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Top 10 antivirus software options for security-conscious users

The world is too dangerous to use the internet unprotected. Save your computers, tablets, and phones from being attacked--check out this antivirus software.

Antivirus software is an essential component of any Windows, Mac, or mobile operating system, especially workstations that access the internet and are used for financial transactions or to access and store confidential data. That doesn't mean protecting servers with antivirus protection isn't a critical responsibility--even those on segregated subnets without external access. Viruses can spread on internal networks if compromised machines are introduced into the environment without antivirus software.

Some antivirus products are paid (usually by annual subscription), some are free, some are geared toward consumers, and others have an enterprise angle. There are plenty of diverse options out there in antivirus protection, so here are 10 antivirus software products aimed at protecting systems that cover all walks of technological life. 

Note: Pricing may vary depending on vendor, origin of purchase, and bulk discounts. Products are not listed in any particular order, so this list should not be construed as arranged by quality from top to bottom or vice versa.

Norton Antivirus

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Image: Norton

Norton Antivirus is probably the most well-known product among this antivirus roundup. It debuted in 1991 and has a solid track record of protecting systems. The antivirus app interface is clean and easy to navigate, and additional features such as a performance optimizer, password manager, and backup options (some cost extra money) are available. One of the best features of this antivirus product is protection against phishing attempts by blocking access to malicious websites that seek to harvest account credentials and confidential information, keeping you safe from identity theft or worse.

This app runs on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. 

$59 at Norton

McAfee Total Protection

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McAfee is a popular security software staple among consumers and businesses. It yields excellent performance, and protects against spyware and malware, as well as routine viruses. It not only blocks dangerous websites, it scans and removes malicious emails as well. Safe browsing, identity theft protection, and a secure VPN option are included. The app runs on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, securing any mobile device. 

$35 at MacAfee

Trend Micro Antivirus

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Image: Trend Micro

Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security is a bit more basic antivirus app than other products. It offers standard antivirus as well as antispyware and antimalware features, comes at a lower average cost but is reported to entail some performance overhead. Artificial intelligence (AI) learning is used to observe threat behaviors and adapt accordingly. A Pay Guard option is used to protect online transactions. It's provided for Windows only.

The more advanced Internet Security and Maximum Security options are basically the same product, they just cover a different level of devices (per the price section) and offer social media privacy, system optimization and repair, online children's safeguards (parental control), a password manager and mobile OS/Mac options. It runs on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, protecting all your devices from malware.

$20 at Trend Micro

Webroot SecureAnywhere

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Image: Webroot

Webroot antivirus software protects against the usual cast of characters from the threat department, it is lightweight and offers identity protection to safeguard accounts, passwords, and confidential data, firewall protection, and pop-ups and ad blocking to protect you from viruses and other malware. To be fair, browsers generally offer this last feature as well, but website operators routinely find ways to thwart these built-in options, so some extra assistance can come in handy to reduce these frustrations. 

The Webroot antivirus scan is quick and efficient, and there is even a webcam protector to keep malicious software from accessing your camera. This malware protection runs on Windows and Mac.

$40 at Webroot

Symantec Endpoint Protection

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Image: Symantec

Symantec Endpoint Protection is the most "corporate" of products here and is arguably the best suited for centralized management by the IT or security departments. The mobile app of this antivirus protection can be deployed through centralized means as well.

Symantec offers protection from malware, viruses, spyware, unknown threats, and network/host exploits. There is no anti-phishing feature, unfortunately, and it does entail significant system overhead. But the trade-off is highly efficient protection against threats, protecting company assets and employees. It runs on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.

$28 at Symantec

Kaspersky Endpoint Protection

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Image: Kaspersky

Kaspersky is another well-known player in the antivirus space, having a proven track record of virus protection reliability since 1997. Its endpoint security product offers the usual anti-malware suite, good performance, anti-phishing and strong anti-ransomware protection. It integrates well in businesses with centralized management capability.

Some users have reported challenges with the reporting module, but overall customer satisfaction with Kaspersky's antivirus software ranks among some of the most positive of any of these antivirus products reviewed. It runs on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.

$40 at Kaspersky

Sophos Home

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Image: Sophos

Sophos Home is Sophos's antivirus software, and it comes in both a free and a premium version. Both versions offer antivirus protection, AI threat detection, parental website filtering and web protection. The free antivirus version can cover three devices. The paid version goes further by providing ransomware security; extended web security; banking, privacy, and identity theft protection; advanced anti-malware components; premium support; and coverage for 10 devices. It runs on Windows and Mac.

$45 at Sophos

Malwarebytes Cybersecurity

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Image: Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes offers free and paid products, but the free antivirus version is really only intended to clean up an infected computer; it does offer anti-hacking, anti-ransomware, anti-phishing, and active antivirus threat protection measures, but these expire after 14 days. The paid version of this antivirus program offers all of the above components for the cost shown. It runs on Windows, Mac, and Chromebook.

$40 at Malwarebytes

Avast

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Avast Free is commonly regarded as one of the best free antivirus products out there. It offers free antivirus protection, Wi-Fi scanning to detect weaknesses (such as using default passwords), pop-up blocking, a password manager, a comprehensive firewall and—best of all—no ads.

The premium antivirus software version offers all the above plus the Avast Secure Browser, which is a customized secure web browser that protects your data (and is recommended for those working in the financial industry). It also provides a new feature called Remote Access Shield, which helps to protect personal data and mitigate remote desktop vulnerabilities.

A sandbox feature lets you run suspect software in a locked-down environment to test it and see if it contains malicious code. There is also a safe banking feature, a fake website detection option, webcam protection, and even a software updater to ensure other products, such as utilities and web browsers, are up to date. It runs on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android

The single device offering is $39.99 and the multi-device offering $49.99

$40 at Avast

Microsoft Defender

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Image: Microsoft

We come to our final antivirus protection product in the round-up, Windows Defender, which comes bundled with Windows 10. As products go, it's fairly basic and would probably earn about a "C" on any report card. It protects against viruses, but doesn't update often, has no advanced threat protection, and account protection only applies to your Microsoft account. This latter feature is irrelevant for users relying on local accounts instead.

Defender offers firewall protection (which is really just the classic Windows firewall some have loved and some have hated since Windows XP), network protection, app and browser protection (note the browser in question must be Microsoft Edge; other browsers need not apply) and some measure of device security such as preventing malicious code from being inserted into processes running in memory.

This free antivirus program is not perfect and has made some mistakes, such as mislabeling Citrix components as malware, but for most basic computer usage (think: Grandma using the computer for Facebook, Amazon shopping, and email) it gets the job done. It runs on Windows 10.

Microsoft

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect new pricing.