We've gathered everything you need to know about buying virus protection for a Windows PC or laptop, including a list of the best security software available, in this handy guide to the best antivirus for 2020. Many of these products also run on Android, offering extra protection for your phone, too.
Antivirus software is crucial if you want to protect your computer, as well as the files and data you store on it. Unless you have security software installed, your computer is vulnerable to viruses, malware and ransomware, each of which are becoming smarter and more damaging as technology evolves.
Our current pick of the best antivirus for PC is Bitdefender, and we explain why below. Also topping our chart with five star reviews are Norton and ESET. All products have been extensively tested, so you know exactly which security software you can trust.
Read on below our chart for more in-depth buying advice.
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Best antivirus reviews
1. Norton 360 Deluxe
Norton 360 Deluxe is so called because it really does offer all-round security that can protect your key devices as well as alert you if your logins are ever found for sale on the dark web.
The price of this protection per device is just £5.99 for the first year: the app is avaialble for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. This is a discount from the usual £79.99 (£16 per device). In the US you can choose to pay per month or $39.99 for the first year. See the deal here.
Some of the highlights include top-notch antivirus performance, web browsing protection, phishing protection, a VPN service and a password manager, plus 50GB of cloud backup storage and performance tools to help speed up your computer. Monthly reports help you keep track of what Security Deluxe has been up to.
In AV-Test's most recent test (September-October 19), Norton 360 scored top marks for performance, protection and usability.
Read our full Norton 360 Deluxe review
2. Bitdefender Total Security 2020
Bitdefender's Total Security is a feature-packed product. It's 50% off at the time of writing, bringing it down to £34.99/US$44.99 for a year and up to five devices. Buy it in the UK here or in the US here.
Along with file and system scans, there's a dedicated vulnerability scan that checks for outdated software and weak network passwords, protection against new and emerging threats like ransomware, and Network Threat Prevention, which aims to stop attacks before they begin. You also get a password manager, a parental advisor, anti-tracking tools and a 200MB-per-day, per-device VPN.
In AV-Test's latest report, Bitdefender's Internet Security managed to catch 100% of the 0-day malware attacks thrown at it, and also scored perfectly in performance and usability tests.
Read our full Bitdefender Total Security 2020 review
3. ESET Internet Security
ESET Internet Security has a deceptively simple interface that hides an impressive and detailed tool set. Still affordable despite a recent price bump, it is among our favourite antivirus options for PC.
With a raft of features, it offers great value for money, and we're pleased to see that those features are all included in the price rather than available as free trials after which you'll need to cough up more cash.
The Syninspecter tool, for example, shows you a complete yet manageable rundown of your entire system's security status. There's also a social media scanner, anti-theft tools, a Home Network Protection tool, banking and payment protection and lots more.
It isn't obvious, but there is a ransomware module hidden deep within the advance setup screen for this purpose.
ESET wasn't included in AV-Test's most recent tests so we unfortunately can't compare that data with others listed here.
Read our full ESET Internet Security review
4. Kaspersky Security Cloud
What's significant about Security Cloud is that it contains adaptive security tech that automatically adjusts your settings based on your current activities. It helps you detect unauthorised devices and dodgy websites, as well as helping you make stronger passwords and manage them safely.
The Cloud version of Kaspersky Security wasn't included in AV-Test's latest test, but the Internet Security version that uses the same tech scored top marks for performance, protection and usability.
Read our full Kaspersky Security Cloud review
5. McAfee Total Protection 2020
Total Protection is a big claim, and McAfee's product lives up to its promise on many fronts.
At time of writing, McAfee Total Protection costs £44.99/$44.99 here for a year for 10 devices. That's 50% off the renewal price, an offer that seems to be available for new customers at most times of the year.
You'll find plenty of useful features including the new cryptojacking protection, a password manager, the ability to create a password-protected vault to store your important files, plus a whole lot more.
Malware protection is top notch, but we'd advise against paying extra for the version that includes McAfee's VPN service as there are better choices, which you'll find in our roundup of the best VPN services.
Read our full McAfee Total Protection 2020 review
6. BullGuard Premium Protection
BullGuard Premium Protection is the flagship security suite from the company. It includes the latest machine learning technology to block all types of malware, and there's a new Secure Browser which offers excellent protection when browsing the web. There's also a network scanner to protect all your connected devices at home.
It usually costs £69.96 / $99.95 for 10 devices, but you'll find it heavily discounted for the first year. Indeed, with this deal you'll get 60% off, making it £28 / $39.99.
An updated identity protection feature searches thousands of websites (as well as those on the dark web) for leaked or stolen personal details, while a parental control module helps you keep an eye on your children's use of mobile devices. Unfortunately, there's no dedicated anti-ransomware module with options to protect specific files and folders.
But in terms of protection, it achieved near-perfect scores in AV-Test's latest test, and managed full marks for performance and usability.
Read our full BullGuard Premium Protection review
7. AVG Ultimate 2019
AVG Ultimate is a solid security suite with a "next gen" feel that's well worth considering. With unlimited installs, it's good value for families.
You'll get a file shield, web shield, a built-in firewall, a ransomware module and other layers of defence to keep your computer protected from all angles.
Plus, there are several types of system scan including a dedicated USB / DVD analysis.
An integrated password manager, VPN and driver updater are value-added extras, but included in the price is PC Tuneup and a brilliant Android app.
It managed to score top marks for usability and performance in AV-Test's most recent test, but didn't catch 100% of viruses, meaning its protection score was just below perfect.
Read our full AVG Ultimate 2019 review
8. Sophos Home Premium
Sophos Home Premium has a low price tag, a healthy device count and cloud-based management that impressed us. The mobile app is feature packed, too.
The protection modules are comprehensive and specialised, and included a dedicated ransomware module. However, there are some key features missing such as a local network scan and the ability to shred a file.
It's priced at £30/$30 per year for 10 devices including PC, Mac and Android, but there is also a more limited free version available for three devices. You can download either option here.
Sophos wasn't part of AV-Test's latest test so there's no data to compare here.
Read our full Sophos Home Premium review
9. Avast Premier 2019
Avast Premier 2019 has a lot going for it, and is certainly user friendly, but we found that the constant opportunites to upgrade functinality you can get free elsewhere, plus the intrusive ads on the mobile version, make it look overpriced compared to rivals.
You will, however, get a firewall, several scan types and a very welcome ransomware shield, as well as a file shredder and web protection tools. And new for 2019 is the Do Not Disturb mode to prevent system popups while you're playing games. So despite the initial misgivings, it is still surprisingly good.
Like AVG, Avast Premier scored just under top marks in AV-Test's latest test.
Read our full Avast Premier 2019 review
10. Avira Antivirus Pro 2019
In addition to the usual malware scans and protection, Avira Antivirus Pro offers Home Guard to scan your local network and router for unauthorised devices and vulnerabilities, a Privacy Pal to scan your system for digital traces that could be used to track or profile you, a password manager, browser plugins to protect you whilst surfing the web and more.
However, there are lots of features you'll need to upgrade to the Prime version for, including performance features and a VPN, which is particularly confusing because they're described as 'Pro' versions within the app despite not being available within Avira Antivirus Pro.
Avira scored well in usability in the latest AV-Test, but fell down with its performance and protection.
Read our full Avira Antivirus Pro 2019 review
Your buying guide to the best antivirus software
Internet security software, or Antivirus software, detects, and then prevents, disarms or removes malicious programmes or malware, often referred to as viruses. Antivirus doesn't offer a perfect solution to the problem of malware, but it's a critical first step to securing your machine. It's also important to keep that software updated.
But internet security software is no longer just about countering viruses. Although they still exist, viruses are arguably a minor part of the malware now prevalent on the web.
More important now is security of personal data and protection from ransomware. Security exploits aren't about show-off hackers massaging their egos, anymore, but about monetising their malware.
The modern day criminal doesn't have to be a hard-line hacker, either. They can buy all the software they need, and millions of addresses, on the dark web or even on eBay, if they know where to look.
Zero day attacks
Malware is evolving faster than ever, but fortunately the latest generation of antivirus is better equipped than ever to handle new threats.
Although the primary concern is to block malware so it doesn't install on your PC in the first place, there isn't an internet security suite made which is 100% effective.
That said, worthwhile internet security and antivirus software should also detect so-called 'zero day' attacks, where the malware is so new it hasn't yet been analysed or had 'signatures' build into internet security protection routines.
The speed with which these analyses are made is an important factor in the level of protection an internet security suite can provide. Some companies now claim a turnaround of well under an hour, using information gained from their own customers about similar attacks.
The cloud element in security applications is growing more and more important in speeding up this process. Some products are now using behaviour analysis and even artificial intelligence to make things quicker and more reliable.
Newly-installed software can be monitored, looking for suspicious activity and can be prevented from potentially damaging actions, such as changing registry entries or installing any browser add-ons. Ransomware can also be identified by unexpected attempts to encrypt your files.
Plus, with our extra tips on securing your computer, your stuff should remain safe.
How we test antivirus software
Every program on this list is worth your investment. The differences between the top few are relatively minor. The critical thing is to install one of them.
We test them by teaming up with the UK's SELabs, as well as Germany's AV-Test.org, both highly respected independent security-software testing labs. Each rigorously tests antivirus products from a number of leading security companies.
The multifaceted testing procedure looks not only at how well an antivirus product can detect malware using traditional, largely signature-based methods (that is, employing a database of known malware types), but also how well it can block brand-new, unknown malware caught fresh from the wild. These companies also examine how well security products clean up after an infection if a piece of malware does get through.
Our tests focus on paid-for antivirus products, but there are some free options available. Paid-for antivirus usually offers better technical support and more comprehensive protection features than free programmes, but free is free and some free packages can still give paid packages a run for their money. Internet security suites go further still, offering firewalls, parental controls, identity theft protection and more.