Girl working on a computer with cat next to her and Antivirus shield icon inside of a trophy
Click here for a summary!
Summary: The Best Antivirus for PC in 2023

Windows, the most popular operating system today, faces a lot of threats from cybercriminals. Luckily, Windows users are spoiled for choice when it comes to antivirus software. Here’s a quick rundown of the best antivirus programs for Windows PCs.

Best paid antivirus for PCs 2023:

  1. Norton 360: Best overall antivirus for Windows
  2. Bitdefender Plus Antivirus: Simple and effective antivirus
  3. Avast One Antivirus: Best antivirus for personal protection
  4. Surfshark One Antivirus: Best all-in-one security solution for Windows
  5. Malwarebytes Premium: Best anti-malware scanner for Windows

We based this list on our tests and those of trusted independent testing labs. The overall best choice for PC users is Norton 360. It is a comprehensive antivirus that offers real-time protection, cloud backup, smart firewall, a password manager, a secure VPN, webcam protection, and dark web monitoring.

Get Norton 360

Keep reading below for our full reviews plus our list of the best free antivirus for PC.

Windows is the most popular operating system worldwide, making it a prime target for bad actors. Malicious software is constantly being developed to compromise PCs in an attempt to capture hardware resources or harvest sensitive user data, such as financial credentials.

Users should be aware of these hazards and take the necessary precautions to secure their Windows devices. In this article, we take an in-depth look at the best antivirus for PC — both free and paid — that users can use to safeguard their PCs.

The Best Free Antivirus for PC (Windows) in 2023

What does antivirus software do icon

While there are many paid antivirus options available, there are also several best free antivirus for Windows 11 that offer excellent protection. Below, we will highlight some of the best free PC antivirus software that are currently available, all of which provide robust protection against a wide range of threats at no cost to you.

Whether you’re looking to protect your personal computer at home or your business’s network, these free antivirus programs offer a reliable and cost-effective way to keep your systems safe. Here’s a quick rundown of our test results.

FeatureAvira FreeBitdefender FreeMicrosoft Defender
WebsiteVisit AviraVisit BitdefenderDefault on Windows
AV-Comparatives test score100%99.6%100%
Real-time virus and malware protection
Virus scan function
Phishing protection
Ransomware protection
Parental controls

Below, we dive into in-depth reviews of the best free antivirus software that can provide basic protection without a subscription. However, you can also upgrade to their premium version for more comprehensive protection.

1. Avira Free Security: Best free antivirus for Windows

Screenshot of Avira website homepage

Features at a glance:

  • Real-time malware protection
  • Ransomware protection
  • Scans for privacy and performance issues
  • Lightweight and fast

Avira Free Security is a lightweight, award-winning antivirus suite that has proved to be effective since its launch in the early 2000s. For a free security suite, Avira has a lot to offer, and it scores highly on detecting and preventing various types of malware that are prevalent today.

In our tests, it especially stood out for protecting against ransomware. Avira Free Security also did a fantastic job at offering virus protection against financial malware that’s designed to steal banking information and money from victims’ accounts.

A key component of a good antivirus is real-time protection. Avira Free Security SmartScan offers preventive antivirus protection by constantly running in the background, scanning for malware in files, incoming connections, external storage, and much more. It also scans for privacy and performance issues.

However, the free version lacks security features available in the paid software version, such as web protection through add-ons for major browsers. This feature blocks blacklisted websites, phishing sites, and ads. The suite also lacks Avira Mail Protection, which protects your unsecured, non-encrypted email traffic. Check out our full Avira antivirus review for more information.

2. Bitdefender Free Antivirus: Most user-friendly free antivirus

Screenshot of Bitdefender website homepage with logo in the corner

Features at a glance:

  • Real-time malware defense
  • Easy to use, beginner-friendly software
  • Adapts to your hardware and software configuration

Bitdefender antivirus free edition has come back with a bang! The free version was phased out in 2021, but now, it’s come back re-engineered from the ground up. Of course, like most free antivirus software, this free version is still limited to a handful of features compared to its premium version.

The new Bitdefender Antivirus protection free edition boasts a clean new interface that makes it easy to navigate. It works well on Windows PCs without hogging resources. Bitdefender Free offers complete real-time malware protection, ransomware threat detection, anti-phishing and anti-fraud measures, and web attack protection.

We also appreciate that it allows you to switch off advertising popups that upsell you the paid version. You can even switch off updates notifications. However, a downside to Bitdefender Free is that it lacks ransomware protection, unlike Avira Free Security.

3. Microsoft Defender: Free default antivirus for Windows

Screenshot of Windows Defender webpage with Microsoft logo in the corner

Features at a glance:

  • Equipped with parental controls
  • Built-in firewall
  • Effective malware scanner

Microsoft Defender, previously known as Windows Defender, comes for free with Windows 10 and above. The free antivirus program has quickly proved to pack a punch among free antivirus protection software. However, based on August 2022 AV-Comparative tests results, the antivirus didn’t perform that well compared to other free antivirus programs on this list.

Microsoft Defender offers internet security and essential protection while gaming, downloading, and torrenting. This comes by default in Microsoft Edge, but there’s an add-on for Chrome that offers the same level of protection for Chrome users.

What we like about Microsoft Defender is that it runs quietly in the background without bombarding you with popups and annoying offers that compel you to upgrade to the premium version. It offers live and solid protection, and it’s quite effective against a wide range of malware. One of the reasons for this is it’s frequently updated, hence keeping it abreast of the latest threats.

This scanner also helps you protect your kids online thanks to its parental controls. You can monitor and limit their screen time habits, keep track of their digital life with active weekly reports, and choose what they can see and purchase for their devices.

The Best PC Antivirus Software in 2023 (Paid)

Best antivirus icon

When it comes to protecting your computer from viruses, malware, and other online threats, having a reliable antivirus program is essential. While there are many free antivirus options available, sometimes it can be worth paying for a more robust and comprehensive solution.

If you’re in the market for the best paid antivirus software for your PC, you have plenty of options to choose from. Here’s a quick look at the best PC antivirus.

FeatureNorton 360Bitdefender PlusAvast OneSurfshark OneMalwarebytes
WebsiteVisit NortonVisit BitdefenderVisit AvastVisit SurfsharkVisit Malwarebytes
$39.99 (first year)$39.99 (first year)$39.99 (first year)$47.76$44.99
Operating systemsWindows, Mac, Android, iOSWindows, Mac, Android, iOSWindows, Mac, Android, iOSWindows, Mac, Android, iOSWindows, Mac, Android, iOS
Number of devicesUp to 5Up to 15Up to 10Up to 5Up to 5
AV-Comparatives test score100%99.6%100%No data available100%
Real-time virus and malware protection
Safe online banking
Phishing protection
Ransomware protection
Parental controls

Premium antivirus programs will give you access to a plethora of features that ensure extensive protection for your PC. You’ll have access to features such as:

  • Real-time scan
  • Robust malware protection
  • Family controls
  • Ransomware and web protection
  • Anti-phishing protection

Below are our top picks of the best PC antivirus software and their features.

1. Norton 360: Best overall antivirus for Windows

Screenshot of Norton website homepage

Features at a glance:

  • Real-time threat protection
  • Scored 100% in virus detection tests conducted by SE Labs and AVTests
  • Password manager
  • Offers cloud backup and dark web monitoring
  • Privacy protection, password manager, and identity theft protection

In 2022, Norton 360 won the Advanced+ Malware Protection and Advanced+ Performance awards. This antivirus program is as comprehensive as an antivirus can get. It’s brimming with features that will secure your Windows desktop and online activities. Norton 360 is the best antivirus for PC gamers due to its Game Optimizer feature which eliminates FPS lags and boosts your games’ power.

Norton 360 secured 100% virus detection in tests conducted by independent labs: SE Labs and AVTests. SE Labs, for example, has awarded Norton 360 with AAA certification, which is the highest standard and means it performs well in detecting and preventing the majority of malware that users face today.

It also offers phishing protection and monitors the dark web to ensure that your personal information — such as contacts, account numbers, and credit card numbers — has not been leaked online. Furthermore, it offers advanced malware protection that includes machine learning, intrusion prevention, and behavioral protection. These protect against emerging malware whose signatures have not yet been cataloged.

Norton 360 supports Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and other devices. If you’d like to see more of what you get, you can read our full Norton 360 review. Otherwise, click the button below to get started with this proven, industry-leading antivirus.

2. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus: Optimal protection

Screenshot of Bitdefender website homepage

Features at a glance:

  • Triple AAA certification from SE Labs
  • Heuristic analysis and vulnerability assessment
  • Ransomware remediation
  • Parental controls

The award-winning Bitdefender keeps blowing off the charts when it comes to different types of malware detection and prevention. It’s constantly topping the list of best antivirus software and is showing no signs of slowing down. This antivirus software has about every feature you may need to safeguard your Windows PC and online activities.

Besides AAA certification from top independent testing labs such as SE Labs, Bitdefender has an industry-leading heuristic analysis feature. This refers to the ability of antivirus software to detect possible new variants of malware before the vendor can get samples. Bitdefender’s Advanced Threat Defense turns it up a notch by blocking zero-day attacks.

According to AV Test, Bitdefender scores 5.94 out of 6 for protection against infection and 5.83 out of 6 for performance impact and device slow-down. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus protects your Windows device against malware, ransomware, spyware, and adware.

You can read our comprehensive Bitdefender review for more in-depth information. Or you can click the button below to get started right away.

3. Avast One Antivirus: Best antivirus for personal protection

Screenshot of Avast Antivirus website homepage with logo

Features at a glance:

  • Built-in VPN
  • Awarded 100% detection and protection rate by SE Labs
  • Firewall
  • Webcam protection
  • Ransomware shield
  • Blocks online trackers

Avast has long been one of the best antivirus software for Windows. This is mainly due to its seamless integration with Windows PCs and its top-notch vulnerability and malware detection system. In AV comparatives tests results, Avast scored an impressive 100% online protection rate, 98.8 online detection rate, and 93.9 offline detection rate.

Avast has different types of scans, ranging from quick scans, full system scans, boot time scans, and custom scans. They satisfy different needs but collectively work together to root out any potentially dangerous programs wherever they are hiding in your system.

This antivirus program can protect you from dangerous public Wi-Fi access points. It also blocks off phishing websites from tricking you into handing over your sensitive information. Avast reinforces this with its SecureLine VPN, which will offer identity protection online.

Avast has had its scandals in the past, such as getting caught selling user data to a third party. However, it cleaned up its act and it’s back to doing what it does best, which is providing some of the best security for users.

If you’re looking for more reasons to commit, you can read our in-depth Avast Antivirus review. Otherwise, get started by clicking the button below.

4. Surfshark One: Best all-in-one security solution for Windows

Screenshot of the Surfshark website showing Surfshark One

Features at a glance:

  • Includes award-winning VPN
  • Real-time protection
  • Device scanning
  • Transparent privacy policy
  • Great customer service

Unlike most antivirus software companies that started by offering antivirus programs and then including a VPN service, Surfshark went the opposite route. Surfshark started as a VPN service and quickly became one of the best VPN services in the world. After that, it entered the antivirus software industry and bundled both its VPN and antivirus program into the Surfshark One Security Suite.

Even though the antivirus can’t yet compete with older antivirus programs, it’s shown lots of potential. In our tests, we downloaded a malware sample from European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research (EICAR), and the antivirus caught it in a heartbeat. However, it’s good to note that Surfshark One is not yet featured in any independent lab tests.

Together with its VPN, you can be assured of safety and security while browsing online. A strict no-logs policy ensures Surfshark does not store your data, which means it can’t sell any of your data at all. You can read our comprehensive Surfshark One review to learn more.

They also have a 30-day money-back guarantee trial that you can use to test the full capabilities of the software.

5. Malwarebytes: Best anti-malware scanner for Windows

Screenshot of Malwarebytes homepage with added logo in the corner

Features at a glance:

  • Exploit and vulnerability protection
  • Scored 99.99 detection rate on Windows
  • Real-time malware protection
  • Browser guard
  • Three scan modes
  • Minimal CPU usage

Malwarebytes is hands down one of the best PC antivirus and malware scanners available today. AV-Comparatives recently tested Malwarebytes on 725 malware samples that range from trojans to spyware. The results were a 99.9% detection rate on Windows, as Malwarebytes detected 724 of the samples. However, there were also a lot of false positives that led the lab to downgrade the software’s score.

On the plus side, this antivirus software’s real-time protection is a force to be reckoned with. It offers multiple layers of protection that range from ransomware to exploits and potentially unwanted programs. In addition, the Browser Guard feature protects against adware, trackers, and phishing websites. It works well with major browsers like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox.

Malwarebytes VPN is a virtual private network that’s included in its premium antivirus suite, although it’s not as good as other VPNs out there. For example, it has a meager 400 server locations in 30 countries, compared to NordVPN, which has 5,400 servers in 60 countries.

On top of that, Malwarebytes has an unfavorable log policy, in that it stores user data such as device ID, browser type, internet service provider, and geographic location.

All in all, Malwarebytes is an industry titan when it comes to malware protection. It’s always topping our charts and those of independent antivirus testing labs. You can read our Malwarebytes review for more information. Otherwise hit the button below and run your first full scan on your Windows PC.

Do You Need Antivirus Software?

Antivirus icon with question mark

Cyber-criminals are getting craftier at inventing sneaky malware that can affect users in different ways, from viruses to worms, trojans, ransomware, adware, spyware, and much more.

These pieces of malicious software can cause a wide range of damage when they get into your device.

To make it worse, malware can be transmitted in various ways as well, such as:

  • Email attachments
  • A friend’s USB device
  • Malicious link in an email
  • A trusted website that’s been hacked and used to transmit malware

As you can see, it’s hard to keep track of where the next online threat will come from, and it’s even harder to get rid of it once it infects your device and attaches itself to critical system files.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the common types of malware and their effects on devices.

TrojanTrojans masquerade as legitimate software. Its effects include deleting or modifying data, stealing data, installing additional malware, and disrupting system performance.
SpywareSpyware continuously collects almost any type of data, including personal information like internet surfing habits, user logins, and bank or credit account information.
AdwareAdware clutters your device with pop-up ads, slows down your browsing speed, changes browser homepage and search results, and affects your system’s performance.
RansomwareRansomware locks up and encrypts all your files until you pay the demanded hefty ransom. The effects can be adverse for individuals and businesses if the files are critical.
KeyloggersKeyloggers record your keystrokes and send them to a remote server. They’ve been designed to recognize login information, credit card numbers, and much more.

To stay safe and browse the internet safely without worrying about online threats, we advise using an antivirus. Antivirus products will continuously run in the background and scan all incoming connections, websites you visit, attachments, files from an external device, links in emails, and so on.

Antivirus programs get constant updates to keep them abreast of the latest threats being released. This ensures your safety against new and old malware infections alike.

Are Free Antivirus Programs Safe?

Free antivirus icon with question mark

Free antivirus programs come with several concerns. For example, various programs pose as free antivirus software but are malware. Once installed, they raise an alarm on non-existent infections and demand you to pay to remove them.

Other concerns include:

  • They will bombard you with pop-ups trying to compel you to upgrade to the paid version.
  • They only give you partial protection from the various online threats users face today.
  • They are reactive most of the time, and only take action when the infection has occurred.
  • Some have been caught selling user data.

With that said, when it comes to something as crucial as antivirus software and what it does, it’s best to weigh the risks involved. Is it worth forgoing a couple of bucks a month and risking identity theft protection, stolen banking information, data loss, a system crash, and so much more?

Why Kaspersky Antivirus Did Not Make the List

Icon representing alert sign, red triangle with exclamation mark

Kaspersky Antivirus has topped our list of the best PC antivirus for years. In 2022, however, Kaspersky was reported to be liaising with the Russian government. The US and German authorities have rang the alarm for years on Kaspersky antivirus and instructed their agencies and officials to not use the software.

In one case, for almost two months in 2014, servers belonging to Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab received confidential National Security Agency materials from a poorly secured computer located in the United States. The servers stored the files, most likely in violation of US laws.

Most people say this could be government propaganda. Kaspersky has also denied all accusations. However, the Ukraine war revealed the connection between Kaspersky and the Kremlin. The antivirus was caught protecting Russian military web assets from DDoS attacks using its servers.

Some may argue that Kaspersky antivirus only siphons user data from high-profile targets such as government agencies and the elite. However, even if it’s true, it still raises a concern about what the objectives of the software are. Consider that an antivirus scanner is installed deep into your system and can access anything and everything within your device. For these reasons, we’ve halted featuring Kaspersky in our reviews.

How You Should Pick the Best Antivirus For PC

Infographic showing how you should pick the best antivirus for PC

1. Price

Most antivirus software usually have three paid tiers: a basic, midrange, and premium plan. Each tier has different features for different prices. The features, as well as the price, increase as one moves from a basic to a premium plan. You can expect to pay for annual subscriptions within the following ranges:

  • Basic plans range from $40 to 60 (Supports one device)
  • Midrange plans range from $60 to 80 (Multi-device support)
  • Premium plans range from $80 to 150 (Unlimited devices support)

The majority of antivirus software plans offer a discounted price for the first year, then the normal price takes effect from the second year. For instance, Avira Prime starts at $47.99 for the first year and then automatically renews at $79.99/year.

A good rule of thumb is to go through the different tiers and take note of their prices after the first year, then decide on the security software that works for you.

2. Level of protection

Different types of antivirus software come with different capabilities. For example, even the best free antivirus software only offers basic security with a few additional features at best. However, in a world that’s riddled with malware and other threats, basic protection is not enough.

PC users need maximum protection against all types of malware, webcam hacking, online tracking, phishing, identity theft, and more. This level of protection can only be offered by reputable and comprehensive antivirus tools such as Norton 360.

3. Parental controls

The internet is beneficial to kids, but it also contains a lot of content that’s not good for them. Good antivirus software such as those listed here come equipped with parental controls. You can monitor and control your kid’s activities online and ensure their safety.

4. Great customer support

Your antivirus service of choice should have knowledgeable and reliable customer support. Considering the crucial role an antivirus suite plays in our lives. Customer support must be reliable in case of a breach, infection, or performance issues caused by the program.

Conclusion: The Best Antivirus for PC 2023

With good antivirus services — free or paid — you no longer need to worry about the security of your data and device while browsing online.

Here’s a breakdown of free antivirus software for PC that you can start using right away.

  1. Avira Free Antivirus: Best free antivirus for Windows
  2. Bitdefender Virus Scanner: Most user-friendly free antivirus
  3. Microsoft Defender: Free default antivirus for Windows

Premium VPNs are your best bet for comprehensive security. They beat free antivirus programs any day. Here are our picks for the best paid antivirus software for Windows.

  1. Norton 360: Best overall antivirus for Windows
  2. Bitdefender Plus Antivirus: Simple and effective antivirus
  3. Avast One Antivirus: Best antivirus for personal protection
  4. Surfshark One Antivirus: Best all-in-one security solution for Windows
  5. Malwarebytes Premium: Best anti-malware scanner for Windows
Best Antivirus for PC: Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions about the best antivirus software to use on your PC? Read the following answers to learn more.

Which free antivirus is best for PC?

Microsoft Defender, which comes with Windows 10 and above, offers fantastic basic protection for users. However, for a more comprehensive solution, Bitdefender offers more features and supports more devices. You can read our full best antivirus for PC article for in-depth comparisons.

Is antivirus on PC necessary?

Yes. Antivirus is necessary for PC due to the high influx of malicious software targeted at users. Trojans, ransomware, viruses, worms, keyloggers, spyware, and many more are types of malware targeting PC users and are propagated in different ways. To be safe, we advise using a reputable antivirus such as Norton 360.

Does antivirus slow down PC?

Some antivirus software can slow down your PC and affect performance. However, the antivirus programs listed in our best antivirus for PC review are designed to offer maximum protection with minimal to no effects on performance while browsing, gaming, or streaming.

Which is the best antivirus for PC?

Norton 360 is the overall best antivirus for PC. It offers a comprehensive antivirus solution for PC users that include but not limited to real-time protection, cloud backup, smart firewall, password manager, Secure VPN, webcam protection, and dark web monitoring. You can read our best antivirus for PC review to learn more about this industry-leading antivirus.

Leave a comment