Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Best antivirus for Windows PCs 2021: Reviews and guidance

Antivirus software is nearly as crucial as a PC’s operating system. Even if you’re well aware of potential threats and practice extreme caution, some threats just can’t be prevented without the extra help of an AV program—or a full antivirus suite. 

You could, for example, visit a website that unintentionally displays malicious ads. Or accidentally click on a phishing email (it happens!). Or get stung by a zero-day threat, where an undisclosed bug in Windows, your browser, or an installed program gives hackers entry to your system.

We’re not suggesting that PC security software is fool-proof. Antivirus software often can’t do much to stop zero-day exploits, for example. But it can detect when the undisclosed vulnerability is used to install other nasty bits, like ransomware, on your machine. Anyone who actively uses email, clicks on links, and downloads programs will benefit from an antivirus suite.

Our recommendations strike a balance between excellent protection, a worthwhile selection of features, and minimal impact on your PC’s performance. You can read about how we test antivirus suites below. 

Updated on 2/18/2021 to include our latest review of G Data Total Security, a capable and well-organized AV suite with two malware engines and a host of extra features for keeping your data safe. See links to all of our antivirus reviews at the bottom of this article.

Best antivirus suite 2021

Norton Security Premium is no more, but our pick for best AV has stayed in the family, with Norton 360 Deluxe. There aren’t a lot of fundamental changes to the suite compared to previous iterations, which also means its just as solid. The pricing now covers fewer devices, but you get a good number of extra features such as Dark Web Monitoring and VPN access, making for an overall excellent value.  (Read our full review.)

Best budget antivirus suite

AVG Internet Security does an excellent job of protecting your PC, but it’s interface could be a lot better. Nevertheless, with unlimited installs for $70 per year, it’s hard to beat this popular security solution. (Read our full review.)

Best free antivirus suite

If Windows 10 is already working, why add anything else? If its built-in security suite, Windows Security, performs on par with the best of the free AV options—as we discovered in our roundup of the best free antivirus—why add the extra baggage of a third-party program? Sure other AV programs might offer marginally better protection, but not enough to outweigh the convenience of rolling with Microsoft’s home-grown offering. Windows Seucrity also has ransomware protection, which many free options don’t. Plus, you avoid the nuisance of a third-party suite’s regular upgrade notifications. To learn more, see our video on How to use Windows Security, or read our full review.)

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