The word antivirus is an umbrella term for solutions that detect, block, and remove internet threats that try and destroy a system, PC, or another network-connected device.
These threats can access a user's system through downloaded programs, emails, USBs, removable files, applications, and websites. Once the virus is settled in a system, the virus can change the settings, encrypt files, steal information, and poke holes in the system so that hackers can have access to it.
The best antivirus for PC software and other devices has been designed by antivirus providers in order to combat all kinds of malware.
When malware evolves, so do these antivirus programs.
The antivirus programs continuously develop in order to prevent damage to systems caused by malware and to run seamlessly in the background without hindering the process of the user's PC while the user browses, watches movies, plays games, streams online, downloads programs, or chats online.
This article will explore and sum up which antivirus programs and packages are best suited to the different PC Windows operating systems.
It is important for users to know which software will work the best at protecting against malware without hindering the speed and performance of the PC.
When you research the best antivirus for PC, you might come across the free options that claim to be as effective as the paid versions of antivirus protection software.
While this statement is somewhat true and reliable, there are lots of things to consider when opting for a free version, such as annoying pop-ups and ads, no customer care, and a basic program with only entry-level protection and functionality.
Read our article on the Best Free Antivirus Software of 2016 to get an idea of the differences between free and paid antivirus software before you make any rash decisions.
Antivirus solution packages are bundled according to how many features they include in different packages. This will affect price, number of devices that are protected, and other elements in the decision-making process of users.
For an in-depth explanation of which packages to choose and in which circumstances, use this article as your go-to reference.
In summary, there are usually 3-4 packages that an antivirus vendor will provide.
Basic protection with a full antivirus engine minus a few essentials, such as a firewall, VPN, vulnerability scanner, and even ransomware detection and protection.
These usually include password managers, parental control, firewall, spam filters, privacy protection, online backup, and PC Tune-Up to mention a few.
This is the fully-fledged package that has extra security features that are also offered at an additional cost such as compatibility with multiple OS, licenses for multiple devices, and various PC tune up tools.
One of the most distinguished features would be an availability of a rescue disk.
The disk will reboot a computer in the event that it gets infected or there is a system crash. While the best antivirus protection software should block most threats before they infiltrate a system, new threats can sometimes find their way through software before the virus protection can kick in and recognize them.
This is why a bootable rescue CD is essential as it allows users to recover an affected system.
One of the most important attributes, if not the most important, of antivirus protection software is how well it detects, blocks, and eliminates malware and online threats.
There are lots of tests to undertake and avenues to explore to discern what makes an antivirus software good or not.
AV-Test, an independent antivirus testing lab checks for three elements to determine if an antivirus program is worthwhile or not.
AV-Test look at how well a software can detect, block and remove malware (Protection), how it affects the speed of a PC when its installed and running scans and checks in the background (Performance), and how well it can differentiate between real threats and common, well-known programs/false positives (Usability).
We also run our own home user tests in each of our reviews presented in videos, visuals, and in graph form to test out how well an antivirus software performs in the aforementioned aspects.
The sections to follow in this article will provide readers with helpful information about which antivirus providers are most compatible with which Windows operating system based on all these tests and the research conducted at FatSecurity.com.
AV-Test's classification offers a simple way to explain what to look for in determining the best antivirus for PC and other devices:
To test out how well a software detects and protects against malware and threats, one needs to tests the tools available on the software, such as antivirus scans and malware removal kits.
Sometimes a program only offers one of the aforementioned which means you'll need a malware removal program to accompany the antivirus solution, while others can contain both mechanisms.
Most antivirus PC protection performs automatic scans on a regular basis and scans emails and USBs for any threats to destroy them before they have a chance to wreak havoc on the PC.
The tests check for how many existing and zero-day malware threats a program can detect and remove in accordance with which operating system the malware is targeted at crippling.
This attribute tests for how resource-intensive a particular antivirus software is on the host operating system.
The best antivirus programs will have little to no impact on the system performance or speed of the PC, meaning that a user can visit webpages, download files and applications, and play games without feeling any interference from an anti-malware program running in the background.
Most programs have at least some kind of effect on system performance, even if it is just a 3-second slowdown that isn't too noticeable.
This element checks that an antivirus program doesn't alert users all the time about programs that are not harmful; in other words, the software can discern between harmful downloads and innocuous ones. AV-Test calls this Usability.
Before I even get to the part about which antivirus software is compatible with which Windows operating system, I want to explain why it's essential to invest in a antivirus software in the first place.
Some of you may be wondering why we even need protection if Microsoft now provides a built-in virus protection software, while others may be thinking that nothing is necessary because they don't browse dangerous sites or download files.
The truth is that every single PC, mobile device, tablet, and any other device is at risk of being infected by malware, worm, viruses, Trojans, spyware, phishing attacks, ransomware, adware, rootkits, and more.
Cyber criminals manipulate the loopholes and vulnerabilities in all operating systems, and so it should be of high priority to find the best antivirus for PC and other devices depending on a user's needs, operating system, and number of devices.
This section will probe into why and how the different operating systems are compatible with particular antivirus software, and moreover, which versions or packages of the antivirus software work best with the Windows operating system in question.
Sometimes a newer version of an antivirus software doesn't work as well on a older operating system, and vice versa.
This is where AV-Test and our home user tests come into play, and these are the conclusions I drew for each Windows operating system:
Windows XP is dubbed Microsoft's revolutionary operating system that generates extreme popularity from home users and businesses until today, even after the launch of Windows 7 and Windows 10.
Microsoft stopped providing support and security updates for this operating system, and the last time antivirus providers were reviewed for this Windows platform by AV-Test was in June 2014.
If you still insist on using Windows XP, then an antivirus software solution is nonnegotiable because users are at a much higher risk of becoming infected by malware attacks than any other Windows OS!
Read our informative article to get to grips with the ins and outs of Windows XP and why upgrading your Windows XP to a secure operating system is necessary.
If you still run the Windows XP operating system, then a major consideration in your decision of the best antivirus software for the OS is the power of your PC's processor.
If you have a relatively new PC with decent specs, your buying options certainly expand in the world of antivirus programs because system performance is not much of a concern.
If you have an older machine, well then the processing power is the first and foremost element to take into consideration. You will need to run an anti-malware program effectively, and therefore you will need an antivirus software that doesn't demand too much from your RAM and PC's processing speed.
It doesn't really matter if your Windows XP hardware is old or new; it is still a better idea to upgrade to a newer OS that has support and security updates.
If you still have a love affair with Windows XP and refuse to abandon her, then be sure to look for a less resource-intensive antivirus program.
Most antivirus programs for Windows XP can detect malware, basic viruses, rootkits, and spyware. Something like backup recovery disks is not a feature that is included by all providers and in all packages.
Users should look for programs that come with vulnerability scans to search for outdated programs on a PC to discern any weaknesses in the system that allow malware to pass through. Another attribute to look out for is a virtual browser so that a user can run websites on a separate platform from the PC.
These additional features might not be necessary for all users generally speaking, but for Windows XP I would definitely recommend them.
Note: For the most updated test results, it's best to use our antivirus lab test results calculator in case we haven't updated all the information in the article.
For Windows XP , the number 1 focus is protection as a result the lack of support and security updates for this OS. In fact, the aforementioned is nonexistent now!
AV-Test looks for the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of antivirus software for PC because not all are created equally.
The very best software is that which can detect and remove 100% of malware threats that come its way. While some programs produce a decent score of about 97% detection, this is simply not good enough for Windows XP.
Bitdefender Internet Security, Kaspersky Lab Internet Security, and Panda Security Cloud Antivirus Free are the only antivirus vendors that scored perfectly in protection, performance, and false positive scores in the AV-Test June 2014 lab tests.
What I can take away from all this research is that Windows XP requires a top-notch antivirus provider in all areas for the very reason that this OS is regarded to be outdated and unprotected.
It may seem like a difficult process to narrow down the best antivirus for PC on a Windows 7 operating system, so I did most of the work for you by evaluating the top products according to their strengths and weaknesses, features, and how well they protect against malware attacks.
Unlike Windows 10 and 8, Windows 7 users absolutely have to have a third party antivirus software installed because this operating system has no virus protection like Microsoft's Windows Defender, which the newer OS have. This is why the protection score of the antivirus vendors is the most vital element to take into consideration when picking the suitable provider.
AV-Test conducted tests on different antivirus providers on Windows 7 in February 2017 and these are the leading results which you can learn from:
System usage is also a deal breaker for a Windows 7 operating system seeing that it is a relatively old platform. I probed into which antivirus products are more resource-intensive and how powerful a processor a user's PC will need.
If you still prefer Windows 7 and you have a relatively new PC with decent specs, you can purchase almost any antivirus software out there without having to be concerned about system usage and performance.
If you have an older machine, this can be a cause for some concern owing to the processing power an antivirus and anti-malware program will require to run smoothly. If your RAM is limited, or you have a slow processing speed, you will need to opt for antivirus software that won't take its toll on your system.
In short, the older a computer gets, the less effective its ability to handle a running antivirus program as well as software that constantly demands updates. So whether your hardware is old or new, it will be preferable for you to pick a program that is not resource-intensive during scans, updates, and malware removal.
Another element worth researching is how many features the Windows 7 antivirus protection software provides. The more features a program has, the more a user can customize the PC security level.
While all antivirus programs for Windows 7 can detect malware, spyware, worms, Trojans and rootkits, as well as clean infected files automatically, scan compressed files, and quarantine threats, not all of the products have advanced features.
By advanced features I mean the ability to safeguard a PC from attacks that happen when there is a registry startup, the option to create a bootable rescue disk, as well as the choice to scan USB storage devices. When you hunt for the perfect antivirus protection software, it is better to opt for packages with advanced features because Windows 7 cannot stand on its own as a malware detector and protector because Microsoft Security Essentials, which came before Windows Defender, is not good enough.
Other essential attributes to look out for are vulnerability scans and a virtual browser that checks websites for infections by accessing them using a separate browser from the PC.
Bitdefender Internet Security, Kaspersky Lab Internet Security, Norton Security, and Trend Micro Internet Security scored perfectly in protection, performance, and false positive scores!
The industry average for protection scores is 98%, so these three providers have fared pretty well and are go-to options, especially for protection. The best software is able to detect and remove 99-100% of malware and viruses; F-Secure Safe and Quick Heal Total Security produced top results on this front with almost perfect scores.
In my opinion, your best bet in terms of features and overall protection would be Bitdefender Internet Security, Kaspersky Internet Security, Norton Security, and Trend Micro Internet Security. They defend against all malware types, ransomware, phishing attacks, and worms. They can also scan emails and USBs that contain malware threats. Moreover, they offer a 24/7 free live chat option and telephone support.
Besides the aforementioned, F-Secure is one of the only providers that has all the features one would need for Windows 7 including ransomware protection. Avira Antivirus and Norton Security are also compatible with Windows 7.
The first thing to note about Windows 8/8.1 is that Microsoft includes a virus protection called Windows Defender. See the section on Windows Defender to see why it is not sufficient when it comes to malware protection software.
One thing I would like to note is that some antivirus providers run better on the Windows 8 operating system than Windows 10, which suggests that sticking to this operating system might not be a bad idea. It also means that there is less pressure to update to the latest operating system because older systems put up just as formidable a fight as newer software, and that an older OS can accommodate newer tools and features.
AV-Test conducted tests in December 2016 to check whether the antivirus software programs are more compatible with or work just as well with Windows 8 as they do with Windows 10.
These are the most important observations worth relaying to our readers:
I considered the entry-level antivirus software for Windows 8 that usually comes with a license for one year, but I also inquired the Internet Security and Premium versions that come with more features and benefits. I also looked at how many devices the different software protect and whether the protection extends beyond laptops and computers to other devices like smartphones and tablets.
McAfee stands out for its coverage of unlimited devices including mobile devices and tablets without the need to upgrade to a Premium version, while other antivirus programs require users to upgrade to a better package or to pay an additional cost for an added device.
Most of the software I evaluated include protection against rootkits, worms, and spyware. Trend Micro is one of the four providers that include ransomware detection and protection, which is an important feature to be included in Windows 8 OS.
A lot of the packages I reviewed also provide a rescue CD should the PC need a reboot if an infection causes the PC to crash or there are suspicious alerts when gaming. Most also detect malware on USB drives and other detachable storage media.
One last thing to consider is how well the antivirus provider supports its clients. 24/7 support via phone, email, or live chat is the most ideal type of customer care. Kaspersky, Bitdefender, Bullguard, and McAfee meet this standard, while Trend Micro does not offer 24/7 telephone support.
Kaspersky Lab Internet Security comes out on top as the only antivirus provider to reach a perfect score in all the antivirus areas that AV-Test examines. This means that Kaspersky's software can identify, block, and destroy old malware threats and up to 17 000 zero-day viruses discovered in June 2016. Kaspersky topped the average industry protection score of 97%.
The average score suggests that most of the antivirus providers are exceptionally good at protecting Windows 8 PCs by preventing internet threats from infiltrating the computer system. Most of the vendors, including eScan, do not provide false positives and immediately recognize legitimate websites.
To conclude, in my evaluation of the best antivirus software for PC Windows 8/8.1, I discovered that Kaspersky achieved the highest results and include lots of features to cover most users' security needs.
Other providers that meet the standard are Bitdefender and Trend Micro.
If you have the latest Windows operating system then installing an antivirus software will not be a hassle like it can be for Windows 7.
Since Windows 8, the operating system has included an in-built antivirus protection software produced by Microsoft called Windows Defender.
Part and parcel of Windows 10 are also other technologies that Windows 8 introduced, such as the SmartScreen filter that acts as a buffer against malware downloads. Safe Browsing by Google is also included in Chrome and Firefox to block many malware downloads.
Test Results & Conclusions
According to AV-Test's results from October 2016, the top antivirus vendor for the Windows 10 platform is Avira Antivirus Pro and Kaspersky Internet Security with a perfect score for all the elements this independent AV Lab tests for. Following suit are the household names of Bitdefender Internet Security, Trend Micro, and Quick Heal all with almost perfect scores and just falling short in performance.
The scores indicate that the programs are capable of blocking all common and newly-discovered malware exploits, they don't encumber the PC's system performance, and the software of each vendor boasts an easy interface.
Other antivirus providers make the middle mark of sufficient antivirus software for Windows 10. In descending order, F-Secure, Avast Free Antivirus, Bullguard Internet Security, and G-Data Internet Security are adequate options depending on users' needs and preferences.
Microsoft's Windows Defender falls way below the mark with an extremely low protection and average performance and false positive scores.
Seeing that Windows 10 is similar to its counterparts Windows 7 and 8, it would only be wise to download a third party software that works smoothly with this particular operating system.
I have mentioned Windows Defender several times in the section above.
Firstly, let me give a brief explanation of what Windows Defender is.
This virus protection software was developed by Microsoft as a full built-in feature with Windows 8 that replaced Microsoft Security Essentials, but before that it was a free anti-spyware download for Windows XP and shipped with Windows Vista and Windows 7.
It was designed to detect and remove malware.
The question is whether is it is good enough to withstand all the malware threats out there, or if Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10 OS users can opt out of using third party antivirus software.
From the outset, I am going to say NO judging by how it performed in tests by AV-Test, my own research, and the fact that Microsoft recommends using competing antivirus solutions; however, I will give some background of the strengths and weaknesses of this software.
Our own malware detection test shows that Windows Defender only detects 84% of malware when the top antivirus competitors like Bitdefender and Kaspersky detect 97-100%.
|It's built-in||Fared badly in independent AV Lab tests|
|Lighter on system performance|
|Automatic scans for open programs|
|No pop-ups, ads, or money-requests|
|Provides an interface for detailed scans|
|No harvesting of browsing data to make profit|
|Downloads new definitions for Windows Update|
|Automatically disables itself when another antivirus is installed|
I know what you must be thinking:
So many strengths and only one weakness; well, this weakness actually determines everything.
The number one job of an antivirus software is to perform perfectly when it comes to detecting, blocking, and removing malware. Usually when a user pays for a package from a third party provider, there will not be any pop-ups or ads; only for the free version.
Overall, Windows Defender doesn't perform too badly in its protection scores provided that a user keeps Windows up-to-date, uses the latest browser, and avoids potentially dangerous plug-ins such as Java.
If you are more concerned about an intrusive-free interface and experience then Windows Defender will do the job; however, if protection is your main concern, which it should be, then a third party antivirus solution is hands down your first option.
While it may seem tempting to opt for the protections that Microsoft provides and to avoid investing in an antivirus software, I can assure you that you definitely need the latter in order to be secure from existing and emerging online malware threats.
Despite the fact that Microsoft has created a built-in antivirus and it constantly improves on it security systems, with the advent of each new Windows operating system comes even more sophisticated antivirus solutions and sophisticated malware which needs to be destroyed.
Microsoft Security Essentials and Microsoft Defender simply cannot keep up with the advanced software of antivirus providers, and the former should not be used as anything other than a starting point for virus protection.
In sum there are 3 ways to protect yourself from malware:
There is no reason for you to unprotected from this moment on, but if you are, I suggest that you have a look at all our antivirus vendors to see which one works best for your needs!
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