It's been a while since computer viruses first made the news back in the 1990s. Nowadays viruses are less common, but tons of malware can still lurk inside your device and infect it. These can include trojans, worms, backdoors, and exploits, just to name a few. However, the good thing about having an effective antivirus installed is that you don't really need to know these culprits by name because you will never encounter them. With our expert reviews, you'll be able to understand what each antivirus has to offer, their key features, and what makes each earn its place in the market. Our comparisons put these programs head-to-head to make it easy for you to decide which one best addresses your needs. Don't forget to visit our free trial and coupons pages to get your chosen antivirus for the lowest price possible.
Best Antivirus Software of 2021
1. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
Hailing from Romania, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus comes with so many features that when it comes to security, you won't need much more. Besides protecting your computer from all types of malware, this antivirus package also comes with an email scanner to expose potential threats, a built-in VPN, and SafePay.
However, the most exciting thing about Bitdefender Internet Security is the amount of customization it offers. Users can either rely on preset profiles that automatically alter the software's behavior, or create their own and pin them to the app's front page for quick access.
It's possible to test the service through the limited free plan, but you can get the Plus version for as low as $19.99 per year.
2. Avira Antivirus Pro
At its most basic, Avira already comes with a reliable security pack. It detects most types of malware, repairs compromised files, blocks infected and phishing sites, and blocks all known ransomware. In other words, you can already feel reasonably secure without paying a cent.
However, Avira’s paid version – Antivirus Pro – shines the most. Besides protecting users from all known ransomware, it also protects your computer from evolving ransomware threats. In other words, Avira Antivirus Pro detects behavioral signs to protect you from disguised or brand-new ransomware threats that are still unknown.
You can get Avira Antivirus Pro for as low as $57.99 per year, but it's restricted to one device and only supports desktops. To have Avira's full package that secures up to five devices (including mobile), you’ll have to upgrade to Avira Prime. Though a little pricey at $99.99 per year, it comes with a built-in VPN and 30 premium tune-up tools.
3. Kaspersky Anti-Virus
Kaspersky’s broad variety of paid products may be confusing to everyday users seeking a quick and easy antivirus. However, for just the essential malware protection, Kaspersky offers a free plan called Kaspersky Security Cloud. Though providing limited service, it can be installed on an unlimited number of devices and works with Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.
Kaspersky really hits its stride with its paid antivirus plans. Kaspersky Internet Security, the middle-tier package, offers more than the usual security shields. It comes with webcam protection, a built-in VPN, a phishing block, and online transaction protection. This plan, which works for Windows, macOS, and mobile devices, can be had for as little as $10.66 per year, per device.
If you want to go for full security, you can always opt for the Kaspersky Total Security plan. Besides everything already included in the Internet Security package, Kaspersky throws in parental control, a password manager, and file protection. Considering that the package supports a minimum of five devices, the price ends up being very attractive. Kaspersky Total Security is priced as low as $7.99 per year, per device – a better deal than the company’s middle-tier option.
How to Choose the Right Antivirus Software
With so many different options, it can be tough to pinpoint which antivirus software might work best for you. But with a little examination, the choice should be clear as day.
1. Know What You’re Looking For
The first step is to evaluate your needs. Do you want a comprehensive antivirus, or will something basic suffice? How many devices will you use the software on? Are all the devices computers, or do you want the software installed on your mobile gadgets as well?
Answering these questions will help launch your search with an idea of what you’re aiming for and save you a tremendous amount of time.
2. Do Thorough Research
This is where the fun starts. It's time to do some research to find the best antivirus for your application. And this research shouldn’t be simply reading the first top ten list that Google serves. Yes, lists are fine for getting a feel for the most prominent companies in the industry. However, the rankings can be irrelevant, as the number-one entry could be the least suitable for your needs.
Narrowing the list to antiviruses that match your objectives, consult some reviews. These will give you a better insight into each product’s abilities and flaws, which will help to further refine the options. When only two or three possibilities remain, read some comparisons, look beyond the similarities, and try to get a feel for which antivirus product is best for you.
3. Look for Free Trials and Coupons
Once you’ve chosen an antivirus, don't buy it right away. You should first look for a free trial to test the product before you plunk down any cash. Also search for discounts, coupons, and other offers that could save you some money.
Free Antivirus Software
These days, most antivirus companies offer free plans that are sufficient for basic protection from malware. In fact, when it comes to fighting malware both free and paid versions produce similar results. Moreover, since free antivirus software doesn’t pack extra features, it consumes fewer computer resources than its paid counterparts. On the other hand, paid packages are better at detecting new threats.
When you pay for an antivirus, you usually get more than just malware protection. Some antiviruses offer built-in VPNs, online payment safety, password managers, and software updaters, just to name a few possible bonuses. So buying an antivirus could bag you a bunch of features you’d otherwise need to purchase separately.
What’s more, free antivirus programs usually don’t come with the tech support that paid versions do – something that can make all the difference when problems arise.
Antivirus Protection for All Your Devices
Back in the day, only computers were used to access the internet, but now it's easy for infections to infiltrate all your devices. The moment you plug an infected mobile phone into your computer, the virus could instantly spread to your desktop as well.
Mobile phones have in fact become a bigger target for hackers since it's less likely that they’ll be carrying any antivirus protection at all. The same can be said for tablets, and while Apple users tend to believe their devices are inherently more protected, there are still nefarious infections lurking in the shadows. Ideally, every single device should carry some type of antivirus to protect it.
Antivirus Security 101
How Antivirus Software Works
Simply put, antivirus software searches a device for unique malware signatures, comparing all resident files with a database of known malware. It may also scan for behavior that reveals the presence of unidentified new malware.
How Scans Are Performed
Generally, an antivirus uses three main scanning processes:
- Specific: searches for known malware.
- Generic: searches for malware related by a shared codebase.
- Heuristic: searches for suspicious behavior or file structures.
Why You Should Update Your Antivirus Apps
As mentioned, an antivirus functions by identifying malware based on virus definitions. These are created from signatures of existing and newly emerging viruses and other types of malware that have been defined as wild. Because new threats are distributed every day, updating antivirus software is necessary for getting the newest database entries in order to combat the latest digital threats.
Do I Need Antivirus Software on My Mac?
The idea that a Mac is an impenetrable fortress is a myth. While the operating system is generally more secure against malware than Windows, this doesn't mean that there’s no malware targeting Macs. In fact, due to this misconception cyber criminals have been targeting Macs more often because they know security software is less likely to be installed.
One of the scariest pieces of recent Mac malware is CookieMiner, which can steal victims’ cyber currency. And CookieMiner is just one of many: other newcomers include OSX/Linker, LoudMiner, and OSX/Newtab. It’s safe to say that installing an antivirus on your Mac is not only advisable but a must.
Is Antivirus Software Still Relevant?
There is a misconception that viruses and malware are different things. There is also the misconception that an antivirus only protects your computer from viruses. Both are untrue.
Malware is a generic term for any software designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or network. There is a wide variety of malware, viruses being only one type. Other flavors of malware include worms, spyware, trojans, ransomware, rootkits, backdoors, keyloggers, and logic bombs.
So, although viruses are not as common as in years gone by, there are many ways hackers can use them to exploit your device. Antiviruses block all types of malware, making them not only relevant but a necessity for anyone who uses the internet.
Just as there are different kinds of malware, there’s also a wide variety of computer security software. However, antiviruses continue to be the type that protects you against the most types of malicious attempts to hack your computer. Even internet security suites are, at their core, an antivirus.
Simply put, a free antivirus is a basic program that protects against the majority of existent malware. The middle tier would be a paid antivirus, which throws in extra features that help your computer stay safe. Finally, internet security suites can be seen as the ultimate tier. Though pricier, they typically include several extra components such as a VPN, a software updater, system optimization, and other neat features.
So yes: antiviruses are still relevant. In fact, they are more relevant than ever. The access to information this age grants us is an equal boon to those who want to exploit your devices. It's easy to learn how to create malware, so the number of threats grows each day. It's therefore not only recommended but essential to protect your devices with an antivirus.