2. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
The best value antivirus software currently available.
Anti-theft: No | Backup software: No | Firewall: No | Game mode: Yes | Hardened browser: Yes | Parental controls: No | Password manager: Yes | Ransomware rollback: Yes | Webcam protection: No | Virtual keyboard: Yes | VPN: Limited upsell | Wi-Fi scanner: Yes
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
Very good malware protectionLots of useful extra featuresLight system impact with active scansHeavy background system impact
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is our top choice among entry-level antivirus products. It has very good, if not perfect, malware-detection scores. Its active scans don’t add much to the background system impact, but that background load is a bit heavy.
It also offers the most value, with an unlimited password manager, a secure browser with a virtual keyboard, a Wi-Fi network scanner, a file shredder, protection against encrypting ransomware and Bitdefender’s new web-privacy software — features often found only with pricier antivirus packages.
The midrange Bitdefender Internet Security adds parental controls, webcam protection and a two-way firewall, while Bitdefender Total Security tops off the lineup with an anti-theft feature for laptops, a system optimizer and licenses for Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac and Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android.
A fourth product, Bitdefender Premium Security, is basically Total Security with unlimited VPN usage and priority tech support. (The other programs limit you to 200MB of Bitdefender VPN usage per day.)
But the best deal is the Bitdefender Family Pack, which puts Total Security on up to 15 devices for (a frequently discounted) $120 per year.
3. Norton 360 Deluxe
Almost everything you could ever need.
Anti-theft: No | Backup software: Yes | Firewall: Yes | Game mode: Yes | Hardened browser: No | Parental controls: Yes | Password manager: Yes | Ransomware rollback: No | Webcam protection: Yes | VPN: Unlimited
Norton 360 Deluxe
Excellent malware protectionParental controls, backup software, online storage, password manager, webcam protection, unlimited VPNLifeLock identity protection with top tiersHeavy slowdown during full scansPricey
All nine of Norton’s antivirus products offer excellent malware protection, and the once-heavy system-performance load is much lighter. The number of extra features each program has varies according to price, but the sweet spot in the lineup is Norton 360 Deluxe.
It includes a password manager, unlimited VPN service, dark-web personal-data monitoring, parental controls and up to 50GB of online storage space. Two retail-only offerings, Norton 360 Premium and Norton 360 Platinum, give you more online storage and expand the antivirus and VPN coverage to 10 and 20 devices, respectively.
If you want full-on identity protection, Norton offers three bundles with varying degrees of LifeLock service and even more online storage space. Their annual subscription prices run well into the triple digits, but still cost less than if you were to buy the identity protection, password manager, cloud-backup storage and antivirus software separately.
Unlike some of the other best antivirus software makers, Norton doesn’t offer a file shredder, file encryption or secure web browser with any of its products. Yet every other digital-protection service you could possibly ask for is included with at least some of its bundles.
4. McAfee Internet Security
A bargain for big families, but not perfect protection
Anti-theft: No | Backup software: No | Firewall: Yes | Game mode: Yes | Hardened browser: No | Parental controls: No | Password manager: Yes | Ransomware rollback: Yes | Webcam protection: No | Virtual keyboard: No | VPN: No
McAfee Total Protection – 1 Device
McAfee Total Protection – 10 Devices
McAfee Total Protection – 10 Devices
Protects lots of machines for cheapPassword managerImproving malware protectionVery heavy performance hitNo parental controls on mid-priced tier
McAfee’s malware detection has improved greatly in the past couple of years, but it’s still not quite top-of-the-line.
Despite that, the entry-level McAfee AntiVirus Plus is a bargain: $60 per year buys software for up to 10 (in practice, unlimited) devices, whether they run Windows, macOS, iOS or Android, and the software comes with a file shredder and a two-way firewall.
McAfee Internet Security adds one of the best password managers in the business, but to get parental controls, you’ll have to spring for McAfee Total Protection or its sibling McAfee LiveSafe, which comes pre-installed on many new PCs.
The multi-device licenses of those two security suites also come with an identity-protection service. But none of the McAfee products have a secure browser or webcam protection, which you often get with other premium antivirus programs.
At the top is McAfee Total Protection Ultimate, which adds unlimited VPN service with no strings attached. Hardcore PC gamers may consider McAfee Gamer Security, which for $60 per year offers low-overhead protection for a single rig.