It's a dangerous world, and every PC needs antivirus software to keep threats at bay: it's an absolute essential.

Don't assume that Microsoft's free tools are enough, either. Microsoft Security Essentials is compact and easy to use, but independent testing labs such as AV-Comparatives also report that it offers very poor protection.

This doesn't have to be a problem if you're short of cash. There are plenty of quality free alternatives around, as we highlighted in our best free antivirus software feature.

Of course, the free antivirus tools don't offer quite as much functionality as their more costly cousins. And independent testing also reveals that commercial packages will often (although not always) deliver the best protection. If you're looking for the maximum security then you should at least consider a paid package.

Here we've found 14 of the best home antivirus tools available for you to buy, listed in price order.

1. BullGuard Antivirus

£24.95 (1 PC, 1 year); £39.95 (1 PC, 2 years)

If your inbox is always overflowing with junk, then BullGuard Antivirus 2014's bundled spam filter will probably appeal. And while our tests show it's not as accurate as some of the specialist competition, it's better than we normally see in security suites, and is a welcome and worthwhile extra.

It's a similar story with BullGuard's browsing protection. Accuracy is only average, but the program does highlight dangerous links in several places (Google, Bing, Yahoo, even Facebook) and again it's a feature well worth having.

The core antivirus engine is BullGuard's real highlight, though. It delivered strong all-round results for us, while the independent testing labs consistently give it high marks (BullGuard was one of AV-Comparatives Products of the Year for 2013), also reporting that the program has only a very minimal impact on your system performance.

Best antivirus 2014

There are a few small issues here. It's not quite as configurable as some of the competition, for example. And the interface displays large buttons for features which aren't actually included with BullGuard Antivirus (Firewall, Parental Controls, Backup), along with "Upgrade Now" buttons. That kind of ad might be acceptable in freeware, but not in a commercial product.

For the most part, though, BullGuard Antivirus is a solid and reliable product, effective and easy to use.

Score: 4/5

2. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus

£24.95 (1 PC, 1 year); £54.95 (3 PCs, 2 years)

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is a little trickier to install than some of the competition, as you're forced to remove anything that Bitdefender considers as "incompatible". This might be a good thing − at least you'll avoid most conflicts − but is still worth considering if you're hoping to run it with other security tools.

Once the program finally appears, its sleek black interface gives Bitdefender Antivirus Plus a somewhat forbidding look, but don't be put off − it's all very straightforward. To check your system, for instance, you just click Scan Now, choose your preferred scan type, then wait as the program hunts down and eliminates any malware.

Best antivirus 2014

You can be very confident that Bitdefender Antivirus Plus will detect any dangers, too. Independent testing consistently rates Bitdefender products as amongst the best for eliminating known and brand new viruses, and blocking phishing sites, while having only very minimal effect on your system performance.

There are also useful bonus tools to protect your online transactions, manage your passwords, securely delete confidential files and more. But don't worry, this has no real impact on the price: Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is one of the best value packages in this group.

Score: 4.5/5

3. F-Secure ANTI-VIRUS

£25 (1 PC, 1 year); £50 (3 PCs, 2 years)

While most security companies make it as easy as possible to test their products, F-Secure ANTI-VIRUS is a little different. You're forced to register in advance, providing your name, country, email address and more, before you're finally given a download link.