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 has been at the forefront of cybersecurity for over a decade, and its blog, in particular, has become a reliable source of information for all things cyber threats. Its antivirus software reflects this, as it clears up zero-day exploits, malware, viruses, ransomware, Trojans, phishing attempts – you name it. But other than this, it’s a fairly plain antivirus.
Extra perks like Browser Guard and competitive pricing with Malwarebytes Premium are always welcome, but considering the plethora of security tools other antivirus brands offer (without paying a dime), Malwarebytes can seem like it’s lacking. Still, it’s one of the best antivirus software to get, and you can read on to see why.
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Malwarebytes is best for…
- Detects and removes malware efficiently
- Blocks ransomware
- Efficient scans
- Free version doesn’t provide protection
- Lacklustre user interface
Straight-to-the-point malware detection and protection, especially for Windows devices.
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.
Malwarebytes pricing and subscriptions
Malwarebytes offers affordable prices for its antivirus software, and extremely affordable with its free version. The antivirus is available on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS, while its Browser Guard can protect Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Safari.
The free version is bare bones. It can detect and remove malware and other advanced threats, like spyware, that are already on your device, but it won’t provide protection from malicious software trying to get on your device. It also offers Browser Guard, but apart from that, all you’re getting are scans. Having detection and removal tools for free is nothing to sneeze at, but other antivirus services, such as Avast One, go above a beyond in what they deliver without asking for cash.
Malwarebytes Premium is the company’s strongest offering. Priced at $5 NZD per month or $60 NZD per year for one device, it offers 24/7 real-time protection, defends against all manner of cyberattacks like zero-day exploits and ransomware, stops brute force attacks, prevents malicious email attachments and more. It also has a flurry of scanning options, such as specific rootkit and archive scans.
This is the version that’s most appealing, and despite the aforementioned price sticker, it’s regularly on sale. As of writing, it’s currently dropped to $33.74 USD (around $54 NZD). For context, Avast One Individual comes in at $11.67 AUD (around $12.77 NZD) per month or $140 AUD (around $153 NZD) for the first year (without a discount), while the Bitdefender Premium Security package will set you back $89.99 AUD (around $98 NZD) for the first year and $199 AUD (around $217 NZD) every year after.
However, this is only for one device. For up to five devices, Malwarebytes is priced at $11.67 NZD or $140 NZD per year. More protection for all your devices is, of course, pricier, but it’s still somewhat cheaper than many services. And, for exactly the same price, you can add on Malwarebytes’ Privacy VPN – a nice bonus.
It’s important to note that Malwarebytes doesn’t increase its prices after the first year of use, unlike many other antivirus software. Although, apart from the inclusion of a VPN, don’t expect as many features as its competitors. Still, it’s one of the more fairly priced antiviruses out there.
How Malwarebytes runs
Malwarebytes is generally easy to set up, but it’s not exactly the most comprehensive user interface you’ll use – especially with its free version.
You can download Malwarebytes for free on its website, whether you want the free or premium version of the service. When installing the antivirus, it also asks if you’re looking for the Malwarebytes Browser Guard for free browser protection, which can block ads, scams, trackers and websites than contain sneaky malware. It isn’t compulsory, but having this option to automatically be added to Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge or Firefox is always a plus.
Once I installed the software, I was met with Malwarebytes’ standard-looking interface. There aren’t menus, options or guides to point you in the right direction – just a few tiles telling you its detection history, a scanner option, and (more or less) the reasons why you should upgrade to its Premium service. Essentially, the only option you have is to click “Scan,” and that’s all you can do with the free version. If you’re looking for a simple way to see if you have malware on your computer, this is it. You can configure scans (for some reason, rootkit scans are unchecked), but for the casual user that wants to hit scan without having to tinker, the configuration settings aren’t completely obvious.
Its Premium option unlocks a host more security tools, but there aren’t apparent on the hub’s home page. Dive into settings, and you’ll see switches for Tamper Protection (limits who uses Malwarebytes’ security settings), security summary notifications, scan reminders, automatic quarantine when malware is detected, and even a Play Mode to reduce performance impact. These security tools are handy, but it would be better if they were a tad more accessible rather than hidden in settings.
Running the first scan, it only took 1 minute and 59 seconds to complete, and it even spotted a potentially unwanted program (PUP) that was unknown to me (although not harmful). It gives you the option to quickly quarantine the suspicious program, just in case users don’t trust specific programs it catches. As a nice touch, there’s also an option to save the results, just in case you want to research what it’s flagged. A full custom scan took 4 minutes and 23 seconds, which is speedy enough.
Continuous scans were far faster, with my next scan only taking 21 seconds. Malwarebytes also has Smart Scan, which runs only when the device is not in use – so it doesn’t slow down performance. Although, these scheduled scans are locked behind the Premium version.
Speaking of, I tested my devices’ performance before and after installing Malwarebytes using the PCMark 10 benchmark. Initially, my device got an overall score of 4,786. After downloading the antivirus, it scored 4,266. Clearly, the antivirus’ background scanning impacts the system by a small amount.
Finally, Malwarebytes also has a selection of themes to choose from in order to enhance readability and make the hub “pop” with a Light and Dark theme, along with a Clean Sky, Cityscape and Data Web background. The themes are a nice add-on, but nothing more.
What can Malwarebytes protect you from?
- Zero-day exploits
- Phishing attacks
- Malicious websites
- Phishing attacks
Malwarebytes lab protection tests
Malwarebytes’ antivirus detection and protection is top of the line, but it may not be as solid as it states on its real-time detection map it boasts.
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, and Malwarebytes received one Advanced+ certification and one Advanced award. It received a 99% protection rate in the real-world protection test, behind Bitdefender (99.7%) and Avast (100%). It also received a 99.81% online protection rating, a 96.9% online malware detection rate and a slightly disappointing 87.4% offline detection rating. Only AVG, G Data and McAfee received the same 100% protection score. In performance impact, Malwarebytes received an impact score of 7.1 (the lower, the better). While it doesn’t make much of an impact, it still placed 13th out of 17 antiviruses tested.
|AV-Comparatives||Real-World Protection||Online Malware Protection||Online Detection Rate||Offline Detection Rate||Performance Impact (lower is better)|
As for the AV-Test Institute, Malwarebytes was just short of the perfect score, achieving 17.5 out of 18 points. The researchers score a service based on their protection against malware, impact on a device’s performance, and overall usability. It protected against 99.2% of zero-day malware attacks, including websites and email threats, and detected 100% of malware discovered in December 2022.
|AV-Test Institute||Malware Protection||Malware Detection||Overall Score|
MRG-Effitas has hard tests to crack, but Malwarebytes came through. Researchers 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. Malwarebytes passed the banking Trojan test and scored Level 1 in the malware test. Bitdefender and Windows Defender also received Level 1 certification.
|MRG-Effitas||Banking Trojan Test||Malware Test Certification|
|Avast One||Fail||Level 2|
Malwarebytes has mixed lab scores but, overall, still stays in the top bracket of detection and protection, despite not consistently achieving the same high scores across the board.
Malwarebytes personal tests
Malwarebytes may be just a touch behind some antivirus software, according to lab tests, so I was interested to see what would come out of my personal test of throwing malware and dodgy sites at it. I used a Windows PC for this test.
Upon executing a malicious file, Malwarebytes strangely didn’t pick up on the threat. It didn’t alert me to it at all. This isn’t a great start, especially considering that malware can work its magic as soon as it’s installed. However, as soon as I performed a scan, it picked up on the malicious software and quarantined it. It doesn’t give you a path to how the malware was handled, but it shows you the location of where the software is hiding. As previously mentioned, you can save the report to further investigate the malware yourself.
At the very least, Malwarebytes picked up on the malware once it was scanned, but this is where the 24/7 real-time protection in the Premium version comes in handy, as this can detect the malware and quarantine it without any user interaction.
I also tested Malwarebytes’ Browser Guard, which should be able to scan and block a malicious web page for dodgy links and signs of fraud. I launched each link using different browsers, including Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox. Malwarebytes could detect and block each site I opened, showcasing that it will protect you even when you mistakenly open a link with malicious code. Plus, it blocks ads effectively, making the Browser Guard a stand-out tool.
Malwarebytes is a reliable antivirus – if you skip the free version.
It’s always good to have some form of malware protection on your device, even if it’s free and doesn’t come with convenient security tools. While its detection capabilities hit the mark, it becomes troublesome if a recommendation is to use another antivirus to make sure nothing is missed. Active protection is a must when malware can do damage as soon as it infiltrates your device; hitting “scan” isn’t enough if harm is already caused.
Malwarebytes Premium is the way to go. Its all-around trustworthy malware detection, ability to block ransomware, flurry of cybersecurity options, and relatively good pricing for one device is great, although it isn’t as feature-rich as other services. I also have to give kudos to its Browser Guard, which makes for an essential security extension for any browser.
Overall, Malwarebytes’ Premium subscription is one of the best antivirus software around, but if you’re wondering how it stacks up against other providers, check out our Bitdefender review and Avast One review.