These days, hackers and cybercriminals use increasingly sophisticated techniques to steal your data, such as your bank details. That’s why it’s so critical to protect your computer with a good antivirus program. With the number of products on the market, it can be hard to decide which one to get. And with the built-in Microsoft Defender antivirus, you might be wondering if getting a separate antivirus program is even necessary at all. Here’s our list of the best antivirus programs to protect your Windows 10 PC from viruses and malware (malicious software).
What Does Antivirus Software Do?
Antivirus software has three basic functions. First, it protects your computer from getting infected with viruses and malware. Second, it scans for malicious code in your system. Third, it destroys viruses and malware once it detects them.
Every antivirus program uses a different technique to detect and remove potential threats. Some antivirus programs use specific detection, which means they compare the signature of a suspected virus against a database of known virus definitions. These definitions are provided by the vendor and are updated periodically.
Then there are also antivirus programs that use generic detection, which means they group viruses into families and look at their broader generic signatures. Finally, some antivirus programs use heuristic analysis to examine and test a suspicious program’s source code so they can detect unknown or new viruses.
Do You Need Antivirus Software on Your Windows 10 PC?
While Windows does come in with a built-in antivirus program, you will need a third-party antivirus program if you want more accurate malware detection. Most Antivirus programs these days also come with additional security features, too.
According to the most recent real-world protection test conducted by AV-Comparatives, Windows Defender was able to block 99.7% of threats. However, the built-in program also got very low scores in the most recent performance test and malware test from AV-Comparatives.
These tests showed Microsoft’s Windows Defender identified legitimate files and programs as malware more often than other antivirus programs did. Windows Defender also slowed down computers and didn’t protect against as many threats as other antivirus programs did.
So, if you are concerned about malware, you might want to install third-party antivirus software. Plus, many of these antivirus programs come with features for added security, like virtual private networks (VPN), password managers, parental controls, and more.
If you plan to use a third-party antivirus program in Windows 10, you will need to disable Microsoft Defender first. Otherwise, you might get file conflicts, false alarms, and drain your system’s resources. You can learn how to disable Windows Defender in Windows 10 in this step-by-step guide.
McAfee Total Protection: Best Budget Antivirus
If you’re looking to protect multiple devices, the best budget antivirus is McAfee Total Protection. The Family and Individual & Couples plans have deeply discounted rates for the first year for up to 10 devices. You can use this software on your Windows computer as well as your macOS, iOS, and Android devices.
McAfee Total Protection guards your devices against viruses, malware, ransomware, spyware, and more. According to the most recent malware test from AV-Comparatives, McAfee offered more protection and compromised fewer files than Windows Defender. However, it did have a higher number of false positives than Windows Defender.
McAfee also offers a VPN that masks your IP address to keep you protected online. And, unlike other vendors, they don’t have data caps for their VPN service. A maximum of five devices can use the VPN simultaneously. You also get a 24/7 Identity Theft Protection service, which scours the dark web for potentially fraudulent use of your personal information.
If you want to know more about the benefits of a VPN, check out our article here.
Kaspersky Antivirus: Best Antivirus for Gaming
If you’re a gamer, you want an antivirus that won’t take up too much of your computer’s memory. Kaspersky Antivirus is one of the best antivirus programs for gaming because it has an extremely low impact on your system.
According to AV-Comparative’s performance test, Kaspersky had one of the lowest impact scores. It also had one of the best scores in the real-world protection tests, blocking 99.9% of threats with no false positives. Kaspersky is also good at scanning for zero-day malware attacks, which exploit software vulnerabilities that have not been discovered or addressed yet.
Kaspersky has a Privacy Cleaner feature that allows you to erase your browser history, temporary file folders, and copies of previously accessed web pages. You can do full, quick, or vulnerability scans on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
To further boost your security, Kaspersky’s online account uses two-factor authentication. Aside from your password, you also need to enter a one-time code sent via text to access your account.
Bitdefender Antivirus Free: Best Free Antivirus
If you want a hands-off antivirus program, Bitdefender Antivirus Free is one of your best bets. This software allows you to set up automatic scans that compare your computer files against a list of threats updated daily. You can also do a Quick Scan to check for malware in under a minute.
Bitdefender provides real-time protection against malware and viruses by detecting when apps are behaving suspiciously. It also detects when hackers use legitimate-looking websites or emails in phishing campaigns to get your personal information. In addition, its filtering technology alerts you about web tracking and other suspicious online activity.
This non-intrusive program performs scans in the background. That means you can carry on with your tasks, even resource-intensive activities like gaming and video editing. Since it’s lightweight, it won’t slow down your system during scanning.
Plus, this free antivirus program uses the same machine-learning scanning technology that’s found in the paid versions. However, you can only get the free edition for one Windows computer.
Norton 360 Deluxe: Best Antivirus for Windows 10
Norton 360 Deluxe is the company’s mid-tier option for its comprehensive antivirus offering. The plan comes packed with useful features for device security, online privacy, and identity theft protection.
Norton’s antivirus technology offers you protection from viruses, adware, spam emails, spyware, and other types of malware. Norton uses a multi-layer approach powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. With this, it can decide if a file is harmful or not, even if it hasn’t encountered that kind of file before.
Aside from antivirus protection, you also get a secure VPN and a Smart Firewall feature that protects you from unauthorized access to your network. On the other hand, its Privacy Monitor and Dark Web Monitoring features help you find and get back your personal information that ends up online.
Norton’s parental controls also let you set up restrictions on the kind of content your children can access online. To top it off, Norton offers a Virus Protection Promise that allows you to get a refund for your plan if a Norton specialist cannot remove a virus from your device. All these features make Norton 360 Deluxe one of the best antivirus programs for Windows 10 users.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus: Best Antivirus Overall
If you’re looking for solid protection all around, the best antivirus to get is Bitdefender Antivirus Plus. This software gets some of the highest scores in all of AV-Comparative’s tests, and it was awarded the 2019 product of the year by the independent organization.
Bitdefender combines multi-layer protection and lots of privacy tools that give you complete security against all types of threats. For example, Safe Files gives you a place to store your important files and prevents malware from ever reaching them. If the software detects any threats, you can restart it in Rescue Mode and perform a clean-up and restoration.
Bitdefender also includes privacy features like File Shredder, which lets you erase all traces of files from your computer. You also get the Social Network Protection feature, which guards you against malicious links passed around on social media. And the Safepay feature gives you a personal anti-fraud browser for banking and shopping.
To top it off, Bitdefender also throws in a VPN and a password manager, too. However, the VPN is limited to 200 MB of encrypted traffic daily. The Password Manager feature is enough to handle the basics. However, it can’t compete with dedicated solutions like Dashlane or LastPass.
Now that you’ve explored your options for the best antivirus programs in Windows 10, the next step is to get rid of these threats. Check out our article about how to remove malware from your Windows 10 PC to find out more.