The Best Antivirus Software for 2023: Free and Premium Protection for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS
Antivirus software is a crucial part of your system’s line of defense. It keeps you protected from malware, spyware, ransomware and a slew of other malicious pieces of software. We’ve reviewed the best antivirus software providers for the most popular operating systems, and here’s our list of options.
Installing antivirus software on your device is an excellent idea for many reasons — you’ll remain protected from adware, spyware, ransomware and a variety of other malicious types of software. Finding the one to install, however, is a whole different ordeal, which is why we have a list of the best antivirus software providers you can install on your device.
- There are plenty of antivirus software suite providers, but Bitdefender antivirus is our top suggestion if you want the best antivirus software.
- F-Secure and Norton are excellent alternatives that offer solid protection and plenty of security features.
- If you’re looking for free antivirus software, Bitdefender and Malwarebytes are our top suggestions.
Antivirus software offers protection from malware, which is an umbrella term for malicious software that aims to harm your device. Malicious software has evolved greatly over the years, and you can find it in a variety of places that seem completely legitimate. This is why malware protection must do a lot more than protect against viruses.
Antivirus protection usually comes in the form of a complete security suite, including things like identity theft protection, phishing protection, internet security, parental controls and a variety of other features. With all of that in mind, here are the best antivirus software providers.
10/20/2022 Facts checked
Rewrote this guide. Since our last article, we’ve included a few new antivirus software providers.
The best antivirus software is Bitdefender, thanks to its excellent detection rate and the additional security features it offers.
The best free antivirus program is also Bitdefender, with protection that keeps you safe from malware and suspicious websites.
Yes, regardless of what device you use and how careful you are when browsing the internet, antivirus software is always a great addition.
No, provided you use antivirus software that comes from a reputable company and works as advertised.
The only potential downside with some antivirus software providers is that they tend to consume a lot of processing power when they run in the background. Aside from that, antivirus software is in no way bad.
Top Antivirus Software
- 1$1.67 / month(All Plans)
- 2$2.08 / month(All Plans)
- 3$1.67 / month(All Plans)
- 4$3.33 / month(All Plans)
- 5$3.75 / month(All Plans)
What Makes the Best Antivirus Software?
With so many antivirus software providers out there, we picked the best using three main criteria. We considered how effective each provider is, what kind of security features it offers, and how resource-intensive it is, especially on lower-end hardware. Here are our seven best picks.
- Bitdefender Antivirus — Extremely secure antivirus at a reasonable price
- F-Secure — Affordable antivirus with excellent lab results
- Norton Security — Versatile antivirus program with great protection scores
- ESET NOD32 — Lightweight antivirus with UEFI protection
- Malwarebytes — Extensive antivirus with great free version
- Microsoft Defender — Solid Windows-only antivirus
- MacKeeper — Good antivirus and malware protection for Mac devices
The most important thing for any antivirus software is to offer sufficient malware and virus protection. Some antivirus programs and security suites are easily fooled by false positives, and others fail to detect an actual threat when it gets to your device. These providers have excellent detection rates with few false positives, as determined by independent antivirus testing labs.
We also considered additional features such as ransomware protection, parental control, dark-web monitoring, password manager options and any other extra features that might improve your device’s security.
Last but not least — because not everyone has the latest equipment at home — we made sure the security suites and antivirus apps we chose don’t hog system resources. Of course, you may notice slowdowns on an older device when they’re running in real time in the background, but with the providers we chose, that effect should be minimal.
The 7 Best Antivirus Services
Now that you know our criteria for the best antivirus software, let’s get into the actual picks, starting with Bitdefender.
1. Bitdefender Antivirus
More details about Bitdefender Antivirus:
- Pricing: Free, $1.67 per month (one-year plan)
- Provider website: bitdefender.com
- Excellent security results
- Plenty of features
- Easy to use
- Takes up system resources
Bitdefender Antivirus keeps scoring high in antivirus software lab results, which is why we put it at the top of our most secure antivirus software list. It has an excellent selection of features, as well as an interface that’s remarkably easy to use and feels very modern. You can find out more about it in our Bitdefender review.
Bitdefender’s user interface uses plenty of space and doesn’t feel cluttered, making this antivirus software a pleasure to use. Unfortunately, it does use up a lot of RAM, so users with lower-end machines may have issues with Bitdefender running in the background.
Extremely Strong Security
Bitdefender doesn’t play around with virus protection. The antivirus has a 99.8% prevention rate and got almost perfect scores in MRG Effitas’ Q2 2022 full-spectrum results. It also had zero false positives and achieved a Certified (Level 1) rating, making it one of the most secure antivirus protection options out there.
If you steer clear of the additional features like a VPN or identity theft protection, Bitdefender is actually on the affordable side of things with its Bitdefender Total Security plan, costing $19.98 for a year with five devices. It also has a good free plan if you only need to cover the basics — it even earned the top spot in our best free antivirus software article.
If security is of utmost importance and you have a powerful device, Bitdefender should be your first choice. It doesn’t compromise on any important aspect, and comes in at an affordable price for a yearly subscription, making it the best antivirus protection software out there.
- Unlimited devices (Windows only)
- 3 devices
- 3 devices
- 5 devices
- 15 devices
- 10 devices
- 10 devices
- 10 devices
More details about F-Secure:
- Pricing: $2.08 per month (one-year plan)
- Provider website: f-secure.com
- Easy to use
- Excellent lab results
- Has issues with false positives
- Limited features
F-Secure is probably the best antivirus software you’ve never heard of. It aims to compete with industry leaders by offering affordable pricing and performing admirably in lab tests. Where it falls short is in the false positives department, and it doesn’t offer as many features as some of its competitors. You can find out more about it in our F-Secure review.
This antivirus got excellent scores in AV-TEST’s recent reports, with a 6.0 out of 6.0, making it a great pick for malware and virus protection. It comes with a very user-friendly desktop UI, as well as mobile apps included in the SAFE plan. The desktop app uses limited system resources, unlike some of the competition.
Banking Protection Keeps Your Money Safe
One feature you do get in the F-Secure SAFE plan is banking protection. You’ll get a warning from the software if a banking site is not secure, which is similar to phishing protection. Not many antivirus programs offer this, especially in their most affordable plans.
Luckily, F-Secure is very affordable, costing $3.70 per year on the SAFE plan. Sure, you could go for the Total plan for $67.49 per year, which offers extras like a password manager or tracking protection, but it’s far from a necessity.
F-Secure’s excellent lab results make it a great choice for a basic antivirus protection software. However, the lack of overall features and the false positives mean that there are better options out there.
- Antivirus protection for one Windows computer )with options for more)
- Protection for 5 devices, ransomware protection, My F-Secure integration, browsing protection
- Protection for 3 Windows computers, all features of F-Secure Safe, only available to existing customers
- Protection for three devices (with options for more), all features of Safe, password manager, VPN
3. Norton Security
More details about Norton Security:
- Pricing: $1.67 per month (one-year plan)
- Provider website: norton.com
- Excellent protection scores
- Easy to use
- Plenty of plans
- Has issues with false positives
Norton Antivirus is another household name in the industry, making it an obvious choice for our list. It has excellent scores from independent testing labs, a solid feature set, is light on resource demand, and offers plans for pretty much anyone’s taste. As we mentioned in our Norton Security review, it’s a complete security suite rather than just an antivirus protection software.
Norton 360 scores high on AV-Comparatives’ real-life tests, though it did have slight issues with false positives. The desktop app is easy to use and is not a resource hog, even if you have a full system scan running in the background. The settings menu can be somewhat confusing, though.
While other antivirus providers also offer a firewall, Norton’s is arguably the most configurable one around. It offers excellent control over different programs on your computer, but it also lets you manage different types of traffic that come through. To add to this, it’s beginner friendly, so even if you haven’t set up a firewall before, you shouldn’t have an issue with Norton.
Norton’s best plan is the Standard one, which gives you support for three devices at an affordable price of $39.99 per year. If you have more than three devices, you can step up to Deluxe or Select, which offer five or 10 devices, respectively, but don’t give you as much value.
If you don’t mind a false positive every now and then, Norton Security is an excellent antivirus program and certainly a contender for the best antivirus software.
- Full protection from viruses and malware, 2GB of cloud storage, integrated firewall, password manager, protection for one PC or Mac
- Protection for one PC, Mac or mobile device, 10GB of cloud storage, webcam protection, dark web monitoring
- Protection for five devices, parental control, 50GB of cloud storage
- Protection for five devices, 100GB of cloud storage, full access to LifeLock’s identity protection
4. ESET NOD32
More details about ESET NOD32:
- Pricing: $3.33 per month (one-year plan)
- Provider website: eset.com
- Excellent lab results
- Easy to use
- Light on resources
- Weak ransomware protection
- Not available on iOS
ESET’s NOD32 is one of the oldest antivirus programs out there, with an initial release back in 1987. It has come a long way since, and today NOD32 is a contender for the best antivirus software with an excellent focus on security and an easy-to-use, lightweight antivirus program for most platforms. You can find out more in our ESET NOD32 review.
ESET puts a strong focus on malware protection, including features like ransomware protection, phishing protection and an excellent internet security suite that should be a part of every antivirus software.
Unfortunately, independent testing labs show that ransomware protection is hardly NOD32’s strong suit; it failed to block PowerShell ransomware simulators and has a lower auto-block rate compared to competitors.
One of the best features of ESET’s NOD32 is the unified extensible firmware interface (UEFI) scanner, which keeps you protected from viruses that live outside of the Windows operating system. If a malware takes over the UEFI, you can’t remove it, even by reformatting your drive and reinstalling Windows. The UEFI scanner makes sure that doesn’t happen.
ESET’s most affordable plan doesn’t include mobile support, nor does it have banking protection or network protection. We’d suggest going for the slightly more expensive internet security plan to get the best value at $49.99 per year.
If you don’t need an antivirus for mobile devices, ESET NOD32 is a solid and very secure choice. It’s especially great for users with lower-end hardware, with its lightweight desktop app that’s remarkably easy to use.
- Basic Antivirus, UEFI scanner, Ransomware protection, Windows only
- Banking protection, Network protection, Botnet scan, Parental control, Windows only
- Password manager, Encrypted data, Multi-platform
More details about Malwarebytes:
- Pricing: Free, $3.75 per month (one-year plan)
- Provider website: malwarebytes.com
- Excellent security lab results
- Easy to install & use
- Very fast scanning
Malwarebytes is an antivirus software that once offered an excellent free version with an on-demand scanner that worked malware protection miracles. Now, Malwarebytes is an excellent premium antivirus software with real-time protection and impeccable lab results. If it weren’t for its price tag, it would have been higher up this list of the best antivirus software.
Malwarebytes has a spotless security record — it has a Level 1 rating on MRG Effitas’ tests, as well as a 98.4% block rate on AV-Comparatives’ tests. It also has an easy-to-use app that’s very light on resources. To add to this, Malwarebytes has an app for almost all desktop and mobile devices.
Brute-Force and Zero-Day Protection
Malwarebytes offers two things we don’t see often — brute-force protection and zero-day exploit protection. Brute-force protection keeps you secure from attackers that try to guess your passwords or confidential information, whereas zero-day protection means you’ll be safe from exploits that companies failed to patch on time.
Malwarebytes’ pricing isn’t its strong suit, though there is a $3.75 per month plan for a single device, as well as a free antivirus software trial that lets you get your feet wet.
If you don’t mind the pricing, Malwarebytes is one of the best antivirus software providers. It offers excellent malware protection as well as overall internet security, all packed in an easy-to-use security software.
- Full package (1 device)
- Full package (5 devices)
- Full package + VPN protection (5 devices)
6. Microsoft Defender
More details about Microsoft Defender:
- Pricing: Free with Microsoft Windows; $6.99 per month for the annual Microsoft 365 Personal plan
- Provider website: microsoft.com
- Very light on resources
- Solid malware protection lab results
- Free for Windows devices
- Didn’t detect potentially unwanted apps & adware
Microsoft Defender came in fourth on our list of best free antivirus software, but the fact that its free version is only available on Windows devices pushed it lower down on this list. That being said, if you need malware protection for Windows, Microsoft Defender is hands down the best free antivirus software.
In MRG Effitas’ tests, it scored a Level 2 assessment, due to a few failures in detecting potentially unwanted applications and adware.
However, aside from that, Microsoft Defender has a pretty clean track record. It fared admirably with a 100% auto-block rate in MRG Effitas’ financial malware tests too, which assesses how effective an antivirus is in detecting scripts that capture credit card data from browsers.
It’s Dead Easy to Use
Thanks to the fact that it comes preinstalled with Windows PCs, Microsoft Defender is the easiest security software to use — you don’t have to do anything to get it up and running. Just install Windows, and you already have it.
Microsoft Defender is completely free for Windows users, but if you want an app for Mac, iOS or Android, you’ll need to pay for a Microsoft 365 subscription.
All things considered, if you don’t want to pay for an antivirus suite for your Windows device, Microsoft Defender is the best free security suite for you. If you need it for a different device, there are better options on our list.
|Microsoft 365 Personal||$6.99/month||1 user, 5 devices|
|Microsoft 365 Family||$9.99/month||6 users, 5 devices per user|
More details about MacKeeper:
- Pricing: $5.97 per month on the annual plan
- Provider website: mackeeper.com
- Intuitive dashboard
- Excellent customer support
- Plenty of extra features
- Only for Mac computers
If you use a Mac, MacKeeper is an antivirus program worth considering. It offers adequate malware protection, and includes features like ID theft protection, disk cleanup and financial security. It also offers excellent customer support that’s available 24/7 in case you need help with anything.
MacKeeper is excellent from a security point of view, offering real-time protection for your Mac that’s on par with most of the big names in the industry. It also offers things like personal record leak monitoring and an included VPN, though there are better VPN options.
The app is very intuitive and offers a neatly organized dashboard that puts all information where you need it.
Industry-Leading Customer Support
Few antivirus programs can say they offer customer support that’s on MacKeeper’s level. You may think this is hardly a differentiating feature, but when you’re stuck trying to remove stubborn malware from your system, customer support can come in handy.
MacKeeper is expensive, especially if you need it on more than one device. Fortunately, you can save a bit by opting to subscribe to the annual plan. MacKeeper is a solid choice for Mac users, especially those looking for an intuitive, easy-to-use dashboard that makes important information available at a glance.
|1-Month Plan||$10.95||1 Mac|
|12-Month Plan||$66.78||1 Mac|
|12-Month + Licenses||$71.64||3 Macs + Extra License|
Honorable Mention: Kaspersky Internet Security
More details about Kaspersky Internet Security:
- Pricing: $2.50 per month (one-year plan)
- Provider website: kaspersky.com
- Easy to use
- Solid lab results
- Gaming mode
- Privacy concerns
- Slows down your device
Kaspersky is a household name in the antivirus software industry. However, if you read our full Kaspersky review, you’ll find that the company has some potentially unresolved privacy concerns with suspicions that it’s connected to the Russian government. If that doesn’t concern you, certainly a strong contender though, with excellent virus protection results and an overall great feature set.
The Internet Security plan includes apps for multiple devices, though if you want to install Kaspersky on an iOS device, you’ll need to pay a tad more for Total Security. You get things like real-time protection, a VPN, webcam protection and payment protection with both plans. Besides its Russian connections, Kaspersky’s Achilles’ heel is resource management — it uses plenty of RAM.
Keep Playing With Gaming Mode
Kaspersky comes with a seriously underrated feature called gaming mode. Gaming mode disables any notifications or warnings that might take up part of your screen, allowing you to focus on your game (or work, or anything else). If you don’t want your antivirus bothering you constantly, it’s a great feature.
None of Kaspersky’s plans are especially affordable, but the Internet Security plan offers the most bang for your buck. Alternatively, if you want it on an iOS device, Total Security is slightly more expensive, and also gives you access to the password manager.
If it wasn’t for Kaspersky’s Russian connections, Kaspersky Internet Security would’ve been neck and neck with Bitdefender. However, because the FCC labels Kasperksy as a potential security risk, we can’t fully recommend it.
- Three PCs, ransomware protection
- Three devices, banking protection, webcam protection, parental controls
- Five devices, password manager, backup and restore, advanced parental controls
Other Antivirus Programs & Malware Protection
Although we listed our top seven recommendations for the best antivirus software, there are still many providers that didn’t make the cut, for one reason or another. Below are three more antivirus companies that we’ve reviewed that could be worth considering.
Trend Micro Antivirus — Affordable and simple, but high false positives. Trend Micro Maximum Security provides protection for five devices for $4.17 per month (one-year plan). Read our full Trend Micro antivirus review.
McAfee Antivirus — Strong lab results, but expensive. McAfee Total Protection provides protection for five devices for $3.33 per month (one-year plan). Read our full McAfee antivirus review.
AVG Antivirus — A popular and affordable option, plus a free version. Try AVG Antivirus Free, otherwise AVG Internet Security costs $3.89 per month (one-year plan). Read our full AVG antivirus review.
Final Thoughts: Best Antivirus Programs
Antivirus software should be one of the first things you install on your device, whether it’s your personal smartphone, work laptop or desktop gaming PC. Picking the best antivirus software for your needs and budget from our list will help protect your device from malware and ransomware.
Do you use antivirus protection software? Which is the best antivirus software? Do you use free antivirus software or paid antivirus software? Is your pick something like Bitdefender antivirus free edition, or do you go for a more affordable antivirus suite such as Norton? Let us know in the comments, and as always, thank you for reading.