If you use a Windows 10 system then you're an attractive target for hackers simply because Windows is the world's most popular PC operating system. The security situation on Windows has improved dramatically over the last few years, but the sheer number of users mean it is still under threat, even as 2020 approaches fast - that's where getting a Windows 10 antivirus comes in.
Yep, we're afraid that the reality remains that you still need a regularly updated antivirus package to keep you safe from the latest threats. That's because the bad guys are constantly looking for new ways to access your data and control your system.
From ransomware to fileless attacks and blended malware, there are plenty of threats out there - some you'll know the names of, other's you'll never even heard of - and there's the danger is great on Windows 10, no matter how careful you are online.
So which are the best virus protecting products for Windows 10 you can get right now, and is Windows Defender sufficient to keep you safe these days? Find out with TechRadar's guide to the best Windows 10 antivirus.
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Here are the best Windows 10 antivirus in 2019
- Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2020
- Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security
- Kaspersky Antivirus
- Panda Antivirus
- Windows Defender
Comprehensive, fast and feature-packed
Note: For our Bitdefender Antivirus Plus review, we tested the 2019 version. This was updated and renamed to 2020 in July 2019.
Monitor the testing lab reports on most antivirus products and you'll normally find results varying over time: one generation works well, the next edition has some problems initially, the company goes to work and performance improves.
Bitdefender is far more consistent. AV-Test, for example, has been running its in-depth antivirus tests since 2010, and Bitdefender has achieved a 100% protection rating in 17 out of the 20 reports produced to date (the last 'fail' was in December 2014).
That's important as it suggests Bitdefender's products aren't just accurate right now, but they're likely to be just as good next month, next year, and on after that. That makes it a fantastic pick for our best Windows 10 antivirus countdown
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus combines its excellent core antivirus engine with an array of smart technologies to keep you safe from harm. Accurate web monitoring detects and blocks malicious links, and a vulnerability scanner alerts you to missing security patches or poorly chosen system settings which could compromise your PC.
A secure browser prevents malware from snooping on your banking and online shopping transactions, and specialist ransomware protection ensures that even if something does penetrate your defenses, sensitive documents will still be safe.
Bitdefender's starter price is pretty competitive too, considering the power of the security tools you get with it. For one device for one year you're looking at around $25/£25, with extra for more PCs and mobiles and a reduction if you crank up the term.
Get Bitdefender Antivirus Plus with up to 60% off
Great news! You can currently score up to 60% off our #1 rated antivirus. It's a special software treat for TechRadar readers. It means that fantastic virus protection for your PC is now even more affordable - check out the exact pricing in your locale below, or head to Bitdefender's US site if your country isn't listed:
A smarter way to protect yourself online
Trend Micro may not have the profile of some of the big-name antivirus competition, but don't let that put you off - its products have a lot to offer.
The baseline Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security has all the essential features you need - antivirus, ransomware protection, email checks and web filtering - but isn't weighed down by unnecessary extras you'll never use.
Independent testing reports that Trend Micro delivers excellent results. As we write, the last five AV-Comparatives Real-World Protection Tests - September, October and November 2018, along with February and March 2017 - all show Trend Micro protecting against 100% of test threats.
Pricing is fair and transparent. The headline prices aren't only available if you pay for two or three years up-front, and they don't suddenly jump up after the first year: they're just good value, full stop.
A simple one PC, one-year licence is cheap at only £19.95 ($28). Extend the term and add support for more PCs and the costs fall even further, so for example a three computer, three-year licence costs only £53.27 ($74.60), or £5.92 ($8.29) per year per PC.
Moving up to the top-of-the-range Trend Micro Maximum Security gets you protection for Android, iOS and Mac, as well as Windows, and adds features including parental controls, password management, social media monitoring, device optimization and more. Prices start at £24.95 ($38) to cover any mix of five devices for one year.
Quality malware protection from a top provider
Kaspersky has been one of the top antivirus companies for a very long time, and its products regularly appear at or near the top of the scoreboard for most of the main testing labs.
Kaspersky Free Antivirus gives you the company's top-rated antivirus engine and intelligent blocking of malicious links for absolutely nothing. You don't even have to put up with ads - just leave the app running in your system tray and you'll barely know it's there.
Kaspersky's commercial antivirus and security suite products add features including online banking protection, parental controls, password management, file backup, and coverage for your Windows, Mac and mobile devices. They're priced from £22.49 ($30) for a one computer, one-year licence.
You might have seen Kaspersky making the headlines for less welcome reasons, recently, with both the US and UK governments restricting the use of Kaspersky products by some government agencies to avoid possible security risks.
While this is a concern, as we've seen no evidence to support the restrictions, we're not going to allow them to influence our current thinking. We suspect you're far more likely to be targeted by hackers and malware than Kremlin surveillance, and overall Kaspersky does an excellent job of keeping you safe.
High accuracy, but no charge
Panda Security has been developing quality antivirus software for many years, and its latest Windows detection engine is one of the best around.
For evidence, just point your browser at the results for AV-Comparatives Real Word Protection tests. These are a tough check of antivirus ability, but the last summary report (July - November 2017) ranked Panda Free Antivirus in first place as the only product to receive a consistent 100% protection score.
If you're on a budget, then, Panda Free Antivirus may be your best option, but the company also produces more powerful commercial tools which could be interesting.
Panda Dome Essential takes the core antivirus features and adds a personal firewall, Wi-Fi protection and a secure browsing environment to protect online shopping and banking activities. It's priced at £26.24 ($36.75) a year for a one device, one-year licence, rising to £35.24 ($48.99) in year two.
Moving to a higher plan could get you specialist ransomware protection, parental controls, app locking, a call blocker, anti-theft, device optimization, remote device management, unlimited VPN use and more.
Dome can be licenced for 1, 3, 5, 10 and even an unlimited number of devices, and these can be any mix of Windows, Mac and Android systems.
For us, Panda Free Antivirus is the star product here, but if you're looking for more of a security suite, the Dome range may also be interesting. Take the free month trial for a spin if you'd like to find out more.
It's a lot better than you thought. No, really...
Windows Defender has been trying to protect PCs from viruses since the days of Vista, but originally with little success. Independent testing regularly placed Defender at the bottom of the protection rankings, with detection rates as low as 60-70 per cent.
Today's product is very, very different. Check out AV-Comparatives' Real-World Protection Tests and the last summary report (July - November 2017) gave Microsoft a 99.1 per cent protection rating. That translates to 13th place out of 21, so plainly isn't ideal, but still outperformed several big-name commercial engines: ESET, McAfee, Emsisoft, Fortinet, Adaware and more.
There are plenty of other reasons to like Windows Defender. It arrives with your PC and is enabled by default, so there's nothing to learn or configure. It's lightweight, grabs very few system resources and is most unlikely to conflict with anything else. All you need to do is get on with using your PC, and Defender handles everything else in the background.
Windows Defender still has its issues. Test results can be inconsistent over time and between labs, and most reports suggest it raises more false positives than average. But even with these problems, it's clear that Defender now offers genuinely useful protection at a similar level to many commercial products. If your needs are simple, or you're familiar with and like the package, it could be a sensible choice.
Should I get free or premium antivirus?
If you're simply looking to protect your PC from viruses, trojans, and worms, then free antivirus from any reputable provider such as above, will keep you protected against these.
The difference with paid-for versions is that they add additional features that aim to protect tighter security, better privacy protections, and even tune up your PC.
For example, extra security features might include ransomware protection and the ability to ensure certain files or folders are locked down against any changes by third-party programs.
For privacy protection, there might be the inclusion of a VPN which allows for more anonymous web browsing. There might also be features in paid software to kill tracking cookies and other privacy protections.
Some paid-for anti-virus even include features such as tuning up your PC, by getting rid of junk files from temporary or cache folders, as well as fix any registry issues that might also be slowing down your PC.
So, overall, if all you want is the most essential virus protection, then free software will do its job. However, if you want a wider range of malware protection, extra privacy controls, and even additional tools to help your PC run more smoothly, then paid-for anti-virus can often offer some or all of these, and more.
- Check out the best VPN
Is Windows Defender good enough to secure Windows 10?
It used to be the case that Windows suffered badly from security vulnerabilities that only third-party anti-virus software could protect against. However, over the years Microsoft have made a concerted effort to improve the security of Windows, not least with the inclusion of Windows Defender by default in Windows 10.
This is real progress, as Windows Defender - as mentioned above - really does the job it needs to in terms of providing the same basic protections that would be expected of any good free anti-virus software. As with the point about free software above, if that's all you want, that's all you need.
However, like having a second lock or bolt on an external door in your home, sometimes it's good to have more than one piece of security in place. This is especially as there is always the possibility that Windows Defender might not catch a piece of malware that another third-party anti-virus program might catch.
Additionally, as also mentioned above, the additional security and privacy features that other anti-virus software provide can make them very attractive choices in their own right.
Your system is secure with Windows Defender, but if you want added piece of mind, it might be worth investing in an additional safeguard that Bitdefender Plus and the other best Windows 10 antivirus packages afford.