Product Use case Rating
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus Best Basic Antivirus 4.5
Kaspersky 2017 Anti-Virus 4
Norton AntiVirus Basic 4
Trend Micro Antivirus and Security 3.5
F-Secure Anti-Virus 3.5
McAfee AntiVirus Plus 3.5
Panda Antivirus Pro 3
ESET NOD32 Antivirus 3

Best Basic PC Antivirus Software

Phishing scams, ransomware, malvertising and run-of-the-mill malware lurk everywhere on the internet. So which antivirus program should you get if you need to safeguard a Windows system without spending a lot?

Based on our tests and research, among the inexpensive Windows antivirus packages we recently reviewed, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus offers the best combination of very good malware protection, a very light system-performance impact and the greatest number of additional defenses and tools.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus was a close runner-up, with excellent malware protection that was offset by a lack of extra tools and features. McAfee Antivirus Plus, Norton AntiVirus Basic, Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security and F-Secure Anti-Virus tied for third place. All have excellent or very good malware protection  but take a heavy toll on system performance. At the rear were Panda Antivirus Pro and ESET NOD32 Antivirus, which suffered from middling malware-detection scores.

All these programs offer essential antivirus protection without many of the side features, such as parental controls or backup software, that are often found in midrange and premium antivirus packages. If you're just looking to protect a PC and don't need many extra bells and whistles, basic antivirus software may be what you need.

How We Tested

Our evaluations are based on three different criteria: malware protection, performance impact and extra features. How good is the program at detecting and removing malware? How much do scans slow down the computer's performance? Does the program have any additional tools, and are they useful? Most antivirus programs have user-friendly interfaces, but we’ll ding one if it’s too hard to find important tools.

All of our tests were performed on the same Asus X555LA laptop running 64-bit Windows 10, with an Intel Core i3 processor, 6GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive containing 36GB of files. To assess a program's impact on system speed, we used our custom OpenOffice benchmark test, which matches 20,000 names and addresses on a spreadsheet. The longer it took the laptop to finish the test, the heavier the performance impact.

For malware-detection scores, we turned to the most recent available testing results from four independent testing organization: AV-TEST in Germany, AV-Comparatives in Austria, SE Labs in England and our own labs in Utah. Each lab regularly subjects the major antivirus brands' products to stress tests involving hundreds of previously unseen pieces of malware and thousands of instances of known malware.

[Editor's Note: Best Buy has removed Kaspersky Lab products from its shelves, citing concerns regarding Kaspersky's alleged (but as yet undocumented) ties to the Russian government. However, until we see evidence that Kaspersky software is a threat to consumers, we will continue to recommend it. Here is further clarification of our position.]

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  • martinsmith123
    I will prefer Kaspersky antivirus licensed software
  • punkncat
    So wait, wasn't Kapersky implicated in a security vulnerability that the AV software was providing metrics on user data and phoning home with it?
  • dleippe
    Is that a question or a statement
  • stones710
    I don't see anything about a virtual keyboard in Bitdefender; how do I find it and how does it work?
  • punkncat
    Anonymous said:
    Is that a question or a statement

    This symbol "?" at the end of a statement makes it a question in the typical world of grammar. Normally the language structure and wording is fairly indicative as well, however I can see where you would be confused with the statement.
    It was a question based on a recollection of an article I read recently indicating as much. Couldn't find the link, of course.
  • Rocky Bennett
    Anonymous said:
    So wait, wasn't Kapersky implicated in a security vulnerability that the AV software was providing metrics on user data and phoning home with it?

    Yes they were. It made the national news for a few days then blew over.