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Infamous viruses and scams that wreaked havoc on PCs in the early 2000s are largely a thing of the past, with many people now debating whether there's still a need for separate antivirus software. This is a legitimate question, given that Windows and Mac computers have built strong defenses against malware and viruses over the years.
Windows 10 and 11 come with Microsoft Defender, a free, robust antivirus suite that regularly scans your PC and any new programs you open. It can also perform in-depth system scans. The Mac has traditionally been less susceptible to viruses than Windows PCs, given the primary reliance on downloading apps from the Mac App Store. It also has additional tools like XProtect and Gatekeeper to safeguard against malware.
Despite these protections, your PC isn't immune to attacks. If you want the best possible protection for your devices, it makes sense to download a good antivirus program that can detect and thwart viruses, malware, and ransomware. While you can get free antivirus software, the features are often too limited for adequate protection. Paid antivirus software can be expensive, but depending on your plan, it may include extras such as a password manager, VPN, and identity theft protection, among others.
Norton 360 Deluxe
Norton is a well-established antivirus vendor and offers several plans to choose from, depending on your needs. There's the basic Norton AntiVirus Plus (single-user plan), Norton 360 Standard, and Norton 360 for Gamers, but if you're looking for a value-for-money plan, consider Norton 360 Deluxe. This plan provides coverage for five devices (Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android) for $49.99 for the first year. It's also currently discounted to $24.99 on Amazon.
With Norton 360 Deluxe, you'll get protection against viruses, malware, ransomware, and hackers. In addition, you also get a VPN for each device, webcam protection (your computer's webcam can be hacked), and a password manager. A Dark Web monitoring tool scans the Dark Web for any personal identifiers and informs you if you're at risk of identity theft. The plan also includes 50GB of secure cloud storage and a parental monitoring tool that lets you monitor your child's internet usage, block inappropriate content, and set screen time limits.
If you want complete identity protection, you can upgrade to a Norton 360 Deluxe plan with LifeLock, which protects you from identity theft and connects you with an identity restoration specialist (U.S. only) if you're the victim of a crime. Keep in mind that Norton LifeLock plans start at $100 for the first year and get more expensive with subsequent renewals.
Bitdefender Total Security
If you're looking for an antivirus program that won't burn a hole in your picket, Bitdefender is one of the best. It offers free antivirus protection for Windows, but if you want a more comprehensive protection plan, Bitdefender Total Security is a great option. The Total Security plan is available for five or 10 devices, with prices starting at $39.99 a year.
Bitdefender Total Security covers Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. All Bitdefender plans include the standard protections against malware, ransomware, adware, and web attacks, but Total Security also includes a privacy firewall and protections for your microphone and webcam. This plan also comes with parental controls for all your devices.
Other features include social network protections, a file shredder to remove all traces of a deleted file, and a one-click optimizer to speed up your device. While Bitdefender does include a VPN, usage is restricted to 200MB per day per device. As a result, you might need to subscribe to an additional VPN service (you can purchase Bitdefender Premium VPN as an add-on) or upgrade to Bitdefender's Premium Security or Ultimate Security plans.
McAfee Total Protection
McAfee's Total Protection plan is a popular antivirus program compatible with most operating systems, including Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Chromebooks. The Total Protection Essential plan covers five devices and is priced at $39.99 for the first year. If you buy it on Amazon, you can get it at a discounted rate of $24.99.
McAfee Total Protection comes with antivirus, identity monitoring, and scam protection. The Protection Score tool lets you check your online safety and identify potential weak spots. The antivirus plan scans the Dark Web for your email address (monitors up to 10 email addresses) and personal information. Other features include a built-in VPN, password manager, tracker remover, and file shredder.
If you want antivirus protection on unlimited devices, you can upgrade to one of the McAfee+ plans instead. These are available as individual or family plans (two adults and four children) and offer additional features like parental controls, online account cleanup, and identity theft coverage and restoration (only with McAfee+ Advanced).
Like Bitdefender, Avast has a free antivirus option, but if you want an effective solution, you'll need to upgrade to one of its paid plans. Avast One is a comprehensive plan that includes more than just antivirus protection. You can choose from an individual plan (up to five devices) for $4.19 a month or a family plan (up to 30 devices) for $5.79 a month. Avast One is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.
Avast One blocks viruses and malware and comes with ransomware protection that prevents hackers from accessing your info. It can block unsafe downloads, monitor all the apps on your PC, and scan your email apps for suspicious attachments. In addition, it scans your home network and connected devices for vulnerabilities.
Avast One also includes an unlimited VPN with over 50 locations around the world and lets you get around geo-blocked content for your streaming subscriptions. Other features include webcam monitoring, a password manager, and identity theft protection and coverage (only for the $9.99 a month Platinum plan).
Malwarebytes is best known for its free malware removal tool, but the company also has a Malwarebytes Premium subscription. While Malwarebytes can scan your computer for threats, it's also great for removing malware from an infected PC. You can choose from Standard (one device or three devices) or Plus (three or five devices) plans. Prices start at $3.75 a month for the Standard plan.
Malwarebytes protects against viruses, malware, spyware, and ransomware. It includes Browser Guard, a browser extension that works with Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari that removes ads, stops third-party trackers, and blocks malicious web pages. A VPN is also included, with access to over 475 servers spread across 30 countries, but this is only available on the Plus plan.
Malwarebytes is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Chrome OS, but some features, such as brute force and uninstall protection, are only available for Windows devices. Additionally, it also lacks the extras you might find on traditional antivirus software, such as webcam protection and a password manager. It doesn't safeguard against identity theft and requires you to subscribe separately to one of its Identity Theft Protection Plans.
Trend Micro Maximum Security
Trend Micro is primarily known for its enterprise security but also has antivirus plans for personal use. The Trend Micro Maximum Security plan is priced at $49.95 for a year (currently discounted to $34.99 on Best Buy) and includes protection for up to five devices. It's compatible with Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, iOS, and Android. The antivirus software features robust scam and ransomware protection and uses AI to detect emerging malware threats.
The Trend Micro software includes a useful banking tool called Pay Guard that opens a secure version of your browser so that you can make financial transactions safely. Other features include parental controls, a password manager, and a social media privacy feature. If you want additional features like Dark Web monitoring and a personal VPN, you'll need to upgrade to the Premium Security Suite. This plan is priced at $59.95 for the first year and covers up to 10 devices.