Unfortunately, getting yourself the best antivirus software is as important as it's ever been. In this era of VPNs and smart technology, you'd be forgiven for thinking antivirus software isn't all that necessary anymore - After all, when was the last time you had a virus? Like anything, it's always safer to get yourself the protection you need. Hindsight is perfect, and it's highly likely you won't realise how important it is to protect one of the best gaming PCs until after there's a problem.
Whether you have a premium machine like one of the best Alienware gaming PCs or one of the best gaming laptops, the best antivirus software will protect you while you work or play. If you're looking to beef up security on an Apple Mac or MacBook though, you might want to consider checking out our antivirus for Macs guide.
However, in the year of our lord 2022, it's a very saturated market. There are free versions that we remember from years ago - though now refined - and also some newer or much-revamped paid-for programs that are more comprehensive than ever. Often, the best antivirus software you'll find today will closely resemble VPN subscriptions, and some even offer a bit of both. As a result, it can be a confusing market to work your way through. But fear not, we’ve looked at a range of options available, from premium to free, from some of the biggest players in online security, to help you make a safe and informed decision on the best antivirus software for you. It's also worth noting that the best antivirus is not just for PC systems but can be added to smaller, mobile devices like the best gaming tablets and the best gaming phones as well.
It's worth remembering that as the programs become more numerous and refined, so do the nasties trying to get into your machine. Plus, those who create malware and viruses are still constantly coming up with new and exciting ways to break down your door. To combat this, security companies constantly adapt and update their programs to whack off the miscreants from a safe distance.
Now, we better get moving, because every second you're not protected is a second you could be at risk. Without further delay, here is a selection of the best antivirus software you can get in 2022.
The best antivirus - paid-for software
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus's annual fee may look expensive - particularly when compared to the non-existent fees for free programs - but you get a whole host of benefits and securities for it. And, all it takes is a quick look at any major antivirus rankings to see that Bitdefender's security products are consistently near the top and considered some of the best.
It is accurate in its virus detecting, filters the web to block access to malicious sites, secures your browser that keeps your online banking and shopping transactions safe, and there's a safe and sound password manager that can retain your payment card details securely for web forms. It also wins points for offering an excellent anti-phishing service, which alerts you to malicious sites and blocks dangerous ones when using search engines.
The latest version brings with it some new features: the ability to scan all your linked devices through the Bitdefender Central mobile app and ransomware protection that learns the behavior of dangers to keep you safe. It can be a little resource hungry, requiring a fair bit of 'juice' and also potentially having a fight with some other programs, but overall Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is a great package offering great, subtle performance, excellent detection rates, and some extra features all bundled in that easily justify the price.
If you're looking for more protection from Bitdefender, the Internet Security package builds on AVP and triples the number of devices covered. It also offers parental control, file encryption, and a firewall and anti-spam. Further to this, you can get the Total Security edition which includes all of the above and extends its reach to five PCs, Macs, Android, and iOS devices.
It's difficult to find a truly 'lightweight' antivirus program or one that uses hardly any system resources. However, Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus can make that claim. Installation takes mere seconds, the program takes up only a handful of megabytes on your hard drive, the amount of RAM it needs is minute, and there are no enormous signature updates to tie up your bandwidth.
Though this feather-lite touch doesn't mean it skimps on features. On top of its core protections, you get a firewall and network monitor, anti-ransomware, smart behavior monitoring, accurate real-time anti-phishing, as well as some other interesting extras.
Because the major testing labs rarely evaluate their packages, it's not easy to compare Webroot's efficacy with its immediate competitors, however, when they are reviewed, they generally score well, and our own tests show solid and reliable protection.
It really is one to like, and its lightweight nature makes it a very attractive proposition, and Webroot's 70-day 100% money-back guarantee suggests it's confident in the product, too. If you're tired of complicated and bloated systems, Webroot should definitely be on your shortlist.
Norton is an established name in antivirus software and so many will gravitate toward it and its reputation. If you knew of, or were subscribed to Bulldog, another stellar antivirus, you'll now be covered by Norton, as the two companies became one recently.
This version, Norton AntiVirus Plus, is true to the quality in Norton's reputation: it is a top-quality malware hunter which will protect your PC all on its own, automatically. One of the main reasons we rank it so highly is that it's also one of the very best value paid-for security packages around at the moment.
The package is great for those who like to be hands-on and those who prefer to can set all its features and settings 'just so'. Other features on offer are a handy URL blocker that keeps malicious websites at bay, and if that misses something, an excellent file reputation service heuristically recognizes suspect downloads immediately. Beyond this, if any devious malware can still find its way through, the intelligent behavior monitor uses its up-to-date virus definitions to quarantine threats at the first sign of trouble.
The problems that do rear their head are in the browser extensions. While the bundled-in Norton Identity Safe is a perfectly serviceable password manager when it's running properly, it can just stop for no apparent reason when using Chrome. The flip side to that is that you don't have to use Identity Safe. And elsewhere Norton AntiVirus Plus's main functions and securities deliver: it's easy to use, comes highly rated by the labs, has the configuration options experts need, and is deliberately designed to have the least possible impact on your system's performance.
The best antivirus - free software
There's no denying that the paid-for premium antivirus packages will have a particular allure for those who want the smoothest run, or the most security. They'll offer you some particular features such as parental controls, advanced firewalls and spam filters. They also give you the extra benefit of omitting the pop-ups trying to persuade into upgrading to a full or paid-for version. And, perhaps contrary to popular opinion, they don't actually cost too much, as shown above.
Having said that, you can get great protection free, with just about every single major company out there offering a free antivirus. This continues to help them as it gives them access to more data and so constantly update and improve their libraries and security packages. As a result, it's in their interest to keep a good level of product with the free entries into the library and not to reduce the amount of protection.
If you're determined to go down the free route, we've got a couple that you should investigate to ensure you pick the best free antivirus software for you.
This package provides a clean and well-constructed scanning system teamed with an unrivaled library of virus definitions and means that Bitdefender is top of the pile once again. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is a nice, light version of the premium package.
Bitdefender's free version does insist on running in the background on autopilot and while this takes the hassle out of the users' hands it also opens up the possibility of it going a bit rogue. Some free software packages have caused a bit of havoc before, identifying themselves as threats and then locking up Windows systems. (This is still rare, though, so it's not a constant danger.)
It's worth pointing out that Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, our top paid-for pick, is only the equivalent of about $2 per month away from the free edition. When broken down to this costing, it shows that it really is a small amount to pay for a whole host of extras, such as an integrated password manager, free online 24/7 support and permanent file shredder.
Perhaps a little predictably - but in a good way - Kaspersky Free is a scaled-down version of the full package. The free iteration removes the additional features such as privacy protection and safe payment sandboxes to concentrate on a no-frills, very capable, free protection for your PC. The result is antivirus software that is easy to navigate and interact with but one that does an effective job of keeping your machine safe.
Using the nuts and bolts real-world scanning engine of the paid-for suite, Kaspersky Free is fiendishly hard for viruses and Trojan horses to break down. And we love that it doesn't constantly pester you with nudges to upgrade to the full version.
But, do bear in mind that the paid-for version isn't that expensive and provides a more comprehensive level of cover for your PC (or PCs). The price is $29.99 to protect three computers and can swing a mighty bat against ransomware, spyware and Trojans.
One of the top features of the latest edition of Avast Free Antivirus, is that it adds an automatic gaming mode that mutes popups and reduces system load when you're running a CPU-demanding game. Elsewhere, the user-interface has had a redesign and has come out all clean, fresh and well laid out. There's a password manager, too, which is solid yet unspectacular but remains a good addition to your online and digital security. On the less good side of things, it's quite trigger-happy with popups and it isn't great for software launch times.
Some other benefits and features more generally come from a 'meta' event. Back in 2016, Avast acquired AVG - a very familiar-sounding free antivirus provider to many, I'm sure. Though the two products will remain separate to users, Avast - and AVG for what it's worth - now has a lot more data to work with. It's effective userbase now stands at a heady 400 million users.