The Best Antivirus Software for Windows Home Users
Utility • Updated on Aug.26, 2022
Update Note: This post was originally published in September 2019 and has been revamped in August 2022 for freshness and accuracy.
Everyone worries about the security of their computer. Professionals and home users alike. And if you’re not, well, you should be. After all, one mistake is all you need to get infected and lose everything in the process.
That’s why using good Antivirus software is highly recommended. But, which one should you choose? There are many good options out there. Are some better than others? Do we need to keep an eye out for anything? And what about after installing the Antivirus?
If you want to know the answers, then keep on reading! Here are the best Antivirus programs for Windows home users! For Mac users, please check these top free Mac antivirus software here.
Do I need antivirus software for my home computer?
Yes, you need antivirus software for your home computer. This is due to the rise in cyber attacks year by year. The average number of cyberattacks increased by 15.1% from 2020.
You can look at all the numbers and a detailed report from Forbes and ThoughtLab about the rise in cyber threats.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
Ransomware and malware have grown popular in the cyber world for the past few years. In 2016, Locky (ransomware) targeted files used by designers, developers, and engineers through Phishing. Many people lost money and resources as they were not protected.
Here is a look at a detailed report from Tripwire and a few ransomware programs that have affected users in the past decade:
So, getting an anti-virus program or anti-malware software is essential to safeguard your home computer.
Is Windows Defender good enough?
Windows Defender comes pre-installed on Windows 10/11 and offers an essential layer of protection. However, is it good enough? Short answer: No. Long answer: It depends!
When it comes to cybersecurity, the most common misconception that your average person makes is that viruses can infect computers out of nowhere; without the user doing anything. In some rare cases, that is true.
For example, the infamous Ransomware wave could infect people seemingly out of nowhere. The only requirements were for someone to get fooled into running the code and another to be connected on the same network without having installed the latest Windows security patch.
So, yes. Under specific circumstances, there is the possibility of getting infected out of nowhere with malware.
However, in most cases, the fault lies within the user. After all, most malicious apps are just that: apps. Malicious programs that conceal themselves to appear legit. Whether you fall for the trap or not is up to you.
And that’s where antivirus software comes in. A good antivirus program should detect that you’re browsing on a shady website before downloading anything. That’s where Windows Defender mostly struggles.
It can’t compete with other programs in terms of basic security. Moreover, it also doesn’t offer a third of the features you’ll get from something like Avast, which is free.
Windows Defender is only enough for the tech-savvy who know what they are doing. The rest of you are just playing with your luck. So, why take a chance? There are a few decent programs that are entirely free. Let’s proceed with the list now that this is out of the way.
Avast has long been known as the go-to choice for free users, and it’s not likely to get dethroned any time soon. Since it’s free, the least you can do is try it.
It’s one of the top-rated programs in AV-Test while offering a ton of features in:
It’s hard to go wrong with it, especially if you consider it’s fantastic free version. Care for more details? Here are some of its best functions!
Avast offers a variety of different security options. To be more specific, these are some of the most important ones in the free version:
- Virus scans –The virus scans are pretty standard stuff. Every Antivirus offers a button that leads to a full scan of the computer for viruses.
- Behavior shield – This feature actively monitors installed apps’ overall behavior to detect strange patterns.If a virus scan misses something, the behavior shield will detect something is not right and block the suspicious program.
- Web shield – The web shield has a huge list of websites that are known to host malware. So, if you browse something dangerous or suspicious, the web shield will let you know and block the platform.
Note: A full scan can take a long time. That’s why Avast delivers numerous options. There is targeted scanning, boot-time scanning, custom setups, and complete scanning.
Avast doesn’t simply protect your computer but also your privacy. The only problem is that most of its useful features are for the premium version.
Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the free version gives you:
- Password vault – The password vault is pretty straightforward. All it does is that it gives you a safe place to store all your passwords, credit card information, and any other piece of sensitive information.
- A VPN – This stands for Virtual Private Network. The tools allow users to browse the web without revealing their IP address, which otherwise reveals our general location.
Antivirus apps are not obliged to increase our performance, but Avast does it anyway. Here are a couple of exciting options that you can get with the free version:
- Software Updater – Keeping every program on our computer up to date is an arduous task. Still, the truth is that outdated software puts us at risk of getting infected, which is why the Software Updater lets you know which apps need to be updated.
- Driver Updater – Drivers are not such a big issue. But, they can still slow us down. Driver updates can offer better performance, stability, and security, and Driver Updater is there to help you.
You can use the antivirus for free or upgrade to a premium plan if you like the service. Here are the plans that are offered to you:
- Avast One Plan (includes a VPN and supports 5 devices) – $4.19/month
- Avast Premium Security Plan (doesn’t include VPN but supports 10 devices) – $5.79/month
Nothing is perfect, and Antivirus programs are not an exception. Avast may be a great free program, but as far as the premium version is concerned, it struggles to compete with apps like Bitdefender.
Best paid antivirus for Windows: Bitdefender
Bitdefender is known by many as the best Antivirus to ever exist. It’s lightweight, offers more features than you’ll ever need, and has a 1-month trial.
Just like Avast, it offers a variety of different functions across:
- Performance utilities
If you want to know more about it, then keep on reading!
Honestly, if we were to mention every single security feature that Bitdefender offers, we’d end up sitting here for a while. Instead, let us focus on some of the most important ones like:
- The Antivirus – Bitdefender offers a ton of options for scanning. You get the deep scan which takes a long time but sniffs out every possible danger, and then there is also the quick scan, custom scans, and the quarantine vault options.
- Ransomware protection – It actively monitors the main drive to prevent malicious apps from encrypting your files. Plus, it can also backup your data and restore it – just in the rare case that something goes wrong.
Note: The interesting thing about the security of Bitdefender is that it’s incredibly versatile. Every small setting can be adjusted through the ‘Protection’ tab.
Antivirus software is no longer all about security. Privacy is essential as well. For this reason, Bitdefender offers a ton of privacy features like:
- Password vault
- Data protection
- File encryption
- And even a parental advisor
Of all these, the VPN can be beneficial for masking your location, while file encryption is also helpful if you’re keeping sensitive data on a laptop or a family PC. So, if you’re obsessed with privacy, then Bitdefender will help you out big time here.
Performance tools can troubleshoot a few issues and free up a lot of space while saving you a lot of time, but you must use them carefully.
To be more specific, Bitdefender offers:
- A one-click optimizer
- Disk Cleanup tool
- A startup optimizer
- And an anti-theft tool for laptop users
Regarding our previous warning, the disk cleanup tool can quickly free up gigabytes of data, but you must make sure that it’s indeed useless.
For example, the tool displayed numerous games and video recordings in our case. That could easily end up in us deleting more than 20 gigabytes of valuable data. So, be careful with that.
Using it wisely, Bitdefender can become a great tool to protect you and your computer.
Bitdefender offers 3 different plans with variable pricing depending on the number of devices you want to use. We selected the 3 devices option for all the plans, and here’s the price:
- 1-year plan – $29.99
- 2-year plan – $71.99
- 3-year plan – $107.99
The only minor downside is that false alarms can be triggered relatively easily. In our experience, it happened while playing a game that tried to save automatically, and Bitdefender prevented it from doing so.
Bitdefender is one of the best security programs that you can get. It really is. We hate how overly protective it is with gaming. You can’t play anything without it popping up and preventing the game from saving because it considers it a threat.
Still, that’s a small price to pay for keeping your files safe. After all, the false alarm triggers only once until you confirm that an app/game is not actually harmful.
Avast and Bitdefender are our top picks. But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any other great Antivirus programs out there. That being said, here are some other great options that you can check out!
- McAfee® Total Protection (Starts at $47.49) – McAfee’s anti-virus offers all-in-one protection for your PC. The most important features it brings are safe browsing, identity monitoring, and a VPN which safeguards your online presence. Plus, it offers great offline security and easy scanning and removing viruses.
- Norton 360 Deluxe (Starts at $94.99) – Norton has been protecting thousands and thousands of users for many years now. It’s relatively cheap, gets the job done, and is worth checking out. Apart from the standard real-time protection, you also get a firewall, free cloud storage to safe-keep your data, and don’t forget about Anti-spyware tools so that nobody can invade your privacy.
- ESET NOD32 Antivirus (Starts at $39.99) – ESET is one of the cheapest antivirus programs and offers great security. Apart from standard antivirus protection, you can also expect to find anti-phishing tools, ransomware protection, and also zero-day attack protection.Note: Zero-day exploits are basically malware that’s yet to be identified by anyone. Antivirus software can detect such threats by analyzing the overall behavior of other programs on your computer.
- Kaspersky Security Cloud (Free) – One of Kaspersky’s most significant advantages compared to other programs is that it allows you to install and use it on multiple computers simultaneously. It offers essential protection with password protection and a VPN to keep you safe online.
- Sophos Home (Starts at $44.99) – Ransomware protection, banking protection, increased privacy, premium support, and more are all key features of Sophos antivirus. In case you haven’t heard about it, banking protection is mostly there to protect against scammers who try to steal credit card information or anything like that.
- Intego Antivirus (Starts at $29.99) – Intego for Windows is a lightweight antivirus that offers excellent protection against online threats like viruses, rootkits, malware, spyware, and ransomware, and a lot more.
- Malwarebytes (Free) – Malwarebytes is more of an anti-malware than an antivirus. The difference is that antivirus software is generally more focused on viruses and real-time protection, while anti-malware pays extreme attention to things like PUPs and Ransomware. Malwarebytes is an essential safeguard measure as ransomware and malware are rising.
Antivirus software basics: things to look out for
As you probably already noticed, Antivirus programs offer a lot of functionality. There are a lot of things to keep in mind. Needs and preferences differ from person to person. So, there isn’t a perfect antivirus for everyone. But, here are some things that everyone needs to look out for:
1. Security Level
You want an antivirus program to protect your computer. If it fails to do that, what’s the point of having many features and great performance in the first place?AV-Test is one of the most popular websites known for reliably testing numerous Antivirus programs to their limit. Start with that. Check to see what programs have scored well over the past few months or years. Just from that, our options are being limited considerably.
2. Pricing and Features
After putting aside a few reliable antivirus programs, you’ll also need to check what else they can offer apart from standard protection. That’s where things get a bit more complicated, as there is no universal option that’s good for everyone. Not to mention that you’ll also need to take pricing into account.
Speaking of which, start with pricing. See what you can afford first and leave out anything else. Also, check for family plans as they offer a better deal and allow you to run the antivirus on multiple devices.
After that, it’s time to start looking for features. If you’re a parent, look for parental controls. Those who are worried about privacy should be sure to prioritize security features.
3. Overall Performance
An antivirus needs resources to run; it needs power. If your antivirus is too resource-heavy, it’ll end up slowing down your computer, and nobody wants that.
However, the truth is that our computers now are much faster than they used to be a few years ago. So, you shouldn’t face many performance-related issues.
Extra tips for securing your home PC
Let us start by saying that the first layer of protection is not the antivirus but the user. Your Antivirus can offer a hundred features and the best security worldwide. But, if you, the user, end up clicking on every shady link and installing all sorts of weird programs, don’t be surprised if you end up being infected. Here are a few tips that you should know and use.
Tip 1: Don’t browse on suspicious websites
Our first and most important tip is to be careful. Even if you use good security software, don’t click on shady links, and don’t browse suspicious websites. Only download apps from their legitimate/official sources.
Tip 2: Get an antivirus/anti-malware software
Use an antivirus or an anti-malware program. This will help you improve your overall security and keep you safe from devastating viruses.
Tip 3: Use a VPN
A VPN encrypts your network to safeguard your online presence. This is especially useful when you’re traveling and need to securely access public WiFi networks.
Tip 4: Keep data backups
Ensure you keep your essential files synced and backed up on a cloud server and a physical drive. This is necessary to keep yourself protected from ransomware attacks and data breaches. Even if you get attacked by a virus or ransomware, you can hard reset your PC and restore your data without risking anything.
RELATED: Your Guide on How to Back Up Your Windows PC
Tip 5: Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-Factor Authentication is your bread and butter for keeping your accounts protected. Even if someone figures out your strong password and tries to log in, you can deny that breach by using two-factor authentication to restrict the login attempt. This is especially necessary for your banking apps and digital wallets.
RELATED: 9 Security Tips for Your Windows PC
That’s all for now. To summarize, Avast is the best free option since it offers many features for a free app while still offering excellent protection. Bitdefender is the best-paid option since it has everything you’ll ever need and more without being too heavy on the computer.
That being said, don’t forget to be careful when browsing the internet, clicking on links, and installing programs. Also, consider installing Malwarebytes to protect yourself on all your personal devices / home devices.
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