Antivirus software is nearly as crucial as a PC’s operating system. Even if you know the threats and practice extreme caution, some mischief just can’t be prevented without the aid of an AV program—or a full antivirus suite.
You could, for example, visit a website that unintentionally displays malicious ads. Or accidentally click on a phishing email (it happens!). Or get hit with a zero-day threat, where an undisclosed bug in Windows, your browser, or an installed program gives hackers entry to your system.
We’re not suggesting that PC security software is fool-proof. Antivirus software often can’t do much to stop zero-day exploits, for example. But it can detect when the undisclosed vulnerability is used to install other nasty bits, like ransomware, on your machine. Anyone who actively uses email, clicks on links, and downloads programs will benefit from an antivirus suite.
Our recommendations strike a balance between excellent protection, a worthwhile selection of features, and minimal performance impact on your PC. You can read about how we test antivirus suites below.
Updated 4/29/22 to add our review of Panda Dome Complete, a capable VPN that stands out by offering a treasure trove of features, making it an intriguing choice for power users.
Best antivirus suite 2022
1. Norton 360 Deluxe – Best antivirus for PC overall
Norton Security Premium is no more, but our pick for best AV has stayed in the family, with Norton 360 Deluxe. There aren’t a lot of fundamental changes to the suite compared to previous iterations, which also means its just as solid. The pricing now covers fewer devices, but you get a good number of extra features such as Dark Web Monitoring and VPN access, making for an overall excellent value.
Read our full
Norton 360 Deluxe review
2. Avast One – Best overall runner-up
$99.99 per year for 5 devices. $139.99 per year for 30 devices
Avast really upped its game with this top-tier product. The Avast One suite offers an improved design, excellent performance, and even more features to help offset its premium price. The individual plan covers five devices.
Read our full
Avast One review
3. AVG Internet Security – Best budget antivirus suite
AVG Internet Security does an excellent job of protecting your PC, even if its interface could stand a polish. Nevertheless, with unlimited installs for $70 per year, it’s hard to beat this popular security solution when it comes to value.
Read our full
AVG Internet Security review
4. Trend Micro Maximum Security – Best antivirus for beginners
Many antivirus suites create an interface that’s as simple as possible for users to understand—but sometimes the software becomes too stripped down. That’s why our recommendation for novices is Trend Micro Maximum Security.
This antivirus suite, which provides highly rated protection, strikes a nice balance between complexity and simplicity: Four category icons at the top let you dive deeper into the suite, but if all you need to do is a scan, that option is right there in the center of interface. You can’t miss it.
Overall, no matter what you need to get done in Maximum Security, the interface doesn’t leave you with any guesswork.
Read our full
Trend Micro Maximum Security review
5. McAfee Total Protection – Best for privacy
With its latest version, McAfee puts an emphasis on identity and privacy. While still offering its trademark malware protection, features like Identity Protection Service and a VPN for obscuring your online tracks, as well as app update checker address today’s added concerns.
Read our full
McAfee Total Protection review
6. Panda Dome Complete – Best feature-rich offering
1 device: $64.49 I 3 devices: $71.99 I 5 devices: $78.74 I 10 devices: $121.49
All of the deluxe antivirus suites offer extra tools as part of their package, but if we had to pick one that stands out in this respect, it’d be Panda Dome Complete. It has the usual PC maintenance utilities such as a disk defragmenter for hard drives and a startup apps manager. But it also has a VPN, Wi-Fi network scanning, a process monitor, a virtual keyboard, an application control feature, and more.
It also makes it very easy to find everything since it uses a tiled interface on a single screen, and the protection is good too. Granted, you’ll pay more for Panda Dome Complete than some other worthwhile AV programs, but it offers lots of value for power users.
Read our full
Panda Dome Complete review
7. Windows Security – Best free antivirus
If Windows is already working, why add anything else? If its built-in security suite, Windows Security, performs on par with the best of the free AV options—as we discovered in our roundup of the best free antivirus—why add the extra baggage of a third-party program? Sure other AV programs might offer marginally better protection, but not enough to outweigh the convenience of rolling with Microsoft’s home-grown offering. Windows Seucrity also has ransomware protection, which many free options don’t. Plus, you avoid the nuisance of a third-party suite’s regular upgrade notifications. To learn more, see our video on How to use Windows Security.)
Read our full
Windows Security review
What to look for in an antivirus suite
There are three basic requirements that an antivirus suite needs:
- High detection rate for malware and other threats
- Low impact on system resources
- An easy-to-use interface
That’s not all to consider, however. These days, many security suites come with extras such as a backup service for your most essential files, Android apps for mobile security, a more advanced firewall, family protection (read: child restriction) features, and the right to use the program on multiple PCs. Whether you need those extras depends on your personal situation.
How we test
First, we take a look at the interface to determine how easy or complicated it is. Does the interface make it easy to get at essential tools like PC scans and password managers, for example, or is everything buried under multiple clicks? Are there elements that look like they should be clickable but aren’t? Are alerts interactive or purely informational, and does that make sense in context?
We also examine the features on offer. Every good antivirus suite should have the basics like scanning and real-time protection, but many vendors offer elements that go beyond basic security like password managers or firewalls. We try to discern whether any of these extra features are particularly useful, or just frills that look nice but don’t serve a practical purpose.
To test the suite’s demand on system resources, we run two benchmarks. The first is PCMark 8’s Work Conventional test, which simulates a variety of workloads including editing spreadsheets, browsing the web, and running video chat.
We run the benchmark before the security suite is installed. Then we install the software, have it run a full scan on our Windows 10 test machine, and start a second run of the benchmark at the same time. Then we compare the overall scores to see if the decline between the two benchmarks is significant.
As a harsher stress test, we also use Handbrake to transcode a video before and after installing the A/V. On most home PCs, this encoding task utilizes 100 percent of the CPU. We then compare transcoding times to see if there’s any significant decline.
Our test machine is an Acer Aspire E15 with an Intel Core i3-7100U, 4GB RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. Each security suite is tested on a clean install of Windows 10 Home.
As for the antivirus suite’s detection capabilities, we’ll rely on the opinions of security researchers dedicated to this task. We’ll take into consideration reports from outlets such as A-V Comparatives, A-V Test and SE Labs.
We’ll also take pricing into account and what you get for it.
Whenever possible we’ll review security suites using a free trial to get a sense of what consumers see when they first try out a new product.