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Article updated on June 18, 2024 at 4:00 PM PDT

Best Antivirus Software for 2024

Protect your computers and precious data from virus attacks and malware with ones of the best antivirus software options around.

Our Experts

Written by 
Clifford Colby
Rae Hodge,
Alison DeNisco Rayome
Attila Tomaschek
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Clifford Colby Managing Editor
Clifford is a managing editor at CNET, where he leads How-To coverage. He spent a handful of years at Peachpit Press, editing books on everything from the first iPhone to Python. He also worked at a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWEEK and MacUser. Unrelated, he roots for the Oakland A's.
Expertise Tech from browser security to password managers and government programs from mail-in voting to federal assistance
Rae Hodge Former senior editor
Rae Hodge was a senior editor at CNET. She led CNET's coverage of privacy and cybersecurity tools from July 2019 to January 2023. As a data-driven investigative journalist on the software and services team, she reviewed VPNs, password managers, antivirus software, anti-surveillance methods and ethics in tech. Prior to joining CNET in 2019, Rae spent nearly a decade covering politics and protests for the AP, NPR, the BBC and other local and international outlets.
Alison DeNisco Rayome Managing Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
Expertise Home Tips, including cooking, cleaning and appliances hacks Credentials
  • National Silver Azbee Award for Impact/Investigative Journalism; National Gold Azbee Award for Online Single Topic Coverage by a Team; National Bronze Azbee Award for Web Feature Series
Attila Tomaschek
Attila is a Staff Writer for CNET, covering software, apps and services with a focus on virtual private networks. He is an advocate for digital privacy and has been quoted in online publications like Computer Weekly, The Guardian, BBC News, HuffPost, Wired and TechRepublic. When not tapping away on his laptop, Attila enjoys spending time with his family, reading and collecting guitars.
Expertise Attila has nearly a decade's worth of experience with VPNs and has been covering them for CNET since 2021. As CNET's VPN expert, Attila rigorously tests VPNs and offers readers advice on how they can use the technology to protect their privacy online.
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What to consider

Effectiveness

Light on system resources

Cost and discounts

Privacy

Protection for other platforms

Our Picks

See at Microsoft
Microsoft Defender
Best free antivirus for Windows
Microsoft Defender
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See at Norton
Norton 360 With LifeLock Select
Best antivirus subscription
Norton 360 With LifeLock Select
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See at Bitdefender
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
Best free antivirus
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
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See at Malwarebytes
Malwarebytes
Best malware removal service
Malwarebytes
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See at McAfee
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Good choice for antivirus subscription
McAfee Total Protection
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See at Trend Micro
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Best antivirus subscription for businesses
Trend Micro Maximum Security
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See at ESET
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Easy setup antivirus subscription
ESET NOD32 Antivirus
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See at Sophos
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Free anti-malware antivirus
Sophos Home
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It’s always a good idea to add a layer of protection to your devices to keep your data safe. In an era where your data is always susceptible to getting hacked, having good antivirus software is a must. The best antivirus software does it all: identity protection, malware protection and virus protection. They allow you to keep your computer running smoothly, and all your private information and data safe. Good antivirus solutions even help keep scammers at bay. Using one means your computer will likely have a longer life and you'll be better protected.

Windows is the most popular operating system for computers today, running on over 70% of all laptops and desktops, according to the latest data from Statcounter. That unfortunately also makes Windows the biggest target for a large number of viruses and malware attacks. As such, all our antivirus software recommendations work on Windows.

What's the best antivirus software overall?

Currently, CNET's top pick for the best antivirus software is Microsoft Defender, the tech giant's free antivirus solution built into Windows 10 and Windows 11 machines. At CNET, we've spent years testing and researching dozens of online security and privacy tools like VPNs, password managers and antivirus software to help readers find the best solutions for their needs. Take a look through our recommended antivirus services below to see which one fits you best.

Note: Pricing for antivirus services can be complicated since providers frequently offer low introductory prices to entice you to sign up for their services. After the first billing period -- typically a year or two, depending on the plan you purchase -- the amount you pay for the service may increase substantially (sometimes double the introductory rate). Be sure to check the terms of the subscription plan before you buy, so you won't get an unwelcome surprise when your subscription renews. 

Best antivirus software of 2024

See at Microsoft

Best free antivirus for Windows

Microsoft Defender

If you practice safe computing -- you keep your software up to date, you use strong passwords (with the help of a password manager), you steer clear of unsolicited emails and you don't click suspicious links that may be phishing attempts -- you probably can avoid zero-day attacks and ransomware attacks. With the free Microsoft Defender Antivirus software running on your Windows PC, you have a malware protection safety net if you do let your guard down. It is one of the best antivirus software options, and the best free antivirus software out there.

(Note: Microsoft changed the name of Windows Defender to Microsoft Defender and has expanded the service to other platforms.) This free antivirus program is built into Windows, and it's turned on by default, the antivirus engine does its thing, and this antivirus solution will cover the basics of internet security. Microsoft pushes new updates frequently. Defender also lets you tune the level of protection you want, giving you control over blocking potentially unwanted apps and protecting folders and files from a ransomware attack. 

Windows 10 and 11 will automatically disable its own Windows Defender antivirus when you install third-party antivirus. If you uninstall the third-party protection, Windows will turn on its own antivirus again.

See at Norton

Best antivirus subscription

Norton 360 With LifeLock Select

Norton LifeLock has consistently earned high marks from AV-Test, AV-Comparatives and SE Labs for virus and malware detection. Norton antivirus provides excellent security software for PC, Mac and mobile devices. The company's products include Antivirus Plus, Norton Secure VPN, Norton 360 for Gamers, Norton 360 with LifeLock Select and more. A 10-device subscription for Norton 360 with LifeLock Select is normally $180 per year, but you can get your first year for $80 off. In addition to malware and virus protection for your computer and mobile device, this security suite provides 100GB of backup to the cloud, safe-browsing tools, a secure VPN, a password manager, parental controls and LifeLock identity theft protection and fraud alert. While not all of those services are necessarily best in their respective class, getting them all in one package is a compelling option. Topping it off, Norton offers a free seven-day test drive of the suite, as well as a full refund "within 60 days of purchase for annual subscriptions and within 14 days of purchase for monthly subscriptions," according to Norton's site.

See at Bitdefender

Best free antivirus

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

If you'd like to take a step up in securing your PC without taxing your wallet, it's hard to beat Bitdefender's free antivirus software for Windows 10 and 11. The Windows security software offers real-time monitoring for viruses, malware, spyware and ransomware protection. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is easy to set up and stays out of your way until you need it. And the protection this antivirus product offers is solid. Bitdefender antivirus software consistently earns top marks for its antivirus protection and usability from respected independent antivirus testing labs like the AV-Test lab. The free antivirus version covers one Windows PC. For broader protection, you can choose Bitdefender Total Security or Bitdefender Antivirus Plus. The subscription antivirus suite lets you protect five or 10 devices (Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android), set up parental controls on a kid's computer and run a VPN.

See at Malwarebytes

Best malware removal service

Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes protects your PC from viruses or malware attacks, scoring reasonably well in recent independent testing for guarding against malware threats. That's not really what Malwarebytes is known for. If you find yourself in trouble, the go-to disinfectant for many is Malwarebytes. You can get protection and disinfection for one device for $38 a year (regularly $45). To cover five devices -- any combination of Windows, MacOS and Android -- it's $100 for a year of antivirus software. To get the antivirus company's free antivirus version, download this trial version, which "downgrades" to a no-fee on-demand cleaner with fewer features that detects and removes viruses and malware when you run an on-demand antivirus scan after 14 days.

Other antivirus software to consider

In addition to the four antivirus apps we recommend above, a handful of other anti-malware tools are worth considering among the best antivirus protection if you find them at a better price or just prefer to use one over our picks above.

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See at McAfee

Good choice for antivirus subscription

McAfee Total Protection

It feels like McAfee Antivirus has been around forever, first on its own in the '80s, then as part of Intel starting in 2010, and then again on its own when Intel spun it off in 2017. And McAfee Total Protection has been around forever because quarter after quarter it creates solid, modern antivirus software that protects your PC. (In recent evaluations by AV-Test, it had high scores on both protection and performance.) McAfee Total Protection guards devices against viruses and offers ransomware protection, wards off malicious websites and includes a password manager for $50 for the first year. If you agree to auto-renew your antivirus suite subscription, you get access to McAfee ID Theft Protection Essentials, which monitors for ID fraud.

See at Trend Micro

Best antivirus subscription for businesses

Trend Micro Maximum Security

Maybe this antivirus provider isn't as well known to consumers because of its focus on enterprise security, but Trend Micro antivirus security quietly brings its business expertise to the home with its Trend Micro Maximum Security tools. Trend Micro's software earns high marks from AV-Test -- consistently scoring well for detecting zero-day attacks and widespread viruses and malware. Trend Micro also does a good job of not taxing system resources. 

See at ESET

Easy setup antivirus subscription

ESET NOD32 Antivirus

If you're looking for something easy to set up and use, ESET NOD32 antivirus may meet your needs. It earns high scores for usability and offers solid virus protection. A five-device option is $70 for a year, with a 30-day free trial.

See at Sophos

Free anti-malware antivirus

Sophos Home

The free antivirus version of Sophos Home gives you virus protection for 10 Windows PCs or MacOS devices and unlimited Android and iOS devices -- using the company's high-scoring anti-malware tool -- plus a 30-day trial of the company's malware removal tool. Annual subscriptions typically cost $60, but right now you can sign up for less.

How we test antivirus software

We're here to help you find the antivirus software that best fits your needs. These picks of the best antivirus programs are a combination of recommendations from independent third-party labs AV-TestAV-Comparatives and SE Labs, as well as CNET's anecdotal hands-on testing. 

Note that antivirus software is only one piece of the cybersecurity puzzle. Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated, and the more steps you take to lock down your online security, the safer you'll be. A secure virtual private network can help protect your internet privacy, and a password manager can help protect your personal information. 

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Why we don't recommend Avast

Test after test, Avast Antivirus for Windows performs well for malware detection with options ranging from Avast free antivirus software to Avast Premium Security. We've included its antivirus in our list of recommended security app options before. Avast was in the news for several months for its non-antivirus business, so we looked at the company, specifically reports at the end of 2019 that Avast allegedly collected user data with its browser plug-ins and antivirus software and then sold data it collected through its Jumpshot subsidiary in early 2020.

In response to the reports that his company gathered and sold the details of its customers' online activities, Avast CEO Ondrej Vlcek said in a statement that he understood that his company's actions raised questions of trust in his company. To address that, Avast terminated Jumpshot data collection in January 2020 and closed its operations because the data collection business wasn't in line with Avast's privacy priorities.

Those reports followed another in 2019 from Avast that its internal network was breached, possibly to insert malware into its CCleaner software, similar to an earlier CCleaner hack that occurred before Avast acquired the Windows utility.

Avast started saying the right things about taking its customers' privacy seriously, but it only came to that point after reacting to investigative reporting that revealed the Jumpshot practices. (The CCleaner revelations, while concerning, were self-disclosed, which is important to building user trust.) We hope Avast's more privacy-friendly policies mean that there will be no further Jumpshot-style activities and that it returns to glory as one of the best antivirus software options. In the meantime, we'd recommend using one of the many other solid choices in this realm (listed above).

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Why we don't recommend Kaspersky

Because the company has been in the news for the past few years, let's talk about Kaspersky Lab, specifically about the federal ban that blocks US government agencies from using Kaspersky Antivirus products.

Based in Moscow, Kaspersky Lab has for years produced some of the best antivirus software for business antivirus needs and home customers. In 2017 the US government prohibited Kaspersky security cloud software on federal government computers because of alleged ties between Kaspersky and the Russian government.

Notably, the ban does not apply to its consumer products such as Kaspersky Total Security and Kaspersky Anti-Virus. As with China-based Huawei, the question remains: If the federal government doesn't think the products are safe enough for its own devices, should consumers avoid them as well?

In a statement sent to CNET, the company said, "Kaspersky Lab has no ties to any government, and the company has never, nor will ever, engage in cyber offensive activities. Kaspersky Lab maintains that no public evidence of any wrongdoing has been presented by the US government, and that the US government's actions against Kaspersky Lab were unconstitutional."

In Kaspersky's favor, it continues to earn top scores and awards for virus and malware detection and endpoint protection from independent testing labs, plus it's reasonably priced.

In the end, although no one has ever publicly produced a "smoking gun" linking the company to Russian intrigue, we think any of the options listed above is a safer bet. If you are a US government employee or work with the federal government, you'll want to steer clear of Kaspersky internet security products. Perhaps use one of the antivirus software products mentioned here instead.

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Antivirus basics: What to look for

Picking the best antivirus software for Windows means finding one that keeps your PC safe, doesn't take up a lot of system resources, is easy to use and stays out of the way till you need it. Here's what to look for.

Effectiveness: Antivirus software runs virus scans for known viruses and malware and can offer real-time protection. It watches for shady websites and suspicious links to keep you out of trouble. It can also offer ransomware protection and monitor unexpected behavior that may be a sign of new and not-yet-identified viruses and malware. You want antivirus software that can successfully identify these unknown online threats without flagging too many false positives.

Light on system resources: You don't want antivirus software that taxes your PC's resources. If after you install the program, websites open slowly, apps download or open sluggishly or file copies take longer than expected, you may want to try another service. The good news is that all our picks offer a free trial or money-back guarantee to let you try out the antivirus program, so if your system feels sluggish after installation, you may want to keep looking.

Cost and discounts: Don't just pay the sticker price for antivirus protection. Before you buy, check for discounts on a company's website. Another way to save: The prices we list above are for 10 devices -- if the company offered that package -- but you can trim your cost with antivirus packages if you need to cover three or five devices. You may also find discounts on an app's Amazon page.

Privacy: To be effective, antivirus software needs to monitor what's going on with your PC, check in with company servers about unusual behavior and provide sound banking protection. The companies say they anonymize this technical data as much as possible to protect your privacy. If you want to know more, the security companies on our list post privacy policies on their websites, so read their privacy statements to learn what the companies do with the information you share.

Protection for other platforms: Microsoft is by far the biggest target for viruses and malware. Android is second, with just under 1% of apps installed on Android devices with Google Play Protect in the potentially harmful app, or PHA, category.

The threat to MacOS and especially iOS is low, in part because of the tight control Apple has over its app stores. While the Mac does come under attack via side-loaded apps, it's rare, and if you download apps only from the Mac and iOS app stores and keep your guard up when clicking links and downloading files, you should be OK without an antivirus app on Apple devices.

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Antivirus FAQ

Can antivirus protect against phishing?

To a degree, yes. Some antivirus programs can do things like warn you or block you from visiting a suspected phishing site. Others may also automatically block suspicious emails that appear to come from a malicious sender or contain phrasing common in phishing emails. You cannot count on an antivirus program to be a failsafe solution for phishing protection. You still need to be vigilant and know what to look out for on your own when it comes to phishing because an antivirus program won't be able to catch everything.

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Will antivirus slow down my computer?

Any program running on your computer will require a certain amount of processing power to work, which can affect your computer's overall performance. If an antivirus program is just running in the background, it shouldn't have any effect on your computer's performance. When actively running a scan of your system, antivirus software can noticeably slow down your computer. If this is the case, try to schedule antivirus scans at night, or at a time when you're not using your computer.

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Does my Mac need antivirus?

There is a common misconception that Macs are inherently immune to malware. As Macs continue to increase in popularity, they're increasingly attractive targets for cybercriminals looking to deploy malware designed for the MacOS operating system. MacOS has a built-in antivirus solution called XProtect that can detect and remove malware. It works in the background and updates automatically to keep up with the latest threats, but it still may not catch everything that a third-party antivirus program will. So if you want to play it safe and boost the malware protection on your Mac, it's a good idea to add a third-party antivirus solution.

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