Best antivirus software lead image

When protecting your phone, tablet and PC from cybercriminals, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than the best antivirus software. Why? Because malware is lurking in every corner of the internet, leaving your data and more at risk.

To put the growing threat of malware into perspective, cybersecurity experts have to deal with up to 550 types of malicious software every minute. That’s an intimidating statistic, but the good news is that the best antivirus software is prepared to stop all that malware in its tracks – and then some.

From adware and Trojans to ransomware and spyware, the right antivirus will keep your device malware-free. That’s not all; they can provide extra features like VPNs, cloud storage, PC boosters, and more. All it takes is one click to be a victim of malware, so find out the best antivirus software below to stay protected.

What is the best antivirus?

No two antivirus software are equal, even if they come under the same company (Avast and AVG, for example). Some may offer a selection of bonus features but don’t deliver high malware detection and protection rates, while others are entirely free to use but lack excellent online security tools.

Ultimately, the best antivirus software makes protecting your device and personal information a priority while providing an easy-to-use user interface and a bundle of extra perks. Notable cybersecurity experts, including AV-Comparatives, AV-Test Institute and MRG-Effitas, have tested the antivirus services we’ve selected. Each has achieved exceptional lab test scores, with some scoring higher in certain areas than others. Below is a breakdown of the results we follow.

AV-Comparatives Real-World ProtectionOnline Malware ProtectionOnline Detection RateOffline Detection RatePerformance Impact (lower is better)
Norton 36099.9%99.9%99.4%85.7%6.3
AVG100%100%98.8%93.9%6.2
Malwarebytes99%99.81%96.9%87.4%7.1
Avast One100%100%98.8%93.9%6.1
Bitdefender99.7%99.98%94.9%94.9%6.6

Researchers at AV-Comparatives test a number of antivirus services, giving them a score from Standard certification to Advanced+ certification. The latter is awarded to software that goes above and beyond just passing tests, which include real-world protection rates, online malware protection and detection, offline detection and the impact on a device’s performance.

AV-Test InstituteMalware ProtectionMalware DetectionOverall Score
Norton 360100%100%18/18
AVG100%100%18/18
Malwarebytes99.2%100%17.5/18
Avast One100%100%18/18
Bitdefender100%100%18/18

As for the AV-Test Institute, researchers score a service based on their protection against malware, impact on a device’s performance and overall usability. The test we look at is an antivirus software’s ability to protect against zero-day malware attacks, including websites and email threats, and detection rates for recently discovered malware.

MRG-EffitasBanking Trojan TestMalware Test Certification
Norton 360N/AN/A
AVGFailLevel 2
MalwarebytesPassLevel 1
Avast OneFailLevel 2
BitdefenderPassLevel 1

Lastly, researchers at MRG-Effitas use a banking Trojan test and throw different types of malware at it. To pass the first test, the antivirus software needs a perfect score, while the malware test offers two scores: Level 1 for blocking every malware and Level 2 for having some malware slip through but being destroyed in 24 hours.

Regardless of near-perfect lab test results, the price, accessibility and features should also be considered when choosing the best antivirus. From offering VPN apps keeping you anonymous online and password managers to secure your credentials to cloud backups, multi-platform compatibility and even parental controls, there’s plenty these AV products offer.

Is your antivirus not working? Check out these simple tricks to get it working again.

Best antivirus software in 2023

1. Norton 360 🥇From $19.99/year
Best overall antivirus of 2023

Norton 360 on Laptop scaled

“Norton” and “antivirus” are synonymous these days, as the well-established cybersecurity brand has successfully fought against malware, viruses and nasty software threats since 1990. 

Norton 360 offers excellent antivirus protection and extra features that make for a valuable, all-in-one security product. Its Norton 360 Deluxe and Premium package may cost a pretty penny. Still, with security across multiple platforms, a full-blown VPN, Dark Web Monitoring, Parental Controls and more, it will have a household free of cyber threats. 

Norton’s certainty of its antivirus software’s capabilities is clearly defined by the brand’s 100% Virus Protection Promise. If a device protected by Norton 360 can’t get rid of a virus, the user receives their money back. It’s a big claim, but unquestionably, no one should expect to get that refund.

If you have the money for it, you can also check out the premium Norton 360 Platinum package for even more online protection, including from identity theft. Without a doubt one of the best antivirus to get.

Read our full Norton 360 review

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2. Bitdefender 🥈 From $19.99/year
Best security features and tools

Bitdefender Lead Image scaled

Bitdefender takes the spot as best antivirus, and for good reason. It’s not enough that it boasts near-perfect lab test scores across the board, as it goes the extra mile by giving users access to a plethora of advanced security features.

Bitdefender goes above and beyond in the features department, all while keeping known malware, ransomware, and viruses at bay. It will defend your device against new attacks, provide security for online transactions, keep you safe with a reliable VPN, and protect your accounts with a password manager.

It’s a no-brainer when it comes to defending your devices against virtually any form of cyberattack, and its top-notch protection extends to its most affordable package, too. Protecting your PC and smartphone, from Windows and macOS to iOS and Android, is becoming even more necessary, and Bitdefender is the tricked-out shield you need. 

Read our full Bitdefender review

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3. Malwarebytes 🥉 From $44.99/year
Best antivirus for Windows PC

Malwarebytes Logo scaled

Hundreds of malware emerge every minute, and it’s Malwarebytes’ mission to detect and conquer them all. Does the antivirus do this successfully? Yes, but there’s wiggle room for improvements.

Malwarebytes’ no-nonsense approach to protecting your devices from the onslaught of malware and viruses is effective for those who need a reliable antivirus that will detect and remove malicious software, especially with its free version. However, while its premium service provides 24/7 real-time detection, conveniently blocks vicious ransomware and shields users from malicious websites, it doesn’t go beyond on the feature front.

That’s no bad thing, as sometimes a user only needs a powerful antivirus to keep them safe from cyber threats. But considering its competitors add a few more security tools, such as data breach monitoring and a firewall, there’s room for improvement. 

Read our full Malwarebytes review

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4. Avast One 🙌 From $39.99/year
Best antivirus for beginners + free plan available!

Avast One logo on laptop

With Avast One, you can protect your device from viruses, malware and ransomware for free. That’s right, and you don’t have to pay a dime for the extra security features the antivirus throws in, including its VPN, firewall and more.

Avast One will safeguard your device from malware, comes with ransomware protection, blocks harmful websites and downloads from the web, scans your emails for malicious attachments, stops hackers from infiltrating your device through Wi-Fi with a firewall – the list goes on. That’s a lot of tools for software that’s free, and the included VPN and the ability to speed up your PC are a welcome bonus.

It’s the ideal antivirus software for home use, as it takes the hassle out of staying wary of cyber threats lurking around, even if you’re not a tech whizz. What’s more, if you are looking for added precautions, its paid Individual and Family packages still boast great value. Hard to go wrong with this best antivirus.

Read our full Avast One review

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5. AVG👍 From 4.99/month
Best antivirus for + free plan available!

AVG Antivirus logo scaled

You can never go wrong with free antivirus protection, but some deliver even better detection and protection rates, along with extra security features, without costing a dime. This is where AVG antivirus shines.

AVG provides reliable protection and only a small impact on performance for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. It safeguards your devices against malware, viruses and zero-day exploits, along with blocking malicious links and attachments in emails. Throw in phishing protection when surfing the internet and extra security features such as its SafePrice browser extension and Network Inspector, and you’ve got yourself a do-it-all antivirus.

Sure, you can find all of these perks with Avast, but if you like a slick, darker user interface that’s easy to navigate, then AVG is for you.

Read our full AVG Antivirus review

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What is antivirus software?

Antivirus software is a program designed to detect, prevent and remove any form of malware on your device. When installed, it will scan through everything on your device, including software, applications, files and even web pages. Reliable antivirus services will notify you about suspicious software, allowing you to block or destroy emerging cyber threats.

To infiltrate a device, hackers will use different types of malware, including computer viruses, spyware, adware, ransomware, Trojans, and spam — anything that could be used to steal valuable data. An antivirus will identify and throw out any malicious software that sneaks onto a device. Think of it as your personal, battle-hardened bouncer keeping unwanted guests out of your exclusive nightclub.

Threat actors continue to develop more sophisticated malware to get past these fortified defences. Still, the best antivirus software stays one step ahead by detecting unknown threats and adding them to a database of known types of malware. The software will perform different types of analysis, including specific analysis, pinpointing familiar malware; generic analysis, recognising parts of known malware code; and heuristic analysis, which searches for unknown, threatening malware that follows the usual malicious routine.

Antivirus image with lock on laptop

What is malware?

Malware, short for malicious software, is any software code or computer program intentionally written to harm a computer system or its users. It can be spread through various means, such as clicking on malicious links, opening infected attachments, or downloading infected files.

Malware can have a wide range of harmful effects, including stealing data, disrupting operations, causing damage to files, or even taking over a system remotely.

There are many types of malware. Here’s a look at the most common types:

  • Viruses: Viruses spread by attaching themselves to other files or programs and can replicate themselves. They can damage files, steal data, or disrupt system operations.
  • Worms: Worms spread by exploiting vulnerabilities in computer systems or networks. They can self-replicate and spread rapidly, consuming network bandwidth and clogging up systems.
  • Trojan horses: Trojan horses appear to be harmless programs but contain malicious code that can be activated when the program is opened. They can steal data, install other malware, or disrupt system operations.
  • Spyware: Spyware secretly gathers information about a user’s online activity and sends it to a third party. It can track browsing history, keystrokes, and personal information.
  • Adware: Adware displays unwanted advertisements on a user’s computer or device. It can slow down performance and invade privacy.
  • Ransomware: Ransomware encrypts a user’s files and demands a ransom payment in order to decrypt them. It can hold personal data hostage, threatening the user’s ability to access their own information.

They’re all dangerous, but the good news is antivirus software can protect you from each one.

Darragh Murphy
Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from the mischievous world of online security to washing machines designed for earbuds. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for laptops into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. When he's not checking out the latest devices and all things tech, he can be found swimming laps, watching terrible shark movies, and trying to find time to game.  Previous Editor at Laptop Mag and News Editor at Time Out Dubai, specialising in food culture, nightlife events, gaming, tech and entertainment.

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