.
Things to Consider When Choosing the Top Antivirus for Windows 10
If you look around, you’ll see that the modern software market is oversaturated with AV products. And virtually all of them are perfectly compatible with Microsoft Windows. But our goal is to select the best antivirus software for Windows 10, so we’ll try to single out the characteristics that are most important for every user.
- Quality of detecting and destroying viruses and malware. This is the main criterion and the main reason why we download antivirus apps. Fortunately, most existing antivirus products proved to be effective enough. According to lab tests, both free and premium options detect from 99.6 to 100% of known and zero-day threats.
- Features. While some providers offer really useful extras, others make you install an array of unnecessary features, which are not just useless but also slow down the system noticeably. It’s for you to decide what features you need. Frequently, there’s no need to pay a double price, as more features are not always better. Moreover, you can opt for a free antivirus solution and get strong protection for no money.
- Impact on the system. Any antivirus can influence the performance of your computer. For example, background scanning for viruses, as well as switching on extra features slow down the system. Choose the most lightweight and quick program and disable all unnecessary options not to hinder the performance of your device.
- Ease of use. Broadly speaking, this rule is applicable to any software. If the interface is cluttered and complicated, and it takes time to find the needed settings, this is definitely not the best antivirus for Windows.
As a general rule of thumb, free software tends to be more resource-consuming, has weaker protection from ransomware and other sophisticated forms of malware, and doesn’t offer tools for the enhancing of users’ privacy. That said, it ensures the same level of antivirus protection.
Top-Rated Paid Versions of AV software for Windows
If you want to have something stronger than just a basic antivirus feature, you are recommended to download a paid package of antivirus for Windows 10. An important advantage of premium options is ransomware protection. Taking into account the fact that more and more ransomware attacks are recorded every year, this feature becomes a must-have. The list of top provider offering paid antivirus for Windows looks as follows.
Bitdefender: Best Ransomware Protection
It is as great as its entry-level version. At the price of about $60 you get the ultimate protection from virtually all types of viruses and malware, including sophisticated ransomware. The app itself is lightweight and has a minimal impact on the system.
Bitdefender products have traditionally high test scores. Thus, the effectiveness of its antivirus software was estimated at 100% in 17 out of the 20 tests conducted by AV-Test in the period of 2010 through 2018. It meant that it detects all sorts of threats, including zero-day threats and smart forms of malware (keyloggers, spyware, etc.)
The new, upgraded version of Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2019 offers a range of smart and innovative features, such as multi-layer ransomware protection, anti-phishing, anti-fraud, and the rescue mode, web attack prevention and more.
Bitdefender continues improving its performance. The upgraded edition of its antivirus has a minimal impact on speed and battery life. The range of extra features is also impressive: with a basic pack of Bitdefender Plus, you get a file shredder, a password manager, proprietary VPN software, social network protection, the Safe Banking feature, and others. Under one license, you can protect up to 3 devices.
- Antivirus Plus 2019 (Basic) – $59.99 per year ($29.99 for the first year)
- Total Security 2019 (Complete) – $89.99 per year ($44.99 for the first year)
- Internet Security 2019 (Advanced) – $79.99 per year ($39.98 for the first year)
Kaspersky: Best Customizable Antivirus
The second best antivirus for Windows is Kaspersky. It ensures almost 100% virus detection plus a smart feature of safe online banking. Thousands of users worldwide trust this brand, so its community is huge, which is also nice.
Kaspersky is one of the oldest and best-recognized AV brands in the world and a holder of numerous awards. It shows consistently high results (99.5-100%) in all the lab tests. Apart from its powerful antivirus engine used in both free and premium versions, Kaspersky has much to offer. What is even more important is that it virtually has no impact on the PC’s performance.
The features of the Kaspersky Antivirus (essential protection) include top-notch real-time protection from all types of cyber-threats, a firewall, an anti-phishing feature, a password manager, parental control, a file shredder, and a VPN client. Also, Kaspersky will protect your online financial transactions with its online banking and shopping security feature.
Kaspersky products are known for their flexibility. The provider gives a possibility to configure your own plan: choose the number of computers you want to protect (1-5) and the duration of the license (1 or 2 years) and build your individual pack.
Pricing Plans (1 year, 1 device)
- Kaspersky Anti-Virus (essential security) – $39.95 per year
- Internet Security (premium protection) – $59.95 per year
- Total Security (ultimate protection) – $ 79.95 per year
ESET: Best Price/Quality Ratio
ESET Antivirus is a medium-priced option. According to the latest tests, it performs well, but not excellent. Though it copes well with the detection of all types of threats, its privacy-protecting features could be better. On the plus side, it has a laconic interface and perfect usability.
With its basic ESET Nod32 antivirus, you get state-of-the-art malware protection, an anti-phishing feature, ransomware protection, exploit blocker, UEFI scanner, and more. Upgrading to the Internet Security tier, you can take advantages of a firewall, antispam feature, and parental control.
ESET doesn’t have a noticeable impact on the system. To enhance performance during resource-demanding tasks execution, such as gaming, you may switch on the game mode that is available in all paid versions of ESET.
- ESET NOD32 Antivirus – $39.99
- ESET Internet Security – $49.99
- ESET Smart Security Premium – $59.99
ScanGuard: Best for Multiple Devices
ScanGuard is a relatively new player in the world’s arena. You won’t find tons of information about it, and its audience is still not very large. There are also no test results from the world’s independent labs to reference. However, numerous customer and expert reviews confirm that it is a good product: versatile, affordable, and rather powerful.
It is worth mentioning that ScanGuard software is a cross-platform solution: you can utilize it on multiple devices, using a single account under a single license.
As for the features, ScanGuard offers strong protection from various types of malware, including rootkits, Trojans, Adware, Spyware, etc. It has an anti-phishing feature and a firewall. Finally, all the versions offer a range of optimization tools, including a disk cleaner, a browser cleaner, a smartphone optimizer, and others.
The software is fast, lightweight, and easy to use. If you are looking for a smart option that won’t load your PC much, you will love it. Real-time protection without a noticeable impact on the system is a distinctive feature of ScanGuard.
- Essential Antivirus – $24.95 per year
- Pro Antivirus – $39.95 per year
- Ultimate Antivirus – $59.95 per year
Norton Antivirus: Best for Ultimate Protection
Norton Antivirus offers excellent protection and a decent feature set, but it comes at a relatively high price. Norton is marketed as a premium antivirus provider, and it scores high in all tests but slows down the system a little.
One of its claims is a 100% protection against viruses. It means that the company gives a lifetime guarantee on its product. If Norton antivirus fails to protect you, and its specialists won’t be able to help you, you’ll be eligible for 100% refunding.
When it comes to features, Norton offers everything you can expect to see in high-quality antivirus software. It effectively copes with known and newly created cyber-threats, including sophisticated forms, such as ransomware and spyware. Also, all the versions provide strong online protection and feature a built-in firewall. To get an expanded feature set you need to go with the Deluxe or Premium edition.
With all its strong points, Norton antivirus has two drawbacks. Firstly, it requires at least 2 Gb of RAM; otherwise, it will have a serious impact on the system. Secondly, it is slightly overpriced if compared to the counterparts. But there’s no denying the fact that it does its job well.
- Standard – $69.99 ($34.99 for the first year)
- Deluxe – $89.99 ($39.99 for the first year)
- Premium – $109.99 ($49.99 for the first year)
Features of the Best Antivirus Software for Windows
It goes without saying that the key feature of all antivirus products in the world is detecting and neutralizing viruses. However, modern AV products offer much more than just scanning for malware. Here is the list of features that are commonly provided.
- A built-in firewall provides a stronger protection from hacker attacks. If you don’t use a separate firewall app, the feature can be nice to have.
- Network scanning. Do you use multiple devices connected to one Wi-Fi network? Scan any of them right from your PC.
- A password manager is a must-have feature. Not only does it prevent you from filling online forms manually, but also reliably protects your logins and passwords from a third-party access.
- A game mode. Nobody likes notifications of antivirus programs during gaming. When this feature is on, notifications are suspended.
- A file shredder. You may be aware of the fact that simply deleting the file you don’t delete it permanently. It can be restored if needed. A file shredder will help to eliminate files completely.
- A VPN client. If you care about privacy or need to stay anonymous from time to time, you may find this feature useful. That said, most people prefer to install a separate VPN app.
- Safe banking. If you often deal with online payments, opt for the antivirus with the feature of safe banking and provide the maximum security of every transaction.
- A safe browser. Sometimes, it can be convenient to have a dedicated browser for visiting certain sites. It uses the Incognito mode by default, provides a safe banking and offers an improved protection from fraudulent pages. If it is included in the package, why not use it.
- Add-ons for popular browsers. Not all the people like using antivirus plug-ins, preferring a full-featured app. But in some cases, it can be convenient.
Some providers offer their proprietary extra features. But keep in mind that too many features are not always great. They can slow down the system noticeably and occupy space on your hard drive. So you need to understand clearly what you really need and what is excessive. The good news is that most features can be activated and deactivated manually at any time. Be attentive when downloading the antivirus and don’t install extra apps that you are not going to use in the future.
Free vs Paid Antivirus Solutions
Contrary to a popular belief, paid antivirus software doesn’t protect you from viruses better than the free version of the same provider. As a general rule of thumb, AV providers use one and the same engine for all their products. It makes no sense for them to offer weaker protection for free, as a free (trial) version always helps them to promote their premium product. If a customer likes the quality of protection, chances are, he or she will upgrade to the paid tier one day.
Does it mean there’s no difference between a paid and a free antivirus product? Not exactly. Free versions commonly come cropped. They have a minimal basic set of features ad they often force you to watch ads. Premium products usually offer much more features, including a password manager, a file shredder, parental control, a firewall, etc. Also, they come ads-free.
It’s for you to decide whether to choose a free or a paid antivirus. For basic protection, a free version will do. If one day you realize that you are not satisfied with the features offered or the performance, you can upgrade to the premium tier.
Free Antivirus Solutions for Windows: Expert Recommendations
A thorough analysis of popular free AV products helped us to compile a ranking of top recommended providers. None of them are absolutely flawless, but all of them are reliable, effective and pleasant to use.
- Probably, the best solution is the free Avast antivirus. Its main advantage is the minimum impact on the system. Also, it has some really nice features, including a free password manager. Needless to say, it provides strong antivirus protection.
- Another decent product is offered by AVG, which is now a part of Avast. It is simple, lightweight and reliable, but has lesser useful features. If you need a bare antivirus and nothing else, it will do for you, as it does its job well.
- A good free antivirus is Avira. It is rather flexible and offers a lot of free extras, including VPN. However, it feels a bit cumbersome and impacts the overall computer performance. Its malware detection capabilities are highly estimated by the world’s major labs, but it still lags behind AVG and Avast.
- Bitdefender (its free version) is definitely worthy of a closer look. It is, probably, the simplest product with a minimal selection of features. It has a minimalistic design and offers virtually nothing but antivirus. A great solution for those who don’t like two- and three-in-one products.
- Panda Free Antivirus is last but not least in our ranking. It is one of the few free AV providers that score 100% in lab tests of the protection rate. Plus, it is lightweight (due to the cloud-based technology) and very easy to use.
All the things taken together, what is the best antivirus for Windows 10? The answer to this question depends on several variables: level of protection you need, types of malware you want to protect yourself from, extra features you are going to use.
The operating system also matters: in Windows 10 basic protection is provided by the built-in Defender. But if you are a user of Windows 7 or 8, you may need a full-featured antivirus product. Finally, the price needs to be considered. As a rule, premium options have wider capabilities, but there are some great affordable solutions as well.