The best computer protection software is your front line security to keep your machine safe as well as your identity stored within. You may have already seen our best antivirus software (opens in new tab) guide and want to dive deeper into computer specific cover. You're in the right place.
This will mean that all your important data and personal information can be stored safely on your computer without worry of intrusion. The right computer protection software will not only keep your machine safe but will also keep your identity online secure. That means making sure nobody gets access to your data but also, in many cases, this spots if that does happen and takes action to help.
Some options offer multiple device protections, meaning you can have your smartphone and your tablet covered too, for example. These are similar to the best computer protection software, but we classify them as internet security software (opens in new tab) as they cover all kinds of devices.
It's also worth keeping an eye out for extras that might be of use. The password manager, which means a one click sign on for all your devices, is a useful addition. As is a VPN, which means your location is kept hidden when online.
Read on to find out which is the best computer protection software for you.
Best computer protection software
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We've rounded up the best computer protection software to help you find the right service for you. From keeping your data safe and secure to protecting multiple devices, there are plenty of features to look for in the perfect service. Discover the best one for you below.
Best computer protection software
When it comes to complete multi-layer protection for your personal devices, few can compare to Norton 360. There are many packages to choose from, but for the average user we would recommend Norton 360 Deluxe. This is because it's the most cost-effective way to get a multitude of benefits and top-class protection for your devices, while also keeping things easy to comprehend for the average tech user.
Norton 360 will block viruses, ransomware, spyware, and malware while also giving you a password manager, VPN and up to 200GB of cloud storage. You will also receive data breach alerts, so that you can update and change your passwords if they ever get leaked. Norton is so confident in its ability to protect your PC that it will give you a full refund if you catch a virus while using their software.
If you choose to go for the most expensive "Norton 360 Advanced" package, then you will be able to install Norton 360 on up to ten devices at once, with active firewalls and a 100% virus protection promise on all of them. The advanced package also offers dark web monitoring - Norton will scan the dark web for your personal details and will notify you if your private information has ever been leaked or stolen.
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When it comes to freedom of choice, Bitdefender has a plan for almost everyone. Whether you are a business owner or you just use your devices for online shopping, Bitdefender will have a plan that meets your needs. The more you pay, the more you will get from your package, but not everyone needs the expensive options. For the average internet user, the Internet Security package or the Family Pack will be enough to cover all of your devices and help you browse in confidence.
The Internet Security package will protect three devices with an effective antivirus. This will ensure that your devices are protected against harmful malware that could potentially slow down your computer or steal your personal information. As well as protection against viruses, Bitdefender Internet Security will also help you browse the internet worry-free with their new and improved VPN. The VPN will help protect you while online by encrypting all of your internet traffic so that you can't be tracked easily online.
If you have more devices or have a family that you want to keep safe then the Family Pack could be a better choice for you. The Family Pack covers up to 15 devices at once and offers protection for macOS, iOS, and Android as well as Windows. The Family Pack also offers parental control, to stop your children from viewing potentially harmful material on the internet.
If you are looking for computer protection software that has more features than just antivirus and a VPN, then AVG Ultimate could be the best choice for you. Its antivirus is capable of identifying harmful cookies and malware before it even has a chance to infect your device, sniping it from any dodgy links or downloads that you may unknowingly click on.
AVG Ultimate also comes with AVG TuneUP, a tool that clears up junk from your PC to keep it running at maximum efficiency. During our testing, AVG TuneUP cleared around 6GB of junk from our hard drives, resulting in a notable increase in performance.
AVG Ultimate is available on Windows, macOS, Android 5.0 or above, and iOS 10.0 or above. This gives you the freedom and comfort to use it across multiple devices so that you can always browse the internet worry-free.
Throughout our testing process, we did find one major flaw with AVG Ultimate. A lot of its features are not particularly novice-friendly. Tools such as their internet filter or the process of "allowing" certain files take a relative amount of tech knowledge to utilize and will not be easily accessible for the average device user.
As a novice, you will still be able to get a lot out of AVG Ultimate but to truly get your money's worth (especially after 1 year when the subscription price increases) you will want to take some time to learn what each part of the software does, and how to use it properly.
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McAfee Total Protection is designed to monitor your cryptocurrency accounts and stop threats that try to hack in. This means Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency attacks can be avoided best with this software.
McAfee Total Protection works on Mac, PC and smartphones to protect them against viruses, malware, spyware and ransomware. It offers a firewall, password manager, file shredder, a secure VPN, identity theft protection, tech scam protection, and file-less attacks.
There aren't as many plan options as some others, but McAfee has managed to cover all the bases with just a few tiers of protection.
Avast Premium Security is an antivirus suite that offers plenty of features at a decent price. This is a more comprehensive version of the Avast Antivirus offering which is free and does a lot, when that value is taken into consideration.
Avast is pirate speak for stop and that's what this does when it comes to viruses trying to get into you Mac, PC or smartphone. Go for single device cover or get 10 covered at once depending on the package you pick. Either way you'll get protection from viruses, malware, ransomware, phishing attacks and more. This will even scan your WiFi to find weaknesses.
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The Trend Micro Antivirus Plus Security offering is a powerful one that not only covers your computer but also your mobile devices. So if you want cover when on the go as well as on your computer, this option – which gives you a VPN too – is a great choice. At the top end, with Maximum Security, you get lots of premium features.
Up to five devices can be covered at once and that includes iOS and Android. The service offers dark web monitoring, meaning should your identity be compromised and used online, you will be notified right away. There's even 24/7 technical support to help you take action and remote login to let a pro access your device to fix any issues for you.
F-Secure Anti-Virus falls into three categories of, Anti-Virus, SAFE and TOTAL. The latter, at the upper end, offers the best overall protection. Not only do you get virus protection – with perfect test scores – but also malware cover for Mac, PC and smartphones.
This software is very light too, putting little processor strain on your device which means it can work in the background without you noticing. Cover runs for up to seven devices at once, with cheaper options for five or three devices.
Thrown in is the F-Secure FREEDOME VPN that means your identity is kept secure and location secret. Dark web monitoring will alert you if your details appear online and you can use smartphone notifications to be alerted if any service you use is hacked and you may be compromised.
If you're concerned about your computer protection software slowing down your PC, then VIPRE Advanced Security is definitely an option to consider. VIPRE leaves a minimal footprint, meaning that your device's RAM and CPU usage are kept low. This is great if you want to use your PC for activities such as gaming or graphic design, as it will not cause any major lag spikes or stuttering while you're busy.
VIPRE defends against ransomware and various forms of malware, such as Trojans, rootkits and spyware. It also comes with an active firewall that protects against incoming and outgoing internet traffic. This will mean that you have an active layer of protection when online. For advanced users, there are customizable settings to tailor your firewall to your exact needs.
Compared to others on the list, VIPRE is very basic. This can be a positive if you are a computer protection software newbie, as there isn't a lot of complicated jargon or tools to wrap your head around.
However, if you're an experienced tech user and know how to tackle these things, then you will find VIPRE quite underwhelming. It doesn't offer many extra layers of protection that the others give you (such as a VPN or an internet filter). If you're uncertain whether it's for you, VIPRE offers a 30-day free trial so that you can test it for yourself. However, if you commit to a full subscription you will most likely need to find a VPN and other security tools elsewhere.
Webroot Secureanywhere is a very, very light way to get your device protected. The install package is just 4MB, so that can give you some idea of how little this affects the performance of your machine. This is thanks to an antivirus program which runs minimally, locally, but keeps its big AI brain up in the cloud.
You still get protection against viruses, established or new, malware, phishing, hacks and more. Only this does that by monitoring locally until the cloud smarts decides action needs to be taken. As such any threat that has caused damage can be annihilated and the changes rolled back so you're secure and running as normal.
You won't get extras like a VPN or parental controls for a price that isn't much cheaper than the competition and there are antivirus performance questions still floating around, so this is lower down on our list for now.
Buying advice for the best computer protection software
Do you need an antivirus for Windows 10?
Windows Defender has come a long way and now scores pretty high in third-party security tests for detecting and protecting against malware. Windows 10's bundled virus protections do a solid job securing PCs from internet threats, but it's no match for a dedicated computer protection program.
While no antivirus software can guarantee 100 percent virus protection (though some programs, like Norton, come with such a guarantee), all of the options we reviewed here will enhance the protection of your Windows 10 computers beyond what Windows Defender can provide. For example, Bitdefender stops threats from within your web browsers from infecting your computer in the first place, plus it comes with extra tools to secure your passwords, monitor your internet connection and scan for weak points in your system in ways Windows alone can’t.
Other programs, such as McAfee Total Protection, include spam filters designed to monitor your incoming email messages for not only malicious links and downloads, but phishing schemes. This is something Windows Defender can’t do on its own. We also feel most standalone antivirus programs are easier to use than Windows Defender.
Antivirus vs. Internet Security vs. Computer Protection Software
Most internet security companies offer more than one protection solution. These programs often include antivirus, internet security or computer protection in their name. These days the lines between antivirus, internet security programs, and computer protection have been blurred, but there are still some difference between them, even if there is a lot of overlap. Here are the biggest differences between these types of programs.
Antivirus software is very bare boned. Its main function is to stop threats like viruses, ransomware and Trojans from infecting your computer through a malicious download online, an infected file sent via email or uploaded from a thumb drive, or shared through a USB-connected device, like a cellphone. The best antivirus programs, like Bitdefender Antivirus Plus (opens in new tab), stop threats before they have a chance to open on your machine, while others wait until the threat is loose before rounding it up and placing it in quarantine. Antivirus software typically comes with just a single user license to protect one computer or mobile device.
Internet security suites build on the basic antivirus platform. Along with malware protection, internet security software also includes other tools that provide additional internet protection. These often include password managers, safe browsing features, safe banking tools and parental controls. They also include a personal firewall that is a good tool for monitoring your internet connection to ensure hackers can’t get into your computer, especially when connected to a public hotspot, and for disconnecting anyone trying to illegally piggyback on your home internet connection. Internet security suites typically come with three or five user licenses so you can protect more than one computer in your home.
Computer protection software typically is a suite, or bundle of multiple security programs, each compatible with a different device or operating system. For example, Kaspersky Total Security includes the internet security solution for Windows computers, its antivirus software for Mac computers, and a mobile program for cellphones and tablets. Every security feature offered by the developer, which often includes VPNs and webcam monitoring, is included in addition to the protections that come with the internet security software. Also, computer protection software comes with multiple user licenses; the best companies offer a minimum of 10 or even unlimited licenses.
How much can I expect to pay for complete computer protection?
Computer protection suites include a wide range of protection tools and multiple-use licenses. and they typically include a mobile security element, so you can expect to pay between $70 and $120 for a good program. Most computer protection software comes with five to 10 user licenses that are compatible with both Windows and Mac computers and laptops as well as cell phones and tablets.
How Does Malware Get Onto Your Computer?
The term "malware" encompasses any type of computer threat, including viruses, Trojans, rootkits, ransomware and hackers. Phishing schemes and spam email messages are also classified as malware, since they put you at risk of identity theft. While there are many ways for your computer to become infected with malware, according to computer security expert Mitch Stephens, the most common way is through email. Too often people click on links in emails that look safe but really send them to forms that collect personal information or pages with malicious downloads. Also, you can accidentally click on a malware file online, or someone may inadvertently share one with you through a USB drive.
The best way to lower the risk of infecting your computer with malware is to learn how to spot fake email. This includes looking closely at the sender’s email address, evaluating if correct grammar and punctuation are used, and avoiding clicking links embedded in messages. The next best defense against online threats is using an antivirus software designed to spot malware in email messages; block malware from downloading; and protect sensitive information with tools like spam filters, VPN, personal firewalls and password managers.
Can viruses steal personal information?
Viruses aren’t able to swipe any personal information on your computer; however, there are other types of malware that do. Trojans are threats that look like a legitimate program, but much like the Trojan Horse in ancient Greek mythology, threats are hidden inside. These threats are used by hackers to sneak into your computer system specifically to steal personal information. This is one reason experts suggest never saving your passwords on your computer unless you encrypt (opens in new tab) the document. But even then, a hacker can use a Trojan to install a keylogger. Keyloggers capture every keystroke as you make them, even if you don’t save a document or hit the Enter key. It isn’t difficult to capture passwords using this type of program, and having one on your computer will leave you vulnerable.
We recommend using an antivirus program, like Norton 360 (opens in new tab), that includes a firewall. This tool monitors your internet connection and is a good way to stop Trojans from sneaking in. It also stops these, and other malware files, from downloading from the internet. Other important tools included with Norton Security are an encrypter and a password manager. This means you can encrypt documents and files on your computer without having to buy a separate, standalone program. The password manager hides all your passwords in a way that is difficult for a hacker to break through.
Important Features to Look for When Buying Computer Protection Software
Before we started testing computer protection software, we chatted with Mitchell Stephens, a security consultant with Emagined Security, to get an idea how to best test these programs. Stephens explained that antivirus software is proactive, meaning it is designed to prevent your computer from being infected in the first place. Since most threats come through the internet, that is where we chose to focus our live malware tests.
"Attackers, for the most part, are looking for sensitive information they can use for either financial gain or destructive purposes (i.e., Social Security numbers, bank account information, nonpublic company information)," Stephens said. "The best way to strengthen the overall security is to maintain safe practices online. Keeping your system patches up to date is also good, [and] make sure [you use] good password construction."
The best computer protection software includes tools to help further secure your computer while you are online. For example, a password manager, such as the one included with F-Secure TOTAL (opens in new tab), keeps your credentials secure as you log into online accounts. It also helps you create long, complicated passwords you don’t have to remember each time you log in.
Vulnerability scans look for weak spots in your system, such as out-of-date software, and recommend patches or updates. McAfee Total Protection (opens in new tab) provides a link to these updates so you don’t have to search for them and accidentally click through to a malicious site.
Watch What You Share on Social Media
Some computer protection programs, like McAfee Total Protection (opens in new tab), include tools that look for phishing schemes and malicious links posted on social media sites. However, other dangers lurk on these sites. Here are some tips for staying safe from hackers and identity thieves on social media:
1. Don't share personal information
Twitter, Instagram and Facebook all ask for your birthdate, full name, email address and phone number to create your account. However, you don’t have to make this information public. In fact, even your friends and family don’t need this information. It’s safer to keep these details private so people can’t swipe them.
2. Use a separate email address for social media
Some sites require you to share personal information – for example, LinkedIn (opens in new tab) does because it’s a networking site intended to connect you with potential employers or employees. In that case, create a separate email account just for business purposes. Many free email services (opens in new tab) let you have more than one account at a time. Also, be careful about the work history you post. You don’t have to give exact dates or share addresses for a legitimate company to find you or be impressed.
3. Be careful what you click on
A lot of feel-good stories or to-good-to-be-true deals hide a phishing scheme or malware download. Only click on links you trust are from legitimate sources. If you’re not sure, type the store’s URL into your web browser or do a search for a specific news story. You will see the same information, deals, etc. if it was offered by a legitimate source.
4. Don't post info from your passwords
For example, some people post challenge questionnaires on social media that ask for information about where you went to school, your favorite pet’s name or your nicknames. This information is often used to create passwords and armed with these details, a hacker could break into your online accounts. Other games challenge you to find your alter ego by combining words based on your birthdate. Again, this information can be used to steal your identity, so be careful about participating.