I put Microsoft Defender to the test, examining malware detection, scans, internet security, system impact, and more. I found that Microsoft Defender isn’t good enough to protect your PC by itself. You need additional antivirus software to secure your device. Ultimately, Norton outperforms every other antivirus service I tested, including Microsoft Defender. Its powerful antivirus engine and fast scans keep your PC protected from the latest threats, and it includes extra features that Microsoft Defender doesn’t offer. Better still, you can try Norton risk-free for 60 days with its money-back guarantee. Try Norton on Windows risk-free

Quick Guide: Top Alternatives to Microsoft Defender in 2022

Try Norton on Windows risk-free

About Microsoft Defender

In its most recent updates, Microsoft Defender has shown significant improvements in device security and functionality. It has several key features that top-tier antivirus software use, including real-time malware protection, a firewall, parental control options, and performance reports. Microsoft Defender also secures your device when browsing the web, blocking phishing sites and malicious downloads. As a free service, Microsoft Defender does a reasonably good job of keeping your Windows devices secure. In tests, it scored a 98% detection result for real-time malware — an excellent result for a completely free service. I like that the software is pre-installed on all Windows 10 and 11 devices, ensuring my PC is protected from the moment I boot my computer for the first time. I was pleased to find Microsoft Defender’s phishing protection works flawlessly on Chrome and Edge browsers. It has a solid set of parental control options, but these only work with Edge and require your child to have a Microsoft account — easy to get around for tech-savvy kids. Given these features, Microsoft Defender is an okay choice for a free antivirus service. It will secure your PC from most malware and phishing threats, but there’s always a chance something will slip through. If you’re using your PC for work or storing personal items (photos, financial details, and more), you should ensure you have a standalone antivirus service providing comprehensive coverage.

Can You Rely on Microsoft Defender Alone in 2023?

Unfortunately, no — Microsoft Defender isn’t enough to protect your PC by itself. My team and I rigorously tested Microsoft Defender over several weeks, checking real-time malware detection rates, ease of use, system impact, and more. While the results were fairly positive, Windows Security still falls short in key areas that could expose your Windows devices to significant threats. In terms of malware protection, Microsoft Defender is less capable of stopping the latest threats — a 98% detection rate, which falls short compared to Norton’s 100% detection rate. Microsoft Defender’s lack of regular updates means it can’t always handle the latest threats, which puts your devices at risk. Microsoft Defender also doesn’t provide ransomware protection, which is a significant issue as ransomware attacks are on the rise. This alone is a good reason to opt for a premium antivirus solution. Microsoft Defender also lacks the extra features offered by a premium antivirus. A service like Norton has advanced security and privacy features, like a password manager, VPN, cloud storage, cross-platform support, and more. While Microsoft Defender includes a firewall and parental controls, it lacks advanced features that a premium solution like Norton includes by default. While it’s improving, Microsoft Defender is not even close to the level of premium antivirus software. Services like Norton, McAfee, and TotalAV are dedicated to protecting your devices from malware — and not just your Windows PC. Microsoft Defender is better than no protection at all, but it should be thought of more as a temporary protection while you get a comprehensive antivirus suite rather than as a permanent solution. Try Norton on Windows risk-free

How To Scan Your PC for Malware with Microsoft Defender

That’s all you have to do! Different types of scans take more or less time according to the number of files it has to scan, as well as the speed of your system. After the scan, Microsoft Defender will let you quarantine or remove detected threats from your system.

The Best Antivirus Alternatives to Microsoft Defender (Tested January 2023)

1. Norton — #1 Antivirus Software Suite for Windows 10 & 11

Key Features: Norton is the top antivirus service in 2023 and superior to Microsoft Defender in every way. It successfully detects all types of PC-specific malware and comes with various extra features to improve overall Windows security. Best of all, Norton has a range of Windows antivirus packages to suit every budget. In tests, Norton successfully detected and quarantined 100% of malware threats. Norton updates its software constantly, so your PC is always protected from the latest cyber threats. Also, Norton features a Safe Web browser extension that scans websites for malware and phishing scams. During my tests, Safe Web detected almost 99% of web-based threats, while Microsoft’s own browser, Edge, failed to block most of the test sites I tried to access. Norton provides a variety of extra features that add additional layers of protection, like the following:

Customizable firewall — A reliable first line of defense that you can customize per your preferences to safeguard your PC against online threats. Secure cloud storage — Safe online storage where you can store sensitive files and data. PC SafeCam — Blocks unauthorized access to your PC’s webcam so that malicious third parties can’t access it. Password manager — Lets you store and safely use your login credentials and other sensitive information. Built-in VPN — Encrypts your connection to keep you secure and anonymous as you browse the web.

I thought such a comprehensive security and privacy suite would cause a significant slowdown for my Windows PC, but Norton runs quietly in the background. I didn’t even notice an impact when running a full system scan. I was especially impressed by Norton’s VPN and Password Manager features. With the VPN, I could stream on Netflix in HD quality, even though my speeds were a little slower than usual. Norton’s Password Manager has a unique Autochange Password feature that chooses a stronger password for you, changes it, and stores it to improve your security. Microsoft Defender doesn’t include any kind of VPN, proxy, or password management feature. While Norton isn’t free, it has a range of plans that are suitable for all budgets. You can get a yearly subscription for as low as $19.99. However, the best value package is the Deluxe plan, which covers 5 devices, has 50GB of cloud storage, and parental controls. It does cost money, but Norton’s regular updates guarantee your security from real-time online threats. You can take advantage of Norton’s 60-day money-back guarantee to try the service risk-free. If you find it’s not right for you, you can get a refund by contacting the 24/7 live chat. It took less than 5 minutes for me to get my request approved and I had my money back in just 5 days! Try Norton on Windows risk-free

2. McAfee — Easy-to-Customize Firewall Blocks Windows-Specific Threats

Key Features: McAfee’s customizable firewall and intuitive interface are much more user-friendly than Microsoft Defender. Even for a first-time antivirus user, McAfee makes adjusting important settings very easy — every option is clearly labeled so you won’t accidentally switch off or change any important settings. With McAfee’s firewall, I particularly like its 2-way threat detection. Not only does the firewall secure your PC from incoming malware, but it also stops unwanted traffic from leaving your PC — protecting your entire network from threats. I used the firewall alongside McAfee’s vulnerability scanner and home network monitor, both of which constantly scan apps and external devices for weak spots or hackers. These features aren’t included with Microsoft Defender. I also like McAfee’s WebAdvisor browser extension, which automatically blocks phishing scams, cryptojacking, and dangerous websites while you’re browsing online. This extension is available on Firefox, Edge, and Chrome and will secure your preferred browser. McAfee provides even more features that improve your Windows security, and that Microsoft Defender is missing. These features include the following:

Built-in VPN — Secures your online activity by encrypting your connection. Parental controls — Various controls to help monitor and safeguard your kids’ activity. File shredder — Helps you safely remove files so that they can’t be accessed by anyone afterward. Password manager — Safe storage for your credentials and sensitive information.

In tests, McAfee achieved 100% detection rates for real-time malware attacks. McAfee also includes ransomware protection, something that Windows Security only includes when you subscribe to OneDrive for a fee. While it isn’t free, McAfee is an affordable option with a range of plans to suit your budget. Although you can subscribe to McAfee for as low as $29.99, I consider its Family Plan is the best value. This plan protects up to 10 devices across multiple platforms and provides Safe Family parental control features. You can try McAfee with your Windows PC risk-free by using its 30-day money-back guarantee. I even tested this guarantee myself by asking for a refund, which was approved via phone call in 10 minutes. Afterward, I had the money back in my account in 7 business days. Try McAfee on Windows risk-free

3. TotalAV — Variety of Useful Performance-Enhancing Tools for Your Windows PC

Key Features: TotalAV’s impressive optimization tools make it a great alternative to Microsoft Defender. During my Smart Scan, TotalAV suggested multiple ways to optimize my PC. It checked for junk and duplicate files, uncleared browser cookies, and unnecessary start-up programs, and even has an App Uninstaller that completely removes apps. I could resolve any issues from the Smart Scan screen in minutes and found it made a noticeable difference to my overall system performance. These performance tune-up tools are lacking from Microsoft Defender, which only includes a general PC health report. TotalAV also includes various other features to help keep you safe, including the following:

Built-in VPN — Hides your identity and encrypts your connection to keep you safe on the web. Password Vault — Simple and easy-to-use browser extension that helps manage sensitive credentials. WebShield — Protects you from dangerous websites known to have phishing links, ransomware, and other threats. Ad blocker — Lets you block intrusive ads and get a smoother experience while surfing the web.

TotalAV also includes a password vault, a VPN, an ad blocker, and Web Shield, which is a browser extension that blocks malicious websites. Like Norton, it also comes with identity theft protection and a data breach test that scans the web for leaks of your information. I was pleased to find TotalAV had almost no impact on my PC during tests, even when running high-intensity virus scans. TotalAV also updates its software regularly, allowing it to easily detect and block newly-released malware — it scored 99% in real-time threat tests. I found TotalAV is much easier to use than Microsoft Defender. The interface is simple to navigate even if you’re a first-time antivirus user. Unlike Microsoft Defender, TotalAV’s app doesn’t have any hidden features or unnecessary dropdown menus that make it difficult to configure the settings. The cheapest TotalAV subscription is as low as $29.00 a year, but I recommend TotalAV Internet Security as it provides the best value for money. Plus, You can try TotalAV risk-free for 30 days with its money-back guarantee to see if the service is a good fit for your needs. Getting a refund is easy too — you can call the support line for billing services or send an email requesting your money back. I had my refund only 2 days after confirmation. Try TotalAV on Windows risk-free

4. iolo — Top-Tier Optimization Software With Robust Malware Protection

Key Features: iolo is capable of boosting your Windows PC’s performance and protecting it from malware. It has a range of tools to make your PC run faster, smoother, and more efficiently — and most of these tools only take seconds to optimize your device. The tools include the following:

Startup Optimizer — Optimizes apps that run at your PC’s startup to help it boot faster. DriveScrubber — Permanently erases sensitive files and documents so that no one else can access them. Privacy Guardian — Helps protect your privacy by thwarting tracking attempts and clearing cookies automatically.

It took 10 minutes in total to run all of iolo’s optimization tools, and I freed up almost 2GB of space. This shows how easily junk and duplicate files hide, and removing these made a noticeable difference to the speed of my PC. My boot time was cut in half, from 30 to 15 seconds, and this kind of tool isn’t available with Microsoft Defender. iolo is exclusive to Windows, so the system and setup are optimized for Windows users. This makes the app easy to navigate, as I can hover over menus and icons to find out which settings they control. While it’s not as intuitive as other antiviruses, iolo is certainly easier to figure out than Microsoft Defender. In terms of security, iolo successfully detected and quarantined every malware test file I hid on my PC. I was especially impressed by iolo’s spyware and adware detection, as Microsoft Defender often ignores these kinds of files as they’re not necessarily malicious, just annoying. iolo’s detection of these files reassures me of its overall ability to secure my PC. While you can get iolo for as low as $19.99, I recommend you try iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense as it’s a more comprehensive solution. This gives you full access to iolo’s features and unlimited installations. If you’re not fully satisfied, you have 30 days to request a refund. I tested this guarantee by sending an email asking for my refund. It took a day to get a response saying my refund was approved, and I had my money back 3 days later. Try iolo on Windows risk-free

5. Bitdefender — Hands-Off Antivirus Ideal for First-Time Users

Key Features: Bitdefender is a top choice for hands-off antivirus security and upgrading from Microsoft Defender without hassle. Bitdefender has a unique Autopilot feature that analyzes how your device performs and automatically configures itself for you. You don’t need to touch a single setting to get the best overall protection, which is vastly different from Microsoft Defender’s complex configuration. I also found Bitdefender’s interface is much easier to navigate than Microsoft’s. All features are clearly labeled, with short but detailed descriptions. This made it simple to customize features without accidentally clicking on the wrong setting. As Bitdefender is a cloud-based antivirus, it is a lightweight option that won’t impact the overall performance of your PC. During tests, Bitdefender detected 100% of both new and known malware, and I didn’t notice any system slowdown despite high-intensity scans. This is a marked improvement from Microsoft Defender, which made my PC run noticeably slower during scans despite also using cloud-based protection. Bitdefender has several plans exclusive to Windows PCs, all of which include the following features:

Firewall — Highly customizable and easy-to-use firewall that’ll safeguard you from threats. File shredder — Permanently removes files so they can’t be accessed again Built-in VPN — Protects you online by encrypting your connection and keeping you anonymous. Parental controls — A thorough parental control suite that you can use to monitor and manage your children’s activity.

Alongside everything else, there’s a vulnerability assessment scan to check for missing updates, configurable work profiles to mute notifications, and battery life optimization. You can easily get a yearly Bitdefender subscription for as low as $19.99. However, if you want the best value for money, I recommend Bitdefender’s Internet Security plan. It covers up to 10 devices and has all the necessary security features, including real-time and ransomware protection. You can try Bitdefender with your Windows device risk-free for 30 days as the service is backed by a money-back guarantee. When I tested this guarantee by asking for a refund via email, it took 5 days to get a response, which is rather long. However, I had my money back 5 days after the refund was confirmed. Try Bitdefender on Windows risk-free

6. Panda — Packed With Extra Features Missing from Microsoft Defender

Key Features: Panda offers a lot of extra features that Microsoft Defender doesn’t have. Given that Panda is cloud-based, it’s a lightweight antivirus option that I found had a small impact on my Windows PC’s performance. Plus, it comes with various useful built-in features like the following:

Password manager — Provides safe storage where you can store card details, login credentials, and other sensitive information. Built-in VPN — Keeps you safe as you surf the web by masking your identity and encrypting your traffic. Process Monitor — A more detailed version of the task manager that shows how secure running processes are. Application Control — Lets you decide exactly what permissions the apps on your PC have.

I especially like the PC Rescue Kit, a version of Panda that can be booted to an infected PC from a USB drive. This is a unique feature of Panda and a great choice if you have a malware-infected PC that won’t start up — it successfully removed malware from my infected test PC. Panda has an excellent malware scanner for Windows. The software detected 100% of all malware in tests, including the newest cyber threats. Panda also had fewer falsely flagged items than other antiviruses, making it less time-consuming to sort through quarantined files. Panda has plans and flexible payment options to suit your budget. Its cheapest plan will cost you $17.49, and there’s even a free plan, although it’s missing crucial ransomware protection. I recommend either combining the free plan with Microsoft Defender or subscribing to Panda Dome Complete as it provides the best value. You can test Panda’s premium antivirus risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee. Getting a refund is easy as all you have to do is fill out a web form and forward it to customer support. After I requested a refund, I got a response in 3 hours saying it was confirmed. Later, I had the money refunded in 8 days. Try Panda on Windows risk-free

7. Avira — Top Free Antivirus for Windows

Key Features: Despite being a free antivirus, Avira’s Free Security Suite easily outperforms Microsoft Defender. Avira’s virus scanner successfully flags and isolates malware in real-time during testing — blocking 99.96% of zero-day threats as the top free antivirus for Windows. It comes with various tools and features, including the following:

Optimization tools — Various tools to help fine-tune your system’s performance and make it perform faster. Safe Shopping — A browser extension that keeps you safe during online transactions and blocks trackers. Duplicate Finder — Locates and removes duplicate files on your system to clean up space.

This is an impressive amount of features for a free service, plus I found Avira is easy to use and has a well-organized interface. The only catch is Avira’s free antivirus doesn’t offer ransomware protection. Avira offers paid plans as well, with its cheapest option costing $34.99. If you’re looking for truly premium protection, you can upgrade to Avira’s Prime plan. It includes ransomware protection, an unlimited VPN, web and email protection, automatic software and driver updater, optimization tools, a network traffic manager, and more. However, it’s slightly more expensive than Norton, which gives you better security and privacy overall. You can try Avira’s Prime plan with the 30-day money-back guarantee or download the free version. Either way, you’ve got plenty of time to test Avira and decide if it’s the right antivirus for you. Also, it’s easy to claim the money-back guarantee — I simply asked for a refund via email and got notified the same day that it’s been confirmed. Afterward, I had my money back in just 1 day, even though I was told it could take up to 7 business days. Try Avira on Windows risk-free

8. Intego — Streamlined Windows Antivirus With Minimal Extra Features

Key Features: Intego’s fuss-free antivirus app for Windows is ideal if you don’t need (or want) the host of extra features most software comes with. It lacks a VPN, password manager, optimization tools, parental controls, and more — instead, Intego’s antivirus focuses exclusively on blocking malicious items from attacking your PC. Intego’s real-time malware protection is effective at detecting and quarantining threats — it caught every hidden test file and didn’t flag any safe items as potentially dangerous (even Norton had a few false flags). Its cloud-based scans are faster than Microsoft’s and have a very low impact on my PC’s performance. There are multiple plans to choose from if you decide to get Intego, with the cheapest one costing $29.99 a year. If you want the best value, though, I suggest you try Intego’s Family plan for Windows, which covers 3 devices and has a 30-day money-back guarantee. I even tested this money-back guarantee by asking for a refund via email, which was processed immediately. It then took 10 days for me to get my money back. Try Intego on Windows risk-free

9. Vipre — Solid Windows Antivirus With Added Privacy Tools

  Key Features: Vipre’s robust malware security makes it a good choice to work alongside Microsoft Defender. Some of Vipre’s functionality is directly linked with Windows — accessing Vipre’s secure vault requires your Windows password, and Vipre’s email filtering only works with Outlook. Where Microsoft Defender falls short, Vipre has a 99.7% real-time malware detection test result and provides ransomware protection. During my tests, I also found Vipre had flagged no safe files as malicious. Vipre has a variety of extra features that aren’t offered by Microsoft Defender, including the following:

Privacy Shield — Protects your privacy by securing your webcam and microphone and storing sensitive documents in a safe vault. Built-in VPN — Lets you stay safe and anonymous online by encrypting your connection. Dark Web Scanner — Constantly scans the dark web to let you know if any of your logins have been compromised.

These privacy tools protect your data — even if a hacker manages to take over your PC, they can’t access your sensitive information. The downside to Vipre is its price point — its cheapest plan costs $19.99 but doesn’t offer enough features to be worthwhile. Also, you only get full access to its features with its most expensive Ultimate Security plan, which is similar in price to Norton with fewer benefits. The only way to see if it’s right for you is to try Vipre with your Windows PC. If you change your mind, you can get a full refund within 30 days. Try Vipre on Windows risk-free

Comparison Table: Best Microsoft Defender Alternatives

Here is a quick overview of the top antivirus alternatives to Microsoft Defender, showing the key features of each service: After extensive testing, Norton emerges as the best alternative to Microsoft Defender. Norton has 100% new and known malware-detection results, plus a range of security and privacy features that provide comprehensive protection for your Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices. Try Norton on Windows risk-free

How To Choose the Best Microsoft Defender Alternatives

When choosing your antivirus software, it’s worth considering the following criteria — these are the areas I looked at when testing and ranking the top alternatives to Microsoft Defender:

Better malware protection — Every recommended antivirus has better malware protection than Microsoft Defender, including the free options. They are updated frequently to secure your PC against the latest threats. Security features — Microsoft Defender lacks many of the top-tier features included in other antivirus software like Norton, such as a password manager, VPN, and performance optimization tools. Ease-of-use — The antivirus you choose should be hassle-free to install and use, as well as have a simple interface that makes configuration easy. Norton’s Windows interface is particularly intuitive, even for first-time antivirus users. OS support — Microsoft Defender is only optimized for Windows and cannot be used on other operating systems. An antivirus like Norton is compatible with multiple platforms including iOS, Mac, Android, and more, so it can secure all of your devices. Value for money — While Microsoft Defender is free, it’s not a comprehensive solution for your PC. You can opt for a different free antivirus like Avira, which provides better but still limited coverage. Otherwise, services like Norton, McAfee, and TotalAV have affordable subscriptions to protect your device.

Overall, the best alternative to Windows Security is Norton. Its powerful malware engine and comprehensive software package make it worth the cost of a subscription, and you can try Norton risk-free for 60 days to make sure it’s right for you. Try Norton on Windows risk-free!

Warning: Avoid these Antiviruses for Windows 10 & 11

Is Microsoft Defender good enough for Windows 10 and 11?

While Microsoft Defender has improved over the years, it’s not enough to fully secure your Windows PC. It does have some good features, like parental controls, phishing protection, and hardware security, but these features aren’t as comprehensive as those offered by a premium antivirus service.

PC Matic

PC Matic was originally developed exclusively for Windows, so I was surprised by the average performance of its antivirus engine. The software also mistakenly flagged a large number of safe files as dangerous, which I found time-consuming to sort through. My main concern is that Microsoft Defender struggles to identify and block the latest viruses and malware. This is due to a lack of regular updates, which means Microsoft Defender can’t consistently identify and quarantine zero-day threats. If you store personal information on your PC (like photos, work documents, or financial information) you cannot rely on Microsoft Defender as your only line of cyber defense. To fully secure your PC, I recommend you choose a premium antivirus service like Norton. Norton continuously updates to ensure you have the latest protection, plus it has top-tier security features like a VPN, password manager, a firewall, and cloud storage. While it’s not a free service, you can try Norton on your Windows PC risk-free as the software is backed by a 60-day money-back guarantee.

Can Microsoft Defender detect and remove malware?

Yes, Microsoft Defender can detect and remove malware, but it isn’t a reliable choice for protection against zero-day threats. During my tests, Microsoft Defender detected 98% of real-time threats. While this may seem outstanding, it pales in comparison to Norton’s 100% zero-day malware detection. Missing 1% of threats is all it takes to infect your PC. It’s also worth noting that Microsoft Defender falsely flagged 5 safe files as malicious, while Norton only flagged genuinely malicious items. To remain secure at all times, you need to invest in a top-tier antivirus service like Norton. Its constant software updates protect your PC against the newest attacks, automatically quarantining malicious files to keep your data and devices secure.

Does Microsoft Defender have phishing protection?

Yes, Microsoft Defender offers phishing protection for Microsoft Edge as well as other browsers. Called SmartScreen, it’s designed to secure your device against phishing scams, blocking you from accessing malicious websites. However, it doesn’t work as well as Google or Mozilla’s in-built phishing protection. For comprehensive coverage against phishing scams, malicious websites, and real-time threats, I recommend you opt for a premium antivirus instead. A service like Norton provides phishing protection for all browsers so you can browse securely however you like.

Is Microsoft Defender better than a free antivirus?

Microsoft Defender is better than some free antivirus services, but not all. It includes several features that many free AVs don’t provide, like real-time malware protection, a firewall, and parental controls. For a pre-installed free service, Microsoft Defender does an adequate job of securing your Windows PC. However, there are multiple free VPNs for Windows that provide better protection than Microsoft Defender. A service like Avira has higher malware detection rates, plus a password manager, browser extension, and file shredder for securely deleting documents. It’s not as comprehensive as a security suite like Norton, but installing Avira will give you much better protection than using Microsoft Defender alone.

Can I use Microsoft Defender with another antivirus?

Yes, you can use Microsoft Defender with another antivirus, including all of the premium antivirus software on this list. Using another antivirus provides extra security, as a comprehensive antivirus will fill the gaps in your protection left by Microsoft Defender. However, some antiviruses aren’t compatible with Microsoft Defender, and this can cause software conflicts that compromise your security. Overall, it’s better to use a separate antivirus service that covers your entire PC. You can choose a free option like Avira, which has an impressive range of security features (but doesn’t include ransomware protection). Alternatively, my tests have shown Norton is the best antivirus service for Windows with 100% new and known malware detection and comprehensive security and privacy features. Try Norton on Windows risk-free!

Combine Microsoft Defender With a Quality Windows Antivirus

For a free antivirus service, Microsoft Defender has improved considerably since its last major update. Unfortunately, it’s still not good enough to protect your Windows device by itself. As such, I recommend you either use a premium antivirus service alongside Microsoft Defender, or replace it altogether. Norton takes the top spot as the best antivirus for Windows in 2023. Not only does it block all types of Windows-specific malware, but it comes with a range of security features for your PC. Best of all, you can try Norton risk-free for 60 days with its money-back guarantee! When I tested the refund policy, it only took me a couple of minutes over 24/7 live chat and I got the money back in less than a week.

Summary — Best Antivirus Alternatives to Microsoft Defender