Computer Protection Software Review
What Makes Great All-in-One Computer Security Software?
The top performers in our review are Norton Security Premium, the Gold Award winner; Bitdefender Internet Security, the Silver Award winner; and Kaspersky Internet Security, 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 nine products.
All-in-one internet security products protect multiple devices with various operating systems from a single license. You pay less than if you bought a separate license for each device, and you have just one subscription-renewal date. The convenience of a single license encourages you to protect all of your computers, including your mobile devices. Furthermore, you can manage your devices from a single online portal, which means you can add or remove devices under protection without much effort.
Our computer protection software reviews include products that protect at least three computers or mobile devices running different operating systems. If you have consolidated on a single operating system, we refer you to our Best Antivirus Software for Windows Review or our Mac Antivirus Review. We also invite you to read more articles about computer protection.
What We Evaluated, What We Found
We share our evaluation process with you here in case it helps you to research computer security software. We maintain that malware detection rates and performance results verified and published by independent test labs are the most important selection criteria. Unless a product detects and eliminates threats without bogging down your computer or mobile device, extra features are irrelevant. However, once a product proves its ability to prevent or remove malware without system slowdown, then the next basis for product differentiation becomes the extra features.
For all-in-one internet security products, it's important to consider test results for each of the operating system modules that pertain to your situation. For example, AV-Test – a respected software test lab – periodically publishes results from its tests of internet security software on Windows and Mac computers as well as Android devices.
AV-Test, an independent laboratory, conducted the Windows test from March through April 2016, checking 22 internet protection software applications on Windows 10 computers. The tests determined how well each software product performed against 22,000 malware threats.
The lab also checked whether the products bogged down system performance while the computer user visited websites, copied files or downloaded software. In addition, AV-Test looked at how accurately each product distinguished between malignant and benign files to establish the rate of false positives.
The Mac OS X tests results from June 2016 demonstrate how well computer protection software products were able to detect Mac OS X malware. As with Windows, AV-Test also checked whether or not the process produced any false positives and the extent to which the security software slowed performance on host systems.
The Android tests from July 2016 showed how well computer protection software applications guarded against malicious apps to measure detection rates. The tests also checked usability as defined by effect on battery life, speed and traffic generation.
Five out of the nine products in our review include some limited iOS features. Because of the rigorous Apple Store vetting process for iOS apps, iPhones and iPads are almost completely secure against malicious apps, and iPhones have antitheft features built in. Therefore, the multiplatform security software publishers focus on augmenting iOS with antiphishing features, parental controls and password managers. See details in our side-by-side comparison.
What Else Is Important in Multiplatform Computer Protection Software?
In addition to test results, we consider the software's feature sets, which vary according to the operating system you use the software on. The most complete feature sets are in the Windows components of multiplatform computer protection software.
Antiphishing is now just as important as antimalware. Fortunately, all of the products include it in their Windows components. Furthermore, most of the products we reviewed can detect threats that attempt to infiltrate via emails and instant messages. All of the products that we reviewed can automatically check for threats to Windows that try to move in when you attach removable storage such as a USB thumb drive.
The Macintosh component feature lists are usually not as extensive as those of the Windows component. Most of the products in our review support antiphishing on Mac machines. It is not by coincidence that the three products at the bottom of our ranking do not protect Macs from malicious websites.
The features you can expect to find in the Android component of the products we reviewed include antitheft features, call blocking and message filtering. Many of the mobile products also protect you from malicious websites. Some of them include parental controls and backup utilities. Each product we reviewed has an application advisor that warns you if an app demands permissions that might threaten your privacy.
One of the most important functions to consider with computer protection software that supports multiple operating systems is how well you can manage preferences and subscriptions from a single console. In our experience with these products, all of them provide excellent centralized account management. The ones that stand out and deserve the slightly better ease-of-use scores go a step further, giving you some ability to perform scans on various device installations from a central console so that you are not limited to performing the actions from a specific device.
All-in-One Internet Security: Our Verdict and Recommendations
The convenience of multiplatform computer protection software is becoming apparent as many of us acquire more and more computing devices. Furthermore, we are entrusting ever-younger children in our families with computing devices. Older children are bringing the Windows vs. Mac and Android vs. iOS debates into the home, which means that households wind up with lots of different devices to protect.
Which of the winning products is right for you depends on your situation. Among our Gold, Silver and Bronze Award winners, each one is missing features that you might require, so examine our side-by-side comparison. You'll find that when you consider multiplatform security essentials, they all achieve excellence. Whether on Windows, Mac or Android, they scan malware effectively, tread lightly on system resources, demonstrate accuracy in discerning safe files from infected ones and protect you from malicious websites. Also, the publishers respond to support requests with live operators 18 to 24 hours per day.
Each of the top three products excels in different areas, and you might not require your security software to bundle features that you have already taken care of with alternative applications and utilities. For example, Bitdefender provides 2GB of online backup, whereas Norton provides 25GB and Kaspersky doesn't offer backup at all. This is something to consider if you haven't backed up your data online with another application.
Norton, Bitdefender and Kaspersky all include parental controls to protect and monitor your children online on Windows. Only Kaspersky extends parental controls to Mac, but it excludes them from Android and iOS. What to choose depends on what devices you and the others in your home use. Our recommendation is to examine our matrix closely and, armed with this information, find the best computer protection software for your household.
Contributing Reviewer: Linda Thomson