The market is flooded with antivirus suites that can keep your computer safe and secure, making it tough to pick the right ally. To grab your attention, many security-software companies offer enhanced suites that do more than just scan your computer for malware.
We're talking about additional features such as built-in parental controls, privacy controls, smartphone antivirus software and even identity-theft protection. Such all-encompassing products cost more than basic antivirus software, but the investment is often worthwhile for customers who want more functionality.
Paid vs. free antivirus
There's a lot of free antivirus software available for Windows PCs, but it generally will not protect you as well as the paid software. Of the free products we reviewed, only Avira Free Antivirus did a comparable job. You'll also miss out on extra features such as cloud storage, password managers or file encryption.
To determine which security suite is worth your investment, we tested five of the most popular suites from the biggest names in the business, including Symantec, McAfee, Kaspersky Lab, Bitdefender and Avast! We evaluated each program based on setup, interface, ease of use and security and privacy features.
Top antivirus picks
What about protection? We used data from AV-TEST, an independent institute in Germany that rates most major security suites based on their ability to detect zero-day malware and other recent threats. But we didn't stop there.
In order to see how much of a performance impact the latest security suites have on an average PC, we ran the PCMark7 benchmark and our own OpenOffice productivity test on an Acer Aspire E1, which features a Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM. We ran the tests while running a quick virus scan as well as a full system scan. The scan that caused the benchmark scores to drop the most was deemed to have a greater impact on our test PC.
Which security suite offers the best combination of protection and functionality? Check out our in-depth reviews to find out.