Best and worst antivirus software in 2018

Internet security software keeps you safe online and your computer speedy - find out the best antivirus here (and the ones to miss)

If you’re keen to fend off computer viruses and all types of malware and protect your personal information from being hacked, it’s a good idea to beef up your internet security with a well-rated antivirus software.

The latest report from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) found that data breaches are up 44% since last year and more and more of us are falling victim to hackers online.

Even the NHS was crippled by a ransomware attack only in 2017 – and sadly attacks are on the rise. Whether you’ve got a Windows PC or Mac, we all face similar threats when we’re online and when it comes to our work computer, often it’s just not worth the risk.

With cybersecurity more important than ever, getting yourself a reliable security software is your best bet to keep you safe online and your important files protected.

But is it really worth paying for antivirus software? What protection do you get with free antivirus downloads? And which are the altogether best antivirus solutions for a Windows PC or Mac?

This page is designed to answer all your questions about anti-malware and virus protection – and help you find the best deal for you.

Find out whether the big players in antivirus protection – Norton, AVG, Avast, McAfee – still cut it as a top internet security system. And which is the right option for you, whatever your budget and needs.


In this article we cover:

  1. Best antivirus software
  2. Best antivirus for Windows
  3. Best antivirus for Mac
  4. Best free antivirus software
  5. Free antivirus software vs paid protection

Best antivirus software

Whether you’re after a paid-for or free antivirus programme, for Windows or Mac, we’ve tracked down the best antivirus software for small businesses. And we’ll also tell you who you’ll want to avoid to stay as safe as you can be online.

To be a Startups chart-topper, the security software needed to provide top protection, work well with the intended operating software, be easy to use – and not cost an arm and a leg – you might be surprised how little it costs to upgrade.

So here is a full break-down of the best antivirus software for business use:

Antivirus Great for…? Price / yr Star Rating View online
Norton Antivirus Norton Security Deluxe Extra safe business use £30 ★★★★★ uk.norton.com
Kaspersky Antivirus Kaspersky Internet Security Great all-round protection £28 ★★★★ kaspersky.co.uk
Norton Antivirus Norton Security Deluxe for Mac Bullet-proof defence £30 ★★★★★ uk.norton.com
Bitdefender Antivirus Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac User-friendly protection £30 ★★★★ bitdefender.co.uk
AVG Antivirus AVG Antivirus Free Hardly feels free £0 ★★★★ avg.com
Bitdefender Antivirus Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition Nearly as good as paid £0 ★★★★ bitdefender.co.uk
antivirus-avast Avast Free Antivirus 2018 Good value but limited support £0 ★★★★ avast.com


Windows

Best Windows antivirus

With Windows still one of the most popular operating systems worldwide, its software is often targeted by viruses and hackers.

If you’re using Windows 8 or Windows 10, you’ll be benefitting from tighter security thanks to the antivirus and antispyware protection you get as standard with Windows Defender, but it still won’t be as comprehensive as add-on security packages.

But if you’re using an earlier version of Windows, their computer security software really isn’t enough to protect you from the level of threats that we face internet users today.

Best antivirus for Windows

Here are the antivirus packages that performed the best in our tests:

  1. Norton Security Deluxe
  2. Kaspersky Internet Security

Norton Security Deluxe

For extra safe business use ★★★★★

Value for money ★★★★

Norton Antivirus PROS – Plenty of features, add up to 5 devices, user-friendly, ransomware protection, great for business use
CONS – Spam filter can be hit-and-miss, no password manager

Usual price: £30

Protection ★★★★★
Ease of use ★★★★★

Norton is one of the most trusted antivirus and online security providers – and its software is great whether you want it for your Windows PC, Mac or Android.

How good is the protection?

Norton Secure Deluxe was developed by US tech superstar Symantec and is one of the most robust cloud based tools to protect your computer. It’s able to stand up to ransomware (a growing threat to small businesses) as well as phishing scams – and it won’t slow your PC down.

How easy is it to use?

Norton’s interface is clean and user-friendly. It’s easy to search for and use the functions you need, so you feel in control but not overwhelmed. Plus there are plenty of ways of contacting Norton if you ever need help.

Is it for me?

Norton Deluxe Security is ideal for business use but if you share your computer with little ones, you might prefer an antivirus with parental controls.

To find out more about Norton, you can check out their website here.


Kaspersky Internet Security

For impressive all-round protection ★★★★

Kaspersky Antivirus PROS – Extra-safe browsing, safe banking browser, good support, hassle-free
CONS – No back-up feature, no password manager

Usual price: £28

Protection ★★★★
Ease of use ★★★★★
Value for money ★★★★

Kaspersky Internet Security is one of the UK’s most popular antivirus packages – it’s easy to use and doesn’t drag on your PC.

How good is the protection?

You can count on Kaspersky to find and remove malware from your PC, including ransomware and any phishing attempts. It lacks functions to speed up your computer, but definitely won’t slow it down.

We also like how it doesn’t keep popping up with unwanted messages – it just does its job well, without you even noticing.

How easy is it to use?

It’s really easy to get to grips with the software – as soon as you start using it, messages pop up to guide you through everything. Some users find the main menu quite cluttered with all the options – but we quite liked having so many features at our fingertips.

Is it for me?

For busy professionals, Kaspersky is a life-saver. It banishes any threats without bugging you with too many messages of its own. And we like the option to turn off the annual auto-renew which many antivirus providers keep hidden to try to lock you in.

Kaspersky’s website is there if you’d like to find out more – you can hop straight to it here.


Worst antivirus for Windows

But it’s also good to know who didn’t perform, so you can avoid them. In our latest assessments, the worst antivirus for Windows was:

Malwarebytes 3

For poor protection and a steep price ★★★★★

Malwarebytes Antivirus PROS – Simple to use
CONS – Does not integrate well with Windows Defender, no ransomware protection, limited functionality

Usual price: £50

Protection ★★★★★
Ease of use ★★★★★
Value for money ★★★★★

A Windows antivirus programme that clashes with Windows? Definitely give this one a miss..

How good is the protection?

Malwarebytes 3 isn’t a particularly cheap antivirus tool, so you’d expect it to go the extra mile. But our tests found it was even less effective than the pre-installed software Windows Defence – sometimes it misses bugs that you might have caught without it.

How easy is it to use?

Generally, virus protection software is there to take the pain out of keeping you protected online. But Malwarebytes 3 is a confusing little tool – and it will try to lock you into a contract that auto-renews.

Is it for me?

Malwarebytes 3 lacks the main antivirus features you’d expect with a paid-for plan (like a firewall or safe banking browser). We wouldn’t recommend it even if it were free.


iOS Mac

Antivirus for Mac

Do I need antivirus for Mac?

Historically, there’s been less demand for antivirus software for Mac compared with Windows. Many people trusted Apple’s operating systems to defend them against malware and didn’t think many viruses were built to go after Macs.

But with more and more people getting Macs, since 2016 we’ve been seeing increasing cases of ransomware actively targeting Apple users. And once you’re online, you’re exposed to many of the same risks as Windows PCs.

Isn’t the MacOS security enough?

Macs don’t actually come with any antivirus software. They have a firewall, but it won’t be activated unless you specifically turn it on in your System Preferences menu – which many of us forget to check.

Of course, the MacOS security will go some way in offering anti-phishing and parental controls, but for antispyware and antivirus protection, it’s worth considering a standalone antivirus download.

Best antivirus for Mac

Most antivirus software is developed with Windows PCs in mind and sometimes you’ll find the iOS versions don’t quite stack up as well.

That’s why it’s important to check the best antivirus protection for your specific operating system – Norton is a great all-rounder, but we found Bitdefender the second best antivirus for Mac.

Here are the best antivirus solutions for Macs:

  1. Norton Security Deluxe for Mac
  2. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac

Norton Security Deluxe for Mac

For affordable, bullet-proof protection ★★★★★

Norton Antivirus PROS – Top-level protection, almost no learning curve, firewall defence, intuitive controls
CONS – Could have even more features

Usual price: £30

Protection ★★★★★
Ease of use ★★★★★
Value for money ★★★★

Many Mac users underestimate the need for additional antivirus protection. That’s why it’s great to find an anti-malware solution like Norton Security Deluxe for Mac that offers bullet-proof security, without costing the earth.

How good is the protection?

Norton are known worldwide as leaders in online security – and their Mac antivirus software is the best we tested. It can safeguard a generous five devices and is exceptional at spotting and exterminating viruses before they can go after your precious work files.

How easy is it to use?

Norton is a nice and easy software provider. It’s got a slick menu and intuitive traffic light system to report on threat levels, so you always know what’s what. You stay in control with the options to take action when you need to – and plenty of support is on hand.

Is it for me?

We think Norton is the best security you can get in a Mac – and it offers more protection than many rivals.

But Norton’s own website is the best place to find out everything you need to know before trialing. You can have a flick through it here.


Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac

For user-friendly protection ★★★★

Bitdefender Antivirus PROS – Bullet-proof protection, easy to use, decent support, clean interface
CONS – Can crack under pressure

Usual price: £30

Protection ★★★★
Ease of use ★★★★
Value for money ★★★★

Bitdefender is the perfect antivirus tool if you’re not exactly a tech guru, but want a decent level of Mac security.

How good is the protection?

Bitdefender can be used on up to three Macs and gives you the option of auto or manual scans to catch as many threats as possible. The Bitdefender Antivirus for Macs is slightly more airtight than the Windows version, but both are robust pieces of software.

How easy is it to use?

Bitdefender has one of the cleanest interfaces, so it’s a breeze to navigate. And should you need help, there are plenty of options, including an extensive FAQ section. With the paid package, you’ll also have live chat access if you’re ever in trouble.

Is it for me?

Bitdefender’s simple design makes it (almost) a joy to use. We think it’s a great option for any business owners wanting extra protection for their Macs, without getting bogged down with tech.

If you’d like to get started with Bitdefender, you can get cracking on their website here.


Worst antivirus for Mac

And here’s one to avoid at all costs:

F-Secure SAFE for Mac

For pricey but shoddy protection ★★★★★

F-Secure Antivirus PROS – Nice features like anti-ransomware, safe banking browser and anti-phishing
CONS – Expensive, low security

Usual price: £60

Protection ★★★★★
Ease of use ★★★★
Value for money ★★★★

F-Secure is a top-notch option for Windows users – but Macs should steer clear.

How good is the protection?

F-Secure does an okay job at spotting infected USBs and infected Apple software, but it misses the mark with online threats – which is a big but.

How easy is it to use?

F-Secure’s main plus point is its ease of use. It has useful Help buttons dotted around its various menus and it’s a simple tool to navigate in general.

Is it for me?

We wouldn’t recommend it. It costs over double of what its rivals are charging – and does a worse job.


Best free antivirus

Protecting your computer and personal details online is now more important than even, but it doesn’t have to break the bank.

Free antivirus software tends to have fairly basic features, but will do the job of preventing and removing computer viruses for you. Though for extras like a firewall or parental controls, you usually have to pay a little.

We put a host of free antivirus programmes to the test – and these are the ones that came out best for malware protection and user-friendliness:

Best free antivirus software in 2018

  1. AVG Antivirus Free
  2. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
  3. Avast Free Antivirus 2018

AVG Antivirus Free

A free antivirus that doesn’t feel free ★★★★

AVG Antivirus PROS – Great ransomware protection, user-friendly, ransomware protection
CONS -Not so good at phishing

Usual price: £0

Protection ★★★★
Ease of use ★★★★

AVG’s paid antivirus software offers some of the main features businesses need – even ransomware defence. But of course, it doesn’t quite match up to the paid version.

How good is the protection?

With free packages, you wouldn’t expect much more than anti-phishing and anti-spyware security. But AVG does a pretty good job at both – and feels fairly similar to the paid-for AVG package when attacking online threats.

How easy is it to use?

AVG is a well-built free antivirus software that offers most of the main virus protection tools you’ll want without overcomplicating things with a busy menu. It’s on the ball and responds well to potential threats, so you can focus on growing your business.

Is it for me?

AVG offers a decent level of security at no cost at all. Although Bitdefender’s free software gives you just a few more features. And just note the AVG Antivirus free for Mac isn’t nearly as good as the Windows edition.

Just click here to explore AVG further on their website.


Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

Nearly as good as paid-for security ★★★★

Bitdefender Antivirus PROS – Nearly as good as the paid version, free, uncluttered menus
CONS – Single device use, more support would be good

Usual price: £0

Protection ★★★★
Ease of use ★★★★★

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is an excellent free antivirus tool – and very nearly as good as the paid version.

How good is the protection?

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is a pro at attacking viruses. It’s good at warding off all different types of malware – from Windows, Mac or Android, so you don’t need to worry about accidentally infecting your friends on other devices.

How easy is it to use?

With not too many features, Bitdefender is a nice little tool to use. It’s obviously got a less busy menu than the non-free Bitdefender Internet Security version, but we found it just made it even easier to navigate.

Is it for me?

If you’re looking for an antivirus solution that protects you like a paid-for package without spending a penny, Bitdefender’s free edition is one to check out.

You can read more about it here.


Avast Free Antivirus 2018

A solid free antivirus with good protection but limited support ★★★★

antivirus-avast PROS – Good level of protection, doesn’t clog your PC, intuitive to use
CONS – Limited features on free version, online only support

Usual price: £0

Protection ★★★★
Ease of use ★★★★★

Avast is a nifty free antivirus software that’s big on online security – if you don’t need too much support.

How good is the protection?

Avast is a leading antivirus expert and offers hard-to-beat online protection – even in ransomware and anti-phishing. We just think it’s missing a firewall to help keep you extra safe online and its smartphone antivirus downloads struggle a tad with malware removal.

How easy is it to use?

Avast is a user-friendly antivirus – it won’t bombard you with messages and is pretty easy to get the hang of. We also like how Avast give you the option of installing their add-ons, rather than cluttering your hard drive with random files.

Is it for me?

Avast is a stellar virus protector for those of us who want reliable, hassle-free online security and don’t need too much of a helping hand.

If you’d like to give Avast a go, here is their website.


Will free antivirus solutions protect me enough?

We understand computer security can just seem like another expense you don’t need. But it’s well worth considering a paid plan if you can because their security suites offer much more than just antivirus protection.

The biggest risk to computer users is no longer picking up a virus online but identity fraud – which can have an even more devastating impact.

And now that you can install a top rated antivirus software for around just £20 a year, we think the paid-for packages are a good investment for some peace of mind.


Do I really need to pay for antivirus software?

Nearly half of us protect ourselves online by investing in anti-malware software for a small annual fee. Most packages – even the top rated security software in this review – cost between £20 and £70 a year and offer more airtight malware protection that what’s already on your Windows PC or Mac.

The main benefits you’ll get with paid-for antivirus software are options like fast file recovery in the event of a bug, multi-device protection and parental controls. And below we have a full break-down of the pros and cons of paid antivirus plans.

Pros and cons of paid antivirus

✅ Get more water-tight online protection
✅ Enjoy one simple, easy-to-use interface
✅ Avoid any compatibility issues
✅ Auto-updates help you stay protected
❌ You may not be comfortable with these costs
❌ Some less well-built software can slow your computer

Free antivirus software vs paid protection

Maybe paid protection isn’t for you and we’ll help you find a free antivirus download if that’s the case. It’s possible to get a decent amount of internet security with a free version, though often this will mean combining different free antivirus tools – and that risks compatibility issues.

Here are the key pros and cons to weigh up when choosing the best antivirus software for your small business:

Pros and cons of free antivirus

✅ Save money
✅ Get to try before you buy
❌ You’ll only have basic online protection
❌ You’ll need to check you stay updated
❌ All your devices might not be protected


IN A NUTSHELL

Antivirus software is a great idea to help defend your PC or Mac against malware attacks, keep it ticking over nicely and protect your business and personal information from being hacked.

There are some great free antivirus options available, but if you’re looking for more airtight online security including ransomware defence, automatic updates and controlling the online content your staff or children are exposed to, you get get that peace of mind for only around £30 a year.


WHERE NEXT?

To explore our four top rated anti-malware and anti-spyware solutions for Windows and Mac, you can tap any of the links below:

Antivirus Great for…? Price / yr Star Rating View online
Norton Antivirus Norton Security Deluxe Extra safe business use £30 ★★★★★ uk.norton.com
Kaspersky Antivirus Kaspersky Internet Security Great all-round protection £28 ★★★★ kaspersky.co.uk
Norton Antivirus Norton Security Deluxe for Mac Bullet-proof defence £30 ★★★★★ uk.norton.com
Bitdefender Antivirus Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac User-friendly protection £30 ★★★★ bitdefender.co.uk

Were you paid to write this?

Startups is proud to provide free buyers’ guides to help our readers make the best decisions when investing in tech to grow their small businesses and start-ups. Our reviews are 100% unbiased and no company can pay to get their rating bumped up.

To keep our pages free, we sometimes receive commission if any of our readers sign up using one of our links, but any potential business relationship happens far away from our researchers and writers and never has any influence on our content.

We hope you found this page useful and good luck staying safe online.