Best antivirus: 10 home security suites reviewed and rated

Detect and remove threats before they can cause harm

Best anti virus 10 programs on test

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 (or Windows Defender with Windows 8) is compact and easy to use, but independent testing labs such as AV-Comparatives report that Microsoft's protection is very poor.

This doesn't have to be a problem if you're short of cash. Opting for a free solution doesn't have to mean compromising your security – there are some great freebie tools around.

Don't automatically rule out paid products, though. Independent testing reveals that commercial packages will often (although not always) deliver the best protection, as well as offering extra functionality. If you're looking for the maximum security then you should at least consider a paid package.

Here we've found 10 of the best home antivirus tools available for you to buy, listed in alphabetical order.

1. 360 Total Security

Free

Qihoo 360 Technology is a leading Chinese security company with hundreds of millions of users for its desktop and antivirus products. Install the free, feature-packed 360 Total Security and you'll soon understand why.

The program offers no less than four antivirus engines, for example: Bitdefender, Avira, and two of the company's own. Perhaps inevitably this slows down scanning, with 360 Total Security taking twice as long to check our system as some of the competition.

It's also prone to false positives, but the independent testing labs show 360 Total Security is merciless with malware, and one of the market leaders in detecting and removing threats.

You also get capable antiphishing, network threat blocking, online shopping protection, a Windows update checker, USB drive tools and more. Bonus modules include a boot optimiser which highlights unnecessary Windows startup programs, and a clean-up tool which wipes away junk files.

360 Total Security
360 Total Security is packed with features, though some are more impressive than others

The 360 Total Security interface isn't always straightforward, and there's no real documentation to explain how things work. The extras vary considerably in quality (CCleaner found more than twice the amount of junk files on our test PC), and it's not very configurable, either.

Still, 360 Total Security's excellent malware detection is what really matters here, and that alone makes the package well worth a closer look.

2. Avast Free Antivirus

Free

Avast Free Antivirus got our attention right away with its finely balanced interface. It's not over-simplified, like some of the competition, but it's not too complicated either – you can see your system status at a glance, launch scans with a click, and easily access the program's many features.

AV-Test rated the Avast engine highly in its most recent test, too. It scored particularly well when dealing with zero-day threats, yet still delivered very few false positives (something which matches our own experience).

The package is better than most at blocking malicious URLs, and it's exceptionally configurable.

Avast
Avast's clean interface gives easy access to its many features

The Home Network Security scan is a useful bonus feature, quickly checking your network and reporting on common problems (it found our router was still using the default password, for example). A "Scan for outdated software" also has value, quickly checking common applications for missing updates. And a Browser Clean-up module displays your IE, Chrome or Firefox add-ons, and allows you to remove any you don't need.

It may not be quite the best of the free antivirus crop – we think Avira Free Antivirus offers better protection – but there's a lot to like here, and the Home Network Security scan could justify briefly installing the program all on its own.