The Best Antivirus Software (2020) for Windows, Mac, Android, and iPhone

When you use the internet, you run the risk of being exposed to malware, viruses, spyware, ransomware, and Trojans. This malicious software can allow hackers to take control of your device, to steal your data, or to snoop on you for the purposes of identity theft or steal your bank details.

Downloading and installing good antivirus software can help protect you from attackers, but it's difficult to know where to begin in such an overcrowded market. Whether you are on a budget or looking for a more premium solution, we suggest starting with our recommendations below.

 

What are the best antivirus programs to use?

The internet is full of nasty surprises, and exploits exist for every platform and device. It really makes no difference whether you use the internet on a smartphone, a Windows PC, or a MacBook - if you are not careful, you could end up with an infection. As a result, it is vital to protect your internet connected devices using a reliable antivirus program with real time scanning.

If you ignore warnings that inform you that your antivirus is out of date or that your subscription has come to an end, you could end up infected with a dangerous exploit that gives cybercriminals access to your data and the contents of your computer, tablet, or phone. Under the worst circumstances, hackers could steal your personally identifiable Information to perform identity theft - or to steal your financial data and fleece money from your bank account. 

While you do need to be careful when it comes to choosing free antivirus software, it is true that you don't need to pay through the nose to get reliable protection. Below, we have included the five best antiviruses on the market. They all offer excellent protection without actually costing the earth, and some even have a reliable basic plan that is free!

  1. Norton 360 - In tests, Norton was found to be able to detect and prevent 100% of the threats it was tested with across all three platforms.
  2. F-Secure - Excellent protection, performance, and usability.
  3. AVG AntiVirus - A solid antivirus that performs well for catching exploits across all devices
  4. Avast - A well performing antivirus that is both popular and efficient
  5. Malwarebytes - Extremely efficient, and does not negatively affect system performance

The best Antivirus Software 2020: In-depth analysis

Below, you can take an in-depth look at the best antivirus software options picked by our resident experts. Our summaries will help you pick the right service for your needs!

Norton is excellent at handling various threats, including viruses, trojans, ransomware, and malware.

  • Free option

    Yes

Norton is a superb antivirus that consumers can either purchase as a stand-alone application for $19.99 - or as part of a more comprehensive security suite called Norton 360. The antivirus is extremely effective, and in recent tests, it was found to detect and remove 100% of the threats it was tested with. This includes zero-day malware attacks, including both web and email exploits. In addition, it stopped 100% of widespread and prevalent malware that was discovered in the previous 4 weeks, making it highly effective.


Where performance is concerned, Norton scores full points with AVTests.org because it does not appreciably affect web page loading times, download speeds, or device performance. The antivirus can tackle everything from spyware to malware, ransomware, viruses, and trojans. It also protects users against phishing emails and websites.


Norton antivirus also provides online safety by blocking malicious domains. Also, even on the basic plan users get 2GB of secure storage, and a smart firewall that monitors outgoing and incoming traffic. This is an excellent feature that will detect if a trojan is attempting to communicate with a CnC server. It's an excellent service whether you get the simple plan or one of the more comprehensive suites.


Besides all of this, Norton offers these fantastic features:


F-Secure is the winner of AV-TEST best protection award in 2018

  • Pricing

    From  $39.99
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Linux
    • iOS
    • Android
  • Protection:

    • Realtime Protection

This popular antivirus is known to provide excellent protection, performance, and usability, albeit at a premium price. The software is available for both Mac and Windows. In tests, F-Secure Antivirus performs excellently; consistently blocking 100% of malware. In fact, F-Secure won the AV-TEST best protection award in 2018.


The software might not be as feature-rich as some other antivirus programs on the market. However, it is worth noting that a lot of those extra functions aren’t always strictly necessary from an anti-virus point of view (though they are sometimes useful extras).


F-Secure has reorganized its plans, dropping its monthly cost in favor of annual billing and rebranding its home packages with F-Secure SAFE branding. Starting at $69.99, you will be able to install the software on 3 different devices for 1 year. You'll have to spend more than that if you want to use it on 5, 7, or more devices.


Despite the lack of a monthly payment option, F-Secure SAFE can be considered a superb deal that comes with the following features: 



While some antivirus programs may slow your computer down a little - this antivirus software is not hungry for processing power. It is also extremely easy to use, keeping the layout of the functions down to the bare minimum. This makes it a good option for non-techy users.


The quick scan function comes set as a default, and it is extremely fast - completing a scan in just a few minutes. Delving into the settings gives users the option to perform a full system scan. However, if you are used to having the ability to scan removable drives, or to perform custom scans, this software might disappoint you.


Perhaps the only real drawback with F-Secure is that it is so sensitive that it does tend to flag up some false positives. However, this is better than an antivirus that misses actual exploits.


On the other hand, we would have to stick recommending F-Secure only on its SAFE plan - which is much better value for money and has a much better range of features than the standalone antivirus plan. 


Overall, this is a robust antivirus that gets the job done. Perfectly suited to non-techy users who want something that protects against 100% of viruses. 

AVG offers awesome features for a truly affordable price.

  • Free option

    Yes

    Pricing

    From  $3.25 - $6.67
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Linux
    • iOS
    • Android
  • Protection:

    • Realtime Protection

AVG is an antivirus application available for Windows, macOS, and Android. It is an effective solution that can protect devices against all known threats, including malware, spyware, viruses, worms, trojans and ransomware. For free users get a basic antivirus that provides real-time security updates, and real-time scanning that catches malicious downloads before they reach your PC. That is a hefty amount of protection, free of charge.


For those who want more, users can upgrade to the AVG Internet Security plan which adds ransomware folder security, webcam security, an enhanced firewall, safe browsing features, and Android protection for $39.99. That is a reasonable price considering that AVG was found to score 6/6 for protection and usability by AVTest.org. Performance-wise, you may notice that AVG can have somewhat of an impact on your internet speeds if you have it running on a slower machine or if you have a very slow internet connection. Despite this, it is generally a fast antivirus that is exceptionally good considering it can be used for free.


Avast is a top-notch antivirus that is fully-featured and excellent across all platforms

  • Free option

    Yes

    Pricing

    From  $4.00 - $10.00
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • iOS
    • Android
  • Protection:

    • Realtime Protection

Avast is another antivirus that gets a clean bill of health from the independent auditor AVTest.org. It is available for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. During recent tests the security software was able to detect and delete 100% of the threats and exploits it was tested with. This includes viruses, worms, malware and ransomware (20780 exploit samples used in total). In terms of usability, it is extremely effective with no false positives detected whatsoever during tests. The basic antivirus can be used for free, which is great.


However, those who want ransomware protection, safe browsing, an advanced firewall, and webcam protection will need to fork out $69.99 for one device or $89.99 for ten devices. Despite being an excellent antivirus, that is quite a steep bill that is probably only going to be worthwhile if you are a power user with many devices. In terms of performance, Avast scored 5.5 out of 6 - which means that it shouldn’t cause too much of an issue unless you have a very slow PC.


Malwarebytes offers great features free of charge and the premium plan is entirely budget-friendly

  • Free option

    Yes

    Pricing

    From  $39.99 - $59.99
  • Available on

    • Windows

Malwarebytes is an excellent antivirus program that we have decided to include because it is available free of charge on Windows machines. Free users get complete access to the antivirus - which scans for viruses against an up-to-date database of known malware. That scanning is extremely efficient, and, like other top-of-the-range antivirus programs, Malwarebytes does not negatively affect system performance.


The antivirus can be set up to scan for viruses as often as you like, with the minimum recommended scan being once a week. The nice thing about Malwarebytes is that despite being free, it is known to stay up to date and reliably protect against malicious infections.


Admittedly, the free version of  Malwarebytes is limited; only permitting users to do a virus scan function. Anybody who wants real-time protection - with active scanning of emails, websites, and downloads - will need to upgrade to the premium plan which will set them back $39.99 per year. The same is true if you need virus protection for a Mac, iOS, or Android device - as these do not get access to the free antivirus, either.


Paying for the software also increases your protection, by giving you access to the following features: 



Overall, this free antivirus is extremely useful, and, while it isn’t for everyone, we understand that the vast majority of people worldwide still own and run Windows computers. For this reason, Malwarebytes is considered a steal for anybody that has been running the gauntlet by connecting to the internet with no protection at all. 


Malwarebytes can also be considered an outstanding option for beginners, thanks to its intuitive dashboard and easy-to-understand controls. However, if you do decide to pay for an antivirus, it may be better to stick to one of the options higher in this list, as they do have a tendency to catch more malware in their dragnets than Malwarebytes.

Can I get a free antivirus that works?

If you are running low on cash, you don't need to stress. Everybody needs protection, and, luckily, there are free options available on the market that will offer you strong protection even if you are skint. Below, we have listed our three favorite free antivirus options:

Why do I need Antivirus software?

Connecting to the internet is a constant gamble. Whether you are surfing the web doing some shopping, using social media to chat to friends, or opening emails; hackers could be waiting to infect your device. An antivirus is the only way to scan for potential threats, and to eliminate those threats if you become exposed. 

When you browse the internet, you could run into dodgy web pages that contain hidden malware downloads. Depending on what type of page you visit, the dangers are heightened. Websites with a lot of pop-ups, such as pirated video streaming sites - can lead to infection due to malvertising and drive-by exploits.

Even the simple act of opening a message on Facebook or Instagram could cause you to follow a malevolent link. And opening emails is even riskier because of the thousands of phishing attacks that occur each day.

Adverts on social media are another potential attack vectors. Those ads are not always sufficiently vetted by those platforms and could potentially link you to a dodgy website that infects your device to steal your data.

The risk of infection becomes even greater when you actively download apps, software, videos, or other content. Even extensions and apps found on the Google Play Store have later been found to contain adware and malware. And some of the most trusted marketplaces, such as eBay and Amazon, have suffered adware problems at one time or another.

For consumers who regularly download content peer-to-peer from BitTorrent repositories, the dangers are very serious because it is easy to stumble on downloads that have been loaded up with dangerous exploits such as Trojans purposefully. And, for anybody with a jailbroken or rooted device, the dangers are also heightened - particularly if they download and install apps from unknown sources or via third party app repositories.

Even an air-gapped machine with no active internet connection could theoretically become infected if a USB dongle or external hard drive is inserted that has a virus on it.

What does an antivirus do?

An antivirus scans your computer, mobile device, or tablet for an exhaustive list of previously discovered exploits. This exploit list is constantly updated to add newly discovered exploits to the catalog. 

The very best antivirus programs have the ability to successfully detect recently discovered exploits from the last four weeks. This is what causes some antivirus apps to get a better score during independent audits performed by AVTest. The very best antivirus programs can also even use algorithms to detect new exploits that closely resemble old ones.

All antiviruses are able to perform scans to detect and remove exploits such as viruses, malware, worms, rootkits, trojans, spyware, adware, and ransomware. These cans can be set up to happen at predetermined times each day or week. Alternatively, you can run a scan on demand.

However, not all free antiviruses perform active real time scanning; which is considered a highly important feature due to internet use. This is because to be completely protected against exploits it is much better to have an antivirus that is engaging in prevention rather than just detection and removal.

Should I pay for antivirus software?

This is ultimately a question that only you can answer, and will largely depend on what you want and need from your antivirus program. The free antivirus protection that comes with Windows, called Microsoft Defender, is extremely good at spotting threats. Many people consider that protection to be good enough, particularly if you also back it up with a secondary free application such as Malwarebytes or Avast.

The same is true of Apple users. macOS ships with a native security program called XProtect, and that protection is also very good. However, it is probably worth doubling down with another standalone product. 

If you want advanced protection such as real-time scanning, browsing protection, webcam security, ransomware protection, online payment protection, parental controls, and other advanced features - you will nearly always have to pay for a premium subscription.

In addition, during the latest round of tests performed by the trusted antivirus auditing organization AVTest, the very best antiviruses (that were able to protect against 100% of exploits during the tests) were nearly always paid premium services. 

You truly get what you pay for. And, if you want an antivirus that can catch all exploits in real-time without impacting the performance and usability of your machine - then it is probably a good idea to pay for a comprehensive solution with software for all your devices.

What features do I need?

The most important thing is for your antivirus to perform scans that are able to detect and remove any exploits that have made their way onto your devices. The basic features you should ensure you have are as follows:

Besides these basic requirements, premium antivirus applications provide a number of other useful security features:

These other features can usually be purchased either as part of a premium security plan, or as standalone services. Most of these services are worth paying for and they can be really useful as part of an integrated security suite. So, if you want to make use of these extra features, it is well worth paying for a premium antivirus plan.

However, when it comes to VPNs, we tend to recommend sticking to a standalone zero-logs VPN service, as this will provide much higher levels of privacy and security.

Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 5 years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, The Times, The Washington Post, The Register, CNET & many more. 

10 Comments

GKA
on May 3, 2020
Reply
“Most tested – Most awarded – Seven years in a row (2013 – 2019). For over 20 years, we’ve been recognized as experts in the fight against viruses, malware and cybercrime. In 2019, our products participated in 86 independents tests – and achieved 64 first places. For seven years in a row – from 2013 to 2019 – our security technologies have been The Most Tested & The Most Highly Awarded. To find out more, please see www.kaspersky.com/top3” >> Can someone please comment on this?! You may understand IT considerably more than me but, I do understand about GEOPOLITICS and how much it corrupts everything and everyone.
OJO
on January 4, 2020
Reply
F-Secure PRICING From $69.99 / month McAfee Total Protection PRICING From $34.99 / month Shit, those apps are the most expensive what I ever seen! Whats your monthly commission?
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
Douglas Crawford replied to OJO
on January 6, 2020
Reply
Hi OJO. You are not paying for "an app" - you are paying for a service that actively develops new countermeasures to threats as they emerge. We do not receive any monthly commission, although we do receive an affiliate payment on initial sign-up.
Alexa replied to OJO
on April 20, 2020
Reply
AVAST is a 1-2 year contract. Out of the list above. AVAST virus protection program is better than "ANY" of the other's listed! I have tried the other's before. Only to have my computer's crash a month after installing them. Between my Man & I, we have used the AVAST virus protection program for over 15 year's now. And yet too this day, have we EVER! had any problem's with it. If your looking for the best Virus protection on the market? You should use AVAST!
Ji Ruifu
on January 2, 2020
Reply
Surprised no mention was made of any of the Intego AV software for Macs. For years I have been subscribed to a Mac List where, over and over again, I see folks on the list recommend Intego above all others for use on Apple computers.
Captain
on October 21, 2019
Reply
Malwarebytes as Editor's Choice when AV-Test.org shows that it's worse compared to Windows Defender AV when it comes to detection? https://www.av-test.org/en/antivirus/home-windows/windows-10/august-2019/microsoft-windows-defender-4.18-193116/ https://www.av-test.org/en/antivirus/home-windows/windows-10/august-2019/malwarebytes-premium-3.8.3-193114/
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
Douglas Crawford replied to Captain
on November 4, 2019
Reply
Hi Captain. If you have Windows then you get Windows Defender AV for "free." And Malwarebytes is great antivirus software for the price (free for the basic version). In our view, running both Windows Defender and also performing regular manual scans with Malwarebytes is a free option that provides a level of protection equivalent or better to most paid-for solutions.
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