The Best Antivirus Software of 2018By Brendan Nystedt
If you're looking for the best antivirus subscription for your Windows-based PC, we recommend Bitdefender Antivirus Plus. It's easy to use, affordable, didn't bog our system down, and it has been consistently rated among the most effective antivirus solutions by malware experts. Of the 20+ paid and free services we researched, it offered the best all-around protection for the money.
That's important, because these days you have to watch out for more than just run-of-the-mill viruses. While common sense is still the best antidote to the most common online threats, things like ransomware, identity theft, phony tech support scams, and social engineering can cost you thousands of dollars. There's no subscription for common sense (unfortunately), but paid A/V suites often come with extras like password managers, tech support, and identity theft protection.
Free utilities like Windows Defender (included with Windows 10) are a good option if you just want to scan for viruses, but for a more complete package, these are the best antivirus solutions right now.
Updated November 18, 2018
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2017
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2017Best Overall
Our favorite paid antivirus software is Bitdefender Antivirus Plus. We've seen pricing as low as $19.99 per year for one computer, but a yearly subscription for three PCs costs just $59.99. That gets you enhanced ransomware protection, a secure password manager, and an onscreen keyboard designed to bypass keystroke logging software.
When testing the virus functionality of the free version of Bitdefender, we were impressed by its no-nonsense interface and how quickly it scanned a PC for suspect files. Its protection bona fides are backed by AV-Comparatives, who named it as an Outstanding Product, and PC Magazine, who awarded it their Editors' Choice seal of approval. On top of these superlatives, it also was named as a Best Product by AV-Test, who gave it perfect marks in protection, usability, and performance.
Microsoft Windows Defender
Where To Buy$199.99 Microsoft Store Buy
Microsoft Windows DefenderBest Value
Why is a product that ostensibly costs $199 our "Best Value"? Because Windows Defender is already included with Windows, and that price is just if you want to upgrade to Windows 10 from an earlier version. Defender is a clean, no-nonsense virus scanner that you don't have to worry about. It runs in the background automatically and updates itself to protect against the latest threats. Microsoft even added improved ransomware protection last year, for both the OS and the Edge browser.
While Windows Defender isn't the best-tested antivirus around, it's very lightweight, non-obtrusive, and...well...the price is right. Though many of the other suites we tested have free versions, Windows Defender won't bug you to upgrade all the time. Though Windows 7 and 8 still see security updates, Windows 10 is your best bet for a secure system thanks to Defender.
Avira Antivirus Pro
Where To Buy$44.99 Avira Buy
Avira Antivirus Pro
While it looks a bit rough around the edges, Avira Antivirus is easy-to-use and well-designed. Though the free version lacks many features, the paid version gives you a lot more for your money. The real claim to fame? It won AV-Comparatives' coveted best-of-year award for 2016, and was also lauded by AV-Test as a Top Product.
That said, it's more expensive than some of its competition, covering only one PC for its $45 yearly fee. The subscription option nets you additional ransomware protection along with features like USB device gatekeeping. We also found that its full scan took longer than others, although it didn't bog down our computer's overall system performance.
Kaspersky has been a trusted name in security software for years, and its latest anti-virus suite is as good as advertised. In our own testing, we found that it over-delivered, offering up a lot of customizability without feeling overly pushy or bogging our system down. Unfortunately, it's a bit pricey; there's no free version, and the cheapest option offers virus scanning and little else.
That said, if you have multiple computers the $59.99 per year introductory option covers three machines, making it one of the better deals we came across in our research. It's a trusted name and it comes highly recommended (AV-Comparatives, PC Magazine, and AV-Test all give it high praise), but for single-system protection it's a bit too much.
Avast Pro Antivirus
Avast Pro Antivirus
Avast's Antivirus protection is very popular, and it has earned good-but-not-great results from PC Mag, AV-Test, and AV-Comparatives. That said, in our subjective examination, Avast was one of the most annoying of the top antivirus suites. While we were setting it up, it tried to install Google Chrome, sneaking it away into a corner of the installer. Worse, Avast loads its own custom SafeZone browser onto your system without asking you first.
As if this wasn't annoying enough, Avast is also one of the pricier subscription options around. For $59.99 per year, Avast only covers one Windows PC. Bonus features and popularity aside, there are simply better values to be had.
Norton Antivirus Basic
Norton Antivirus Basic
Symantec's Norton software has been around just about as long as anyone can remember. This steadfast software suite often comes pre-loaded on new Windows computers, but it's also available as a standalone subscription. Though there's no free version, the entry-level price protects one system for $19.99 per year. The interface was well-designed and easy to use, but too many problems popped up while using it, leaving a bad taste in our mouths.
In fact, Norton was the only Antivirus software we tested that froze during a full system scan, which forced us to restart the app entirely. Add in some rather obnoxious pop-ups and we're giving it a pass. It is another trusted name, though, and it has been tested and verified by AV-Test in addition to winning PC Mag's Editors' Choice award in its 2017 comparison.