Are you a Windows user who’s wondering what the best antivirus is for Windows 10? It can get confusing; there are many options out there. How can you decide which Windows antivirus to use?
We’re going to use data from AV-TEST to help you make your decision.
1. Windows Defender
Windows Defender isn’t the same proposition as it was a few years ago. The suite once had a reputation for hogging system resources and offering a low standard of protection, but that’s all changed.
Microsoft’s security program now offers some of the best protection in the industry. In the most recent tests available on AV-TEST (for March and April 2019) it scored a 100 percent detection rate against zero-day malware attacks and for “widespread and prevalent malware discovered in the last four weeks” in both months.
Of course, one of Windows Defender’s most significant selling points is its tight integration with the Windows operating system. It’s easy to manage the app’s virus protection, firewall protection, device security, and app security directly from the Windows Settings menu.
Overall, AV-TEST gave the app 6/6 for protection and usability, and 5.5/6 for performance, enough to earn it a “Top Product” designation. It’s quite a turnaround for an app that scored 0.5/6 as recently as 2015.
Kaspersky is a well-known name in the online security world. The company offers three antivirus suites—Antivirus, Kaspersky Internet Security, and Security Cloud. All three are among the best internet security apps for Windows 10.
In truth, Kaspersky is another app that’s struggled with performance issues in the past. But, like Windows Defender, those problems are firmly behind it. AV-TEST rated the app as 6/6 across all three of its testing categories.
Indeed, the suite only flagged three false positives in the April 2019 test, despite testing in excess of 1.6 million samples.
The entry-level Antivirus app ($75) only covers desktop PCs. For $20 more, the Internet Security ($79) suite adds mobile support for a minimal extra cost. It is the best option for most users.
Malwarebytes is another of the best antivirus apps on Windows. The company’s free version program has been popular for years.
However, if you want to enjoy 24/7 real-time protection (rather than being restricted to intermittent manual scans), you need to pay for the premium version. The entry-level plans, which only protects one device, costs $39.99 per year. For the fee, you receive protection against identity theft, ransomware, fraudulent websites, malware, and more.
All the premium features are available for a 14-day trial period on the free version of the app.
With a perfect 6/6 for protection, performance, and usability on AV-TEST, Bitdefender Internet Security is unquestionably among the best antivirus apps for Windows.
Like Kaspersky Internet Security, only three false positives were found from a sample size of 1.6 million and had a 100 percent record against both zero-day attacks and existing malware.
There are three different versions of the app available to Windows users: Total Security for $40 (which covers mobile devices), Internet Security for $35 (includes firewall and webcam protection), and Antivirus Plus for $30 (the entry-level paid suite). If you wish, you can purchase the Android and iOS versions of Bitdefender separately.
Other noteworthy features in Bitdefender include multi-layer ransomware protection, network threat prevention, and parental controls.
Another app and another perfect 6/6 across all three categories on AV-TEST.
Interestingly, although F-Secure SAFE scored 6/6 for performance, it still performed better than both Bitdefender Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security—both of which also scored 6/6.
On a standard PC with an Intel i3-6100 processor, a 256GB hard drive, and 8GB RAM, it only saw a 10 percent drop-off in performance when launching popular websites. In comparison, Kaspersky scored 28 percent and Bitdefender scored 19 percent.
All this tells us that the app probably the best option for anyone who’s running an older, low-power machine.
There’s only one version of F-Secure SAFE available, though the price varies depending on the number of devices you want to protect. The entry-level plan (for three devices) is $69.99 per year. The most expensive package (seven devices) is $109.99.
If you want antivirus protection on Windows, you could also consider checking out McAfee Internet Security.
It scores highly (6/6) on all AV-TEST criteria, finds a low number of false positives, and is not a major resource hog.
Features-wise, McAfee Internet Security offers a full suite of real-time antimalware tools, URL blocking, phishing protection, and vulnerability scans. The latter of those—vulnerability scans—is not a common feature. If it’s important to you, McAfee is a good choice.
7. ESET NOD32
NOD32 has some of the lowest false positive rates, is lightweight, and is consistently near the top of performance charts.
Indeed, many power users used to swear by the holy-trinity of NOD32 (which focuses on system files), Malwarebytes (which focuses on web-based issues), and CCleaner (a PC optimization tool). Unfortunately, CCleaner is no longer a trustworthy app, but it’s still passable for one-off scans.
The three plans cost $40, $50, and $60. The entry-level plan does not include support for personal firewalls and spam filters.
No, that’s not a typo—we really are recommending Norton Security as our eighth and final pick.
The Norton suite has an erratic history. There was a time—around the turn of the millennium—when it had a vice-like stranglehold on the antivirus market. The growth of reliable free antimalware products, along with Norton’s ever-growing drain on system resources, saw its popularity decline rapidly over the next decade.
Fast-forward to today, and Norton Security is once again worth considering. AV-TEST gave it 6/6 across all three categories. Amazingly, it only saw an eight percent performance effect on a standard computer when loading popular sites (though its impact when installing frequently used applications was more noticeable at 28 percent).
Norton Security supports malware scans, real-time website ratings, malicious URL blocking, phishing protection, and behavior-based detection.
The four Norton Security plans cost between $40 and $100 per year, depending on the extra features you need.
What About Free Antivirus Software?
Some of the third-party free antivirus suites on the market are adequate, though their protections scores on AV-TEST are—on average—not as good as the paid options. Furthermore, the majority use considerably more resources than Windows Defender, not to mention the persistent and annoying nag screens.
If you can’t/won’t spend money on a paid antivirus solution, stick with the free Microsoft app.
And if you want to test out your antivirus software, check out how to do it safely.