All of Norton’s antivirus products offer excellent malware protection, and the once-heavy system-performance load is much lighter. The number of extra features each program has varies, but the sweet spot in the lineup is Norton 360 Deluxe.
It includes a password manager that works on all major platforms, unlimited VPN service, dark-web personal-data monitoring, parental controls and up to 50GB of online storage space. Two other offerings, Norton 360 Premium and Norton 360 Platinum, give you more online storage and expand the antivirus and VPN coverage to 10 and 20 devices, respectively. Their subscription prices run well into the triple digits, but still cost less than if you were to buy the identity protection, password manager, cloud-backup storage and antivirus software separately.
Unlike some of the other best antivirus software makers, Norton doesn’t offer a file shredder, file encryption or secure web browser with any of its products. Yet every other digital-protection service you could possibly ask for is included with at least some of its bundles.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is our top choice among entry-level antivirus products. It has very good, if not perfect, malware-detection scores. Its active scans don’t add much to the background system impact, but that background load is a bit heavy.
It also offers the most value, with an unlimited (but Windows-only) password manager, a secure browser with a virtual keyboard, a Wi-Fi network scanner, a file shredder, protection against encrypting ransomware and Bitdefender’s new web-privacy software — features often found only with pricier antivirus packages.
The midrange Bitdefender Internet Security adds parental controls, webcam protection and a two-way firewall, while Bitdefender Total Security tops off the lineup with an anti-theft feature for laptops.
Kaspersky’s Windows products have excellent malware-detection scores and a light-to-moderate system-performance impact, the two most important criteria in our rankings.
The entry-level program, Kaspersky Anti-Virus (starting at £12.49 UK/$29.99 US), has dedicated ransomware protection, a virtual keyboard and a convenient online account portal. But it’s beaten by Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, which has even more features.
Kaspersky Internet Security (£17.49 UK/$39.99 US) is our top choice among midrange packages. It has a secure browser, anti-theft protection for laptops, webcam protection and a limited-use VPN client that kicks in when you connect to an open Wi-Fi network. It also includes software for macOS, Android and iOS.
The premium antivirus suite, Kaspersky Total Security (£19.99 UK/$44.99 US), adds backup software, parental controls, file encryption, a file shredder and an unlimited password manager. We think it’s the best antivirus software you can buy today.
McAfee’s malware detection has improved greatly in the past couple of years, but it’s still not quite top-of-the-line.
Despite that, the entry-level McAfee AntiVirus Plus is a bargain: $60 per year buys software for up to 10 (in practice, unlimited) devices, whether they run Windows, macOS, iOS or Android, and the software comes with a file shredder and a two-way firewall.
To get parental controls or one of the best password managers in the business, you’ll have to spring for McAfee Total Protection or its sibling McAfee LiveSafe, which comes pre-installed on many new PCs.
The multi-device licenses of those two security suites also come with an identity-protection service. But none of the McAfee products have a secure browser or webcam protection, which you often get with other premium antivirus programs.
At the top is McAfee Total Protection Ultimate, which adds unlimited VPN service with no strings attached. Hardcore PC gamers may consider McAfee Gamer Security, which for $60 per year offers low-overhead protection for a single rig.
Trend Micro offers very good protection, but its malware-detection engine creates a heavy system load during scans and returns a fair number of false-positive results.
The brand’s entry-level program, Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security, has basic tools but does have a secure web browser. Parental controls, a system optimizer and a file shredder are bundled into the mid-range Trend Micro Internet Security.
Trend Micro Maximum Security adds a password manager, a secure browser and file encryption, while the new Trend Micro Premium Security adds a VPN and dark-web monitoring of personal data.
However, none of Trend Micro’s programs include a two-way firewall or webcam protection, standard with other brands’ midrange offerings. Nor does the premium product have the cloud storage or backup software that some of the best antivirus brands add as enticements to their flagship packages.