The Best Antivirus Software for 2021
From Trojans to adware, rootkits to ransomware, the sheer scope of malware out there today boggles the mind. Cybercriminals are on the lookout for any kind of vulnerability in your network or devices that they can exploit to make money, steal data, or simply cause chaos.
But as they’ve got smarter and more sophisticated, so have the best antivirus providers. Below is our roundup of the very best antivirus software on the market, including must-have features, apps for different operating systems, free versions, and cost breakdowns.
Don’t have time to read the whole article? Here’s a quick summary of the best antivirus software to choose from:
Best Antivirus at a glance
|McAfee||Multiple devices||From $29.99||Visit McAfee|
|Avast||Gamers and frequent travelers||From $49.99||Visit Avast|
|Norton||Windows||From $59.99||Visit Norton|
With so much high-quality competition, the best antivirus providers offer a swath of features, ranging from phishing protection to firewalls to built-in VPNs. That said, to earn a top antivirus rating, these systems also need to show that they can do the basics really well. Namely, detecting malware and blocking malicious URLs accurately.
Best Antivirus Software in 2021
Here are our three recommended antivirus software options for 2021, based on reviews of their reliability, security credentials, performance, price, usability, and handy extra features that make them shine.
#1 McAfee – Reliable security and privacy for a full range of devices
Personal VPN | Parental Controls | Vulnerability Scanning | Mobile Seurity | ID Theft Protection | Firewall | Web Protection |
Compatible with: Mac OS, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, iOS, Android
McAfee is an excellent all-rounder when it comes to antivirus software. It works on Windows and Mac operating systems – and even on mobile devices. It covers all the essential security features you need to keep yourself safe, including privacy protection features like a built-in firewall. You can rest assured that it does the basics to an excellent standard: McAfee scored brilliantly on malicious URL blocking and malware detection.
On top of that, McAfee offers a bunch of fantastic and usual extras, including blocking unwanted calls and warning you if your WiFi connection is insecure. Plus, if your device ever gets stolen it will snap a photo of the thief using your built-in camera.
Price: Starting from $29.99
#2 Avast – Solid antivirus protection and amazing range of features
Password Manager | Wi-Fi Inspector | Ransomware Shield | Firewall | File Shredder | Website Rating |
Compatible with: Mac OS, Windows 8, Windows 10, iOS, Android
Avast offers all the most important features you need from antivirus software – and then some. Its solid performance in malware detection tests and excellent results when blocking malicious URLs means you can trust it with the core tasks you might expect from any good antivirus.
On top of that, there are a file recovery, ransomware shield, and tools to automatically update the software. The only downside to Avast is that while the scans are quite thorough, they can really slow your system down when taking place.
Price: Starting from$49.99
#3 Norton – Unbeatable malware detection for Windows devices
Intelligent Firewall |Phishing Protection | PC Maintenance | Vulnerability Scanning | 24/7 Support | On-Demand Malware Scanning | 2 GB Bundled Backup Tool |
Compatible with: Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10
Norton doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as many of its competitors, but it’s good enough at the basics to earn a place on any list of the best antivirus software. It consistently outperforms the competition when it comes to malware detection and malicious URL blocking.
It helps that Norton makes use of cutting-edge AI and machine learning algorithms to boost its behavior-based detection technology. That means it’s learning and improving all the time.
Note that you can’t use Norton with MacOS, Android, or iPhone – it’s Windows-only software. The other disadvantage is its disappointing customer support. If something goes wrong, you’re reliant on self-help and community forums for answers.
Price: Starting from $59.99
Best Free Antivirus Software
Usually, free versions of antivirus software lack all the great features that make the paid versions so compelling, so to get any real use out of them you have to upgrade anyway – either immediately or when the free period is up.
However, there are some worthwhile programs out there that are actually free and offer fairly decent protection or even additional features. Top of the list is Avira, Panda, and Kaspersky. Let’s look at these in a little more detail.
Panda is an easy to use antivirus software and its free version retains mini-versions of all its top features. You don’t have to fiddle around with complicated settings as it’s pretty much ready to go as soon as you download it. Plus it comes with a free VPN (albeit one that limits you to just 150 MB per day), has an effective firewall built-in, and scores really well in independent malware protection tests.
Another effective free program for malware detection is Kaspersky. This offers high-quality antivirus scanning and system clean up tools. It also runs real-time scanning in the background, which is quite unusual for a free VPN. Usually, you have to do this manually. There’s also a password manager (limited to 15 logins), a dark web scanning feature, and a reasonably good VPN – although, again, you’re limited to 200MB per day.
The free version of Avira does a great job of detecting malware and you’re able to keep running programs as normal during scans, without them slowing down too much. Plus, there are some nifty extra tools thrown in, like a password manager, file shredder, safe shopping browser extension to block phishing sites, and a lightweight VPN with a 500 MB monthly limit. You will of course get more security features and better protection from the paid version, but for a free product, it’s not bad at all.
Best Antivirus vs Best Free Antivirus Software
Generally speaking, free antivirus software is best avoided. There are a lot of fake antivirus programs floating around, many of which are disguised pieces of malware themselves. Even the ones that are genuinely designed to protect you are likely to be poor imitations of the real thing, which may lull you into a false sense of security. They don’t tend to scan your devices continuously looking for viruses and malware, so there are a lot of chances for things to slip through the net.
Plus, you need to ask yourself why the company is giving you this for free. What are they getting out of it? Are they harvesting and selling your data? Are they looking for vulnerabilities? Do you really want to give them access to your devices without knowing their motivations?
As we’ve seen, there are a small number of exceptions you can trust. Even here, though, by opting for the free version, you’ll miss out on many of the features and benefits that will make your life easier and keep all your devices safe from harm. None of the free versions of antivirus software we’ve listed here are comparable to the paid versions. They’re in a different league.
However many devices, operating systems, browsers, and apps you use, no matter how many people in your household, their ages, and internet usage habits, there will be the right antivirus package out there to meet your needs and reduce your risk. Choose one that ticks all the boxes, focusing on value rather than simply price.
That said, you don’t have to jump right in and pay for antivirus right away. All the best-paid antivirus companies offer 30-day money-back guarantees or a free trial, so really there’s very little danger if you change your mind. You can try as many as you like and shop around for a great deal until you’re sure.