Best Antivirus Software for Windows 8
Why Buy Antivirus Software for Windows 8?
The top performers in our review are Kaspersky Anti-Virus, the Gold Award winner; Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, the Silver Award winner; and Norton Security Standard, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
When you purchase Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, Microsoft includes virus protection in the form of Windows Defender. Unfortunately, Defender is not the most effective security software, but rather is there to buy you time while you install something stronger. In fact, according to test results from independent software labs, any third-party Windows 8 antivirus achieves higher malware detection rates than Defender.
Antivirus is an umbrella term for internet-related threats, including malware, adware, spyware, Trojans and worms. The basic function of antivirus software is to block and eliminate these threats before they have a chance to infest your computer. These threats come from many different sources, including email messages, chat rooms, program downloads and websites. Most viruses attach themselves to good applications so that unsuspecting users don't feel alarmed.
All of the programs we looked at in our antivirus for Windows 8 review are very effective at stopping threats regardless of where they originate, including removable USB drives. For more information about antivirus threats and additional security dangers to be aware of, you can read our articles on Windows 8 antivirus solutions.
What to Consider When Selecting Antimalware for Windows 8
The most important aspect of any computer security program is how well it protects your computer. AV-Test is an independent laboratory dedicated to testing internet security systems to determine their effectiveness in detecting and blocking both known and newly emerging threats on your Windows 8 computer. Its results are internationally recognized as the authority on antivirus protection quality. We used AV-Test's results to determine which programs landed at, below or higher than the industry standard of 97 percent for protection.
Windows 8 antivirus is sold as a subscription with an active software license to use the product for a year. A couple of other things to consider are how many devices you can protect with a single license and whether protection extends beyond computers and laptops to include mobile devices. McAfee stands out in both regards with its coverage of unlimited devices, including cell phones and tablets, without the need for you to purchase additional licenses. Most programs only cover one device for the basic cost, with each additional device license requiring an additional cost.
What We Evaluated, What We Found
In our review, we considered entry-level Windows 8 antivirus programs. However, they all have full-featured versions available, which we describe in our internet security suites software review and premium security suites review. We refer any Mac users to our Mac antivirus software review and our Mac internet security review.
The German software test lab AV-Test published its results for Windows 8 virus protection software tests in June 2016. It tested the 2016 versions of these antivirus software programs to ensure they work just as well with Windows 8 as they do with Windows 10. This means the latest features and tools are available for older systems, so you don't have to feel pressured to update your operating system just to be safe from internet threats.
Most of the Windows 8 antivirus software we reviewed scored perfectly in protection, meaning each program accurately recognized and blocked harmful threats, both known and newly introduced ones. Most, including eScan, recognized legitimate websites as not being dangerous, so they didn't inadvertently block them. The usability score reflects these test results.
The last test we checked was for performance. This score reflects how using different antivirus protection programs causes your Windows 8 computer to slow down while you access websites, download programs or transfer files. Higher scores indicate less lag time for your computer when you use that software.
Detection & Removal Tools
Although quite a few of the products in our review contain the word "antivirus" in their names, they are all much more than antiviruses. A virus is a subset of malware that piggybacks on a file or program to spread mischief as it travels. All of the products in our review are antimalware, which means that, in addition to viruses, they have it in for rootkits (a type of malware that burrows deeply into the operating system), worms (programs that spread from computer to computer without depending on any human behavior) and spyware (malware that sends your personal information to someone else). In support of their antimalware mission, all of the reviewed products scan your incoming email and instant messages. They all discover and clean infected files without prompting you for response, and all of them can place suspected files into quarantine for observation.
One important emerging feature of antivirus software for Windows 8 is the ability to recognize and protect against ransomware. Ransomware is malware that freezes your system, denying you access to any part of your computer until you pay a large fee. This fee, or ransom, varies from a couple hundred to thousands of dollars. Once you pay the creator of the ransomware, they should release your computer back to you, though more often, they skip out with the money and leave your computer locked. Trend Micro is one of only four products we reviewed that include ransomware protections in their antivirus protection for Windows 8.
Even though these are basic security products with quite a few shared attributes, some include extra features. For example, our side-by-side comparison shows that seven of the 10 products in our review provide a rescue CD to reboot your PC if it crashes from infections and suspend alerts while you're gaming. Nine products detect malware on detachable storage media like USB drives, including Avast.
Help & Support
How well the software publisher supports its clients is something to consider. The gold standard is 24/7 access to support technicians via live chat, telephone or email. Some products in our review meet this standard: Bitdefender, Kaspersky, McAfee and BullGuard. All products also have weekend phone support, although Trend Micro doesn't have 24/7 telephone service.
Best Antivirus for Windows 8: Our Verdict & Recommendations
Our evaluation process yields three winners: Kaspersky, Bitdefender and McAfee. All three achieved high scores at AV-Test for their ability to protect against new and established malware and are compatible with both Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. In fact, Bitdefender and Kaspersky also achieved 100 percent scores from AV-Test in the tests that measured system slowdown. However, most of the products we reviewed for Windows 8 antivirus security provide adequate protection for your computer against current and emerging virus threats.