Best security software for PC or laptop in the UK. 2016's best internet security suites for Windows. Best antivirus, best antispyware. Security software reviews. (See also: 2016's best antivirus and best free antivirus for PC and laptop.)
Latest entry: Qihoo 360 Total Security
Best antivirus | Best security software - why you need antivirus
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. (See all security software reviews)
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 a 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 variant. (See also: best business antivirus 2016 UK.)
Best antivirus | Best 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 | Best security software - features to look for
Most IS suites don’t just handle malware exploits. When looking at suites, you may expect several modules dealing with file backup, protection of passwords, web site checks, online transaction security and other associated tasks.
Backup is a particularly useful combination with malware protection. In a worst-case infection, you can still retain clean copies of important data to reinstate once the attack has been cleared.
Many suites offer PC tune-up facilities and while these often duplicate existing Windows facilities, such as defragmentation and removal of cookies, several have useful extras, which can determine the applications and utilities loaded at startup and check you have the latest versions of software and drivers.
Keeping applications up to date is important, as exploits specific to individual programs can be stopped at source using revised code from their producers. Applications such as Adobe Reader, Flash player and Oracle’s Java are often targets for attacks.
Best antivirus | Best security software - antivirus poll
Best antivirus | Best security software - 15 best security suites reviews
- Reviewed on: 21 April 15
- RRP: £60 inc VAT (3 PC, 1 year licence)
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.
- Reviewed on: 1 May 14
- RRP: £50 inc VAT (3 PCs, 1-year subscription)
Scraping an AV-Test Certification may put some people off AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0, but standards in malware protection are now very high. We wonder if its scanning should be more thorough too. In its favour it's very easy to setup and use. For general-purpose home protection it's definitely better than having nothing, but there are more secure alternatives available at similar and lower cost.
Read our AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0 review.
- 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: 25 February 15
- RRP: £50 inc VAT
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: 19 February 15
- RRP: £51 inc VAT (3 PC licence)
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: 3 November 14
- RRP: £60 inc VAT (5 devices, 1 year licence)
Panda Global Protection 2015 is a good option, if you need to protect a range of different devices from Windows PCs to Macs and Android machines. Not quite as generous as McAfee's ‘as-many-as-you-like' offering and a point off the perfect score in AV-Test's testing, the Panda product costs £20 less, too and is particularly easy to use.
Read our Panda Global Protection 2015 review.
- Reviewed on: 25 October 14
- RRP: £60 (3 device licence)
The Usability score of 5.5 reflects a low total of five false positives, during system scans and the use of legitimate applications. The 4.5 figure for a Performance score shows a noticeable resource hit while running regular computing tasks, like downloading and installing software.
Read our F-Secure Safe 2014 review.
- Reviewed on: 20 February 15
- RRP: £45 inc VAT (3 PC licence)
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: 30 June 15
- RRP: £37 inc VAT (3PCs, one-year licence)
ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 2015 is very sound anti-malware software. Although the scan rate is low, since the impact on the system is low, this probably won’t matter. The range of facilities offered in the suite includes most of the things you’d want, though we’d like to see the Privacy bar in a version that will work with Chrome.
- Reviewed on: 16 December 14
- RRP: £42 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: 7 November 14
- RRP: £50 (3 PC licence, 1 year)
We like Bullguard Internet Security 2014 a lot. It's AV and protection provision is robust and well automated, but it's also one of the most comprehensive suites we look at each year. Combining IS, backup and tune-up seems to us the ideal approach and this one suite handles all these issues in a sensible and easily controllable way. It's also one of the most economically-priced solutions out there.
Read our Bullguard Internet Security 2014 review.
- 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: 24 February 15
- RRP: £42 inc. VAT
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: 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: 23 February 15
- RRP: £60 inc. VAT
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.