So, you’re trying to find the best antivirus for Windows. I know, there are so many options out there, and probably you have no idea where to start. In this guide, I will touch on subjects such as the definition of an antivirus, what are its functionalities, and also what you should be looking for when choosing one.

What is antivirus software and what antivirus should I use?

Antivirus has always been the go-to solution to fight malicious software and cybercriminal tactics. And it still is. Malware, phishing scams, ransomware, DDoS – these are just a handful of the threats that lurk on the Internet.

Antivirus definition

But let’s start off with the basics: what exactly is an antivirus software and what does it do?

Antivirus
The definition of antivirus software programs goes something like this: A piece of software designed block out viruses and other malware from entering your device and compromising your personal data or the hardware itself.

A good antivirus is a must-have. It minimizes the times you have to enter damage control mode to clean up the mess caused by a successful malware attack.

Before you proceed in your journey to find your dream security software, let’s see how exactly an antivirus works.

How does antivirus software work? Things you should know about AV before getting one

Virus scanner and script blocking

Reactive scanning is the bread and butter of an antivirus. Basically, it scans any new program or file before it’s opened and checks if it is a known malware or if it behaves like one.

It’s all done in the background, and the scanned file or program only opens once the antivirus has finished the scan.

Then there is the full system scan, where the antivirus goes through every nook and cranny of your device in order to find malware or any other suspicious software or files.

Some AVs also block malicious ActiveX or Java scripts from infecting your PC. Plugins based on these technologies can be used to make your PC part of a botnetinject code or do drive-by downloads.

What to look for:

Ideally, the scanner should be lightweight and not hog down your device while still having a very high detection and block rate.

Database of known malware

However, scans cannot be effective if the program doesn’t know what it’s looking for. That’s why every antivirus software comes with a database of known malware and compares each scanned file to the contents of the database.

This database is updated very frequently, quite often on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons why we always advocate for people to keep their software updated, particularly their antivirus.

Updated software goes a long way to protect you on the Internet since it greatly diminishes the possibility of malicious hackers exploiting an unpatched vulnerability of your software.

But antivirus programs also make use of something called “heuristic analysis”. This means that it will consider a file to be malware if it behaves like one, even if it can’t be found in its database. This is one reason why some AVs falsely classify some safe programs such as Chrome as a virus. The industry calls this a “false positive” and it is a criterion used to judge the quality of an antivirus.

Automatic updates

Any antivirus software worth its salt will automatically update itself, both to clean up any vulnerabilities it might have and to keep its virus database and capabilities up to date. Basically, the quicker and more frequent the updates, the better.

Malware removal

Sometimes, removing malware can be just as important as blocking it in the first place. Usually, the cybersecurity industry sees the two functions as being separate. That’s why many of the free AV’s out there can only detect and block malware, but won’t be able to remove it if your PC is infected.

For that, you will most likely have to purchase the full antivirus solution or download a separate piece of software specializing in malware removal.

Other features you should look for

Ransomware protection: Some antiviruses come with ransomware protection and the ransomware attacks won’t be able to encrypt your files.

File shredder: This may come as a shock, but the standard “Delete” + “Clear Recycle Bin” won’t actually delete a file from your hard drive. It will just make it invisible for you to see. But these files can be recovered with a specialized program.

Under normal circumstances, these invisible files disappear only after being pushed out of their memory block by a new one. But file shredders destroy them completely and leave no trace of them on your hard drive.

Firewall: Some AV’s can filter and scan your internet traffic to detect incoming threats before they reach your device.

Other features to look forDNS Protection, Password Managers, System Optimization, Phishing protection, Antispam, Browser protection.

Test the antivirus to be sure it works

Sometimes you’ll go through a long period where you don’t encounter any online threats and seem to forget that you even have an antivirus installed.

“Is it still alive?” you may ask.

Well, there’s a test you can do to see if it still works.

So how do you test your antivirus to see if it’s still active?

Basically, you have to create a “false virus” that triggers your AV’s defense procedures.

What you need to do is to create an antivirus test file (a .txt file). A simple notepad document will do just fine.

Then you will need to use a standardized EICAR code. This is something recognized by all antivirus developers as a means of testing if their software is active.

Your antivirus should trigger immediately and activate its security protocols to eliminate the “fake virus”.

If it doesn’t, then that means your software is inactive/disabled.

What’s the best antivirus you could use?

Now that you know what to look for in an antivirus, it’s time to find out which one you should use.

Here are 3 ways you can find the best free or paid antivirus for you:

  • User opinions
  • Independent testing
  • Expert reviews

How to choose the best antivirus

 

1. User comparison and reviews for the best antivirus for Windows

The major benefit user comparisons and reviews of antivirus software are that you can get a sense of how the product performs in real life. A comparison can help you figure out which is the best antivirus program for you.

Security forums

Cybersecurity forums are still some of the best places you can check to find good and trustworthy reviews and comparisons of antivirus software.

For example, the links below will point you to some of the best security forums in the online, where you can find a great number of user reviews and good (or bad) experiences users had with security products:

Quora

For those who don’t know, Quora is a questions & answers site. Basically, you ask a question and (generally) qualified users answer them. Or you can just browse questions similar to yours and see if you find an answer there.

The website is designed so you can quickly access your areas of interest. Search the site for the following categories: Computer Security, Anti-Virus Software or Internet Security or just use these links:

As you can see, these topics are followed by thousands of people, so it should be pretty easy to find the information you need. Here are some starting points that can help you find your best antivirus program.

Reddit

A treasure of the Internet hidden in plain sight. Ask Reddit users to compare various antivirus software and you will end up with a very lively conversation among users that covers almost every antivirus program imaginable. ‘Redditors’ will talk at length about the pros and cons of one antivirus or another.

Trustpilot

Reviews of antivirus programs are another way to choose the product that fits your needs. Most people read the reviews on the developer’s page, but it’s impossible to be sure which review is real and which isn’t.

Trustpilot offers a way around this since it is an independent reviews platform. Basically, users can post without worrying they will have their negative comment deleted by developers who jealously guard the brand name of an otherwise poor product.

2. An antivirus test can tell you all you need to know

Reviewers know which antivirus is better at blocking and eliminating malware by thoroughly testing them. By using the same antivirus testing sites, you can get a better picture of what the AV you want is capable of.

For the best results, antivirus tests have to be as objective as possible.

Virus BulletinFor example, Virus Bulletin is an important benchmarking and comparison site for the entire antivirus industry. It measures just about everything you can think of, including install times, scan speed, stability, performance impact, false positives, detection rate, and so on.

On the VB Testing page, you will see an overview of Virus Bulletin’s testing and certification services: VB100, VBSpam, VBWeb.

This time, we will take a look at VB100, the rigorous testing standard that made Virus Bulletin such a go-to resource for antivirus comparisons.

For the in-depth results, go to the “Latest Report” page.

This is a list of antivirus software that passed Virus Bulletin’s extensive tests. On the left of the table, you can select what indicators you want to measure.

Just about every single aspect of an antivirus you can think of, with all of them being measured. This will give you the most complete opinion of what software can, or cannot do.

3. Look for expert reviews

Here are a few websites where you can find thorough reviews of antivirus solutions.

PC World. It offers reviews and buying advice on both software and hardware. On this website, you can also find some pretty good deals as well.

Techradar. This portal provides in-depth software and hardware reviews to help you buy the best product for your needs.

Softpedia. For a lot of people, Softpedia is a one-stop-shop for many of their software needs. They have a huge list of around 600 various free or paid antivirus software and programs available for download. A great resource point if you want to take your time and just browse at your own pace.

Obviously, there are so many other review websites out there, so feel free to do your own research.

Make sure you check how serious the AV developer is about security

Checking a few details on the antivirus developer’s website and patch notes can help you get a better idea of how seriously they approach updates and bug hunting.

For example, highly detailed patch notes will give you a better picture of what you can expect from the company in terms of reliability. And this applies for other types of software as well, not just antivirus or other security solutions.

This article includes very useful tips to help fill in the blanks in your research.

After you’ve gone through these resources, most probably:

  1. You’ll know which are the best antivirus for Windows of 2019.
  2. You’ll understand what each program is capable of.
  3. You’ll be aware of the most important security features an antivirus should have.
  4. You’ll own a shiny new antivirus.
  5. Somewhere out there, a piece of malware cries because it can’t infect your PC anymore…

Final Words

Most antivirus programs now come with a trial testing period to help you decide if you actually want it or not. The trial period is especially useful if you have doubts about a certain product or you can’t decide between two or more AVs and want to see them in action.

Keep in mind though that using two or more antivirus programs at the same time isn’t a good idea. The antiviruses will end up thinking each other is a malware, or compete in order to eliminate viruses and significantly drag down your device performance.

But in all of our blog posts, we always emphasize two things:

First, security software alone can’t keep you safe online. It’s a widespread belief in the cybersecurity field that the best antivirus is you, meaning your judgment and general internet savviness should always come first.

Second, a standard antivirus solution is not enough to keep you safe. We and most antivirus developers encourage you to use multiple security layers to stay safe. If malware passes one layer, they will have to face another, and with each new step chances of infection drop dramatically.

Also, make sure you check out our Thor Premium Home, which is more than a standard antivirus, offering a proactive approach to your security.

Thor Premium Home the best antivirus for WindowsFree Trial

  • You get a full endpoint detection and response (EDR) solution – it brings together unique threat prevention (Thor Foresight Home) complemented by a powerful Next-gen Antivirus (Thor Vigilance Home).
  • It’s lightweight on your computer resources while it still has very high detection and block rates.
  • Automatically updates your applications so infections don’t happen via vulnerabilities or exploits.
  • Detects, blocks malware, and removes it if your PC is already infected.
  • Offers ransomware and phishing protection and keeps you safe in front of the most advanced online threats.
  • Allows you to click any link with confidence without being worried you’ll get infected with malware.
  • Free Trial and 30-day Money Back Guarantee.
  • Certified by Virus Bulletin as of April 2019 with 100% detection rate.
  • Don’t believe us? Hear directly from our customers why we offer one of the best antivirus and anti-malware solutions.

This article was initially written by Aurelian Neagu in 2014 and was updated by Paul Cucu in November 2016 and by Bianca Soare in July 2019.

The Ultimate Malware Removal Guide
2019.07.04 INTERMEDIATE READ

How to Remove Malware from Your Windows PC [Updated 2019]

2019.06.28 SLOW READ

13+ Warning Signs that Your Computer is Malware-Infected [Updated 2019]

Comments

The major benefit user comparisons and reviews of antivirus software are that you can get a sense of how the product performs in real life.

Awesome guide, thanks for making everything clear!

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This new text-to-speech feature you have added to your articles is just great.
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Factory reset Hp laptop on November 17, 2018 at 10:41 am

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Great article to share very informative, however I am very happy with Heimdal Thor Premium Home, great perfomance no noticeable impact on system resources excellent reviews.

Happy New Year 2019 on September 25, 2018 at 8:39 pm

Very Informative article, Amazing article. I am so impressed.

This was a great read about antivirus. With so many new threats cropping up regularly, it behoves one to be prepared and keep our systems safe.

The list you have provided for best antivirus programs are really informative. Users will get more sources from your post which is a very good thing for all. Many of them will be aware of the sites but I think most of them don’t have knowledge of this. Thank for such an informative post.

The best antivirus can be decided only by the user as every antivirus has its own functionality and the user needs are more important than to select any one of the antiviruses. Which antivirus is as per the need of the user is important.

Thank you for sharing!

Jack G.

Wow. Very well explained article about the Antivirus. It really helped me to select antivirus for my PC. Thanks

Thanks for sharing important info

Very good and balanced article – well done!

Hello and thank you for your kind words, Jonas! Thanks for reading our blog! 🙂

google support number on July 16, 2018 at 10:21 pm

The post is as informative as a information needs to be. A user is in need of the anti-virus and how the anti-virus should perform or which antivirus will be good for the user as per the need of it.

Good to share this post.

Thank you for this sharing.

This is the great post and please keep posting like this article I have many doubts before reading this but this time all is clear…

Webroot Support on June 4, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Thanks for sharing the Guide about antivirus.Nice and welcome.

Heimdal dont detect eicar test virus

Hi and many thanks for your kind words! I am glad this article was useful for you!

Thanks for sharing nice article with amazing list and headings, I am too glad to read it thanks again.

Avast is the best antivirus in my opinion but it uses too many resources, so you may find that it slows down your computer.

This articel showed me exactly what I was looking for. I will sign up for your newsletter right away. Running my own antivirus website and your information is really spot on!

Thanks!

This was a great read about antivirus. With so many new threats cropping up regularly, it behoves one to be prepared and keep our systems safe.

Hello and many thanks for your feedback! Happy to know you are reading our blog and the information found there is useful.

This is good stuff!
Most comprehensive take on choosing your protection against viruses. Thank you for the effort!

Thank you so much for your feedback, Vikrant! We are happy to know this guide was useful and helped you.

More than 10 Free Security Solutions to Protect your Digital Life. Share this post Among your loved ones and friends and let them know that you care for them

http://tipsntricks.win/free-antivirus-softwares

By far, the best article I’ve ever read about this subject. Brilliant.

Many thanks for your feedback, Louis!! We are happy to know it was useful.

Great! You are providing very useful and amazing knowledge regrading antivirus.

Impressive research! A very good resource that I will bookmark for sure. Personally, I use Kaspersky.

Hello Peter and thank you for your feedback!

Virus that make very harm to any PC or laptop, so we are always take care of it. But sometime due to internet or some other reason, our computer get affect from virus. The technique through which a computer get less affected from virus. is derived in your blog and your writing skill is also very unique. Thanks for publish it.

Nice post, Thanks for sharing a very informative article. Currently, I’m using McAfee Antivirus Software. It’s good & protect my all business computers. According to my experience I will recommend McAfee Antivirus. Please keep update us like this.

Thank you very much for writing this good article. I learned that it is not easy to choose any antivirus from any antivirus products.

I am got most help from this article. I realized that it is not easy to find good antivirus from any antivirus products. Thanks!

We’re so glad you found it useful, John! Thank you for your kind feedback!

AV’s shouldn’t be considered as a first line of defense as they are extremely unreliable when it comes to the zero-day malwares.
AV/AM may be an second opinion or cleaning addition to the whitelisting, sandboxing or light virtualization but we shouldn’t really rely on them in terms of real time protection.
If someone asks I always recommend Windows own security solutions like Windows Defender and Firewall supported by VoodooShield and Heimdal.
Adblocker with good anti-tracking and malware filters is also a must as many infections are coming from malwertising.

I’m just wondering, does Anti-Malware software like MalwareFox and Malwarebytes work in the same way?

Hi George! Anti-malware products are a bit different and their strength differs according to many elements, such as their intelligence, how it works, etc. But the same criteria to evaluate potential solutions are still the same.

Since you work for MalwareFox, you should probably know the answer to this yourself

Antivirus software on January 25, 2017 at 7:10 am

I love your How to Find the Best Antivirus, the Ultimate Guide article. Here is useful information for antivirus. Thanks for sharing this important article.

Thanks, awesome article! Thumbs up.

There’s one resource that aggregates antivirus test results from multiple independent testing labs which is worth checking out: https://bestantivirus.reviews/tools/test-results-calculator

See security as a onion, layers, defense in dept. Use an av with strong heuristics base, integrity checking, for instance webroot, then look at whitelisting software to make sure only whitelisted exe may execute.
Run pc in local account not adminstrator.
Strong password strategy
PATCH PATCH PATCH

Great Anti-Virus guide, Paul. Wow, Heimdal Security is like the ‘Windows Secrets of cyber-security’. Personally, I am curious about Webroot Secure Anywhere’s “journaling and rollback” technology. The actions of unknown (not in their database) software are tracked, and can be rolled back if necessary. “Webroot’s journaling and rollback feature should be able to recover from almost any attack, even encrypting ransomware.” (PCMag.com) I know that nothing is absolutely certain, but it certainly does sound like a great feature! One thing is sure — Heimdal Security is definitely the place to go first.

All software user this information very informative because nowadays we are working on digital system. So, It is very important for all user that use software system.

Thanks for the informative article. Would like to include a point that using a free antivirus software may not be the right fit for you and as soon as you install them, they ask you to upgrade to the full version. The points mentioned above, do certainly come into play while selecting the best antivirus. Get the right antivirus suited to your needs.

Hi Pawan! Indeed, our recommendation is to purchase a reliable AV, not use the free versions, who are not enough to provide substantial protection.

Jennifer Martin on July 20, 2016 at 3:18 pm

This list of antivirus will surely be very helpful. Thanks for putting it live.

Thats a very good compilation. Perhaps you should include ESET Antivirus in the list as it is secured and no performance issues. I am using it in my business and I feel calm and peaceful about it.

Hi Henry,

We didn’t recommend any specific product, but offered some resources that can help other people choose the right AV for them.

Allison@Intel Security on September 2, 2015 at 6:31 am

Thank you very much for this wonderful article.I think it should be very much helpful for all antivirus users to select antivirus to secure there computer.I have a small IT firm so would you please suggest me which antivirus is best for me Aurelian?

A wonderful and best exhaustive reearch I have ever seen in any AV article I have ever read. Kudos!

Aurelian Neagu - Copywriter on March 19, 2015 at 7:45 am

We are very glad you found the article useful! We tried to see things from an user’s point of view and we realized that it’s not easy to choose from so many antivirus products. Thank you!

Thank you for sharing the ultimate guide about to find about anti virus. Amazing and resourceful article.Really enjoyed this post. Please keep update us like this.

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