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Data breaches were up 68% in 2021 compared to the previous year. Personal information—such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, bank account information, and credit card numbers—is at risk. That data is then available on the dark web and can be used to ruin your financial life. In fact, the personal information of people with a high credit score can sell for relatively little on the dark net.
Cyberattacks on companies are also costly. The costs for compromised records, mitigating an attack, downtime, and repairs, and more accounted for a total cost of $4.24 million in 2021. Installing the right antivirus software at home or your business is one step you can take to ensure you don't become a future statistic. Current antivirus software has moved beyond detecting viruses to providing malware and other attack protections. With hundreds of antivirus software solutions available, it can be hard to decide which is best for you.
We investigated 20 options recommended by cybersecurity experts as their software of choice and considered the software's antivirus, malware, and ransomware. We also considered features such as multiple device protections and free version offerings. Here are our top picks.
The 6 Best Antivirus Software of 2022
Best Overall : Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
Our choice for the best overall antivirus software because its paid version offers the most well-rounded protection.
Anti-Tracker for better data privacy
Password manager with some packages
Frequent updates with subscription
Some packages can be expensive
VPN available with higher tier packages only
Bitdefender was founded in 2001 and is headquartered in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. The company has over 1,600 employees with offices all over the world. Antivirus Plus is the company’s entry-level antivirus software offering, making it ideal for home users without technical skills and anyone who wants basic defense against threats.
Because viruses aren’t the only cybersecurity risks, Antivirus Plus offers an array of security-first features, including ransomware prevention, monitoring online purchases and web-based transactions, as well as protection against fraud and phishing all managed through an easy-to-use dashboard. Antivirus Plus is only available for Windows, but there are similar versions of the antivirus program available for other operating systems like Mac and Android.
A free version of Bitdefender for Windows offers computer scans and other antivirus features, as well as web protection against phishing and fraud. The paid version includes Safepay for financial transactions, multi-layer ransomware protection, and vulnerability assessments. A virtual private network (VPN) is also offered with higher tier packages.
One year of coverage for one Windows device on the Plus plan is $19.99 and $39.99 after that first year. There is a 30-day free trial.
Best for Windows : Norton 360 With LifeLock
Norton 360 with LifeLock keeps improving on its history as a top antivirus option with its PC maintenance features, making it the best for Windows computers.
PC protections including firewall and backup
Excellent malware protection
LifeLock identity theft protection with most 360 packages
Ransomware detection could be improved
Slows the computer during full scans
One of the more expensive offerings
Norton introduced its first antivirus software in 1991 under the Symantec umbrella. Symantec purchased LifeLock in 2017, and in 2019, after the company's enterprise division was sold, the name was changed to NortonLifeLock. The company is based in Tempe, Arizona.
Norton 360 with LifeLock won best antivirus for Windows because of how it has continued to build on its history of protecting Windows machines. The identity theft protection capabilities of LifeLock alone give this product an edge.
There are several versions of this product, so users can pick the features they need, but even the the lowest plan 50GB of cloud backup. However, the lowest one is the only plan without LifeLock service.
The mid-range Norton 360 with LifeLock Standard is $89.99, with data breach notifications and dark web monitoring. For a cheaper option, Norton Antivirus Plus is $59.99 per year with one license.
Best for Mac : Webroot SecureAnywhere for Mac
Webroot SecureAnywhere for Mac offers excellent phishing detection and fast scanning ability in a complete Mac version of their antivirus software.
Excellent phishing detection
Fast virus scanning
Labels malicious links during online searches
Webroot is not as well known as other antivirus companies
Webroot is based in Broomfield, Colorado, and has offices in Japan, Europe, Australia, and California. The company was founded in 1997 and introduced its first antivirus product in 2006. OpenText acquired the company in 2019.
Webroot SecureAnywhere for Mac is our choice for antivirus protection that's best for Mac computers. There is still a belief that Mac computers are safe from cyberattacks, and while most viruses are targeted at Windows computers, Macs are vulnerable to other malware, ransomware, phishing attacks, and even Apple-targeted viruses.
This software boasts a very small footprint on your computer's operating system but offers very fast security scans and is one of the best at phishing detection. For those who use both Windows and Mac, Webroot's interface is more similar across platforms than other antivirus software.
For antivirus protection on one device you'll pay $39.99 per year after a promotional rate. If you want to add Webroot Wifi Security and protect up to three devices, you'll pay $109.98.
Best for Multiple Devices : McAfee Antivirus Plus
McAfee Antivirus Plus is our top choice for multiple devices because its subscriptions offer protection for every device in the home for a reasonable cost.
Offers protection for all devices, including Android and iOS
Good malware detection
First year discounts
No options for protecting one single device
McAfee Antivirus Plus is the one antivirus platform that recognizes the growing number of devices used in a single household, which could include four or more different operating systems.
The basic package supports up to 10 devices, support, secure web browsing, and antivirus. The MTP 10 Device plan for 10 devices as well, but also includes features such as full protection for the home network, password manager, encrypted storage, safe family, and identity theft protection.
The one-year basic subscription, MAV Plus, is $19.99 the first year and then $64.99 per year. If you purchase a subscription for two years of MAV Plus, the price drops to $19.99 per year for each of the first two years, then $65.00 for a renewal. The MTP 10 Family plan is $54.99 for the first year and then $139.99 a year. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Best Premium Option : Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security
Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security has an aggressive antivirus system at a reasonable price, making it our pick for best for premium options.
Protects online financial transactions
Most versions only work on Windows
Trend Micro was founded in 1988 in the U.S. but is now headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. The company operates worldwide and has many partnerships in the tech industry. Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security not only has an aggressive antivirus system at a reasonable price, but it also offers a number of security tools, including ransomware protections, protections for children online, and Pay Guard browser that provides the safest levels of protection for online banking and purchases.
Every version of this antivirus software also includes Trend Micro’s Advanced AI Learning feature that detects new ransomware strains and other emerging threats and stops them before they damage the computer network. Password management and protection are only offered in the product family's highest tier.
This is the antivirus software option for those who don’t want to have to micromanage their security. The first two plans only are for Windows. The highest tier plan works on Windows, Mac, Chromebook, iOS, and Android.
The first year of subscription to Antivirus+ Security is $19.95. After that, it costs $39.95 per year. The company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Best Malware Scanning : Malwarebytes
Our top choice for malware scanning, Malwarebytes, is the best at removing malware on demand among any providers.
Free version only cleans computers, but doesn't protect
Malwarebytes is headquartered in Santa Clara, California, and was founded in 2008. The free version of Malwarebytes is limited but powerful. It doesn't have many advanced features and protections—it simply detects and removes malware. To be clear, it does not protect your computer against threats. It only removes malware from infected computers.
Malwarebytes does an excellent job of capturing, quarantining, and removing malware that is wreaking havoc in your system. You can run a full or quick scan of the free version whenever needed, and it will create a report on your system.
The paid version of Malwarebytes offers 24/7 monitoring, protects vulnerabilities from exploits until the software is patched, blocks ransomware, and shields against infected websites. This paid, premium version is a full-fledged antivirus software unlike the free version. The free version runs on-demand, scanning for and removing malware, but should always be used in tandem with more comprehensive antivirus software.
The software is available for multiple operating systems. A few features are limited to the Windows version though. A one-year paid subscription is $44.99 for one device or $79.99 for five devices. A free trial is available for a limited time, but the free version remains on your computer to be used on-demand.
What Is Antivirus Software?
Antivirus (AV) software is designed to detect, block, and remove malicious software on a computer or network. AV software is an advised layer of any cybersecurity system, as it is often the first line of defense to protect the computer before the malicious software burrows too deep. It offers protection to a computer or network and helps prevent the virus or other malicious code from spreading to other devices.
Do You Really Need Antivirus Software?
Hackers don't just make money by selling your personal information; they can use that data to buy things fraudulently, compromise your credit score, drain your bank account, and generally wreak havoc on your and your business's financial life. Adding antivirus software to your computers is the least you can do to protect yourself. Antivirus software performance can vary a lot with the specific program, operating system, and the threat. In some studies on Windows computers up to 100% of the threats were stopped by some antivirus software. However, others showed less consistent performance.
Windows continues to fight viruses designed to exploit vulnerabilities in the operating system, and until those vulnerabilities are patched, AV software is the first line of defense. Windows 10 is the first version to include its own AV software built into the operating system. Microsoft Defender is a good free option and offers basic protection that users don’t have to think about. But if you want something that offers specific protections, the best option is to add a paid version that covers your needs.
However, a long-standing misconception is that computers using Mac or Apple operating systems are immune to viruses and other malicious software attacks. That was true two decades ago, but as Apple products became more popular, cybercriminals found value in designing viruses and malware for those systems. Also, increasing numbers of attacks can bypass the operating system and go directly for applications and web portals, putting every type of computer system at risk.
Other things you should consider doing to protect yourself against hacks are installing anti-malware software, using a VPN, improving your password, and setting up two-factor authentication on your devices.
What Does Antivirus Software Cost?
While there are free options, you get better protection and more features with a paid subscription. Paid versions offer features such as VPN, password management, and parental controls. Prices range from $20 to over $100 a year, depending on the number of licenses, number of devices you want covered, and the features you prefer.
Is It Worth Paying for Antivirus Software?
Free AV software has improved greatly over the years, and again, anyone using Windows 10 already has free AV software that works pretty well. If all you want is software that detects malicious software, blocks it from doing damage, and scans your system, then free is good.
Paid versions, however, will offer protections on web browsing, protect identity, or offer VPN services, as well as password managers and parental control across multiple devices and operating systems. These are more essential now, as more people are working remotely or using a single device for work and personal computing.
What Is the Difference Between Antivirus Software and Antimalware?
Viruses are designed to replicate and spread, while malware is a catchall name for all types of malicious code aimed at damaging a computer or network. All viruses are malware, but not all malware is a virus. AV software identifies threats through signature detections based on what is already known in the signature database. This is why AV software needs to be updated regularly.
Antimalware software detects more sophisticated malware attacks. The two types of defense software complement each other, and some AV software has antimalware built-in, but the two are different, and protection against both is necessary for true protection.
How We Chose the Best Antivirus Software
There are hundreds of antivirus software solutions available. We investigated 20 popular solutions often considered the software of choice by cybersecurity experts. Of critical importance was the ease of use with all providers, making it something every consumer could navigate and use.
We then considered whether or not the provider had offerings beyond antivirus software. This included malware, ransomware protection, and multiple device protections. Those that had a free version or trial were given preference. We gave particular importance to platforms that were easy to use and integrate.