Best Antivirus Software 2021

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Hackers don’t take time off. Keep your sensitive data where it should be with antivirus protection. In this review, we will explain what antivirus software is, how it works, the average cost, and give you our top picks for the best antivirus software in 2021.

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What is antivirus software?

Antivirus software protects computer operating systems, programs, and files from malicious software such as malware, ransomware, spyware, and adware. Once installed, most antivirus software runs automatically in the background to scan, detect, delete, and block cyber threats. All of the best antivirus programs scan every file in real-time to ensure malicious software never starts running on your device.

How does antivirus software work?

Antivirus software scans incoming files against an extensive database of already known viruses and malware. Typically, most programs will use three different scanning detections: specific detection, generic detection, and heuristic detection. Specific detection identifies known malware. Generic detection looks for malware variants with a common codebase. Heuristic detection scans for unknown viruses to identify suspicious behavior and file structures. When the program finds a file that matches a virus from the database, it is isolated and removed from the computer network.

How much does antivirus software cost?

The pricing of antivirus software depends on several factors, such as the subscription length, type of features, and the number of devices covered. Paid versions typically offer additional features for password management, parental controls, and VPN—to name a few. The industry standard is a one-year subscription for up to three devices, ranging from $20 to over $100 per year for personal plans. Corporate plan pricing typically requires you to request a quote.

Top 5 Rated Products - Get the best virus protection software to stop online threats in their tracks

Bitdefender Total Security

The best free antivirus

Founded in 2001, Bitdefender has pioneered breakthrough innovations in antimalware software, IoT security, behavioral analytics, and artificial intelligence. Bitdefender Labs accomplishes more in 60 seconds than most of us hope to achieve in a lifetime, discovering 400 new threats each minute and validating 30 billion threat queries daily. This cybersecurity powerhouse packs some pretty impressive value into their free antivirus plan with web attack prevention, anti-phishing, global protective network, and real-time data protection. Bitdefender Total Security is the most popular plan, defending five devices against threats for $44.99 for the first year. There are plenty of other plans available with flexible coverage for up to 15 home devices and comprehensive commercial security for small to large-scale enterprises. 

Anti-Phishing

Advanced anti-phishing protection prevents unauthorized access to sensitive information. Easily block fraudulent websites that appear to be trustworthy in order to steal financial data such as passwords or credit card numbers.

Webcam Protection

Protect your privacy and prevent webcam leaks. Webcam protection continuously monitors apps that try to access your camera and sends you notifications to block unauthorized access.  

Vulnerability Assessment

Scan for security holes and vulnerabilities with just one click. Bitdefender checks for outdated and vulnerable software, missing security patches, and potentially unsafe system settings and suggests the best fix.

Pros

Cons

Overall Ratings:

SC Icon

StackCompare.com

4.75 (Aggregate Score)

Capterra.com

4.7 (149 user reviews)

G2.com

4.8 (49 user reviews)

Norton Antivirus

The best for Windows

If you haven’t heard of Norton Antivirus, take a second to look around your house because you might be living under a rock. Norton launched its first antivirus software in 1991 and continues to be one of the most trusted brands, blocking thousands of threats every minute for more than 50 million customers worldwide. There are several versions of this product, offering a boatload of features for multi-layered network protection. Annual pricing ranges from $39.99 for five devices up to $299.88 for unlimited devices. Norton also offers a small business plan with fortune 500-level protection for up to 20 devices starting at $99.99 per year. The computer tune-up service is a great add-on to make your old computer run like new. 

Norton 360 for Gamers

Powerful protection designed for PC gamers. Secure your game accounts while you play with dark web monitoring, PC SafeCam, password manager, game optimizer, and more.

Secure VPN

Mask your IP address and encrypt your online activity data. Norton’s VPN secures private information like passwords, bank details, and credit card numbers when using public wi-fi. 

School Time

Remote classes require the internet, which can detract from your child’s education. Manage the online learning environment across devices to keep your child focused while school is in session.

Pros

Cons

Overall Ratings:

SC Icon

StackCompare.com

4.25 (Aggregate Score)

Capterra.com

4.4 (2850 user reviews)

G2.com

4.2 (174 user reviews)

McAfee Total Protection

The best for multiple devices

An oldie but a goodie—McAfee has been winning the fight against viruses, malware, and cybercrime since 1987. A McAfee subscription protects every Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS device in your household. Other products may score better in testing, but none of them offer a deal quite like this. The core of McAfee Total Protection programming is built into all of its products, with the main difference being support for more devices at higher tiers. All plans include advanced features, such as an intelligent firewall, integrated VPN with unlimited data, performance optimization, and a secure file vault. Personal plans range between $29.99 to $69.99 for the first year, with options to secure five to an unlimited number of devices. Annual pricing for business plans starts at $94.99.

File Shredder

Delete sensitive files permanently with no traces left behind. When a file is deleted using McAfee Shredder, the location on the hard drive where the file was stored is overwritten to ensure no data is retrievable.

Safe Web Browsing

Browse confidently, knowing risky sites will be blocked. Secure browsing creates a safelist of authorized programs and activities and prevents functions from starting up that are not on the approved list.

Home Network Security

Block hackers from accessing your network. Secure your firewall with a defensive barrier between the internet and your PC, allowing you to control what comes in and what goes out.

Pros

Cons

Overall Ratings:

SC Icon

StackCompare.com

4.4 (Aggregate Score)

Capterra.com

4.5 (2 user reviews)

G2.com

4.3 (20 user reviews)

Kaspersky Total Security

The best for basic protection

Online security for you, your family, and your business. Kaspersky may not have all the bells and whistles of other premium antivirus products, but it certainly delivers on the basics. Kaspersky sells four levels of antivirus software, all designed with a triple-layer protection system that works 24/7 to secure your devices and data from complex threats like viruses, malware, ransomware, spy apps, and all the latest hacker tricks. The free antivirus plan is almost as good as the paid version, which is repeatedly considered one of the best antivirus and antimalware solutions available. Plans start at $29.99 for multiple devices and operating systems. The top-tier package allows you to select specific apps and features for personalized protection at a price that’s pretty hard to beat. 

Screen-Time Management

Manage your kids’ screen time by blocking access to their computers and Android devices once the time limit is exceeded. Easily monitor usage with activity reports to identify areas of concern.

GPS Child-Locator

Keep your kids safe with real-time location tracking. Define a “safe area” on a digital map and find out instantly if your kids leave it through automated alerts sent straight to your devices. 

Health Monitor

24/7 monitoring of your hard drives for performance, condition, and temperature. Get instant notifications if problems are detected so you can back up your files.

Pros

Cons

Overall Ratings:

SC Icon

StackCompare.com

4.4 (Aggregate Score)

Capterra.com

4.4 (893 user reviews)

G2.com

4.3 (127 user reviews)

Avast

The best for advanced features

Fully equipped with next-generation endpoint, server, and identity protection, Avast delivers award-winning digital security to safeguard your personal and professional data. Live your best virus-free life with a comprehensive range of products with loads of additional features, including removable drive scans, email shield, wi-fi inspector, VPN bank-grade encryption, bloatware removal, and more. Avast offers free antivirus software along with two paid versions to secure up to 10 devices. Avast’s easy-to-deploy cloud security solutions offer maximum protection for businesses, even those with limited IT resources. Protecting your personal devices will cost you between $39.99 to $79.99 for the first year, if you don’t opt for the free version. Avast business pricing ranges from $39.99 to $239.99 per user. The small office plan retails for $139.99 and comes with licenses for up to 10 devices. 

Sandbox

Open suspicious files in a safe environment. The sandbox system isolates the files from your network while it checks for malicious activity that can typically escape static analysis.

Automatic Software Update

Keep your software up to date in just one click. Avast will automatically identify all of your software and determine if an update is available to help plug security holes.

Sensitive Data Shield

Stop spyware from accessing sensitive documents on your computer that can compromise your privacy and identity. Avast scans and protects your data against unauthorized access and malware.

Overall Ratings:

SC Icon

StackCompare.com

4.25 (Aggregate Score)

Capterra.com

4.4 (816 user reviews)

G2.com

4.6 (115 user reviews)

Our Rating Process

Gone are the days when you could walk into a store and pay a one-time fee for antivirus protection that was most likely the only program available. Now, there are hundreds of antivirus solutions available that you can download and install from the comfort of your home or office. Don’t worry; we aren’t about to send you into a sea of choices without support. We put the legwork in for you, investigating the most popular antivirus software on the market. We assessed each solution based on compatibility, features, performance, and cost. The top picks that made our list are scored out of 5 to help you decide which solution is the best antivirus protection for your needs.

Product Features

Bitdefender

$59 / year
  • Independent testing
  • anti-phishing
  • Password manager

Norton Antivirus

$19 / 1st year
  • Malware protection
  • Unlimited VPN
  • Password manager

McAfee

$29 / year
  • Multiple devices
  • User friendly
  • Wifi antivirus

Kaspersky

$53.99 / year
  • Malware protection
  • Stalkerware protection
  • Password manager

Alternative Options

Other Services

Frequently Asked Questions

The best antivirus software in 2021:

  • Kaspersky Total Security 2021. Near-perfect malware detection score.

The best free antivirus software in 2021:

  • Bitdefender Antivirus Free

Antivirus software is a program or set of programs that are designed to prevent, search for, detect, and remove software viruses, and other malicious software like worms, trojans, adware, and more.

Antivirus continuously scans your device for any threats that might be caused by browsing the web, downloading files, or receiving emails. The scanning process conducted by this form of software ensures that any online activity is free from malicious code that could result in identify theft, unintended access, and compromised information.

Antivirus software is constantly comparing your activity online to a massive database of known threat types connected to certain addresses and particular lines of code. When a threat is identified by an antivirus software it is immediately blocked and removed from your device. Typically, these threats are accompanied by some kind of warning to ensure the user is aware that files or web activity is potentially harmful to their device.

Other functions that antivirus software enables is manual scans, which allow users to identify and remove any malicious entities currently exposing their device.

Both McAfee and Norton are trusted to protect against online threats, but Norton tests higher for security, performance, and advanced features. If you want a more affordable security suite, go with McAfee.

You may be more familiar with brands like Norton and McAfee, but Bitdefender is by far the most popular antivirus software on the market. It combines watertight security features with flexible coverage and extreme value you just can’t beat. 

If all you need is software that detects and blocks viruses, then a free plan may be all you need. If you require additional features, devices, and users, it’s worth considering a paid version.

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