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7 Best Antivirus Software of 2021

Money.com logo Money.com 9/13/2021 Norma Rodríguez
a close up of a box: Best-2021-Anti-Virus-Software © Jose Velez / Money Best-2021-Anti-Virus-Software

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When we spend most of our days in front of a computer or mobile device, it shouldn’t be a surprise that even the most experienced users may fall victim to computer viruses, hackers, or data breaches.

To help you protect your computer, tablet, and phone, we‘ve researched and selected the best antivirus software for 2021.

Our Top Picks for Best Antivirus Software

  • Norton – Best for Mac OS
  • Avast – Best free antivirus
  • Kaspersky – Best for PC
  • McAfee Mobile Security – Best for iOS
  • Avira – Best for Android
  • Bitdefender – Best Multiplatform
  • Malwarebytes for Chromebook – Best for Chromebook

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Best Antivirus Reviews

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Price: $49.99 (1st year)/ $124.99 per year

Pros
  • Protects up to 10 devices from different operating systems
  • Anti-spyware, anti-malware, and anti-ransomware
  • Secure VPN for ten devices with no data limit
  • Ad tracker blocker
  • Parental controls

Cons
  • SafeCam is only available for Microsoft Windows computers
  • Cloud backup is only available for Windows PCs

Popular belief holds that computers running on the Mac OS system don’t need malware protection. However, that’s not true. According to AV-Test, an independent IT security institute, in 2020, there were around 240,000 different types of viruses designed for this operating system.

Norton 360 Premium I offers Mac users protection against malware, hackers, and other viruses while also giving access to a password manager and private VPN. This antivirus offers a 100% virus protection promise with a money-back guarantee if a Norton expert cannot remove the computer’s malware.

Subscription is available as yearly plans with an automatic subscription. Norton also offers other virus protection alternatives for Mac OS at both more and less expensive price points, including Norton 360 with LifeLock Select and Norton 360 with LifeLock Premium.

These antivirus security suites can protect up to 5 devices and include a smart firewall, secure browser, and dark web monitoring. Norton 360 with LifeLock Premium also offers identity restoration services, Social Security alerts, and reimbursement for funds stolen due to identity theft.

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Price for the Premium subscription: $44.99 (1st year)/ $89.99 per year for up to 10 devices

Pros
  • Scan devices in seconds
  • Password protection
  • Home network security

Cons
  • Protection for one device at a time
  • Not available for Chromebooks

Avast is a solid option for those who are looking for a plan with basic protection. This free antivirus software covers Mac OS, iOS, Windows, and Android devices. Avast’s cloud-based protection blocks viruses and other types of malware, warns users about unsafe sites and blocks intrusive web trackers.

Avast also offers Premium and Ultimate subscription-based options that cover up to 10 multi-platform devices. These subscription-based antivirus programs include security tools such as VPN, anti-tracking, and a more premium cleanup and protection against viruses, ransomware, and spyware.

Avast Premium also includes a data or file shredder, a feature that allows users to irreversibly erase files or whole drives to avoid the misuse of data by cybercriminals.

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Price: $29.99 (1st year)/$59.99 per year for up to 3 devices

Pros
  • Real-time antivirus
  • Anti-phishing
  • Anti-hacker and anti-malware

Cons
  • Most affordable antivirus is only available for PC

Kaspersky Essential Suite is our choice for the best antivirus for PC because it provides wider protection against malware than Windows Defender. As part of their most affordable package, Kaspersky protects up to 3 PCs, and provides performance optimization and real-time virus protection.

According to AV Tests, Kaspersky provides complete malware protection, even detecting malware that has attacked your PC up to four weeks before installation. Kaspersky Essential Suite also includes web protection, phishing protection, and other security features including encryption, and VPN. This antivirus software stands out in tests for its accuracy in virus warnings and false blockages. Kaspersky’s antivirus might cause a minor slowing down in the download and launching of other computer programs.

Kaspersky’s Advanced Suite and Premium Suite are the other two tiers of antivirus protection this company offers. Their Advance Suit protects up to 10 devices and includes encrypted browsing, anti-phishing, and protection against hackers gaining control of your PC remotely through the use of Remote Access Tools (RATs).

Kaspersky’s Premium Suite protects up to 5 devices and includes YouTube safe search, GPS child locator tracker, webcam protection, Game Mode, application manager, and adult content blocker. The Premium Suite is a good option for parents looking for additional system resources to guarantee their children’s protection while navigating the internet.

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Price: $2.99 mo/$29.99 yr (Standard) | $9.99 mo/$79.99 yr (Plus)

Pros
  • Secure Wi-Fi scanner
  • Wi-Fi Guard VPN
  • Public Wi-Fi protection
  • Anti-theft protection

Cons
  • Wi-Fi Guard VPN is only available with a Premium subscription

Wi-Fi Guard VPN is only available with a Premium subscription

McAfee Mobile Security for iOS stands out for its monthly or yearly subscription-based options, Wi-Fi protection and security, and mobile contacts backup. It’s available for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch with more than 150K ratings and 4.7 stars in the Apple Store.

McAfee Mobile Security allows iOS users to remotely remove contact information and protect photos and videos if their device is stolen. This antivirus increases the chances of finding the stolen device even with a low battery using a GPS tracker, and contact backup is performed automatically through the McAfee Cloud.

McAfee also protects other devices with their McAfee Total Protection antivirus. McAfee antivirus packages are designed for individuals, couples, or families.

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Price: $3.99 per month

Pros
  • Android protection in Avira Prime and Avira Prime for Mobile antivirus
  • Automatically blocks spam and scam calls
  • Network Protection

Cons
  • Annual subscription not available

Avira offers two options for Android users: Avira Prime and Avira Prime for Mobile. Avira Prime is the best option for users interested in protecting other PCs or Mac OS devices. This subscription-based antivirus protects up to 25 devices, and it’s available in monthly and yearly plans.

Avira Prime for Mobile offers Android users antivirus protection, unlimited VPN, identity safeguard, and a password manager. In trials, Avira antivirus has been proven not to slow down the mobile device while in use and doesn’t impact battery life.

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Price: $69.98 for the first year/ $149.99 per year (10 devices)

Pros
  • Secures PC, Mac, Android, iOS
  • Includes unlimited VPN
  • Real-time anti-phishing, antispam, anti-fraud
  • Parental controls

Cons
  • Subscription price will increase after the first year
  • Not available for Chrome OS
  • Most affordable plans only cover PCs

Unlike other antivirus software, Bitdefender Premium Security protects PC, Mac OS, Android, iOS and includes unlimited VPN for each of these platforms. This user-friendly software provides a password manager, social media protection, real-time data protection, vulnerability assessment, and network threat prevention.

Bitdefender also offers other antivirus products including Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Bitdefender Total Security. Both security software feature a privacy firewall, protection against malware, spyware, and adware, protecting up to 10 multi-platform devices.

In AV-Test trials, Bitdefender has shown to slow down the installation of frequently used applications minimally; however, the high-quality detection of widespread malware makes this antivirus software stand out from its competitors.

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Price: $1.99 mo/$11.99 yr (Premium)

Pros
  • Designed specifically for Chrome OS
  • Free version available
  • Targets adware and spyware
  • Users can add Browser Guard extension for free
  • Available in 10 different languages

Cons
  • Few features

Malwarebytes stands out from other antivirus software by being specifically designed for Chrome OS. Malwarebytes offers Chromebook users the option of a free or subscription-based premium version that can provide ransomware protection before it locks the device. Malwarebytes for Chromebook also protects against phishing attacks.

Other Companies We Considered

When researching and selecting the best antivirus of 2021, we encountered companies whose software provided good protection against malware; however, they lacked features, slowed down devices, and didn’t offer competitive prices.

Webroot Internet Security Plus Antivirus

Pros
  • Protects Chromebooks
  • Protects personal data such as account logins and passwords
  • Stops ransomware
  • 70-day money-back guarantee without credit card requirement

Cons
  • Some features are only available for Windows, Mac, and Android users
  • Few features compared to other antivirus software
  • Wi-Fi protection is available in more expensive subscription plans

Webroot isn’t part of our main list because its antivirus has fewer features than other similarly priced software. This antivirus has not been part of AV-Test comparatives since November 2016, and there’s not enough information about its performance to compare it to the other companies.

Sophos

Pros
  • Available for Windows and Mac
  • Free real-time protection and web filtering for up to 3 devices
  • Subscription-based option protects up to 10 devices
  • Subscription includes real-time protection, web filtering, advanced threat, and privacy protection

Cons
  • Not available for mobile devices
  • Subscription-based option doesn't have a lot of features
  • No identity protection

Sophos didn’t make it to our top list for the lack of features in their subscription-based option and because their user products have not been part of AV test trials since 2019.

Eset

Pros
  • Protection for Windows, Mac, and Android
  • Performance optimization feature
  • Anti-phishing, antivirus, anti-spyware
  • Cross-platform protection

Cons
  • Not available for iOS
  • Most features are only available with their Ultimate subscription

Eset doesn’t take part on our main list because this multiplatform antivirus doesn’t include iOS. In AV test trials, Eset has been shown to slow down the installation of frequently used applications in PC and Mac computers.

Trend Micro

Pros
  • Stops viruses and protects against ransomware
  • Anti-phishing
  • Blocks websites that can potentially steal personal information

Cons
  • Multiplatform protection, password manager and VPN is only available with the Maximum Security plan

Trend Micro antivirus isn’t part of our main list because customers must purchase their most expensive option to obtain complete device protection. This subscription covers up to 10 devices, making it a pricier option for those looking to secure a more limited amount of personal devices. In AV Tests trials, this antivirus slows down launching popular websites and installing frequently used applications on PCs.

AVG

Pros
  • Available for PCs, Mac, Android, and iOS
  • Free version available
  • AVG Ultimate includes: Internet protection, VPN, and system optimization
  • Free version blocks viruses, and protects against spyware and ransomware

Cons
  • AVG Ultimate doesn't have a free version
  • AVG VPN and Tune Up only have a 7-day free trial
  • Only one device coverage for PCs
  • Android and iOS free version only offers malware protection

AVG didn’t make it into our main list because their free version only includes viruses and other malware blockage. Free antivirus software usually includes additional features and broader protection. In trials, AVG significantly slowed down the launching of commonly used applications in PCs, and only their AVG Internet Protection has a 30-day free trial.

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Antivirus Guide

When thinking about computer viruses and how to protect our devices against them, it’s essential to know and understand the most common types of viruses and what to look for when purchasing antivirus software. In this guide, you can find information to help you choose the best antivirus to protect your device.

Types of malware

Malware

Malware is a term that covers a wide selection of malicious software. Viruses, trojan horses, worms, and spyware are considered to be malware. This malicious software slows down device performance and attacks data and resources.

Ransomware

Ransomware, a type of malware, blocks the user’s access to the device. The attackers ask the user for a ransom fee to release the device.

Spyware

This type of malware tracks information usage and transmits data from the hard drive of the hacked device to another. There are several types of spyware:

  • Keyloggers: Records computer’s activities
  • Password stealers: Collects passwords from the infected device
  • Info stealers: Provides third parties with sensitive information such as passwords, usernames, email addresses, log files, browser history, system information, spreadsheets, documents, and media files
  • Banking trojans: Steals information from financial institutions, modifies transactions and web portals.

Adware

Adware are display ads in the form of pop-up windows that appear on the user’s screen. They usually appear on free-to-use software and applications, monitoring users’ interests to develop more relevant ads.

What are the signs of a computer virus?

Signs of a computer virus are not always evident to the user. According to Norton, here are some of the general symptoms your device might show if a virus has infected it:

  • Unusual slowing down of a device
  • Frequent crashes or froze screens
  • Unknown programs open up when the device turns on
  • Frequent pop-up windows might appear
  • Changes to homepage
  • Mass emails sent from your email account
  • Sudden password changes

How does antivirus software work?

Antivirus software works as a scanner, going through a computer’s operating system and checking their files, documents, programs, and applications. Most antivirus software not only scans your device to find viruses and other malicious programs but also eliminates them and protects your device to avoid future infestations.

There are different methods of antivirus software programs to detect and eliminate malware.

  • Cloud antivirus detection: requires a connection to the internet since a server in a cloud processes all of the information instead of doing it on a hard drive
  • Machine learning: through the use of an algorithm, the antivirus detects if the file is malicious
  • Behavioral detection: this technology is used to detect unknown viruses
  • Signature-based detection: the antivirus already has predefined signatures in its system and uses those already predisposed signatures to detect any anomaly or malware attacking the device
  • Heuristic analysis: a complement to signature detection, heuristic analysis spots suspicious characteristics in new, unknown viruses well as known malware

How To Choose The Best Antivirus

Choosing the best antivirus will depend on what operating system runs the device you want to protect and the type of cybersecurity and extra features you want to include. Some essential elements your antivirus software should include are:

  • Virus removal
  • Web-browsing protection such as anti-phishing
  • Computer scans
  • One of the malware detection methods: cloud antivirus, machine learning, behavioral detection, signature-based detection, or heuristic analysis

Most antivirus software companies include an array of features and extras with their antivirus programs. These are some of the most valuable features to consider, including:

  • VPN: a virtual private network that gives the user privacy and anonymity while using the internet. It masks the IP address making the user’s online browsing anonymous
  • Password manager: stores and manages passwords in an encrypted database protecting your information against data breaches
  • Parental controls: Controls children’s screen time. Some even offer GPS device tracking
  • Identity theft protection

If you’re interested in protecting your identity, check our selection for the best identity theft protection of 2021.

Best Antivirus FAQ

What is the best antivirus?

Selecting the best antivirus will depend on the device's operating system and what type of protection the customer needs. Our top picks for the best antivirus recommend software for each of the most common operating systems available.

How to disable antivirus?

To disable antivirus software, look for the program icon in your desktop or application folder. Right-click on the icon and select the disable option. The disabling antivirus software is only recommended when installing a new computer program the antivirus doesn't recognize. After the installation, run the antivirus program to ensure the software scans it for any malware.

What is the best free antivirus?

As the best free antivirus, we have selected Avast. This software protects Mac OS, PCs, and Androids.

Which antivirus is the best for Windows 10?

We selected Kaspersky anti-virus as the best one for PCs because of its features, thorough protection, and good reviews by AV-Test.

If I have a VPN, do I still need antivirus software?

Yes, to have comprehensive protection, you should have antivirus software in addition to a VPN service. The VPN will protect your data and information securely; however, it's not an antivirus. You can save your data with a VPN, but your device needs to be covered with an antivirus.

How We Chose the Best Antivirus Software

To select the best antivirus software of 2021, we researched an array of antivirus software and considered their:

  • Basic software
  • Extra features
  • Price

We researched and used the data from trials conducted by AV-Test, an independent testing lab that tests antivirus software for PCs, Mac OS, iOS, and Android every couple of months. We vetted companies based on their findings of slowing down devices, detecting malware and eliminating it.

Summary of Money’s Best Antivirus Software of 2021

  • Norton – Best for Mac OS
  • Avast – Best free antivirus
  • Kaspersky – Best for PC
  • McAfee Mobile Security – Best for iOS
  • Avira – Best for Android
  • Bitdefender – Best Multiplatform
  • Malwarebytes for Chromebook – Best for Chromebook

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This article originally appeared on Money.com and may contain affiliate links for which Money receives compensation. Opinions expressed in this article are the author's alone, not those of a third-party entity, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed. Offers may be subject to change without notice. For more information, read Money’s full disclaimer.

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