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 antivirus situation on Windows has improved dramatically over the last few years, but the sheer number of users mean it is still under threat - 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 Windows 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.
Here are the best Windows 10 antivirus in 2021
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus delivers excellent protection for Windows 10 PCs, regularly being the top performer with independent antivirus testing labs. One of those big-name labs, AV-Test, gave Bitdefender a 100% protection rating in its most recent test, and the security firm consistently achieves this (in fact, it’s last ‘fail’ rating from that lab was way back in 2014). It was also AV-Comparatives’ product of the year for 2019.
As well as this superb core antivirus engine, you get very capable anti-ransomware protection, and Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is one of the best products out there when it comes to blocking malicious websites.
The package delivers a range of other features, including Safepay – a well-designed and fully secure browser with which you can carry out sensitive tasks like online banking – plus a password manager, vulnerability scanner, and a Wi-Fi Security Advisor which evaluates any wireless networks you use, rating them for security.
While it’s easy-to-use for beginners, Antivirus Plus also offers some nifty more in-depth settings, like being able to set up profiles to, for example, keep any background activity to a minimum when you’re on a laptop using battery power. One slight drawback with Bitdefender is that it’s only middle of the pack when it comes to the impact it has on system performance, but at least you can tweak things somewhat using the profiles system.
To sum up, this is a well-featured package with some very smart touches, and the icing on the malware-busting cake is that it’s good value for money, particularly considering everything you get here.
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Norton AntiVirus Plus just gives you coverage for one device, but if you only have a single Windows 10 PC which needs protecting from online threats, then it’s a sterling option for many good reasons.
The core malware protection provided is among the best in the business, alongside the likes of Bitdefender, and offers a novel touch for more tech-savvy types in the form of the Norton Insight tool. This gauges the reputation of any given file on your system, and may help to pinpoint more obscure threats.
Norton Antivirus Plus provides these robust defenses at an extremely minimal cost to your system resources. Indeed, PassMark recently ranked Norton as the best antivirus package when it comes to the impact on the host PC’s performance.
Furthermore, on the web, this antivirus does a great job of blocking malicious sites, and you also get an ‘intelligent’ firewall which keeps you well-informed on any potential risks to your computer.
Bonus features include a password manager, useful PC maintenance and performance monitoring utilities, and a backup tool, which is an unusual inclusion for an entry-level antivirus (while it’s limited to 2GB of online space, it can also be configured to back up files locally).
While its interface is a little odd and quirky, Norton AntiVirus Plus undoubtedly remains a great choice for those who simply want to protect their own Windows 10 PC and no other devices.
Trend Micro’s entry-level antivirus is another product which is designed for a single Windows 10 PC only. And, in fact, this security solution is only available for the Windows platform - so another way of looking at this would be that Windows 10 users have the company’s full attention here.
One of the major strengths of Trend Micro Antivirus Plus is that it’s not just focused on Windows, but also on novice PC users. This is an antivirus app you can simply install and then forget it’s there, letting it work away in the background keeping the computer safe, with no need to tweak or configure anything much. But while this is a great choice for the less tech-savvy, more demanding users will probably want to steer away due to the lack of configurability and options available.
As you might expect, the program’s interface is user-friendly. You also get a good quality antivirus engine, and while there is some disagreement as to exactly how good Trend Micro is in this respect – with a few shakier ratings from some independent lab tests – the app generally comes out towards the top of the rankings. It also delivers strong anti-ransomware protection as well, with a dedicated Folder Shield that could help block even undiscovered ransomware trying to compromise your PC.
Overall, this is a high-quality antivirus package, and while it’s not loaded with features, you do get impressive URL filtering, and a Pay Guard feature to keep your online banking secure.
Kaspersky is another veteran of the security world, and while the company didn’t make all that many changes to the latest version of Kaspersky Anti-Virus, it didn’t particularly need to.
You get a very impressive level of antivirus protection here, with Kaspersky being highly rated by the independent testing labs, and there’s a good amount of flexibility when it comes to configuring virus scans, too. Furthermore, its System Watcher module allows Kaspersky to pick up on undiscovered threats like fresh ransomware.
All the main pillars of Kaspersky Anti-Virus are rock-solid in terms of keeping your PC safe, then, although the program’s extra features aren’t as good as you’ll find with some rivals. There are some passably useful bits and bobs like a vulnerability scanner and privacy cleaner, but some of the wizards provided are a bit feeble (like the Browser Configuration Wizard which only supports Internet Explorer – not many people use IE anymore).
In short, don’t expect much over and above the anti-malware protection that Kaspersky delivers – but that core protection is unwaveringly solid.
Avira antivirus is engineered in Germany, which immediately makes it feel like a trustworthy option. But it really has the goods to back that up, attracting plaudits from independent testing labs that have rated it highly for its pure virus protection.
Outside that, we like how easy Avira Antivirus Pro is to install and the subsequently use. You won't feel all at sea here, wondering how to set up scans and shields. This software is a doddle to operate.
Now you might read that and consider it as a slight negative. If it's that simple to use, does that mean it doesn't have all the bells and whistles? Well, it's true - Avira's entry-level plan certainly isn't as feature-fuelled as the likes of Bitdefender and Norton.
But if you're just after a trusted antivirus that's a step up from a free program, then Avira is well up to the task. Especially when you check out the exclusive price that you can currently get as a TechRadar reader - a whole year for less than $10/£10!
Is Windows Defender good enough to secure Windows 10?
It used to be the case that Windows suffered badly from security vulnerabilities and malware attacks that only third-party antivirus software could protect against. However, over the years Microsoft has made a concerted effort to improve the security of Windows, not least with the inclusion of Windows Defender by default in Windows 10.
That said, in the past, Windows Defender has been regarded as a fairly poor security solution, and simply a ‘better than nothing’ option. That isn’t true anymore, though: in fact, Windows Defender now holds its own. One independent antivirus testing lab, AV-Test, rates Microsoft’s solution highly, although AV-Comparatives isn’t so enthusiastic, merely giving Windows Defender a ‘standard’ rating for malware protection in its most recent tests.
That’s still solid protection, though, and of course Windows Defender has the added advantage of being a hassle-free solution which comes already integrated with Windows 10, and it’s free. If you just want basic protection which works, Defender is all you need.
However, the additional security and privacy features that other third-party antivirus apps provide can make them very attractive choices in their own right.
Your system is secure with Windows Defender, but if you want added peace of mind, it’s likely worth investing in the additional protection – the top-rated antivirus engines, extra anti-ransomware capabilities and other features – that Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and the other best Windows 10 antivirus packages afford.
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.