Many Windows users believe they don't need to pay for antivirus software, and many Mac and Android users think they don't need protection at all. Windows' much higher profile makes it the biggest target, but the truth is that OS X/macOS and Android are equally vulnerable to malware.

We believe it's worth paying for Windows antivirus software, because even the best free software leaves out protection features we consider essential. But you don't have to spend a lot — many antivirus products are sold online for much less than their list prices. Mac and Android users have other options: Some of our favorite Mac AV products cost nothing, and most Android security apps have free versions.

Latest Security Alerts and Threats

— At least eight Minecraft-skin apps in the Google Play store were infected with botnet malware. The apps were installed by as many as 2.6 million Android users, but Google has deleted them from most user devices. ADVICE: Make sure you don't have any apps developed by "FunBaster," and run antivirus software that screens new apps on your Android device.

— A new strain of encrypting ransomware is being distributed by the venerable Magnitude browser exploit kit. Dubbed Magniber, the ransomware targets only Korean-language computers for now. But expect to see the ransomware hit other language markets soon. ADVICE: Install and run Windows antivirus software.

— Both Equifax and TransUnion had web pages hacked to load adware onto the browsers of visiting computers. ADVICE: Run antivirus software to stop browser-based malware.

— Many dodgy websites, including porn sites and file-torrent gateways, are making money by embedding cryptocurrency miners into their pages. If your computer slows down on one of these sites, its cycles may have been hijacked to churn out virtual money. ADVICE: Keep your web browsers updated, and run antivirus software.

— A boneheaded bug in macOS 10.13 High Sierra displays a user's password if the wrong password is entered. ADVICE: Use the Apple App Store software to update your Mac to the latest version of High Sierra.

How We Tested

Our evaluations were based on an antivirus product's interface, performance, protection and extra features. Was the product's interface intuitive and user-friendly, or did it make it hard to find important tools? How badly did malware scans slow down the computer's performance? How good was the program at detecting and removing malware? Does the program have any additional tools, and are they useful?

All of our Windows tests were performed on the same Asus X555LA laptop running 64-bit Windows 8.1 (later upgraded to 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 smartphones, we used the Geekbench 3 benchmarking app.

Our Mac evaluations were conducted on a late-2013 MacBook Pro running OS X El Capitan 10.11. The Mac had a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and 23GB of data on a 512GB SSD. For Android, we used a Nexus 6P smartphone running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow.

For malware-detection scores, we've turned to two independent testing labs, AV-TEST of Germany and AV-Comparatives of Austria. Each lab regularly subjects the major antivirus brands' flagship products to stress tests involving hundreds of previously unseen pieces of malware, with AV-TEST adding 20,000 instances of known malware. We use the latest results from both labs.

Windows Antivirus Software Types

Most antivirus makers have three or four tiers of Windows products, with each price bump adding extra features, such as parental controls or cloud backups. But because each company uses a single malware-detection engine for all its Windows antivirus software, the cheapest item — even a free one — in any product line usually finds malware just as thoroughly as the priciest.

Not all users will need premium suites, or even midrange products. If you don't have kids, or if you already have backup software, the basic product may be enough.

MORE: How to Buy Antivirus Software

Basic or Entry-Level Windows Antivirus

The least-expensive paid Windows antivirus products, which generally list from $40 to $60 per year depending on the number of PCs covered, have the essentials. Definition updates and scans are automatic; websites and email attachments are screened, and the products are mostly easy to use. Some basic AV programs toss in extra features, such as file shredders or system optimizers, that are normally found in pricier products.

Not only does Bitdefender Antivirus Plus have nearly perfect malware-detection scores, but it also offers great value, with a strong selection of extra tools. You'll find a built-in password manager, a secure browser, unique protection against encrypting ransomware and automatic profiles that optimize Bitdefender's impact on your system, depending on whether you're working, watching a movie or playing a game.

Midpriced Windows Antivirus

These products usually list from $60 to $80 per year. They generally build on the basic packages by bundling in parental controls and a two-way firewall to catch outgoing data, although many add other features. But for the full feature set each brand offers, you'll have to pony up for the premium products.

Kaspersky takes first place among midrange antivirus software products, thanks to its excellent malware protection, a moderate system load and a full assortment of extra features and tools. Kaspersky Internet Security includes a secure browser, a virtual keyboard, specialized protection against ransomware, webcam protection to shield your privacy from spies and creeps, and, uniquely, a virtual private network that automatically switches on when you connect to an unsafe Wi-Fi network.

Premium Windows Antivirus

Top-tier packages are often called suites because they do much more than catch malware. They might also offer file encryption, secure online storage, a password manager or an ad blocker. As most suites cover multiple devices, they also frequently bundle in licenses for Mac and Android antivirus software. For all this, you're meant to pay between $80 and $100 per year — but as with all paid antivirus software, steep discounts can often be found online.

Kaspersky Total Security has it all for those who are looking for more than just excellent malware detection. This one rose to the top because it eliminates threats without generating many annoying false positives. We also like the included secure browser, which is ideal for online banking and shopping. Other highlights include a seriously secure file shredder, Windows backup and recovery software and even webcam protection.

Free Windows Antivirus

Free Windows antivirus products usually offer only bare-bones protection. Malware updates and scans must often be manually initiated, and there is seldom any protection against malicious websites or email attachments. We can recommend some free Windows antivirus software, but please don't rely on Microsoft's own products, Windows Defender (for Windows 8, 8.1 and 10) and Microsoft Security Essentials (for Windows XP, Vista and 7). Those two products are getting better, but for now, they simply don't stop enough malware.

Free Windows antivirus products can't match paid protection, but Avira Free Antivirus comes close. It detects malware as effectively as most paid products do, and also has child protection and a scan scheduler. (However, it doesn't scan email attachments or web links.) Best of all, Avira doesn't constantly nag you to upgrade to its paid version.

Mac Antivirus

Despite what Apple's marketing has implied, Macs do get infected, and the amount of Mac malware keeps rising, with more seen in the first half of 2017 than in any previous year. But there's less money to be made in the Mac antivirus market than in the Windows one, and the products are less standardized. Some Mac antivirus products are free, and some are paid. Of the products we recently evaluated, one of our No. 2 choices, Avast Free Mac Security, doesn't cost a dime.

Kaspersky Internet Security offers both the lowest system impact and some of the best malware-detection rates recorded. It even provides extra security features, including parental controls and options to lock down your webcam and stop websites from tracking your browsing activity. If you're willing to pay to protect your Mac from malware, Kaspersky Internet Security is the best option available.

Android Antivirus Apps

Every Android device, whether it's a smartphone, tablet or TV stick, should have antivirus software. Usually, that software comes with an all-encompassing security app that also includes anti-theft and remote-locating features, and many apps have both a basic free version and a premium version with more features.

The free versions of the Android security apps we reviewed are pretty solid. The paid versions, which cost between $15 and $30 per year, range from being just a bit better than the free ones to becoming practically separate products, with a wide range of capabilities. You'll have to decide what you need and select accordingly.

The Bitdefender Android security app has flawless malware protection, a small performance hit, privacy-protection tools and Android Wear integration. Yet there are no scheduled malware scans, and no freemium option. (The separate Bitdefender Antivirus Free for Android only scans for malware.) Still, at $15 per year per device, Bitdefender Mobile Security is worth the expense.

iOS Antivirus Apps

A lot of people want iOS antivirus software for their iPhones and iPads. The truth is that such software doesn't exist. Apple won't let third-party apps examine other iOS apps, or even inspect new apps as they're installed. Anything that claims to be antivirus software swiftly gets kicked out of the iTunes App Store.

Many major antivirus vendors, including F-Secure, McAfee, Norton and Trend Micro, do have "security" apps in the App Store. But these check web links for known malicious sites, locate lost devices or pretend to protect your privacy. None scans an iPhone for malware.

There has been real iOS malware that affects non-jailbroken devices, but it's very rarely cropped up. In each instance, Apple has pushed out a new version of iOS to stop the malware in a matter of days or weeks. Generally, if you keep your Apple mobile device updated to the latest version of iOS, you should be safe.

[Editor's Note, Oct. 11, 2017: 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. Top U.S. newspapers have run stories in which anonymous sources say Kaspersky software helps Russia spy on American spy agencies. However, until we see real 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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  • Paul NZ
    No you dont. I've never bothered with using a separate Av or firewall. I'm still here.

    They're all a waste of money. NOD32 is probably the only one worth getting. If I did use t
    -2
  • JazzAzz
    Why isn't ClamAv for Macs mentioned???
    0
  • James_397
    Anonymous said:
    Whether you're running Windows, macOS or Android, you need antivirus software. The question is what you want -- and how much you should pay.

    Best Antivirus Software and Apps 2016 : Read more


    Yet another silly thread. If you have Windows installed, use Defender... period. Stop listening to all the third-party marketing hype. There is no need for anything other than what comes with the OS.
    1
  • Audcurr
    I think customer service should be taken into consideration as well. Bitdefender is the worst, I bought it and the activation key wouldn't work, it took for ever to get it straighten out and they are quite rude.
    0
  • jackj59
    Fwiw, dealing with an issue now, of virus and/or malware, and after running bitdefender and it clearing what it found, I ran malwarebytes and it found over 10 more instances of malware. So though one shouldn't run live more than one at a time, I recommend having malwarebytes and run it periodically, too.
    1
  • jackj59
    Correction: including PUP's - from something called AnonymizerGadget - malwarebytes now found hundreds of more that bitdefender, avast and TrendMicro all missed when using their free online scan. And they aren't simply "potentially" unwanted programs, that AnonymizerGadget is defintely mal/spy/virus ware.
    1
  • Alan_K
    I'm curious about why you didn't test Norton Internet Security. Not that I'm advocating it; indeed I look forward very much to spitting on Symantec's grave some day and only found this article while looking for alternatives. (That was after I found that Norton charged me three times for two subscriptions last year because they set up two automatic deductions on one of the subscription accounts. They then refused to refund the double payment because it was out of the "60 day guarantee period". Burn. In. Hell, Symantec.) However given that Norton would have a not-insignificant market share I would have thought that it would have been one of the ones to test. I would have been curious to see how it performed.
    1
  • Paul NZ
    Yup most of them are a waste of money.

    Doesnt matter what you get. And if you're stupid enough to use programs like Utorrent and get dodgy programs.

    Whats the point in having one anyway. Any AV program doesnt detect everything. And your system will end up infected anyway
    -1
  • Bill_123
    For people who seem to think anti virus programs are waste of time if they go on the internet and they depend on windows to protect them I would say there is a 99.9 percent chance they are already infected with some form of virus or malware. I have found that the better ones are VERY hard to breach and although it is still possible to get a virus the odds are slim to none. Without them your almost guaranteed you will pick something up in short order is just a fact in the modern age. The biggest issues I have is how much do they impact computer performance and how good is their detection. Some are like dropping a boat anchor dragging your computer down some almost unnoticeable. So instead of spreading viruses to all your friends and family get a good virus program and save yourself and everyone you know a lot of grief.
    1
  • espressonator
    Why isn't there a comparison chart? I've used Avast for years; it's free, and it's very good. Why did not Mr. Tom mention Avast as either better or worse than these paid products? My guess is that Mr. Tom is really acting as an advertiser. If he were "non-partisan", then I think he would provide a comparison chart or so to explain why it's worthwhile to pay for products like this instead.
    0
  • Bill_123
    Anonymous said:
    Why isn't there a comparison chart? I've used Avast for years; it's free, and it's very good. Why did not Mr. Tom mention Avast as either better or worse than these paid products? My guess is that Mr. Tom is really acting as an advertiser. If he were "non-partisan", then I think he would provide a comparison chart or so to explain why it's worthwhile to pay for products like this instead.


    You can find dozens if not more reviews on AV programs all of them will vary on who and why they think one is better than another. If you want to believe Avast free is the top choice based on your experience you can find a review to tell you that. Tomsguide is just that a guide based on things they feel are important. Pay programs come with many more features! If you feel you don't need or want these features then without a doubt they are not a good choice for you. What I want and need in a AV is very specific and might not be suitable for you. Same for most people there is no ONE SIZE fits all. It does not make them dishonest or biased just makes them have their own opinion no more or less. I come to this site for their opinion for a good reason I respect there opinions whether I agree with them or not.
    0
  • jraju1954
    Hi, I think that most of the av app for android is always running type taking phone battery resources. Is there a demand type scan antivirus prog for android in free version. Would someone say. i tried avast, it gives protection, but i do not know whether it has a demand type run of program. It does not have a user control install of its acessory software . Anybody knows
    0
  • tizziocaio
    Anonymous said:
    Fwiw, dealing with an issue now, of virus and/or malware, and after running bitdefender and it clearing what it found, I ran malwarebytes and it found over 10 more instances of malware. So though one shouldn't run live more than one at a time, I recommend having malwarebytes and run it periodically, too.


    bitdefender dont like it because forces to make an account and sign in before using it..like "meh rly?"
    Also does way to often background scans and updates like 10 times every day...
    0
  • boma23
    I was running a repair and IT solutions shop a few years back. We regularly installed a free solution on MACs that came in, ahnd a busy week might see 5 - 8 Macs in the shop at once. Sophos free (which is what we used at the time) probably found nasties on around 60% of Macs that came in without protection. Make of that what you will, if you are in the "AV for mac is pointless" camp.
    0
  • Thomas_223
    Sophos auto-update is the worst. Hangs your computer until it completes. No way to stop it or schedule it. Kills productivity until it hopefully finishes or fails and you have to try again.
    0
  • Nickynike
    AVG is a very good freebie. It finds viruses and scans emails. Yet, no mention. Then I scan with Malwarebytes, again free.
    0
  • dusty13
    so microsoft did not pay there way into getting the definitions from the independent security institutes it seems ... because no one heard about av-studios "optimizing" their results in these tests ... ever ...
    0
  • Sue_21
    I have always used trend micro and I noticed they are not there. and it is really getting pricey $268 for virus. so i am looking for one that is not as expensive but as good
    any recommendations please
    0
  • Chris_361
    I agree that Kaspersky is far and away the best and nowadays uses the least resources . I don't know how they did it but it's amazing.
    0
  • Sreekanth_3
    Hi, I installed Norton Mobile AV on my Samsung S6 with Android 6.0.1 , but it's not helping with what I really wanted, which is to prevent my Chrome browser from being occasionally directed to random annoying sites. For example, one which says you have a virus, or one which says you won a prize. They don't do any damage, and I just ignore them and reopen the page I want, but it's the principle of the thing. How do I remove whatever malware is doing this? Thanks
    0