2024 Best Antivirus Software: Protecting Your PC from Malware, Spyware, and More

What you need is more than just prayers and luck – choose from our curated selection of top antivirus software to ensure safety.

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Antivirus software is a must-have tool in today’s online world. Attacks are only getting more sophisticated, especially with the continuous rise of artificial intelligence. Even the most tech-savvy and cautious among us can fall prey to threats like malware, spyware, or ransomware by letting their guard down at the wrong time or being deceived. Antivirus protection acts as a crucial shield against such threats.

We’re not saying PC security software is foolproof, but it can effectively safeguard your computer from harmful malware and ransomware. Most systems come with security software built into the operating system, but this is often the bare minimum you need. Opting for more robust antivirus software will provide you with advanced features like enhanced firewalls, sandbox environments for suspicious programs, and multi-device protection.

How do you choose good antivirus software? We’ve tested various products, including all the major players, so you don’t have to! When testing antivirus software, we look for a balance between excellent protection, worthwhile features, and minimal impact on PC performance. For more information, you can read about how we test antivirus software below.

2024 Best Antivirus Software Reviews and Rankings


Norton 360 Deluxe – Best antivirus for PC overall

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Pros

  • Strong antivirus protection
  • Wide defense against major online threats
  • Simple, straightforward features

Cons

  • Performance impact on some computers
  • User interface would benefit from integration
  • Additional sales of supplementary services

Why We Choose Norton 360 Deluxe

An ideal antivirus suite includes all the essential features for security without breaking the bank, which is why we still choose Norton 360 Deluxe as the best antivirus software in 2024. Despite its somewhat awkward interface, the software’s extensive protection and affordable price make it an ideal choice for most users.

The plan almost includes everything most PC users need without being overly bloated. In addition to antivirus engines and firewalls for defending against malware and online threats, you also get features such as malicious link and attachment filtering, dark web and privacy monitoring, and webcam protection. Norton also comes with 50GB of storage for cloud backup, access to Norton Password Manager and VPN, parental controls, and PC utilities including monitoring of outdated software.

These key additional features—password manager, VPN, and parental controls—come with simple, straightforward interfaces that don’t make you feel deprived. You’ll actually want to use them, which sets it apart from some competing plans.

In terms of antivirus performance, Norton may not quite reach perfect standards across the board, but its online protection capabilities are robust. In tests conducted by leading security research organizations, such as AV-Test in November and December 2023 for zero-day attacks and malware testing, Norton detected 100% of threats. Similarly, in AV-Comparatives’ real-world protection tests from July to October 2023, Norton blocked 99.8% of the 512 test cases. In AV-Comparatives’ malware protection test in September 2023, when tested against 10,007 samples, Norton 360 achieved a 99.98% online protection rate and a 99.7% online detection rate. Its 86.0% offline detection rate places it among the top performers, but these days, offline users are becoming fewer and further between, not to mention inserting unknown USB drives into the system. Most file transfers and downloads are now done online.

In our internal system performance benchmark tests, Norton has a greater impact on older or slower computers during full scans— at least when dealing with a large number of new files. If you’re not doing a lot of downloading or copying to hard drives, scan times will be very fast, with minimal impact.

Overall, Norton is an excellent choice for those looking to integrate online security protection into a single software interface. It has some quirks (i.e., the dual-user interface can slightly slow down navigation), but its advantages far outweigh its disadvantages.

Who Should Use Norton 360 Deluxe

Norton 360 Deluxe is suitable for everyone—it integrates all the maximum protection you need online into one package, including parental controls. If you’re having difficulty keeping up with security expert advice (or haven’t found time to follow all the recommendations), this suite can consolidate and simplify everything for you.


Avast One – Best overall runner-up

Pros

  • Great new design
  • Reasonable price
  • Flawless performance

Cons

  • Smart scan requires too much user intervention
  • Avast requires installation of Google Chrome

Why We Choose Avast One

Avast not only provides reliable protection but also offers a simple, user-friendly interface. Combining it with useful additional features and multi-device coverage, you get a winning combination with Avast One.

Furthermore, top-notch antivirus software and firewall also safeguard against remote webcam hijacking, malicious websites, and trackers, ensuring you’re protected from major online threats. The Avast One plan also includes dark web monitoring (to find your email address in data breaches and alert you to password leaks), a VPN with up to 5GB of bandwidth per week, and protection for passwords saved in your browser. You get utilities to help keep your PC drivers up to date, clean your PC, and optimize applications.

These features might sound like standard fare, and fair enough, many of them can be found in competitors’ software. But Avast makes mastering security very straightforward, whether you’re a newbie or a security pro. Its default settings protect your PC with minimal input required, yet you still have the option to delve deeper or patch things up if you choose.

In evaluations by leading security research institutions, Avast ranks among the top performers. AV-Test gave it top marks in protection against zero-day and prevalent malware in evaluations in November and December 2023. Meanwhile, AV-Comparatives’ malware protection test in September 2023 found that Avast blocked 99.97% of online threats, with similar marks for online and offline detection rates. In practical tests from July to October 2023, Avast’s antivirus engine blocked all 512 samples. In our internal hardware benchmark tests, the software had no significant impact on system performance.

So, if Avast’s software performs better than Norton, what keeps Avast from the top spot? It’s the number of features for the price. Norton’s performance isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough for online protection, and that’s what matters. The costs for both software plans are roughly the same – the first-year price for Avast One for 5 devices is $51 (going up to $70 for up to 30 devices). After that, the yearly costs increase to $110 and $150, respectively. In the end, the more comprehensive subscription wins out.

Who Should Use Avast One

If you’ve already set up a password manager, don’t need parental controls, and prioritize top scores in threat detection tests. Avast One lacks the first two features but scores highest in capturing online and offline risks.


AVG Internet Security – Best budget antivirus suite

Pros

  • Top-notch antivirus protection
  • Expanded defense against malicious websites and remote attacks
  • Clean, simple interface

Cons

  • Possible performance impact on some computers under heavy workloads
  • Some features are somewhat basic

Why We Choose AVG Internet Security

AVG is renowned for its excellent free antivirus software, but there are plenty of reasons to upgrade. AVG Internet Security not only offers more comprehensive protection but also makes managing these tools a breeze. If you find dealing with online threats to be too daunting or time-consuming, this could be invaluable.

The Internet Security suite builds upon the free version’s protection against malware and online, email, and network threats with five additional features. You can safeguard passwords stored in your browser; prevent webcam hijacking; control access to files containing sensitive data; defend against malicious redirects of websites you attempt to visit (also known as DNS hijacking); and protect against attacks via the Windows Remote Desktop Protocol.

In addition to scanning your PC and network in real-time, AVG Internet Security monitors for malicious websites while you browse online and even tracks where your email address appears online. You’ll receive notifications within the application if any data breaches are detected.

Tested by leading security organizations, AVG excels in antivirus and malware protection. In AV-Test’s November and December 2023 tests of zero-day attacks and malware, Internet Security detected 100% of threats. Similarly, in AV-Comparatives’ real-world protection test from July to October 2023, AVG’s core antivirus component blocked 100% of 512 test cases. In AV-Comparatives’ September 2023 malware protection test, it achieved a 95.3% offline detection rate, a 99.5% online detection rate, and a 99.97% online protection rate, with only one false positive.

In our own PCWorld performance tests, AVG Internet Security had minimal impact on system resources during everyday tasks like video chatting and web browsing. Even more intensive tasks like video encoding were hardly affected. However, you may experience performance drops during heavy Microsoft Office usage, especially on older or slower computers, particularly during full scans. Nevertheless, preset scans are scheduled to run during non-working hours, so most users won’t notice much of a hiccup.

Despite a few quirks, such as ads for additional paid features, AVG Internet Security remains a reliable antivirus software with a user-friendly interface and an affordable price of $60 for the first year for 10 devices. In fact, it’s robust enough to recommend even though the free version itself is quite powerful.

Who Should Use AVG Internet Security

You need antivirus software that offers deeper control and broader protection, but you don’t want to pay extra for features you don’t need. AVG Internet Security extends the company’s free antivirus software sufficiently to make it worthwhile, even though it lacks elements like parental controls, VPN, and password managers.


McAfee Total Protection – Best for privacy

Pros

  • Strong protection
  • Useful features like file shredder and home network analyzer

Cons

  • Inconsistent impact on performance
  • New application design feels a bit scattered

Why We Chose McAfee Total Protection

Decades ago, McAfee was renowned for its antivirus protection, but the company has always been focused on addressing current threats to PCs. Nowadays, dangers extend beyond just malware to include identity and privacy issues, all of which McAfee Total Protection addresses, whether it’s combating ransomware or phishing sites.

Its identity protection sets it apart from competitors, especially if you’re willing to pay for elevated service levels. Plans we tested include dark web scans, which closely monitor any personal information (email addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, passports, driver’s licenses, birthdates, tax IDs), credit cards, usernames, etc., you share with applications. If any of this detail appears in a data breach, you’re notified. The app also assists in changing passwords for online accounts when appropriate.

As a supplement to identity protection, McAfee offers a score indicating the level of online protection to help pinpoint potential vulnerabilities needing fixing. You also gain access to a secure VPN, particularly useful if you’re using public Wi-Fi but need to conduct sensitive transactions.

In evaluations by leading security research organizations, McAfee passed AV-Test’s zero-day and prevalent malware tests in November and December 2023 with a perfect score. For AV-Comparatives, McAfee scored 99.6% in the actual protection test in July 2023, with only one false positive in October 2023. In the September 2023 malware protection test, McAfee achieved a 99.95% online protection rate and a 99.2% online detection rate. Its offline detection rate is much lower at 65.2%, but this score isn’t as critical unless you frequently connect unknown USB sticks offline to your computer. Nowadays, most threats infiltrate PCs when connected to the internet.

More pertinent, mid-range and budget PCs may experience some performance impact when running McAfee scans. In our benchmark tests, we ran full scans during various common tasks (web browsing, document editing), and did observe some performance degradation. However, you can mitigate this impact by scheduling scans during off-hours.

Who Should Use McAfee Total Protection

If your personal information could be used against you online, and with data breaches so common nowadays, having someone help track who owns your information might be a relief. For those with limited time to manage this task themselves or even to track individual services, McAfee can serve as a hub for managing all online security issues.


How to Choose the Best Antivirus Software

Antivirus suites should meet three basic requirements:

  • High detection rates for malware and other threats
  • Minimal impact on system resources
  • User-friendly interface

However, that’s not all to consider. Nowadays, many security suites come with additional features such as backup services for important files, mobile security apps for Android and iOS, advanced firewalls, family protection (i.e., child restrictions), and the right to use the program on multiple computers. The use of VPNs and password managers has also become more common. Whether you need these additional features depends on how much you’re willing to spend and your personal situation.

If you want to go beyond the basics, our benchmark recommendation is to find a suite with a firewall, support for enough devices to cover what you own, and access to a password manager and VPN (if you haven’t already set up separate services).

How We Test Antivirus Software

Our approach to testing antivirus software is multifaceted — we not only look at the suite’s ability to capture malware and other threats (though that is certainly paramount), but also other factors.

First, we look at the interface to determine its simplicity or complexity. Does the interface allow you easy access to basic tools like computer scans and password managers, or is everything obscured by multiple clicks? Are there elements that appear clickable but aren’t? Are alerts interactive or purely informational, and do they make sense in context?

We also examine the features provided. Every good antivirus suite should have basic features like scans and real-time protection, but many vendors offer elements beyond basic security, such as password managers or firewalls. We try to discern whether these additional features are particularly useful or just decorative without practical use.

To test the suite’s demands on system resources, we run three benchmarks. The first is PCMark 10’s extended test, which simulates various workloads, including spreadsheet editing, web browsing, video chatting, and light gaming.

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Before installing a security suite, we run benchmark tests. Then, we install the software and let it conduct a full scan on our Windows 11 test machine, simultaneously starting a second round of benchmark testing. We then compare the overall scores to see if there’s a significant decline between the two sets of benchmark tests.

We employ UL Procyon to repeat the same process, simulating document editing in Microsoft Office applications (such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint). As the most rigorous stress test, we transcode videos using Handbrake before and after installing the antivirus software. On many home PCs, this encoding task can consume 100% of the CPU. We then compare the transcoding times to see if there’s any notable decrease.

Our test machine is an Acer Aspire 3 15, equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 7520U, 8GB RAM, and a 512GB SSD. Each security suite is tested on a fresh installation of Windows 10 Home edition.

Regarding the antivirus suite’s detection capabilities, we rely on insights from security researchers dedicated to this task. We take into account reports from media outlets such as AV Comparison and AV Test.

We also consider pricing and what you get in return.

Whenever possible, we review security suites through free trials to understand what consumers see when trying a new product for the first time.

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