Having an active antivirus software installed on your device is extremely beneficial. Whether your device is used mainly for work, online gaming or even if your kids have claimed your computer as their own, antivirus protection keeps your private data safe and secure from malware. 

Some computers, including those operating on Windows 10 and 11, and Apple’s Mac OS, have free antivirus software built-in that constantly scans your device for security threats, viruses and malware. While these types of free antivirus tools are a good starting point, paid-for antivirus software has many more features to keep you and your computer safe. 

A paid-for antivirus tool does more than scan for and identify potential issues, which is what a free antivirus software tool is usually limited to. Paid-for is full of additional features, defending you against hacking and data protection, and is much better suited for frequent internet users.

The additional features provided in a paid-for antivirus will vary according to the type you opt for. Generally, you can expect to see tools such as permanent file shredding (to ensure your sensitive data remains away from prying eyes), prevention of hackers from gaining remote access to your device, and identification of potential scammers. 

This is all before mentioning additional perks like a dedicated VPN and password manager which are sometimes included. If you pay for these separately then you should consider an all-in-one approach instead. 

Our team of experts have tested and fairly reviewed a variety of antivirus software and assessed each one based on data from multiple benchmarks, assessing performance against malware, the potency of their feature range and their subscription price point. Only the antivirus software that we believe is worth investing in has made it into this list. 

If you decide you don’t need paid-for antivirus software, then look through our best free antivirus options. If you want to really step up your security then check out our best VPN and best password manager lists.

Best antivirus at a glance

How we test

Learn more about how we test antivirus software

For raw performance against malicious software, we use data from multiple testing houses: AV-Test, SE Labs and AV-Comparatives. Of these tests, we prioritise ‘real-world’ performance, in which antivirus detection engines are exposed to live threats. 
We also draw on system performance data captured by AV-Test and we inventory and compare features on an application-by-application basis, highlighting both useful tools and unexpected sticking points in the workflow and interfaces.

McAfee Plus Advanced

Best overall antivirus

Pros

  • Excellent malware protection
  • Wide range of tools including a decent VPN and password manager
  • Unusually comprehensive identity protection and recovery service

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Steep price increase after first year

If you’re looking for an antivirus that offers absolutely everything, from top-notch security to a myriad of useful features, then we recommend McAfee Plus Advanced.

Its malware protection proved to be excellent in lab tests, achieving perfect scores from SE Labs and AV-TEST, while blocking 99.80% of malware for AV Comparatives. It also rarely falsely identified legitimate software and websites as being harmful, resulting in one of the best all-round antivirus performances we’ve seen.

But McAfee Plus Advanced really excels with its feature offerings, as you can install it on an unlimited number of devices, make use of its kill switch and use a cleanup service that stops online data brokers selling your private data.

You also get a password manager and VPN bundled into the package, and while neither are the absolute best in their respective fields, they still get the job done competently.

The main sticking point for McAfee Plus Advanced is the price, as it’s one of the more expensive antivirus offerings. But if you want a comprehensive antivirus package with lots of useful features, this is the one to get.

Reviewer: K.G. Orphanides
Full review: McAfee Plus Advanced Review

G Data Total Security

Best mid-priced antivirus

Pros

  • Excellent malware protection
  • Wide range of security and system optimisation tools

Cons

  • Out of date system tuner, parental controls and password manager

G Data Total Security is a mid-price antivirus, which offers a superb malware-blocking performance and a decent selection of features.

It was one of the very few antivirus to achieve a perfect 100% score in both the AV-TEST and AV Comparatives, and so provides great peace of mind while browsing the web. That said, it was a little too militant for our liking, with a high number of false positives showing that it’s prone to blocking legitimate software.

There are a number of useful features here, including parental controls, performance tuner, encryption tools, secure file shredder, USB device access control, and a dedicated firewall – you even get a password manager thrown in for good measure. But some of these features feel outdated, while the client is very retro.

With this in mind, we still think McAfee offers the better overall package. But since G Data Total Security is more affordable, it’s still a great option if you don’t want to spend a fortune on an antivirus package.

Reviewer: K.G. Orphanides
Full review: G Data Total Security Review

Norton 360 Advanced

Best short-term antivirus

Pros

  • Perfect malware protection
  • Wide range of features
  • Includes full VPN
  • 200GB of online backup storage

Cons

  • High false positive rate in some tests
  • Expensive renewal rates

Norton 360 is really good at protecting you against malware, but recent test results indicate that it might also try to “protect” you against some legitimate software, as well. In the latest SE Labs real-world malware exposure tests, it protected against 100% of infections, with no false positives. Two months of testing by AV-TEST was almost the same. However, although it detected 100% of malware in the most recent AV Comparatives real-world test, it also falsely identified 26 legitimate applications

Norton 360 Advanced covers ten Windows, macOS, Android or iOS devices and includes a firewall, webcam protection, parental control, silent protection mode, password manager, full Norton Secure VPN subscription, 200GB online backup storage, Dark Web Monitoring and School Time distraction management tools to lock down unauthorised programs for children engaged in remote learning.

Features unique to the Advanced subscription tier include Identity Restoration Support, where NortonLifeLock staff will help you resolve issues with banks and merchants if you’re the victim of identity theft. Meanwhile, Social Media Monitoring watches over you or your children’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram accounts for scams, inappropriate content, impersonation or harassment.

It’s a fantastic selection of features only rivalled by McAfee. But those steep renewal fees make it difficult to recommend for the long term. And so we only really recommend Norton 360 Advanced if you just need an antivirus for a year at most, as you can get some bargain offers for the first 12 months from third-party retailers such as Amazon.

Reviewer: K.G. Orphanides
Full review: Norton 360 Advanced review

Kaspersky Internet Security

Pros

  • Accurate malware detection
  • Clearly highlights auto-renewal options
  • Wide range of useful tools

Cons

  • Price increases upon subscription renewal
  • May conflict with UK government security guidance if you’re a remote worker in specific sectors

It’s difficult to unequivocally recommend Kaspersky Internet Security right now, even though it provides some of the most accurate malware protection you’ll find.

With much of its threat research and some of its business operations in the Russian Federation at the time of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, Kaspersky rapidly moved its international business operations to its UK holding company and its threat analysis to its Zurich data centre.

However, at the time of writing, when you click agree on Kaspersky’s EULA and other agreements, you’re still making a legal agreement with “AO Kaspersky Lab, a company incorporated according to the laws of the Russian Federation.” That presents ethical issues for those uncomfortable with the fact that Kaspersky provides services to the Russian government and military. Remote workers in certain sectors may be affected by NCSC guidance.

If none of that bothers you, then Kaspersky’s consistently good performance continues to impress. The company’s software is frequently discounted, and you can find great retail deals. If you subscribe online, higher renewal costs are clearly signposted and it’s easy to avoid auto-renewal.

Reviewer: K.G. Orphanides
Full review: Kaspersky Internet Security

FAQs

Does Windows need antivirus?

Not really. Windows has Microsoft Defender built in, which is one of the most competent antivirus protection available. But opting for third-party paid-for antivirus software will unlock a greater range of features, such as password managers, parental controls and more.

What is the difference between free antivirus software and paid antivirus?

Both forms of antivirus can detect and block malware, but paid-for options can unlock additional features such as VPNs and advanced parental controls.


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Harmony Evans is an award-winning author of Harlequin Kimani Romance, African-American romance, and so on. Harmony Evans is an award-winning author for Harlequin Kimani Romance, the leading publisher of African-American romance. Her 2nd novel, STEALING KISSES, will be released in November 2013. Harmony is a single mom to a beautiful, too-smart-for-her-own-good daughter, who makes her grateful for life daily. Her hobbies include cooking, baking, knitting, reading, and of course, napping and also review some of the best-selling and popular brands and services in the market and also write comprehensive blogs.

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