Best Antivirus Software of 2018

Nicole Johnston ·
Internet Security & Appliance Editor
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We spent over 800 hours testing 14 antivirus programs using 352 live malware samples, including viruses, ransomware, rootkits, Trojans, spyware and phishing schemes. We picked Bitdefender Antivirus Plus as the best overall antivirus program for Windows computers and laptops because of how well it recognizes and stops threats from infecting computers. It is also easy to use, plus it comes with extra security tools that other basic antivirus programs don’t include. If you need antivirus software for Mac computers, we suggest using Norton Security Standard.     

Best Antivirus for Windows
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2019
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus blocks malware on Windows computers without causing any lag. It also includes extra security tools like a file shredder and password manager.
View on Bitdefender
$25.99@Bitdefender
Best Antivirus for Windows
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2019
Best Free Antivirus
Avira Free Security Suite
Avira offers a free antivirus solution that effectively blocks internet threats. It includes more security tools than other free security services, including a password manager, parental controls and a VPN.
View on Amazon
Best Antivirus for Microsoft Edge
Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security
Trend Micro stops you from accessing malicious websites through Microsoft Edge by displaying an in-browser warning and without the need for a browser extension. Trend Micro also blocks automatic virus downloads from even starting.
View on Trend Micro
Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Value
Test Results
Malware Protections
Privacy Tools
In-House Malware Protection Score
Overall Malware Protection Score
Effect on System
Ease of Use
Ransomware Protection
Antiphishing
Spam Filters
Personal Firewall
Secure Browsing
Vulnerability Scans
USB Scanning
Gamer Mode Enabled
Social Network Protection
Password Manager
Parental Controls
Secure Delete
Safe Banking Tools
VPN
Weekday Phone Support Hours
Weekend Phone Support Available
Live Chat
$25.99 Bitdefender
5 4.9 5 5
99
100
100
80
$
$
X
Manual
X
X
$
X
X
X
24/7
X
$39.99 Amazon
4.3 5 4.7 4.7
97
98
100
90
N/A
$
X
Manual
$
X
$
X
X
$
24/7*
X
$59.99 Vipre
4.3 5 5 3.7
99
99
90
90
X
X
N/A
Manual
X
N/A
N/A
X
N/A
N/A
24/7
X
4.7 4.7 5 3.9
96
98
85
70
N/A
X
X
Automatic
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
X
X
24/7
X
$29.99 Kaspersky
5 4.9 4.2 3.4
98
99
85
90
$
$
N/A
Manual
N/A
$
$
N/A
N/A
N/A
24/7*
X
$39.95 Trendmicro
4.4 4.9 4.7 3.4
100
100
80
85
X
N/A
$
Manual
$
$
$
N/A
N/A
N/A
5am - 8pm*
X
$29.99 Mcafee
4.2 9.5 5 3.7
100
100
75
80
X
X
N/A
Manual
N/A
X
X
N/A
N/A
N/A
24/7
X
4.7 4.5 4.7 3.8
97
97
85
75
$
$
X
Automatic
N/A
$
N/A
$
$
$
24/7
X
$17.29 BobCat Deals
4.5 4.9 3.8 3.5
99
98
100
80
N/A
X
$
N/A
N/A
X
N/A
N/A
$
X
24/7*
X*
$39.99 Eset
4.4 4.7 4.2 3.5
99
98
100
90
$
$
N/A
Automatic
N/A
$
$
N/A
$
N/A
6am - 5pm
N/A
Best Antivirus for Windows
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2019 offers excellent protection for your home computer from a variety of malware types, including destructive ransomware, Trojans, rootkits and phishing schemes. In our tests of antivirus software, Bitdefender consistently blocked us from visiting malicious websites and stopped viruses from downloading. All threats are securely and completely deleted so no trace of them are left on your computer.
A gaming, or silent, mode is included in case you need more of your system’s resources for online gaming or watching videos, though we didn’t find Bitdefender to cause enough lag to be a problem while working and playing online. This software also includes a password manager and safe banking tools. Both functions help to protect your personal information, account numbers, user names and passwords as you enter them and work online. It is also one of only three antivirus programs we reviewed that include a VPN, so you can work online and not have your browser history traced, captured or logged. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus scans links and files shared on social media pages and lets you know if they are safe before you click or share them. It also scans your whole computer for any outdated software then gives you a legitimate link where you can safely download the latest patch or version.
Pros
  • Lets you delete threats safely
  • Includes a personal firewall
  • Masks bank account information
Cons
  • Requires extra steps to download and install
  • Parental control features cost extra
  • Doesn’t include a firewall
$25.99Bitdefender
Read the full review
Best Free Antivirus
Avira Free Security Suite displays a large warning in your Chrome or Firefox web browser if you try to visit a site known to have malware on it. If a virus tries to automatically download to your computer, Avira stops it then moves the threat to the quarantine file.
This software comes with several security tools, like a system vulnerability scanner, a personal firewall and a VPN. Each tool is a separate module that you must set up individually, and you can’t access other tools without first returning to the beginning of the dashboard. Overall Avira does a decent job blocking malware, both malicious sites and virus downloads. Threats that make it to your computer are caught and quarantined by Avira Free Antivirus. The secure browsing feature marks search results so you can easily see which sites are safe to visit. Because Avira is a free program, it frequently displays pop-up ads. These caused some slowdown to our test computers. However, if you’re a gamer, Avira automatically enables its gaming mode that keeps the pop-ups at bay so you have more of your system’s resources and less interruption while you play.
Pros
  • No-cost virus protection
  • Software vulnerability scans
  • Includes parental controls
Cons
  • Frequent in-program ads
  • Causes your computer to slow down a bit
  • Password manager not included
$0.00Amazon
Read the full review
Best Antivirus for Microsoft Edge
Despite not allowing third-party browser extensions, Trend Micro still blocks malicious websites and warns you about them in the Microsoft Edge browser, because even with Edge’s great security settings, some threats still sneak by. And Trend Micro stops infected files from downloading so there is no chance for the threat to sneak onto your computer.
Trend Micro scored a perfect 100 percent in our lab tests, one of the few programs that correctly recognized and blocked over 300 live malware samples. It also earned perfect detection scores in other independent laboratory tests. Trend Micro Antivirus + Security includes spam filters and USB scanning to keep threats from entering through email messages or removable drives. Other security tools, like safe banking or social media scanning, aren’t available with this version of Trend Micro, but are included, along with parental controls and a personal firewall, with Trend Micro’s Maximum Security software. Installing the program requires the same basic steps as most antivirus programs. You do need to enable the browser extensions in Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome if you plan to access the internet with either of these browsers.
Pros
  • Earned a perfect score for malware detection
  • Blocks malicious sites and virus downloads in Edge browsers
  • Blocks spam email messages
Cons
  • Causes noticeable drag on your computer during scans
  • Doesn’t include a firewall
  • 24/7 telephone and expedited email support available only if you pay for it
$39.95Trend Micro
Read the full review
Antivirus for Gamers
For online gamers who access sites and programs that tend to harbor malware, Avast is a good choice.
It is effective at blocking viruses and other threats, plus its gaming mode places the game sites you access on its white list the first time you visit the site. Each time you start a game, Avast suspends non-critical functions and doesn’t show pop-up messages so you’re not interrupted. This also lets you have more of your computer resources so you don’t experience any slowdown during your gameplay. Avast Free Antivirus has a handful of extra tools, like a vulnerability scan. But its paid version, Avast Pro Antivirus, includes a lot more and doesn’t have pop-up ads asking you to upgrade your malware program.
Pros
  • Automatic gaming mode
Cons
  • Has a lot of pop-up messages
$0.00Avast
Read the full review
Least Invasive Antivirus
VIPRE Advanced Security is the easiest program to install and use among the antivirus programs we tested.
It’s easy to find the tools, functions and folders you need because they are clearly marked with large icons and big text. Subfolders and tools, like the quarantine folder and custom scan settings, are in the main folders where you would expect them to be, so it’s not hard to navigate this program. Also, setting up VIPRE doesn’t take a lot of guesswork, and it doesn’t cause much slowdown of your computer while its running, even during deep virus scans. While third-party test laboratories don’t test VIPRE very often, we checked out how well it protects against malware and were happy to see it blocked 99 percent of the over-300 live malware samples we used for testing.
Pros
  • Doesn’t drag on your system
Cons
  • Doesn’t have a password manager
$43.99VIPRE
Read the full review

Why Trust Us?

We’ve been evaluating antivirus software for over 15 years. We test each program several times each year, both in our onsite testing facility, using a controlled network and live malware samples, and on our home computers, so we get a good idea of how antivirus programs work in a real-world scenario. We do quick evaluations when new security breaches are reported to ensure the programs we recommend will protect you from these new threats.

As part of our research, we talk to security experts that oversee the network protections at their place of employment, and we speak with professional hackers to understand both the hardware and software side of internet security. The Anti-Malware Testing Standard Organization (AMTSO) is a non-profit organization that sets standards for antimalware testing, and while we don’t subscribe as members, we do incorporate some of its standards in our testing methodology. For example, we either purchase or download the trial versions of each program for testing, and we never speak to antivirus companies during the testing period. This ensures we have a neutral testing environment.

We subscribe to IT and security news outlets and blogs, plus attend trade shows and conventions specific to internet security to stay aware of security breaches and changes in the industry. We follow local and congressional hearings on cybersecurity, so we have a good understanding of the international stage, its workings and issues that affect both government and personal computer security.

How We Tested

Over a five-month period, we downloaded and tested 14 antivirus programs on test machines running Windows 10, to determine the best overall and how each one individually performs while protecting a computer or laptop. We attempted to access malicious websites and phishing schemes, plus download some of the nastiest viruses, ransomware, Trojans and rootkits, through several internet browsers, since this is where the majority of threats come in and infect your computer. In all, we exposed each program to 352 live malware threats and noted how well each program recognized and blocked these threats. We gave higher scores to those programs that stopped threats before they could sneak onto our computers versus those that found and quarantined threats after they were let loose.

We tested each program using live malware a minimum of 12 times and used all three of the most popular web browsers – Microsoft EdgeGoogle Chrome and Mozilla Firefox – to learn how well the antivirus programs work alongside them. We performed tests with the browser’s own security features turned on, and then disabled them so we could see if the antivirus software could detect threats not caught by the browser, or if there was any dependency on the browser’s security feature for the antivirus software to work more effectively. Our final malware detecting and blocking score is a combination of our findings and test results from several other independent laboratories that also test internet security software, including AV-Test and AV-Comparatives.

On top of testing how well each program protects your computer, we also evaluated how easy each program is to download, install, set up and use. The Congressional Internet Caucus, a 100-member group of bipartisan U.S. senators and representatives, teamed up with the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus to hold a Congressional Cybersecurity Hearing in May 2018. Cybersecurity experts from L0pht addressed the group about the current internet safety precautions in place and what more can be done to keep everyone safe from cyber attacks. One L0pht member, Joe Grand, told the Caucus that people don’t use internet security solutions that are too complicated. We agree! This is why our Ease of Use score is important in helping you determine which programs don’t require a lot of extra steps.

Most antivirus programs require some setup to work properly, and the majority of them need you to turn on the safety tools inside your browsers before it can detect and block malware coming in through the internet. We gave an average score of 85 percent to these programs then added, or took away points depending on consolidated processes, added steps, ease of navigation, etc. For example, VIPRE has you enable its browser extensions function from the user dashboard. With one click VIPRE monitors every browser, cutting down on the steps you need to take (and the complex navigation of browser settings) to stay protected. We felt this was a great tool that makes VIPRE easier to use than other programs, so we bumped up its Ease of Use score.

And finally, we looked at how much of our computers’ resources were used by each program. Most programs create a little delay, but the best antivirus products don’t create enough to be noticeable while you’re working online. To test the effect on our systems, we first performed basic tasks while no antivirus programs were installed. We then performed the same tasks, navigating the web, downloading files and programs, attaching file and images to outgoing email messages, watching videos and playing online games, while the antivirus programs performed deep virus scans. We compared the recorded time of all the tests to see how much of a delay each antivirus program created. In some cases the lag was very noticeable. For others the delays were just fractions of a second.

While we only ranked the top 10 antivirus programs, we still reviewed the other four programs we tested. You can still read the results of our testing and our overall thoughts for Panda Dome Essential, eScan Anti-Virus, F-Secure Anti-Virus and AVG Antivirus FREE here.

How much does good antivirus software cost?

Basic antivirus software generally costs between $30 and $50 to protect a single computer or laptop for a year, though some companies offer a free version. More inclusive security suites are available for around $80. These typically come with three or more user licenses and include additional protection features like password managers, safe banking features, VPNs and mobile security.

Choosing the best antivirus for your computer or laptop

The most important consideration when buying antivirus software is how well it recognizes and blocks malware from infecting your computer or laptop. Malware can be any threat including Trojans, ransomware, spyware, bots, worms and phishing schemes. Typically, you encounter these threats as you are browsing the internet, but they frequently enter through email messages as well. This is why we looked closely at how well each antivirus program stopped threats as they tried to infect our test computers and laptops while working and playing online.

Once a threat has rooted itself into your system it’s very difficult to remove it yourself, and antivirus programs aren’t really designed to find and remove these threats. That is why we gave extra credit to software that includes important tools, like USB scanning that ensures viruses and other malware don’t infect your computer through non-internet means, and a personal firewall that keeps hackers and ransomware from infecting your computer.

We want your computer or laptop to be well protected, especially if you have little ones that enjoy interacting with friends and playing games online. While most premium security programs include parental controls, and there are some stand-alone monitoring programs available, we were impressed with a few antivirus programs that include parental controls. For example, McAfee includes parental controls


Best Antivirus for Mobile

Your smartphone should have come with a standard antivirus or security program preinstalled, such as Lookout on Android devices. This program, if you keep it updated, is sufficient to keep viruses off your phone. But there are other Android-compatible antivirus apps that may be a little more secure and that come with additional security tools like password managers, antiphishing functions and spam filters, which give just a little bit more protection. Norton Security, Trend Micro and F-Secure all include mobile protection with their premium internet security packages and give you both antivirus for your computers and extra security for your phones and tablets.

Two programs, ESET NOD32 Antivirus and Panda Dome Essential, use their USB scanning technology to look for viruses and other threats on any cellphone connected to your computer through a USB port. Both programs can also remove threats from your phone. While this isn’t true mobile security, it is a great feature to help keep threats off your phone and your computer.

Is free antivirus software enough?

We tested several free antivirus programs, but we paid special attention to Avira, Avast and AVG, since these are the most well-known free programs. Norton Security, Bitdefender and Panda Security offer free antivirus programs, too, but they are pretty bare boned compared to these three. Avira and Avast scored the highest for malware protection, but AVG wasn’t too far behind.

The biggest drawback of free antivirus programs, besides the lack of security tools, is the number of pop-up ads asking you to upgrade to the paid version. The protection is the same for free antivirus as it is for the pricier internet security programs offered by the same company, but the paid programs do come with more tools, like a personal firewall, vulnerability detection and password manager. Each of these gives you another layer of protection from online intruders.

Avira is the best free antivirus program we tested. It comes with so many tools that other programs, even paid antivirus programs, don’t typically come with. This includes parental controls, vulnerability detection, automatic gaming mode and a VPN. But we can’t discount Avast or AVG, which also come with password managers and vulnerability scanners.