The Best Antivirus Software for Windows Home Users
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 a good Antivirus is highly recommended. But, which one should you choose? A There are tens of 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.
Is Windows Defender good enough?
Windows Defender comes pre-installed on Windows 10 and offers a basic layer of protection. But, is it good enough? Short answer: No. Long answer: It depends!
See, 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 had the ability to infect people seemingly out of nowhere. The only requirements were for someone to get fooled into running the code and another one to be connected on the same network without having the latest Windows security patch installed.
So, yes. Under specific circumstances, there is the possibility of getting infected out of nowhere with zero-day 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 be able to detect that you’re browsing on a shady website way before you download anything. That’s where WindowsDefender does a mediocre job, though.
Not only it struggles to compete with other programs in terms of basic security. But, it also doesn’t offer a third of the features that you’ll get from something like Avast, which is free.
Overall, 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 completely for free. In any case, now that this is out of the way, let us proceed with the list.
Avast has long been known as the go-to choice for free users and it’s not likely for it to get dethroned any time soon. Since it’s free, the least that you can do is give it a try.
It’s one of the top-rated programs in AV-Test while offering a ton of features in:
- And Privacy
So, all things considered, let’s just say that it’s hard to go wrong with it; especially if you consider the fact that it has a very good 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
- Behavior shield
- Web shield
The virus scans are pretty standard stuff. Every Antivirus offers a button which leads to a full scan of the computer for viruses.
However, 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 of course, full scanning.
Other than that, there is also the behavior shield. This feature actively monitors the overall behavior of installed apps in order to detect strange patterns.
So, in the rare occasion that a virus scan ends up missing something, the behavior shield will detect that something is not right and will blacklist the suspicious program.
Last, but not least, the web shield has a huge list of websites that are known to host malware. So, if you end up browsing something that’s dangerous or suspicious, the web shield will let you know.
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 a:
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.
As for the VPN, that stands for Virtual Private Network. It’s a feature that allows us to browse the web without revealing our IP address, which otherwise reveals our general location.
Antivirus apps are not obliged to increase our performance, but Avast does it anyway. Here a couple of interesting options that you can get with the free version:
- Software Updater
- Driver Updater
Keeping every single program in our computer up to date is definitely a tough 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.
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 out with that.
And that’s about it for Avast.
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 Bitdefender. But, more on that later.
Other than that, it’s absolutely a solid option.
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 also 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 itself
- And Ransomware protection
Just like with Avast and any other decent 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.
The interesting thing about the security of Bitdefender is that it’s extremely versatile. Every small setting can be adjusted through the ‘Protection’ tab.
Other than that, the overall Ransomware protection is also very good. Not only it actively monitors the main drive to prevent malicious apps from encrypting your files, but it can also backup your data and restore it – just in the rare case that something goes wrong.
The only small downside is that false alarms can be triggered rather easily. In our experience, it happened while playing a game that tried to automatically save and Bitdefender prevented it from doing so.
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.
Antivirus software is no longer all about security. Privacy is important 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 particularly useful for hiding your location while file encryption is also rather useful in case that you’re keeping sensitive data on a laptop or a family PC.
In case you don’t know about it, the anti-tracker refers to ads and websites that actively monitor what websites you visit, when you do it, what you buy online, and stuff like that.
So, if you’re someone who’s obsessed with privacy, then Bitdefender is absolutely going to help you out big time here.
Performance tools can troubleshoot a few issues and free up a lot of space while saving you a ton of time, but you must use them very 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 easily end up freeing up gigabytes of data, but you must make sure that it’s indeed useless.
For example, in our case, the tool displayed numerous games and video recordings. That could easily ended up in us deleting more than 20 gigabytes of useful data. So, careful with that.
The one-click optimizer and the startup optimizer are much more forgiving. But, still, pay attention to what you delete.
Overall, as long as you use it wisely, Bitdefender can become a great tool to protect not only you but also your computer.
Bitdefender is one of the best security programs that you can get. It really is. But, all the features that it offers can backfire on you at some point.
Us, personally, 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.
Bitdefender needs to work on that.
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!
Norton Antivirus Plus
Norton has been protecting thousands and thousands of users for many years now. It’s relatively cheap, gets the job done, and is definitely worth checking out!
With all the features that it offers and the extremely good ratings that it has been receiving from AV test for a while now, it’s really hard to go wrong with it.
Apart from the standard real-time protection, you also get a firewall, free cloud storage to safekeep data, and don’t forget about Anti-spyware tools so that nobody will be able to invade your privacy.
Malwarebytes is more of an Anti-Malware instead of an Antivirus. The difference is that Antivirus software is generally more focused on things like viruses and real-time protection while Anti-Malware pays extreme attention to things like PUPs and Ransomware.
As far as Anti-Malware software is concerned, Malwarebytes has long been known as the best overall choice.
Now, you should never run two Antivirus programs at once. But, running an Antivirus program along with an Anti-Malware one is highly recommended. Just make sure that they are not scanning for malware at the same time.
ESET is one of the cheapest Antivirus programs and it offers great security with a perfect score from AV-Test (Only in security, though).
If it wasn’t for its bad performance impact and mediocre UI, it could’ve been a solid contender for one of our top choices. The irony is that it also promises to be very lightweight. But, oh well.
Apart from standard Antivirus protection, you can also expect to find anti-phishing tools, ransomware protection, and also zero-day attack protection.
In case you haven’t heard about it, 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.
One of the biggest advantages that Kaspersky has compared to other programs is that it’s extremely cheap while it also allows you to install it and use it on multiple computers at once.
Since it has passed the AV-Test with flying colors, it’s definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already. The basic version only offers basic protection without promising much else. So, do keep that in mind.
Still, those of you who are willing to pay will get all the goodies like privacy protection, a password manager, ransomware protection, and even parental controls.
You also get the option of installing it on multiple devices. So, overall, great paid option. But free users should stick with Avast.
AV-Test has hit SOPHOS Home with a small penalty in usability and we assume that it’s because the free version offers nothing but the bare minimum.
Not to say that it’s completely useless. It’s actually quite useful. But, if you’re on the hunt for a free Antivirus, chances are that you’ll be far better off with Avast instead.
However, just like with Kaspersky, those who are willing to pay will get much more. Ransomware protection, banking protection, increased privacy, premium support, and more.
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.
Antivirus software basics: things to look out for
As you probably already noticed, Antivirus programs offer quite a lot of functionality. There are a lot of things to keep in mind.
Needs and preferences differ from person to person. So, there really isn’t a perfect Antivirus for everyone. But, here are some things that everyone needs to look out for:
- Security level
- Features and pricing
- Overall performance
1: Security level
Obviously, you want an Antivirus program to protect your computer. If it fails to do that, then what’s the point of having a ton of features and great performance in the first place?
The average user doesn’t have the capacity to test Antivirus programs. That’s only possible with virtual machines and a huge database of malware that you can throw at it. This is a job for a professional.
So, your best bet is asking those professionals and see what they recommend. AV-Test is one of the most popular websites that are known for reliably testing numerous Antivirus programs to their limit.
Start out with that. Check to see what programs have scored well over the past few months or even years. Just from that, our options are being limited considerably.
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.
After that, it’s time to start looking for features. If you’re a parent, look for parental controls. Those of you who are worried about privacy should make sure to get something that protects that. You get the point.
Start comparing different products that fit your budget and your options will be limited in no time.
3: Overall performance
No, we’re not talking about performance improvement features. We’re talking about the overall performance impact that Antivirus software has on your PC.
See, Antivirus software is just that: software. It needs resources to run; needs power. If your Antivirus is too resource-heavy, then it’ll end up slowing down your computer and nobody wants that.
Though, with that being said, the truth is that our computers now are much faster than they used to be a few years ago. Still, do keep an eye out for that.
The best way to check out how heavy a program is would be to either test it yourself or check out other reviews.
Antivirus tips for securing your 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 in the world. 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.
So, our first and most important tip is to be careful. Even if you use good security software. Just don’t click on shady links, don’t browse on suspicious websites, download apps from their legitimate/official sources, and you should be good to go.
Other than that, try combining an Antivirus and an Anti-Malware program together. Careful. Not two Antivirus programs or two Anti-Malware ones. One Antivirus, one Anti-Malware. Avast and Malwarebytes should be a good team.
The reason that we recommend that is because the two of them offer different kinds of features. They are focused on different threats. So, having both of them results in better security.
Just don’t let them perform a scan together. Not only because that will harm your performance, but also because you may end up running into compatibility problems.
That’s all for now. To summarize, Avast is the best free option since it offers a lot of features for a free app while still offering great protection, and Bitdefender 2020 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.
Last, but not least, consider installing Malwarebytes alongside the Antivirus of your choice as well. It’s free and it’ll increase your overall security level.