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Best-value antivirus for 2020: protection that costs less

Not everyone needs a fully featured internet security suite, and you can save money by opting for plain antivirus that still keeps you protected.

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Internet security suites are great… if you need all the features they offer. You might not need parental controls, cloud storage or a bundled VPN. All you might want is antivirus software that protects your computer from internet nasties, keeps your data safe from malware and your personal information private.

And that’s exactly what the six options here do: they offer a reliable defence against malware so you can browse websites and use online services without worrying what they might do your computer.

Best of all, because they do less, they don't slow down your device and use less resources than their flagship counterparts.

We’ve included free options here as well as those you pay for, but if you do need the extra features mentioned earlier then read our guide to the best antivirus which covers the top packages from each provider such as Norton 360 Deluxe. At the time of writing, you can get 62% off Norton 360 Deluxe, which makes it just £6 per device as it covers five of your family’s devices.

Just need the basics? Then read on for our recommendations for the best antivirus that works on Windows 10 and - in most cases - macOS.

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  • best value antivirus bitdefender antivirus plus Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
  • best value antivirus kaspersky anti virus Kaspersky Anti-Virus 
  • best value antivirus eset nod32 ESET NOD32
  • best value antivirus windows defender Windows Defender
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Norton Antivirus Plus

Although Antivirus Plus is Norton’s most basic package, it lives up to its name by including not just antivirus software but also a firewall, password manager and 2GB of cloud backup for your most precious files.

The antivirus component blocks viruses, all forms of malware and offers ransomware protection and anti-spyware as well. So you’re getting more than the essentials for a very competitive price.

Norton blocked 100% of known and so-called 0-day malware attached in the most recent report from respected testing house AV-Test.org. It also has minimal impact on your computer’s speed.

At the time of writing there was 57% off Norton Antivirus Plus, bringing the price down to £14.99 / $19.99.

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Next Prev best value antivirus norton antivirus plus

Although Antivirus Plus is Norton’s most basic package, it lives up to its name by including not just antivirus software but also a firewall, password manager and 2GB of cloud backup for your most precious files.

The antivirus component blocks viruses, all forms of malware and offers ransomware protection and anti-spyware as well. So you’re getting more than the essentials for a very competitive price.

Norton blocked 100% of known and so-called 0-day malware attached in the most recent report from respected testing house AV-Test.org. It also has minimal impact on your computer’s speed.

At the time of writing there was 57% off Norton Antivirus Plus, bringing the price down to £14.99 / $19.99.

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus

If you just have one laptop or PC, then Bitdefender’s Antivirus Plus is your best option. As well as the same top-notch antivirus protection that you get in all of Bitdefender’s products, Antivirus Plus also includes the Secure VPN service.

It’s not a massive bonus, giving you an allocation of only 200MB per day, but that’s fine when you need privacy on public Wi-Fi.

Getting back to the malware, there’s protection from ransomware and all viruses. The software also stops phishing attacks - which attempt to steal sensitive information such as passwords - and there’s also the SafePay browser that your credit card numbers are safe when buying things online.

In AV-test’s most recent report, Bitdefender received perfect scores for protection, blocking absolutely every threat thrown at it. 

Currently you can get 50% off Antivirus Plus, so it will cost you just £14.99 / $19.99, or £19.99 /$29.99 if you want to protect three devices.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus

If you really do only want the basics, Kaspersky Anti-Virus offers precisely that. It will defend your computer from viruses and other types of malware including ransomware.

It has very little impact on your computer's performance and runs quietly in the background and uses minimal resources.

There really are no frills here: the encrypted web browser for safer online payments and privacy features which stop apps hijacking your webcam, for example, are kept for Kaspersky Internet Security. And the parental controls, password manager and file backup extras are only found in Total Security.

The benefit is that you don’t pay for those features, making Anti-Virus one of the cheapest options around. Right now, there’s 50% off Anti-Virus, so you pay only £12.49. Those in the US don’t have the option of just one licence, but the three-license version costs $29.99.

Like its rivals Bitdefender and Norton, Kaspersky managed to detect and block 100% of known and 0-day threats in AV-Test’s latest report from Jan/Feb 2020.

Eset NOD32

NOD32 is a name that dates back to the 1980s, such is the heritage of this antivirus software. It even predates ESET itself, and you can still get this excellent virus protection today for your Windows 10 laptop, PC or tablet.

It defends against malware threats including ransomware plus phishing attacks and spyware. It’s the same antivirus engine as used in ESET’s other packages: Internet Security and Smart Security Premium.

You won’t even notice NOD32 running: it uses barely any system resources and won’t display any annoying or distracting pop-ups while you’re running an app in full-screen mode or playing games.

There’s flexibility, too, as you can transfer your license to a Mac or even Linux if you decide to move away from Windows 10.

AV-Test.org doesn’t test ESET, but our other go-to malware testing house, AV-Comparatives does. And ESET was awarded the highest Advanced+ rating from tests carried out in March 2020.

If there’s one downside to ESET it’s that it’s not currently discounted like some of the others here, but even so, it’s still a great option if you need no-frills antivirus.

Windows Defender

Believe it or not, Windows 10 comes with antivirus software that offers impressive protection from many types of malware including viruses, Trojans and worms.

It will also protect your files from ransomware, but you have to jump through a few hoops for this such as setting up controlled folder access which only gives a list of trusted apps access to files in folders you want to keep safe.

If you want to improve phishing and malware protection when browsing websites you can enable the Windows Defender Browser Protection add-on for popular web browsers including Chrome.

Defender will update itself automatically, and in the main Windows Security app you’ll also find settings for the Windows Firewall.

When AV-Test.org put Defender through its paces in January and February this year it blocked 100% of the 20,000+ malware samples used but only 99.5% of 0-day threats in January and 99.7% in February. That’s still a very high number, but it’s not as good as the 100% rate of Norton, Bitdefender and Kaspersky. And that’s why it can be worth paying for antivirus rather than using the free protection built-into Windows.

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