Best Antivirus Software for Windows 10

Why Buy Antivirus Software?

Editor’s Note: Top Ten Reviews uses test results from the independent laboratory AV-Test as part of our review process for the best antivirus software. AV-Test looks specifically at protection, performance and usability on multiple versions of Windows operating systems, and it performs these evaluations several times throughout the year. We use the most current AV-Test scores available at the time of our review. It is possible that new AV-Test scores will be released after our review goes live on the site. We will consider these scores during our next review of the best antivirus software.

The top performers in our review are Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, the Gold Award winner; Kaspersky Anti-Virus, the Silver Award winner; and Norton Security Standard, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the top antivirus software solutions.

Antivirus software is a generic term that harks back to early days of computer viruses, when programs were first created to remove computer viruses and prevent them from spreading. In the years since then, different kinds of malicious software have emerged, often called malware. Malware, which describes all types of malicious programs including computer viruses, threatens personal and work computers worldwide.

Antivirus software is designed to detect and block malicious programs that threaten to infect and wreak havoc on your computer. These threats come in through email, program downloads, popular websites and removable storage media such as USB flash drives. Once settled into your system, computer viruses change settings, prohibit files and programs from opening, and poke holes in your system to give hackers access to your personal data.

Some websites use cookies, which collect personal data from your computer when you visit a site and use it for spam email and adware, programs responsible for annoying pop-up ads. These aren't necessarily a threat to your computer, but they do cause it to run slower. The best virus protection software is designed to evolve with the changes of internet threats and run seamlessly on your computer without causing it to lag, so you don't know it is working to protect you against threats while you are browsing, chatting, gaming or watching movies online.

As part of our research on computer virus protection, we identified some of the most common and malicious threats to your PC that antivirus protection helps block. For more in-depth information about the many internet threats, check out our articles on antivirus software.

One of the fastest-growing current threats is ransomware. Ransomware infects your computer and locks it, restricting access to your system and preventing you from surfing the internet, accessing the hard drive or opening files. The creators then demand payment that ranges from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars in order to remove the threat. Some ransomware looks legitimate. For example, some forms of it tell you that your user license for a particular application has expired and you need to repurchase the license. Unfortunately, once payment is made, often the creators skip out and leave the threat intact. Some of the trickiest ransomware creators have acquired millions of dollars from unsuspecting users. Only a few antivirus programs have jumped in to tackle this area of internet security. There are five in our antivirus software review that specifically target ransomware. In addition to our top pick, McAfee, Trend Micro, Avira and F-Secure all offer it.

Antivirus software is designed to combat such threats by preventing malicious programs from entering your computer system in the first place and by quarantining and removing any malware that does get through. The best way to protect yourself from PC viruses is to update your computer system when prompted and to purchase third-party antivirus software that protects your computer 24/7.

Reviewing & Ranking Antivirus Software

Test Results
To determine which antivirus software programs are best, it comes down to which ones most effectively detect, block and eliminate threats, since that is their primary and most important function. Yet this is a difficult test to perform, since it requires that you deliberately attempt to infect your computer with the most malicious internet threats. The AV-Test Institute has created a standardized test that does exactly this and is recognized worldwide as the authority on antivirus software.

Protection Tests
Several times each year, AV-Test puts the top 20 to 30 antivirus programs through a testing regimen that exposes them to several thousand internet threats multiple times over a four-week period. AV-Test then calculates the results to determine the industry average and compare it against the score of each individual antivirus software package to see how well the software protects against threats.

Performance Tests
In addition to protection, AV-Test looks at the overall performance of a computer with a PC protection program installed and running. It determines the performance score by launching, using, downloading, installing, and copying files and programs during the virus scan and seeing if the antivirus software disrupts the computer with significant lag time or pop-ups from the program during use. The testers use and access the same programs, files and networks many times throughout the testing period to determine the overall performance score.

Usability Tests
The final test is for usability. AV-Test, in part, looks at the false detection rate, meaning how often the software blocks legitimate programs and networks mistaken as threats. AV-Test uses over 1 million samples in this test to ensure the top-scoring solutions only attack true threats, leaving your files and programs still running and accessible.

At Top Ten Reviews, we used the most recent AV-Test results to help us determine and rank the best antivirus software available. These tests were conducted during March and April 2016 on computers running Windows 10 operating systems. Bitdefender is the only program we reviewed that earned a perfect score in all three test areas. Most of the others, while they didn't score perfectly across the board, did score higher than the industry standard in these areas. We gave more weight to those that scored perfectly in protection, since this is the main focus of these programs.

Choosing the Best Antivirus for Your PC

Antivirus options range from basic protection to full-fledged internet security suites with additional security features such as parental controls, password managers and internet filters. One of the factors that makes the biggest difference, though, is the operating system on your computer and how well the antivirus program works with it. AV-Test tests antivirus software on currently supported Windows and Mac operating systems. Sometimes a new version of the program is available to be evaluated on an older operating system, though usually the older versions of protection software are more compatible and effective with older operating systems.

Best Antivirus Software for Windows 10

The antivirus software programs for Windows 10 we reviewed have all been tested by the independent lab AV-Test. One thing we found is that some antiviruses perform better on Windows 8 than on Windows 10 operating systems. Microsoft released the latest version of its operating system, Windows 10, in July 2015. Windows 10 comes with Windows Defender as a built-in antivirus, and it offers a decent level of protection to hold you over until you choose a third-party antivirus. Most Windows 8 antivirus solutions work on Windows 10, so you shouldn't have problems getting the software to work properly. AV-Test evaluated 20 Windows 10 antivirus products in March and April of 2016. Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Norton and Trend Micro had superior test results.

Test Results
Bitdefender, Kaspersky and Norton antivirus software scored almost perfectly in all three test areas: protection, performance and usability. This means each identified, blocked and destroyed 140 existing malware threats and almost 15,000 new antiviruses that were discovered during the testing time between March and April 2016. The average protection score for the industry is 97 percent, which means many programs in our Windows 10 PC protection comparison are exceptionally effective at stopping internet threats from attacking your computer system.

Some of the antivirus solutions for Windows 10 are capable of extending protection to mobile devices such as cell phones, though you may have to purchase either an add-on feature or a higher-priced internet security suite to have access to this coverage. Additionally, some of the best programs now detect and eliminate ransomware threats.

In our evaluations of the best antivirus software for Windows 10, we found that Bitdefender, Kaspersky and Norton achieved the best AV-Test results and have plenty of features to cover your security needs.

Our Verdict & Recommendations

Bitdefender, Kaspersky and Norton are all superb antivirus protection software packages. Bitdefender consistently performs at a superior level in tests conducted by independent labs. It has a responsive team of professionals, available 24/7, to answer questions or come to your assistance if you have security issues. Bitdefender slowed the host computer by an average of just one second for activities like visiting websites and downloading applications, which was three times faster than the average. It also performed well in usability tests that determined when this antivirus software gave false malware alarms for safe websites. During the two months of testing in 2016, it had only three false alarms, which is better than the industry average. Bitdefender also protects against ransomware, which isn't something antivirus software commonly detects, as it's still an emerging malware threat.

Kaspersky installs and uninstalls faster than the other antivirus products we reviewed because all required files come in the installer download. The software only requires a restart during uninstallation. Kaspersky also provides antiphishing protection, which warns you about the safety of sites in online searches and blocks your access to malicious sites. Plus, one Kaspersky license protects three Windows PCs for one year.

Norton has a comprehensive security package with features you normally only see in complete internet security suites. It has the traditional antimalware and antispyware capabilities, but also antispam, antiphishing, a password manager and a secure online vault. By rolling these features into one product, Norton ranks among the best antivirus software. All of the top three antivirus security packages have 24/7 support in case you run into problems or come under an attack that you can't recover from.

Other notable software in our lineup includes Avira and Trend Micro. Both software packages have solid numbers across the board from AV-Test and offer protection against all types of malware, including ransomware. Avira also has 24/7 customer support, which can come in handy if you run into problems or have a security threat at odd hours.

Finding the right security software for your needs can be daunting. Look for a product that has the functionality and features to fit your needs, suits your budget, offers high protection, and has low performance impact on your computer and low interference from false positives.