What's the best antivirus program? The best security software for your Windows 10 PC, laptop or tablet comes from either Norton, Bitdefender or Kaspersky. Learn more about your free- and paid security options in our best antivirus software chart.
In this article, we bring you the 17 best free and paid antivirus programs for your PC or laptop in the UK in 2016. Best Antivirus reviews, tests and ratings. Where to buy antivirus, and best Windows antivirus for PC and laptop.
If you'd like to skip straight ahead to our antivirus software chart, click here. We've also got lots of expert internet security buying advice to share with you below, though, so continue reading if you're unsure of what security software you need.
If you've just downloaded Windows 10 or bought a new Windows 10 PC, don't forget that it will need some help to keep it working as well as it does right now. And that means installing security software. We round up the best free antivirus and best paid antivirus for Windows 10, plus older Windows operating systems running on your PC or laptop. (See also: best business antivirus 2016 UK.)
Update: Researchers have discovered that Symantec and Norton internet security services are leaving users more open to attack. That's according to Google researcher Tavis Ormandy, who has found vulnerabilities in 25 of Symantec's products.
Project Zero, which is a team of Google employees searching for zero-day code flaws who then give companies 90 days to fix them, discovered the flaws and shared them in a blog post on 28 June. Thankfully, Symantec has already fixed the critical vulnerabilities which were described as "as bad as it gets."
In most cases, the patches will arrive in the form of automatic updates to your security software, but it's important to check that your Symantec or Norton product has updated to resolve the issues.
The flaws highlight that even the best antivirus doesn't keep you 100% from online attacks, so it's important to remain vigilant whilst using the web.
Best antivirus and internet security software: Why you need antivirus - What is antivirus?
Antivirus software detects, and then prevents, disarms or removes malicious programs or malware, often referred to as 'viruses'. Antivirus doesn't offer a perfect solution to the problem of malware, but it is a critical first step to securing your PC or laptop. To help prevent viruses infecting your PC you must install antivirus, and then regularly update your antivirus software. All of the antivirus software reviewed here will update automatically.
But Internet security software is no longer just about countering viruses. Although they still exist, viruses are arguably a minor part of the malware now prevalent on the web. More important now is security of personal data. Security exploits aren't about show-off hackers massaging their egos, any more, but about monetising their malware.
The modern day criminal doesn't have to be a hard-line hacker, either. They can buy all the software they need, and millions of addresses, on the dark web or even on eBay, if you know where to look. You can buy everything from denial of service attack - with botwebs for hire - to individual exploits. Custom attacks are available, where the code changes after only a dozen uses or so, making it very hard for Internet Security (IS) providers to block every new varient.
Best antivirus and internet security software: Zero day attacks
Although the primary concern is to block malware so it doesn’t install on your PC in the first place, there isn’t an internet security suite made which is 100 percent effective. Worthwhile IS and antivirus software should also detect so called ‘zero day’ attacks, where the malware is so new it hasn’t yet been analysed or had ‘signatures’ built into IS protection routines.
The speed with which these analyses are made is an important factor in the level of protection an IS suite can provide. Some companies now claim a turnaround of well under an hour, using information gained from their own customers about similar attacks. The cloud element in security applications is growing more and more important in speeding this process.
Newly installed software can be monitored, looking for suspicious activity and can then be prevented from potentially damaging actions, such as changing registry entries, or installing as a browser add-in.
Best antivirus and internet security software: How to choose antivirus
Malware is evolving faster than ever, but fortunately the latest generation of antivirus - or AV - is better equipped than ever to handle new threats.
In recent years, the technology that powers AV software has changed dramatically. An AV package you purchased a few years ago was able to stop known viruses and other known malware, but brand-new, unknown viruses proved more difficult. Newer products do a better job of stopping them.
For our antivirus tests we team up with AV-Test.org, a respected independent security-software testing lab based in Germany. AV-Test rigorously tests AV products from a number of leading security companies. The multifaceted testing procedure looks not only at how well an AV product can detect malware using traditional, largely signature-based methods (that is, employing a database of known malware types), but also at how well it can block brand-new, unknown malware. AV-Test also examines how well a security product can clean up after an infection in the event that a piece of malware does get through.
Every program in this list is worth your investment. The differences between the top few are relatively minor. The critical thing is to install one of these programs.
Best antivirus and internet security software: what's the difference between free antivirus and paid antivirus?
Our tests focus on paid-for and free AV products. Paid-for AV products usually offer better technical support and more comprehensive protection features than free programs, but free is free. Internet security suites go further still, offering firewalls, parental controls, identity theft protection and more.
Here we review the best antivirus programs you can buy or download in the UK right now. Securing your PC is, of course, about a lot more than antivirus. At the very least you need to run up to date antivirus, antispyware and a firewall. You'll find that almost all of the best antivirus software we test these days forms part of an internet security suite: so all of the above and more is included.
The trouble is, some antivirus is better than others. They all offer a blacklist of known threats, and a whitelist of software that is known to be legitimate. But these days new threats emerge every day, and knowing what is friend and what is foe in real-time can be critical. And that's where we come in. AV-Test challenges Windows security software to withstand threats both old and new, known and unknown.
We then combine that with our own experienced and expert tests of interface and system overhead. We test antivirus programs for how much (if at all) they slow down your PC or laptop, as well as how easy to use and how intrusive they are. Thus you can see from our regularly updated list of the best antivirus for PC or laptop, which is the best for you. Best antivirus for protection, best antivirus for performance, and best antivirus for value. Click through to read the individual antivirus reviews.
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- Reviewed on: 23 February 15
- RRP: £60
Offering excellent value with 10 licences to cover all your devices, Norton Security with Backup also offers a strong feature set and very good protection from viruses and other malware. Recommended.
- Reviewed on: 7 April 15
- RRP: £40 inc VAT (3 PC, 1 year licence)
This is one of the very best AV suites available, in terms of outright protection against malware. It's also very good at not throwing up false warnings, but there are other products offering more auxiliary modules for the money.
- Reviewed on: 16 December 14
- RRP: £39.99 inc VAT (3 PCs, 1 year)
A three-device, full protection IS suite for under £50 is good value and when that includes cover on all the major platforms, it should be flexible enough for most. Kaspersky Total Security 2015’s technical strength can’t be faulted, with only Avira Anti Virus Pro matching it in the AV-Test group.
Read our Kaspersky Total Security 2015 review.
- Reviewed on: 6 October 15
- RRP: Free
Overall, this is one of the best free AV applications you’re going to find. With perfect scores from AV-Test, a good range of facilities for a zero-cost suite and a well-designed interface which is easy to use and direct, Avira Free Antivirus 2015 is a great choice to protect your PCs.
Read our Avira Free Antivirus 2015 review.
- Reviewed on: 7 October 15
- RRP: Free
BitDefender Free Edition will suit a certain kind of user, one who just wants to install the software and let it do its job, without recourse to setup changes or manually scans. Since it has such a high protection score, it’s safe to do this, but if you prefer to have more hands-on control, you may find this approach frustrating.
- Reviewed on: 24 February 15
- RRP: £42
With such a good performance and the lower asking price, Trend Internet Security 2015 represents very good value, even though it misses out on certain extras offered by some of its competition.
- Reviewed on: 26 November 15
- RRP: Free
If you want the extra features that Total Security 2016 offers over and above a plain free antivirus product, then Qihoo isn't a bad choice. And if you do install it, you should head straight into the settings and enable the Bitdefender scanner.
Read our Qihoo 360 Total Security 2016 review.
- Reviewed on: 13 October 15
- RRP: Free
Panda is one of the leading antivirus providers and this free offering includes a couple of interesting extras. We were surprised at the time it took for both the initial and follow-up test scans, but its protection levels are sound and it’s very easy software to set up and forget.
Read our Panda Free Antivirus 2016 review.
- Reviewed on: 5 October 15
- RRP: Free
Avast Free Antivirus 2015 is one of the best free security products you can install. It offers a surprising range of free goodies, including application and browser app analysis and, separately, an excellent Android suite, covering AV and anti-theft. A better than average AV-Test rating completes a very impressive picture.
Read our Avast Free Antivirus 2015 review.
- Reviewed on: 5 October 15
- RRP: Free
AVG Free continues to be one of the best free antivirus programs you can download. It offers a good selection of key protections, though you do have to be careful to install the right product.
Read our AVG Free Antivirus 2016 review.
- Reviewed on: 31 October 14
- RRP: £89.99 inc VAT (unlimited, personally owned devices, 1 year subscription)
If you run a couple of home Windows PCs, a Mac, a tablet and a smartphone, or a similar combination, McAfee LiveSafe 2015 is an economical way of protecting them all and providing anti-theft facilities on the mobile devices. While the feature set of the IS component of the package may lack back-up and PC tune-up, the power of its AV protection can't be denied.
Read our McAfee LiveSafe 2015 review.
- Reviewed on: 20 February 15
- RRP: £34.95
G-Data Internet Security 2015 is relatively inexpensive for a full-featured security suite. It's not the most successful at beating out web threats, but it is sufficiently good to be worth installing. A decent purchase, if not the best.
Read our G Data Internet Security 2015 review.
- Reviewed on: 25 February 15
- RRP: £37.49
It’s not possible to compare Webroot’s offering with the others in terms of AV efficacy, as we have no test results, but the company’s claim to scan fast and leave a light impression looks fair.
- Reviewed on: 28 May 15
- RRP: £45 inc VAT (3PCs, 1 year licence)
ESET NOD32 Antivirus is a sound antivirus product with some useful extras, though it’s a bit surprising anti-spam isn't included in the product. The software is easy to use and doesn't disrupt the normal function of a PC it’s running on. Technically, it's a strong contender, without being in the front rank.
Read our ESET NOD32 Antivirus 8 review.
- Reviewed on: 19 February 15
- RRP: £38.99
Avira Internet Security Suite 2015 is a good, solid IS suite with useful extras in the System Speedup app. Technically excellent, it loses a little for lack of any form of backup, but is still a good choice.
- Reviewed on: 19 February 15
- RRP: £50 inc VAT (3 PCs, 1 year licence)
ESET Smart Security 8 is an efficient IS suite, though it doesn't have many of the extras which are now often standard issue. It's good at what it does and from our tests has a fairly light touch.
Read our ESET Smart Security 8 review.
- Reviewed on: 21 April 15
- RRP: £49.99
Avast produces an excellent free AV offering, giving nobody an excuse to lack protection on a PC. This commercial product is not quite such good value, lacking some of the features we've come to expect of premium suites. Backup and PC tune-up are missing or require an extra purchase.
Read our Avast Premier 2015 review.