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What’s the best antivirus software?

It’s a gross misconception that only Windows-based computers can get a virus or be infected with malware. However, most infections are on computers using Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

It’s a simple economy of scale and how Apple built the macOS system. There are far more Windows computers than MacBooks or iMacs, and the operating system is easier to break into. That’s because Apple strictly enforces which apps you can install.

But no matter your operating system, you must get excellent antivirus to protect your personal information and files. One of the best is Norton 360 Deluxe, which offers real-time protection and works on multiple devices.

What to know before you buy antivirus software

It’s not a silver bullet

Criminals can hack almost any device that connects to the internet and continually update their hacking tools to make detection harder. Antivirus makers protect you from all known threats, but some will slip through the cracks as new ones are developed.

It’s essentially a cat-and-mouse game between cyberattacks and preventing them from happening. Even if you have the latest version, updated with a list of the most recent threats, there is no guarantee that you’ll always be protected. However, installing an antivirus dramatically reduces the chances of malware making it onto your computer.

It can be complex

Antivirus software can be relatively complex depending on your technical knowledge and understanding of cyber threats. You’ll have to get to grips with industry jargon and different processes and methods for scanning your computer. 

For example, one antivirus blocks all internet traffic when installed, so you can’t browse or check your emails. It’s only after turning on a specific setting that you can access the internet again. And not a lot of users know where to find that configuration.

Free antivirus is never really free

There are several free antivirus applications, but that isn’t a risk you should consider. For the most part, they deliver on their promises, but it often comes with a caveat. For example, the free version might only protect you from certain threats, and you must pay for additional protection.

And since the software is free, others serve you with advertising, either through the computer program or directly on your desktop with pop-ups. Many users see this as an invasion of privacy or unsolicited marketing.  

What to look for in quality antivirus software

Devices you want to protect

Whether you have a Windows or Apple computer, you should consider the devices you want to protect. The initial purchase of most antivirus programs includes a license for one device. However, a good-quality antivirus protects multiple devices using the same license key. This often includes one program for your PC and access to one mobile app for your phone.

Built-in virtual private network

When you want to browse the internet with full anonymity, you must use a VPN. The technology obscures your geographical location, letting you access websites which might be unavailable in your region.

It also adds another layer of security. A VPN makes it much harder for cybercriminals and hackers to locate your computer’s address, preventing them from breaching your system and stealing your files. So look for a good-quality antivirus that provides a VPN.

Personal information monitoring

You might have your life stored on a computer, but much of your information is also online. Every website or service you sign up for has your name, email address and telephone number. If it’s a paid service, you’ve likely provided your credit card information, too. 

If hackers breach the service’s data center, your information could be sold on the notorious dark web. However, while a good-quality antivirus can’t prevent that, it can monitor the dark web and alert you to any personal information it finds.

How much you can expect to spend on antivirus software

The price depends on the developer, the level of protection and how many devices it covers. For basic protection, one device costs $15-$20 a year, but multiple devices with full-featured antivirus costs $30-$40 a year.

Antivirus software FAQ

Is there an upfront cost?

A. Antivirus works on the software-as-a-service model, where you must pay a monthly or annual subscription fee. There are rare cases where you can buy the software for a one-time fee, but it’s a monthly charge for the most part. Some developers do offer a discount if you pay for an annual subscription rather than monthly.

How do you update the software?

A. That depends on the software, as it can be set up to update automatically or to notify you every time an update or new software version is available.

What’s the best antivirus software to buy?

Top antivirus software

Best Norton 360 Deluxe 2022 Antivirus For 5 Devices

Norton 360 Deluxe 2022 Antivirus for 5 Devices

What you need to know: This bundle protects up to five Windows computers, mobile phones and Apple products.

What you’ll love: The antivirus scans your computer in real time to block any incoming threats. It has a built-in VPN to keep you safe and monitors the dark web for personal information. It comes with 50 gigabytes of cloud storage to secure backups.

What you should consider: It comes with LifeLock Select, which only monitors one credit bureau instead of all three. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Staples

Top antivirus software for the money

Best Trend Micro Maximum Security 2022

Trend Micro Maximum Security 2022

What you need to know: A three-year subscription to protect three devices is all that you need.

What you’ll love: In addition to the typical virus and malware protection, it also ensures that you are on legitimate websites when making purchases. It has a kid-friendly setting, so kids can only browse the internet on approved sites. 

What you should consider: Some users said setup can be tricky.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Best Bitdefender Total Security 2022

Bitdefender Total Security 2022

What you need to know: This bundle lets you install malware and virus protection on up to five devices for two years.

What you’ll love: This antivirus software has a built-in secure browser for online banking and comes with a built-in VPN. It offers real-time protection against malware, ransomware, social media threats and identity fraud. 

What you should consider: It only lets you use 200 megabytes of data for the VPN.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Staples


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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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