SOFTWARE

The best antivirus software you can buy today.

Kaspersky Total Security 2020 Box Art

1. Kaspersky Total Security
The best antivirus protection overall.

Anti-theft: Yes | Backup software: Yes | Firewall: Yes | Game mode: Yes | Hardened browser: Yes | Parental controls: Yes | Password manager: Yes | Ransomware rollback: Yes | Webcam protection: Yes | Virtual keyboard: Yes | VPN: Limited upsell | Wi-Fi scanner: Yes

Excellent malware protectionNew stalkerware protectionPassword manager, parental controlsLimited VPN usageMicrophone protection hard to enable
Kaspersky’s Windows products have excellent malware-detection scores and a light-to-moderate system-performance impact, the two most important criteria in our rankings.

The entry-level program, Kaspersky Anti-Virus (starting at £12.49 UK/$29.99 US), has dedicated ransomware protection, a virtual keyboard and a convenient online account portal. But it’s beaten by Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, which has even more features.

Kaspersky Internet Security (£17.49 UK/$39.99 US) is our top choice among midrange packages. It has a secure browser, anti-theft protection for laptops, webcam protection and a limited-use VPN client that kicks in when you connect to an open Wi-Fi network. It also includes software for macOS, Android and iOS.

The premium antivirus suite, Kaspersky Total Security (£19.99 UK/$44.99 US), adds backup software, parental controls, file encryption, a file shredder and an unlimited password manager. We think it’s the best antivirus software you can buy today.

 

 

The best antivirus software you can buy
Kaspersky offers excellent malware protection, lots of useful extra features and a light system impact with an easy-to-use interface.

Best antivirus: Bitdefender Antivirus 2020 Box Art

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
$19.99

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.

Best antivirus: Norton 360 Deluxe

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
$49.99/year

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.

Best antivirus: McAfee Internet Security 2020 Box Art

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
$24.99/year
McAfee Total Protection – 10 Devices
$29.99/year
McAfee Total Protection – 10 Devices
$39.99/year

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.

Box art for Trend Micro Maximum Security 2021.

5. Trend Micro Maximum Security
Solid protection, but scan slowdowns

Backup software: No | Firewall: No | Game mode: Yes | Hardened browser: Yes | Parental controls: Yes | Password manager: Yes | Webcam protection: No | Virtual keyboard: No | VPN: Yes

Trend Micro Maximum Security
$39.95/year

Very good malware protectionSecure browser, password managerDark Web scansHeavy performance hit during scansMany false positives on some tests
Trend Micro offers very good protection, but its malware-detection engine creates a heavy system load during scans and returns a fair number of false-positive results.

The brand’s entry-level program, Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security, has basic tools but does have a secure web browser. Parental controls, a system optimizer and a file shredder are bundled into the mid-range Trend Micro Internet Security.

Trend Micro Maximum Security adds a password manager, a secure browser and file encryption, while the new Trend Micro Premium Security adds a VPN and dark-web monitoring of personal data.

However, none of Trend Micro’s programs include a two-way firewall or webcam protection, standard with other brands’ midrange offerings. Nor does the premium product have the cloud storage or backup software that some of the best antivirus brands add as enticements to their flagship packages.

Best antivirus: ESET Smart Security Premium

6. ESET Smart Security Premium
Very good protection with a very light touch.

Anti-theft: Yes | Backup software: No | Firewall: Yes | Game mode: Yes | Hardened browser: Yes | Parental controls: Yes | Password manager: Yes | Ransomware rollback: No | Webcam protection: Yes | Virtual keyboard: No | VPN: No

ESET Smart Security Premium
$59.99/year

Very good protectionRemarkably little system-performance impactFile encryption, hardened browser, webcam protectionLacks file shredder or VPNCan get expensive
ESET is one of the biggest antivirus names in Europe, with a very small system-performance load and fast scans. Its malware-detection rate used to be kind of meh, but has improved markedly in recent lab tests.

The entry-level ESET NOD32 Antivirus is easy to use, but has few useful extra tools. ESET Internet Security adds webcam protection, parental controls and a browser-hardening extension, as well as ESET security-software licenses for Mac, Android and Linux devices.

The top-billed ESET Smart Security Premium tosses in file encryption and a password manager. However, there’s no VPN client, backup software or file shredder.

ESET’s pricing is per device, which is optimal for users who might have more than a few devices to protect. But if your device count gets into double digits, ESET’s costs can add up.

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