After rigorously testing more than 30 services, I’ve found 7 antiviruses that are truly the best. These antiviruses provide real-time protection against the latest threats, perform well in malware detection tests, and keep your PC running smoothly. The top choice is Norton, with powerful protection, low system impact, and a range of useful extra features. Better still, you can test Norton risk-free for 60 days with its money-back guarantee. Try Norton for Windows

Quick Guide: 7 Best Antivirus Software for Windows

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Do I Need an antivirus for Windows?

Yes, you really do need a high-quality antivirus for your Windows devices. Microsoft Defender — Windows’ default antivirus software (formerly known as Windows Defender) — just isn’t enough to protect your PC from advanced malware. Windows computers are the most popular target for malware, with fewer native security measures making them the most vulnerable to attack. Windows is also the most popular operating system in the world, and it doesn’t require a high level of technical expertise to use it. This makes Windows users more vulnerable to phishing scams, shady downloads, and other targeted attacks. While Microsoft Defender offers satisfactory defense against Trojans, viruses, ransomware, and more, it can leave you exposed to smaller, less dangerous malware. Microsoft Defender often misses “low risk” adware and other annoying, but not damaging, malware. These won’t necessarily hijack your PC or steal your data but they’re irritating to deal with, especially when a service like Norton blocks all types of malware — even the low-risk items. Microsoft Defender also doesn’t get updated often, leaving your PC vulnerable to the newest threats and hackers exposing holes in Windows’ defenses. This is okay if you don’t have anything sensitive or private on your PC that you don’t want to lose. If you store anything important, like financial information, passwords, or login details, it’s worth guaranteeing your safety with a high-quality antivirus. Simply put, it isn’t worth the risk to your data or devices to only rely on Microsoft Defender as protection. By using top-tier antivirus software, you can guarantee the security of your personal information, your PC, and your home network.

The Best Antiviruses for Windows — Full Test Results in January 2023

1. Norton — #1 Antivirus for Windows With 100% New-and-Known Malware Detection Test Results

Key Features: After thorough testing, Norton emerges as the top choice for Windows because of its excellent security features at a very affordable price. Its layered protection defends against new and known malware in real-time, and the advanced firewall blocks unwanted network connections. I’m particularly pleased to see that Norton’s antivirus engine got a perfect score during testing, detecting and blocking 100% of real-time threats. This means it didn’t let a single item of malware onto the test Windows PC. I also tested Norton’s phishing, spyware, and adware detection — Norton blocked every malicious test item from downloading to my PC. As well as protecting PCs from malware, Norton has a range of high-quality features designed to improve performance and overall security:

Low-impact scanning — Won’t draw unnecessary power from your CPU, so you can play video games, stream content, or work from your PC without interruptions. Up to 100GB cloud storage — Protects your sensitive data from ransomware attacks. Integrated firewall — Provides network-level protection, blocking unauthorized users and apps. Parental control features — Available as a separate app, lets you monitor your child’s online activity, plus content filters, website blocking, and more. Unlimited VPN — Available as a separate app, secures your online activity to browse and bypass content restrictions without limits. Unlimited password manager — Secures your online accounts and passwords, with a unique auto-change password feature. And much more — Find out more about Norton in this in-depth review.

Norton is automatically configured to provide excellent protection once downloaded, so you can enjoy total protection without making any changes. However, configuring settings is simple too. All of its features are clearly labeled so you can find what you’re looking for quickly. Norton has a range of plans available for all budgets and specific needs, with the Deluxe plan being the best value. It covers 5 devices and has 50GB of cloud storage, a firewall, password manager, VPN, PC SafeCam, and parental controls. If you need more device coverage, you can upgrade to the Premium Package, which includes 10 licenses and 100GB of cloud storage. The Standard package is Norton’s cheapest plan and is excellent for individuals who only need to protect 1 device and don’t need the parental control feature. I recommend that you try it for yourself and take advantage of Norton’s 60-day money-back guarantee. My colleague tested Noton’s money-back guarantee and was surprised by how easy it is to get a full refund — just contact customer service through the live chat, request your money back, and it’ll be processed in 5-7 business days.

My Verdict

Overall, Norton is the most comprehensive antivirus package for your Windows PC. Its excellent malware detection and top-quality security and privacy features make it the best option for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. Plus, its easy-to-use apps are great for first-time and more advanced antivirus users. Try Norton for Windows

2. McAfee — Strong Windows Antivirus With Bonus Security Features

Key Features: McAfee is a top option for your Windows PC because of its impressive security features and excellent malware protection. During tests, I found that McAfee detects and blocks 100% of the latest threats and previously discovered malware. This is the best possible result and ranks McAfee with other top-tier services like Norton. By adding powerful tools like Web Protection and a VPN, McAfee takes a strong approach to security with its extra features. Some of its features include:

Web protection tools — McAfee includes a premium firewall, phishing, adware protection, and WiFi scanning to protect you when you’re online. Vulnerability scanner — Scans your Windows OS and installed apps to check for important updates, maintaining security. File shredder and encryption — Permanently delete files or securely encrypts them in case of device theft. Secure VPN — Encrypts your online activity so no one can see what you’re doing or where you are, and it features unlimited data. Identity Theft Protection (US only) — Monitors the dark web and your credit report, alerting you to stolen information or unusual changes. And more — Find out more about McAfee in this in-depth review.

These tools effectively improved my Windows PC’s security and, if you’re in the US, it’ll improve your personal security with ID Theft Protection. Even better, some of these features are Windows exclusive so you get access to McAfee’s full range of extras. McAfee’s plans are structured around how many devices you want to protect. The Single Device, Multi-Device, and Family plans come with real-time protection, a home security network to secure your firewall and block hackers, anti-phishing and anti-fraud protection, and a password manager. If you choose automatic renewal when signing up, McAfee gives you a VPN and an Identity Theft tool (for US users only). I recommend doing this as it is easy to cancel later if it isn’t right for you. While I’d like to see McAfee expand its security features, it ranks as one of the top services for Windows. If you’d like to try it on your PC, you can use McAfee’s 30-day money-back guarantee to test every feature. Note that if you’re not subscribed to an auto-renewal plan, you’ll only have a 30-day guarantee. After requesting a refund with my contact details, a representative called me back in less than 10 minutes to tell me my refund was accepted. After 7 business days, I had the money back in my account.

My Verdict

McAfee is a robust and reliable antivirus package. While it doesn’t have as many unique security features as other options on the market, McAfee provides excellent malware protection that secures your Windows devices and data. Try McAfee for Windows

3. TotalAV — Extra Tools Improve PC Performance and Protect Against Malware

Key Features: TotalAV stands out for your Windows PC with its range of tools designed to improve your computer’s performance. This gives you premium protection and a performance boost in a single service, saving you money. These features include:

File cleaner — Scans your computer and removes unused and duplicate files. App remover — Easily uninstall rarely-used apps that are taking up space. Startup program manager — Improve PC boot time by managing which programs start when your PC does. Junk file remover — Checks your web browser and clears unnecessary data. VPN — Reliably accesses streaming sites and restricted content for anonymous web browsing. Password manager — A browser extension that securely stores and auto-fills your account login credentials. Available for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. And much more — Read more about TotalAV’s extra features in this in-depth review.

Having these optimization options available immediately is a great way to get my PC working better without having to navigate the app. I was impressed by how much faster my Windows PC ran after optimization. TotalAV cleared almost 3GB of space from duplicate files and junk items and removed cookies from all of my browsers. I also configured my startup apps and reduced start time by over 50%, from 3 minutes to less than 90 seconds. I was less impressed with TotalAV’s customer support, especially after using Norton’s live chat, where I received an almost instant response. TotalAV’s live chat and email support were difficult to use and the response was slow. It’s a concern as urgent issues could take a long time to resolve, which isn’t what you want when it comes to your security. Despite poor customer support, TotalAV’s antivirus plans provide excellent malware protection, scoring above the industry average in recent detection tests. It will effectively secure your device against advanced malware, viruses, Trojans, and more while helping your PC run efficiently. TotalAV’s best-value package is the Internet Security plan, which includes 6 device licenses, system optimization tools, a browser cleaner, cloud scanning, and a VPN. If you don’t need a VPN, you can go for TotalAV’s cheapest package — the Antivirus Pro plan includes every feature in the Internet Security package except the VPN. Alternatively, you can spend a little more on the Total Security plan. It covers 7 devices and even has an ad blocker and password vault. You can try TotalAV risk-free for 30 days with the money-back guarantee. You can call TotalAV or email to request a refund — I got confirmation straight away and had my money back 2 days later.

My verdict

TotalAV’s extra tools make it a well-rounded antivirus package, with excellent protection against the latest malware for your Windows PC. Given its poor customer support, TotalAV is better suited for more advanced users familiar with antivirus software. Try TotalAV for Windows

4. iolo — Optimization Tools Significantly Boost Windows Operation and Security

Key Features: iolo’s System Mechanic has an impressive range of features that boost your Windows PC’s performance. The addition of antivirus security makes it a solid option for keeping your PC running smoothly and free from malware. Some of iolo’s top features are:

PC Cleanup — Removes junk files, fully uninstalls apps, and creates as much free space as possible. Startup Optimizer — Analyzes programs that start when your PC boots so you can stop unnecessary apps, improving your startup time. Speed Up — Improves CPU performance, speed, and stability of RAM, and diverts power towards high-impact and most-used software. Drive Scrubber — Completely wipe drives — like USBs or external hard drives — to remove all files and folders. Search and Recover — Restores deleted files that may have been accidentally deleted. Privacy features — Disables Microsoft’s data collection, stops websites from profiling your browsing, and blocks changes to browser settings without your authorization. Password manager — Securely store your login information, an unlimited number of passwords, and 2-factor authentication available. And more — Find out more about iolo in this in-depth review.

During tests, iolo’s optimization tools worked flawlessly — I freed up over 1.5GB of RAM, cut my PC boot time in half, and improved performance while gaming and streaming. What makes iolo so quick is its intuitive Windows app. While I was frustrated by the lack of a “back” button for menus, I could easily identify and run different tools. Hovering over icons gives you the name of each feature so you can find what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, iolo hasn’t undergone intensive independent testing like other top antiviruses. However, in my tests, iolo performed well — it detected and quarantined every malware test file I hid on my PC and blocked malware test websites. I was reassured by these results and feel confident iolo can protect my PC against the latest threats. The main issue with iolo is its high-impact scans, which significantly slowed my computer. My CPU jumped from 15% to 40% and it made a noticeable difference — I couldn’t use my PC without lag and interruptions. iolo’s Deep Scan took more than an hour to complete, so I recommend running scans when you’re not actively using your PC. I recommend iolo’s System Mechanic Ultimate Defense plan, as this gives you the full suite of features. iolo is a little pricier, but it also gives you unlimited Windows installations for all PCs on the same network. You can try iolo risk-free for 30 days to make sure it’s right before you commit to a subscription.

My verdict

iolo is a great choice for users who want full PC optimization and malware protection. It will fully optimize your Windows PC and keep it running smoothly without much manual interference, all while securing you from new and known malware threats. Try iolo for Windows

5. Bitdefender — Host of Features Primarily Designed for Windows

Key Features: Bitdefender also offers cutting-edge features geared towards Windows 11 performance and protection. Some of Bitdefender’s lower-tier packages are exclusively for Windows, so you can get solid security for a reasonable price. I was impressed by Bitdefender’s range of features, which include:

Optimization tools for improved system performance. Web filtering to block harmful sites and links. Integrated firewall. VPN with 200MB daily data limit. Webcam and microphone protection. Parental controls. Password manager. File shredder. And more — find out more about Bitdefender’s features in this in-depth review.

All of this can be done from its informative and straightforward Windows desktop app. Bitdefender gives you the option to reorganize your dashboard so you have the features you use the most readily available. This customizability level is unique to Bitdefender and makes it a top option if you want to have complete control over how your antivirus looks and operates. Bitdefender has several plans exclusive to Windows PCs. The most basic plan for Windows includes real-time, anti-phishing, and anti-fraud protection, a VPN, an anti-tracker, a SafePay browser, a password manager, and a file shredder. I recommend paying a little extra for the Internet Security Plan as it also includes a firewall, microphone and webcam protection, and parental control. You can choose to cover up to 10 devices, with tiered pricing based on the number of devices. My issue with Bitdefender is the steep jump in price after the first year’s discount. While Bitdefender is a secure and feature-packed antivirus, other options like Norton are lower in price and better quality overall, especially for longer-term subscriptions. You can test Bitdefender risk-free for 30 days with its money-back guarantee. To get a refund, you just need to send an email ticket through the support site. It took a few days for Bitdefender to send an email response, but I had my money back in 5 days once the cancellation was confirmed.

My Verdict

Bitdefender is a solid choice, with near-perfect malware detection and Windows-optimized features. I recommend it for users who want to precisely control their antivirus appearance and operation. Its steep subscription increase stops it from being the best long-term solution — but you should definitely try it with its low first-year price. Try Bitdefender for Windows

6. Panda Dome — Unique Rescue Kit Restores Windows PCs Back to Working Order

Key Features: Panda Dome comes with a unique feature that I haven’t seen on any other premium antivirus plans (not even Norton 360 or McAfee!) called a Rescue Kit. This feature is exclusively for Windows PCs and is able to restore an infected computer back to working order. It has 2 functions:

Create a Rescue USB Drive — Plug into a PC so infected with viruses that it won’t boot and let Panda’s software remove malware quickly. Detect Hidden Advanced Malware — Cloud Cleaner download runs a thorough, deep scan to catch malware traditional antivirus might miss.

I tested Panda’s Rescue Kit on an old Windows laptop that kept crashing because it was infected with multiple viruses. To my surprise, it removed the viruses and I could use the laptop again in about 20 minutes. When I tested the Cloud Cleaner, Panda Dome discovered several PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs) in less than 30 minutes. The scan was thorough and finished quickly too. Panda Dome offers a decent free plan that includes high-quality malware protection (it detects and blocks 100% of real-time malware attacks) and a rescue kit USB tool — something a lot of paid plans don’t even have. However, I recommend you try Panda Dome Complete risk-free as it gives you access to most of Panda’s tools, including:

Rescue Kit. Password manager. VPN (150MB daily data). Integrated firewall. Safe browsing. Parental controls. Identity protection. Data Shield. PC cleanup. And more — read more about Panda’s tools in this in-depth review.

My issue with Panda Dome is that it seems to take a “quantity over quality” approach to its Windows apps. Features like the password manager are difficult to set up and clunky to use, while optimization tools weren’t as effective as those offered by services like Norton and iolo. I’d like to see Panda focus on creating a handful of high-quality features rather than offering a huge variety of average tools.

My Verdict

Panda Dome’s Rescue Kit provides a deeper level of threat detection and PC restoration, ideal for users who have an existing malware issue. While you may find you don’t use most of its extra features, Panda’s affordable security is worth trying for yourself. Try Panda Dome for Windows

7. Avira — Lightweight Software Provides Multi-Layer Security for Windows

Key Features: Avira stands out as a top Windows antivirus due to its lightweight scanning software — It’s very fast, meaning you don’t have to spend time waiting around for scans to finish before you can use your PC. Smart Scan finishes in as little as 2 minutes and doesn’t noticeably impact your system while it’s running. I could still stream, play games, and work on my computer without any lagging. I also really like Avira’s automatic software updating. One of the biggest threats to your Windows security is outdated apps, as these present vulnerabilities ready for malware to exploit. Avira regularly checks your entire system for app updates and will automatically download them to your PC, keeping it secure at all times. Even though many antiviruses offer something similar, it’s not always automatic and easy to forget. Other features Avira offers include:

Device optimization tools. Phantom VPN. Password manager. Safe Shopping browser extension. File optimization. Game booster settings. And more — Discover the rest of Avira’s tools in this in-depth review.

During testing, I found Avira has excellent malware detection rates on-par with top services like Norton. It caught and quarantined 100% of real-time malware attacks and found all the hidden test files on my PC. Unfortunately, Avira’s plans aren’t as comprehensive as other services, but it has one of the best free antiviruses for Windows. Its free plan includes a safe shopping browser, Phantom VPN (with 500MB of free data per month), a password manager, and a file shredder. The only extra feature you get with Avira’s Antivirus Pro plan (the lowest-priced plan) is a web and email protection tool, which is disappointing. Instead, I suggest you try Avira’s Prime plan, which gives you unlimited access to all of Avira’s features. You can try Avira risk-free for 30 days to make sure it works for you.

My Verdict

If you find yourself forgetting to update your software and want an antivirus that is both lightweight and fast, Avira is a good choice on top of Windows’ pre-installed Microsoft Defender. Try Avira for Windows

Warning! Avoid These 2 Antivirus Brands

Quick Guide: How to Use an Antivirus on Windows

Quick Comparison Table: 2023’s Best Antivirus Software for Windows

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2.Microsoft Defender

Microsoft Defender is an extra layer of antivirus protection that comes free with every Windows device. However, it’s simply not good enough to secure your PC from the latest threats — updates are too irregular to defend against zero-day attacks, leaving you exposed to malware.

How I Tested and Ranked the Best Antiviruses for Windows in 2023

I ensured that each antivirus proved more effective than Microsoft Defender and surpassed the industry standard for security. I tested each antivirus using the following criteria:

Powerful antivirus engine — The majority of advanced malware specifically targets Windows, so it’s vital to have powerful malware detection and blocking capabilities. I tested each antivirus to ensure it met or surpassed industry-standard detection rates (99.1% detection or higher), guaranteeing full protection for your Windows PC. Fast speeds — Running an antivirus scan can bog down your computer’s performance. However, some of the top antivirus programs on this list are super-efficient and won’t affect your computer. I also tested to see if they can run quietly in the background with minimal notifications and how long scans took overall. Bonus features — Many antivirus plans offer additional features designed to improve security and functionality, but they’re not always high-quality. When I found an antivirus with additional features like a VPN, password manager, or file shredder, I tested each one to make sure it was worth using. Value for money — All of the antivirus services on this list are reasonably priced. Better yet, they all have money-back guarantees, so you can test them risk-free and get a refund if you change your mind.

Will antivirus software remove existing viruses and malware?

Yes, the top antivirus software can remove malware already present on your devices. Once you’ve downloaded the software to your device, the antivirus will suggest you run a full system scan. This will detect and quarantine any malware, viruses, spyware, and more that could be hidden in your files. To make sure all existing malware is quarantined, you should choose an antivirus with high malware detection rates — Norton detected 100% of new and known malware in recent tests. If your device is so infected with malware you can’t download an antivirus, you can try a service like Panda. Its unique Rescue Kit feature lets you deploy Panda through a USB stick to resolve your malware issues quickly.

Will a Windows 11 antivirus work on Windows 7 and 8?

Most antiviruses that work on Windows 11 will also support 7 and 8, but it depends on the individual plan. The comparison table above details which antivirus plans are compatible with Windows 7 and 8 as well as Windows 11. If you’re still unsure, you can take a look at the system requirements for your chosen antivirus package. These will be available on the antiviruses’ website, usually on the same page as the plan details. There, you’ll see exactly which versions of Windows the service will work on.

What’s the best free antivirus for Windows?

A free antivirus package isn’t going to protect your Windows PC with the same high-level software as a premium service. They won’t have features like real-time malware detection, PC optimization tools, and low system impact designed for comprehensive Windows coverage. As such, I’d recommend avoiding relying on a free antivirus to provide your device security. However, you can test out many premium antivirus plans risk-free — some have free trials, and others, like Norton, offer a money-back guarantee that lets you test the service and get a full refund if you change your mind. Norton has a generous 60-day money-back guarantee you can take advantage of to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Will an antivirus slow down my Windows computer?

Sometimes, yes — using an antivirus, particularly when it’s performing an in-depth system scan, can cause minimal slowdown to your PC. However, the antivirus packages on this list have been thoroughly tested to ensure they won’t slow down your Windows computer, so you can use them without any performance issues. Using the wrong antivirus for your PC can cause your system to slow down, too. For example, if you play a lot of video games but use an antivirus that isn’t gaming-optimized, you’ll notice lag and buffering when you play. This could also be the case if you stream shows and movies online, have an older PC or run apps that require a high level of CPU power. Fortunately, there are high-quality antivirus plans that won’t slow your computer. You won’t experience any lag or interruptions when you can try Norton free for 60 days.

Can I use a Windows antivirus on Android, iOS, or Mac?

Usually, yes. Most antivirus plans available on Windows will also be compatible with other operating systems and platforms. You can find out which antivirus services work with multiple operating systems by looking at this comparison table. The top antivirus for Windows 11, Norton, has broad platform compatibility. Depending on which plan you choose, you can secure up to 10 devices across Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. You should note that most antivirus services are designed primarily to combat Windows-based malware (as this is the most prevalent) and may not have the same level of coverage for other platforms. Try Norton for Windows

Protect Your Windows 11 PC With a Top-Quality Antivirus

The majority of malware is designed to exploit Windows software vulnerabilities, meaning it’s vital to protect your computer with a top-tier antivirus package. That’s why I tried out more than 30 antivirus software packages to find the top options for your PC. After thorough testing, I can confidently recommend Norton as the best antivirus for your Windows 11 computer. Norton provides comprehensive, real-time malware protection plus a host of high-quality extra features for multi-layered Windows security. Best of all, it has a generous 60-day money-back guarantee that lets you test every feature for a full 60 days risk-free. If you change your mind about subscribing, you can get a full refund — easy!

Summary — Best Antiviruses for Windows 2023