Malwarebytes Antivirus Review

By
&
Aliza Vigderman
Gabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on May 4, 2021
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on May 4, 2021
7.9
/10
Editor's Rating
Malwarebytes' Premium subscription covers up to five Windows, macOS or Android devices, which should be enough for most people to protect themselves from viruses and malware.
Page Contents

We’ll make this simple: antivirus software isn’t optional. We insist on top-notch protection for our own devices because we know that a vulnerable computer puts our personally identifiable information at risk. Recently, we took a close look at the Malwarebytes Premium antivirus software, just to see what it has to offer. This is a company that’s been in the antivirus business for almost fifteen years, so they know a thing or two about what they’re doing. You can get the rundown on our experience by reading below.

Type of malware Does Malwarebytes detect it?
Malware
Adware
Viruses
Phishing
Online scams
Ransomware
PUPs (potentially unwanted program)
Editor's Rating
Overall Rating
7.9
  • Software for antivirus, VPN, secure browsing and adware removal
  • Antivirus software starts at around $40 a year for one device
  • 14-day free trial of antivirus software for Windows, 30-day trial for iOS

What Malwarebytes Detects

Other websites might put their bottom line at…well, the bottom. What fun is that? We were always “those kids,” the ones sneaking around trying to find out what we were getting for Christmas well before December 25th. So let’s not waste time here.

The app promised to protect our devices from:

  • Malware
  • Viruses
  • Adware
  • Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs for short; adorable!)
  • Online scams
  • Phishing sites
  • Sites with ransomware

It also came with a utilitarian antivirus scanner, which was among the fastest we’ve used with a complete scan coming in at just over a minute. However, the software didn’t have a deep scanning option. That means while it looked at all the running programs, critical systems, and new files, it didn’t examine our whole computer. Generally speaking, a quick scan will catch most malware, but there’s always the possibility that something is lurking in a less-used region of a device. In addition, while Malwarebytes offers on-demand scans and scheduled scans, it does not include on-access scans. In the simplest terms that means it doesn’t run a scan just because you opened the app; you have to specifically ask for it.

FYI: What’s the difference between a smart scan and a deep scan? A smart scan looks at everything loaded when a computer system starts up, while a deep scan looks at absolutely everything in a computer’s system.

Malwarebytes Price Structure

Malwarebytes’ pricing is as straightforward as you will find in the industry. They do offer a free program, but it only includes the file scanner. If you want at least a firewall, there are two basic options: the Premium plan, which comes with coverage for either one or five devices, and the Premium + Privacy plan which includes a VPN. It’s easy to compare Malwarebytes’ VPN to the best on the market by simply checking out our best VPN page, but let’s take a step back and look at all of their subscription options for antivirus.

Malwarebytes Plans Free Premium Premium + Privacy
Price $0.00 $40.00 – $80.00 per year $100.00 per year
Number of devices 1 1-5 5
Malware and virus blocking No Yes Yes
Ransomware protection No Yes Yes
Protection from fake websites No Yes Yes
Smart scan Yes Yes Yes
VPN No No Yes

Included as one of Malwarebytes pricing options is a free fully-functioning 14-day trial of its Premium service, so we took the program for a spin while we made up our minds. In addition, the company provides a 60-day money-back guarantee, two whole months to decide if we were completely satisfied with the software or not.

Putting Malwarebytes to the Test

This may seem obvious, but ultimately, antivirus software is only as good as its ability to stop viruses, so let’s not beat around the bush. Just to see what would happen, we downloaded (but did not open) five files that we happen to know to contain various forms of malware. We tested Malwarebytes using a variety of different viruses, including a .Doc file, an .Exe file, and an .Xlsx file. Malwarebytes did manage to detect one of these, but just one, a 20 percent success rate. Admittedly, we tested over 40 different antivirus software packages and only two managed to catch 100 percent of what we threw at them. Even so, one out of five doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Below you can see just how Malwarebytes’ detection stood up to the competition.

Virus File Type Percent of Antivirus Software That Detected It Did Malwarebytes Detect It?
XLSX 34% No
EXE 66% Yes
DOC 36% No
XLSM 35% No
XLS 51% No

Industry Testing

In addition to our own testing, we checked out the findings at AV Test, one of the premier independent antivirus testing labs. When AV tested the software’s ability to detect recent malware discovered in the last month, Malwarebytes managed to identify 100 percent of it. In the end, it’s hard to argue with perfection, but it’s also hard to dismiss the fact that finding malware doesn’t negate the difficulty that the software had in finding viruses. If we aren’t protected from viruses, that leaves us vulnerable, period.

The More You Know: Antivirus software protects you from malware that can steal your identity. Identity theft protection, however, constantly scans the Internet to ensure your privacy hasn’t been violated. The best identity theft protection works like an insurance for antivirus programs.

Downloading and Installing Malwarebytes

We had no trouble downloading and installing the Malwarebytes antivirus software package. The homepage itself was a bit simplistic, but as we said before, at least it was easy finding our way around. Right away, we were offered the choice to explore either personal or business options. We didn’t bother with any of that, though, since just below the “Personal” option was a large yellow button reading “Free Download,”. We’re suckers for bright objects. Besides, who needs to investigate pricing structures when there are free options to explore, right?

It all worked out, though. Once we clicked on “Free”, we were told in clear terms just what we were getting: a 14-day Premium package trial, no gimmicks. In fact, if we hadn’t purchased the full package at the end of two weeks, the app would have simply reverted to Malwarebytes’ scan-only free version, with no danger of hidden charges. We like it when a company is honest, upfront and doesn’t play games with us.

The download itself took only a matter of seconds. The installation took just a little longer, but the whole process was done in under five minutes; we barely had time to cook a Pop-Tart. And again, Malwarebytes didn’t try to trick us into upgrading to something “better” or insist our computer was still “unprotected.” We’ve been burned by other companies who run the first scan only to reveal that, surprise, our computer is full of malware, malware that, it turns out, we can only eliminate if we purchase yet another product. There was none of that in this case. With Malwarebytes, what you see is what you get.

The Malwarebytes Experience

Opening the Premium version of the Malwarebytes app brought up a small, fairly unobtrusive window. We were able to maximize it to full screen, but there really wasn’t any need: everything we needed was contained in this small, efficient space. There was a basic toolbar on the top right corner, which allowed us to access our account, change settings, or get help. Below this, brief text let us know that we were “fully protected.” Most of the screen, though, was taken up by our three primary security options: on the left, a “Detection History”; in the middle, a “Scanner”; and on the right, our “Real-Time Protection” tools.

  • Detection History: This choice was exactly what it said it was, a complete history of what our scans and firewall had managed to detect over time. Clicking this box, though, brought up a new window, equally simple to read, with three more choices:
    • Quarantined Items: Here, we were shown a list of all the files that had been quarantined for safety reasons—or would have been, if our machine weren’t so darn clean.
    • Allow List: No antivirus software is perfect, and sometimes, with an abundance of over-caution, a program will quarantine a file that we know for a fact is safe. The Allow List let us create exceptions for such files.
    • History: Finally, a history tab allowed us to see a complete history of all the malware the app had detected since we’d installed it.
  • Scanner: The scanner box included a blue Scan button so we could start a scan any time we wanted, right from the main page. However, pulling up the scanner window revealed more tools:
    • Threat Scan Summary: The first of these tools was a basic report on the app’s most recent scan of our system, which included information such as how long the scan took, how many threats it detected, and how it responded to those threats. We were able to access a more advanced report as well, which offered more specific details on just what kind of malware the scan had found.
    • Scheduler: In addition, the scanner window provided a scheduler so we could set up future scans. The app’s default is a daily scan at 2:00 A.M., but since we do our best to be fast asleep at 2 A.M., we adjusted that to a time in the early evening.
    • Reports: In addition to providing us access to our last scan, this tab allowed us to see all the reports that had been generated in the past 30 days.
  • Real-Time Protection: Like the Scanner tab, the Real-Time Protection tab allowed us to make basic changes without having to go beyond the homepage. The tab included on/off buttons for Web Protection, Malware Protection, Ransomware Protection, and Exploit Protection. However, once again, clicking on the tab brought up more in-depth tools:
    • Items Stopped in the Last 30 Days: On the left-hand side of the Real-Time Protection window was a list of what malware Malwarebytes has managed to stop in the past 30 days. These were listed by category using those same four categories from before: malicious sites, malware and PUPs, ransomware, and exploits. In addition, there was a pie chart that allowed us to see at a glance where our biggest threats were coming from. Finally, besides seeing our own statistics, we could click on a “global” tab and see just how many malicious attacks Malwarebytes has stopped worldwide over the last month.
    • Protection Layers: Just to the right of the Items Stopped information is another set of buttons for toggling the four protection layers on and off. This feels a little redundant since we could access the exact same toggles without pulling up this window. Here, though, we could click an information button beside each category to pull up a brief list of what was included. So, for example, when we clicked next to Web Protection, we were told that this included protection from online scams, phishing sites, and sites with ransomware.
    • Security News: Finally, tucked away in the bottom right corner of this window was a brief summary and link to a recent news story relating to digital security. We particularly liked this feature since it made us feel like we were taking control of our own safety.

Tip: An exploit is a type of malware that infects your computer by finding a vulnerability in one of your programs and exploiting it.

As we suggested above, Malwarebytes is among the easiest-to-use antivirus packages we’ve seen. Information and choices are laid out in a simple format, with basically only one layer beneath the homepage. However, part of the reason for that simplicity is that the software just doesn’t do a great deal. For instance, there was no option to run a deep scan. Our control of the app was limited to a few basic functions: toggling detectors on and off or running a quick scan of certain limited areas of the device (startup files, boot sectors, etc.). There was no webcam protection, no way to update virus definitions on demand, and no way to monitor our Wi-Fi. Simplicity is all well and good, but we also like plenty of options and a sense that we are in control.

Malwarebytes’ Available Apps

App name and operating system Rating
Malwarebytes Mobile Security, iOS 4.6
Malwarebytes Security, Android 4.6

Our own computer is a Windows machine, but Malwarebytes also offers versions of its antivirus software for Mac. In addition, during the installation process, we were prompted to add an extension to our Chrome browser. There was an option for Firefox as well, though nothing for Edge yet. Malwarebytes also offers mobile apps. We found Malwarebytes Security: Virus Cleaner, Antimalware in the Google Play store. The name is perhaps a bit unwieldy, but the software is rated 4.6 out of five. The Apple Store includes Malwarebytes Mobile Security, which received the same 4.6 rating. In general, we’re fans of the mobile version. It is just as simple to use and seems to be as effective as the PC version. However, we did have some problems in trying to upgrade the software, and, as we’ve mentioned above, there wasn’t a lot of customer support available to help with the issue.

Malwarebytes’ Customer Support

Customer support is fairly rudimentary with Malwarebytes. Pressing the help button in the app, brought up three options. One of these was the “official” instruction guide which actually included little information that wasn’t readily available on the app itself. As a second option, we could have downloaded a support tool with more troubleshooting options. But this material was also available by choosing the third option, Malwarebyte Support, which took us to a webpage with searchable topics. This page includes an instant messenger as well, but that seems to be a bot and really doesn’t do much more than conduct searches you can do for yourself. Any questions or problems that went beyond these basic help options required submitting a “Support Ticket.” There was no straightforward way to contact the company through phone or email.

One thing we liked, though it doesn’t necessarily qualify as direct support: we had access to Malwarebytes Labs, essentially a blog and information repository on all things security-related. Here, we found useful tips for improving your computer’s safety, like how to maximize your security during the pandemic. And we were able to read the latest news on global attacks, though when we want to read horror we vastly prefer Stephen King.

Malwarebytes’ Privacy Policy

Malwarebytes maintains a relatively enlightened privacy policy.1 While they did encourage us to opt into their data collection, since it allows them to constantly improve their services, this isn’t the default setting. In other words, we didn’t have to go hunting through back channels to turn it off. Asking politely made an impression on us. When we did opt-in, we allowed the company to collect our:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • User name
  • Mailing address
  • Password
  • Machine identification number
  • Billing information
  • IP address
  • Browser type
  • ISP
  • Operating system
  • Timestamps
  • Clickstreams

In addition to being polite, Mawarebytes clearly states in its privacy policy that they do not sell any user data to third parties. Finally, they take the time to explain exactly what data they collect and exactly what they’re doing with it. We’re fans of transparency, and Malwarebytes definitely made the cut.

Recap

The fact is, there are free packages from other companies that will get you pretty much what you get by paying for Malwarebytes, plus better virus protection and actual customer service. And while Malwarebytes was easy to use, we couldn’t customize our experience as much as we would’ve liked, and the software’s virus detection was definitely sub-par. We have to ask, then, why would you pay for something when you can get a better version for free? To explore some other, more comprehensive options, read our list of the best antivirus software.

Citations
  1. Malwarebytes. (2020). Malwarebytes Privacy Policy.
    malwarebytes.com/privacy/