Best Antivirus Protection for Windows

Protect your Windows devices with our list of the best antivirus software available.

By
&
Aliza Vigderman
Gabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Jun 10, 2021
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on Jun 10, 2021
AVG - First Scan Invitation

You read the headlines; you know the score. Cyber attacks are on the rise, and no one is immune. And if you’re a Windows user, you know that your device has a particularly large target on it. From viruses to spyware, to ransomware, and more, how do you protect your Windows computer from falling victim? You’ll find the answers below, where we present our list of the best antivirus programs available for Windows, no matter which version of Windows you’re running.

List Statistics

Behavior-based detection 5/5
Firewall 4/5
Free version 2/5
On-demand scans 5/5
Our Top Picks

Best for Windows Overall

Bitdefender Antivirus

Editor's Rating
9.5
/10
Editor's Rating
9.5
/10
Bitdefender’s Windows version is lightning fast and super-effective at catching malware. In the tests we conducted, it found 100 percent of the viruses we threw at it.

Most User-friendly for Windows

Trend Micro Antivirus

Editor's Rating
9.1
/10
Editor's Rating
9.1
/10
One of the giants of the industry, Norton is almost synonymous with antivirus software. We were pleasantly surprised that Norton lived up to its reputation: it was affordable, effective, and a breeze to use on mobile.

Comparison of Best Antivirus for Windows

System
Bitdefender Antivirus
Trend Micro Antivirus
Vipre Antivirus
AVG Antivirus
ESET Antivirus
Ranking 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Ratings 9.1/10
Most User-Friendly
8.7/10
Best No-Contract
8.6/10
Best with a VPN
8.7/10
Best Customer Support
Monthly Plan Price Range $0.00 - $2.49 $0.84 - $3.34 $0.00 - $6.49 $3.33 - $5.27
Contract Length 1 - 24 months 12 months 12 months 1 - 36 months
Number of Devices 30 days 30 days 30 days 30 days
Virus Detection 1 - 10 1, 3 or 5 1 - 10 1 - 5
Free/ Trial Version 30 day free trial on PC and mobile, or, six months on Android 30-day free trial Free version with unlimited features 30-day free trial
Money-Back Guarantee 30 days n/a 30 days 30 days
Operating Systems Windows, Mac, iOS, Android Windows, Mac, iOS, Android Windows, Mac, iOS, Android Windows, Mac, Android, Linux
Virus Detection Yes Yes Yes Yes
Malware Detection Yes Yes Yes Yes
Firewall No On Advanced Security and Ultimate Security bundles Yes Yes
On-Demand Malware Scan Yes Yes Yes Yes
On-Access Malware Scan Yes Yes Yes Yes
Behavior-Based Detection Yes Yes Yes Yes
Customer Support Live chat, phone, email, online help center, Facebook Messenger Limited online help center, phone, email Online help, phone, forum Online help center, phone, live chat, email
Read Review Trend Micro Antivirus Review Vipre Antivirus Review AVG Antivirus Review ESET Antivirus Review

Summary of the Best Antivirus for Windows

  • Bitdefender - Best Antivirus for Windows Overall
  • Trend Micro - Best User Friendly Antivirus for Windows
  • Vipre - Best No Contract Antivirus for Windows
  • AVG - Best Antivirus for Windows with a VPN
  • ESET - Best Antivirus for Windows Customer Support

Detailed List of the Best Antivirus for Windows

  • 1. Bitdefender - Best Antivirus for Windows Overall

    Editor's Rating
    9.5
    /10

    We’re always impressed with Bitdefender, which could be one reason why it consistently tops our list of the best antivirus software on the market. It’s fast, it’s effective, and there’s a fully functional free version. And when we put out the money for a full year’s subscription, we were rewarded with a ton of even more amazing features, from an “autopilot” function to Bitdefender’s VPN. Maybe Bitdefender’s iOS apps could use a little work, but we couldn’t find much too much to complain about regarding its Windows app.

    What We Like
    • Perfect score on our home-grown virus test
    • Free version
    • Great customer support
    • Affordable price
    What We Don’t Like
    • 2015 data breach
    • Price increases after the first year
    • Low iOS app ratings
    • History of security breaches

    Passed all our tests

    Bitdefender gets great scores from AV-Test. Call us old fashioned, but we like to see for ourselves just how well an antivirus does at stopping viruses. So, before we load a new antivirus package onto our Windows computer, we took the time to hide a few viruses here and there, just to see if the software could detect them once it was installed. We’ve tested over 40 different products, and only two managed to catch every single virus we threw at them: one of those was Bitdefender. Simply put, we’re impressed.

    Bitdefender Dashboard
    Bitdefender Dashboard

    Free Version

    Here’s something we don’t come across every day: Bitdefender offers a completely free version of their software, no strings attached. That free version comes with a full system scan and a firewall plus options for setting exclusions and handling quarantined files. Of course, we were impressed by all of Bitdefender’s pricing options. Their Antivirus Plus package, for instance, runs for just $23.99 for a year with coverage on three devices and includes features like a file shredder, a password manager, and a VPN. Meanwhile, their Total Security package, priced at $36 for a year, covers five devices and features parental controls, webcam security, and anti-theft tools. Still, it’s hard to beat free.

    Autopilot

    One of the cooler features available with the paid versions of Bitdefender Antivirus is “Autopilot.” Originally, this system was developed for users who didn’t want to worry about settings, users who just wanted an antivirus that would do its job and stay out of their way. However, the newest version of Autopilot takes a more active approach to our computer’s security. Rather than simply operate based on a list of defaults, Bitdefender now learns from our behaviors, adapting to recommend the best security settings to us for our particular situation. Of course, it isn’t like it’s replaced our best friend. Yet.

  • 2. Trend Micro - Best User Friendly Antivirus for Windows

    Editor's Rating
    9.1
    /10

    An antivirus, no matter how good it is at catching viruses, isn’t much use if we can’t figure out how to use it. One of the real hallmarks of Trend Micro’s Windows app is just how user-friendly it is. The screen was uncluttered and buttons were simply named. It was easy to make decisions about how and when we wanted the software to run scans. And it came with a number of great extra features, such as a password manager, a file shredder, and parental controls.

    What We Like
    • Perfect AV-Test Ratings
    • “Firewall booster” for Windows
    • On-demand and on-access scan options
    • Available monthly packages
    What We Don’t Like
    • No firewall
    • 2019 data breach
    • Ads that push more Trend Micro products
    • The overly complex download process

    Scanning Options

    We’re also fans of options. The more ways we have to run scans on our laptop, the better. Trend Micro’s Windows version offers on-demand scans, meaning we can essentially run a scan any time we feel nervous. And we can choose to perform a quick scan of what’s loaded on our computer at startup, or a deep scan that looks at everything on our machine. The app even has a scheduler so we can plan scans around our routines. What we really like, though, is that the software performs an automatic scan every single time we open it up. That’s a useful function for us since we can be a bit forgetful. It reminds us to stay on top of our computer’s security, no matter how busy we may get.

    FYI: On-access scanning means the software scans continuously for malware and viruses as long as the app is open. On-demand scanning means the user must initiate the scan for it to begin.

    Privacy Scanner

    Social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn tend to set all the defaults to share. And they don’t always make it easy to find the off buttons. That’s why we were pleased that Trend Micro’s Windows version featured a “Privacy Scanner.” Basically, this checked all of our social media account settings to check for any privacy concerns. When it pointed out that everyone who visited our Facebook page could see our phone number, it was a simple matter to have Trend Micro make the changes for us.

    Trend Micro Overview Tab
    Trend Micro Overview Tab

    Extra Safety Tools

    Ah, the extras. Again, not necessary, but always fun. In addition to its Privacy Scanner, Trend Micro included a password folder, where we could keep all our many passwords stored under one master password (they obviously read our feature on password best practices). The program also came with a number of online safety tools including a privacy scanner that helped to prevent us from sharing too much on social media. Of course, with Pay Guard, we never had to worry about our credit card being stolen during online purchases. That being said, we have to confess that we were a bit disappointed that Trend Micro didn’t come with a firewall. But on the plus side, they do offer a downloadable VPN to keep our network connections extra secure.

  • 3. Vipre - Best No Contract Antivirus for Windows

    Editor's Rating
    8.7
    /10

    Typically, we’re given a choice when it comes to technology: user-friendly or customizable. Vipre offers both. We got to make the decisions about what would and wouldn’t be scanned, what would and wouldn’t make it through the firewall, and what would and wouldn’t be treated as spam. And the Vipre app interface on Windows was so intuitive that making these decisions was simple and straightforward. Oh, and how good is it at protecting against malware? AV-Test gave it a 100 percent rating for detecting the most recent viruses out there.

    What We Like
    • Behavior-based detection (in Advanced or Ultimate packages)
    • Packages available with VPNs
    • User-friendly interface
    • Customizable tools
    What We Don’t Like
    • Only detected one out of five viruses in our tests
    • Poor customer support
    • Weak mobile apps
    • No money-back guarantee

    Customizable

    Vipre made it easy to customize our experience of the software, allowing us to make changes to its:

    • Antivirus functions
    • Firewall setup
    • Update behaviors
    • Email protections
    • Privacy options.

    We were able to, for instance, set the program to run a full scan automatically if the quick scan noted anything suspicious. We could also have the firewall use different levels of online security for different networks. Vipre even let us choose from a variety of app themes so we could give it our own distinctive look. Best of all, all of these tools were organized and labeled so that making changes was simple and intuitive.

    VIPRE Customer Support
    VIPRE Customer Support

    A Clean Record

    Obviously, we want our antivirus software to protect us from outside threats, but that’s not worth much if the company itself becomes a threat. We hear the stories all the time about security breaches, even at respected companies, that put user data at risk. Antivirus companies are not immune. Some of the best companies out there have been hacked, including FireEye, McAfee, and Symantec.1 Vipre’s record, however, is squeaky clean. We did an exhaustive search for any hint of a breach and came up empty.

    Straightforward Pricing

    Vipre operates a little differently from most antivirus companies when it comes to pricing. Most plans these days require a minimum commitment, usually a year. Vipre, on the other hand, doesn’t use contracts at all. Rather, we paid a one-time fee for the software with no recurring payments. Monthly or yearly payments versus a one-and-done? It’s easy to see which is the better deal in the long run. Plus, Vipre’s price structure is simple and straightforward: you pay per device. One device costs $34.99. Three devices run for $44.99. Five cost $54.99. Given that the industry average for one device for one year is $34.40 and that price typically rises after the first year, we’d say that Vipre is one of the best deals out there.

  • 4. AVG - Best Antivirus for Windows with a VPN

    Editor's Rating
    8.6
    /10

    AVG is another example of a company that offers a free version of its antivirus software for Windows, and that version contains effective tools for running both quick and in-depth scans. However, its Internet Security version is reasonably priced at just $44.99 a year, and its Ultimate package, which costs just $15.00 more, comes with a VPN, tuneup software, and coverage for up to 10 devices. That makes AVG one of the best deals out there for Windows antivirus software.

    The More You Know: Antivirus software scans your computer and removes files that contain malware. A firewall prevents malware from getting on to your computer in the first place.

    What We Like
    • On-demand and on-access scans
    • Enhanced firewall
    • VPN
    • Free version
    What We Don’t Like
    • History of selling browsing data to advertisers
    • Generates excessive traffic
    • False virus warnings during installation
    • Limited customer support

    VPN

    A number of antivirus companies out there offer a VPN— for an additional price. But with AVG Ultimate, it comes standard, boosting the overall value of an AVG subscription. Why is a VPN such a valuable extra feature? It allows us to go online through a secure tunnel, masking our IP address and adding an additional layer of protection from hackers. It makes the perfect complement to high-quality antivirus software. We find that hackers have a much harder time infecting our computer with ransomware if they can’t track us to begin with. Read our complete review of AVG’s VPN to find out more.

    AVG - You Have Basic Protection
    AVG Basic Protection

    10 Devices

    AVG’s Ultimate package not only comes with a VPN, but also with coverage for 10 devices. AVG prices its Ultimate package at $59.99 for a one-year subscription. That’s just $15 more than their Internet Security package, which only comes with coverage for one device. We value our money as much as the next person, but for $1.25 more a month, we’d say the upgrade to 10 is absolutely worth it. After all, why would we want just one of our devices to be protected when we can protect them all?

    Highly Rated Mobile Apps

    AVG works great with Windows. In fact, its free version is especially designed to work with Windows 10 and provide more protection than using Defender alone. However, in addition to Windows, AVG works with iOS, Android, and macOS. And its mobile apps are among the most highly rated of any we’ve come across. At the Google Play store, the software gets a 4.7 rating out of five. The rating at the Apple store is even higher, at 4.8 out of five. Bottom line: AVG works great with Windows, but it also works great with other systems.

  • 5. ESET - Best Antivirus for Windows Customer Support

    Editor's Rating
    8.7
    /10

    ESET has a long, storied history of antivirus development, dating back as far as 1987, and that shows in their high AV-Test ratings and in their clean record of no security breaches. In addition, though, ESET isn’t afraid to break the mold of what an antivirus company can be, offering deep discounts for multi-year contracts and great customer support, two things we don’t always see in this industry.

    What We Like
    • High AV-Test ratings
    • Clean security breach history
    • Lots of support options
    • Savings for multi-year contracts
    What We Don’t Like
    • Cluttered interface
    • Infrequent virus updates
    • Poorly-rated iPhone app
    • Weak privacy policy in the U.S.

    A Long History

    ESET has been around so long that when it developed its very first antivirus software, its headquarters were actually in the old communist country of Czechoslovakia.2 That kind of long history gives the company some serious credibility. More importantly, in their more than 33-year history, they haven’t been subject to any security breaches of any kind. That’s an impressive record of excellence.

    ESET Homepage
    ESET Homepage

    Multi-year Contracts

    It has become standard practice lately for antivirus companies to offer a teaser price, a tempting price for the first year that promptly balloons into something much more for the second. Needless to say, we aren’t huge fans of this bait and switch. One reason we like ESET is because they push back against such practices. Their price doesn’t rise after the first year. In fact, we saved money in the second year by signing up for a multi-year contract upfront. According to ESET pricing, a one-year contract costs $49.99, a two-year contract costs $79.99, a $20 savings, and a three-year contract costs $109.98, a $40.00 savings. And for their Windows 10 version, they have a free 30-day trial, so you can check everything out before you buy.

    Customer Service

    Customer service doesn’t get talked about enough these days, which could be one reason why it has become so abysmal at so many companies. Thankfully, ESET has our back, with a whole range of support options. There’s a robust online help center. There’s an email option. But there’s also phone support and, our favorite, live chat. When we had questions about the differences between the privacy policies in Europe and the U.S., we headed over to the ESET support page, pulled up a messenger box and got an accurate response in minutes.

Methodology

In compiling this list, we looked at over forty different antivirus software packages on Windows devices specifically, mainly a Vivobook and a Windows 10 Acer Aspire 5. We ran tests, we examined privacy policies, and we spent time with apps and interfaces. In the end, we judged each one holistically along a set of very specific criteria: virus detection, scans, behavior-based detection, cost, and privacy policy.

Virus Detection

To find out just how well a particular antivirus protects against malware, we tested it on our very own devices. We wouldn’t recommend the average user do this (we’re professionals) but we hide a variety of different kinds of viruses, from trojan horses to ransomware, on our PCs, install the antivirus, and watch the antivirus work. As a result, we know for certain just how effective each one is at doing its job.

Scans

Another important feature of any antivirus package is how much control it allows the user, and particularly how much control it gives users over scanning. We especially like, for instance, programs that offer on-access scanning so that every time we open up the software it lets us know of any new problems. That way, we get a report even if we happen to forget to run the scan ourselves. However, we also appreciate having the option of on-demand scans so we can check for viruses any time we’re feeling a bit nervous. And we give extra credit to packages that allow us to schedule regular scans at our convenience.

Behavior-Based Detection

These days, we also expect top-tier antivirus software to use behavior-based detection to spot threats. Traditionally, antiviruses scanned a file and tried to match it against known malware code. That works great if the antivirus has a full library of the dangers lurking on the internet and it keeps that library fully up to date. However, the best software these days doesn’t just compare files; it actually considers how a file behaves. That means it doesn’t just detect known threats, but can spot unknown threats as well. For instance, one of our .doc files tried to access our system files, more than a little out of the ordinary. Luckily, the antivirus we were using recognized what it was up to and managed to discover that it was hiding a trojan virus.

Cost

Unless you’re independently wealthy, cost matters to you. It matters to us too. So we carefully consider each antivirus software’s price tag. The average cost for one year of coverage for one year is $34.50, so we look for packages that are at least below this target number. However, we also think about what kind of value comes with that price, what kind of features a company offers and whether those features are truly worth the extra expense. We’re also always on the lookout for free versions of software, for extended free trials, for multi-year discounts, and for bundled packages. And we let you know when we find them!

Privacy Policy

Finally, in making our determinations, we also consider each company’s privacy policy. After all, the whole point of an antivirus is to protect us from outside threats. The last thing we want to hear is that our antivirus is spying on us. Of course, it’s hard to fault an antivirus company for collecting some data. In order to do its job it must scan all the sites we visit, all the email we open, and all the files we download. We were surprised, though, to find that many antivirus packages are collecting (and storing) a ton of data from us, including:

  • Contact information
  • Payment information
  • Browsing data
  • Device information
  • Network data
  • Location information
  • Usage statistics.

As you might expect, we much prefer companies that keep less of this kind of information rather than more. Maybe more important than what information the company keeps, though, is what it does with that information. We are especially wary of any company that offers our data up to any third party advertisers or venders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Citations
  1. The New York Times. (2020). FireEye, a Top Cybersecurity Firm, Says It Was Hacked by a Nation-State.
    nytimes.com/2020/12/08/technology/fireeye-hacked-russians.html

  2. ESET. (2021). Meet ESET.
    eset.com/int/about/