Malware is of the devil. Computer viruses can destroy your expensive equipment and can act as doorways for criminals to steal your banking information and identity. For these not-inconsiderable reasons, anti-virus software is an absolute must for any Windows PC owner. To help you on your way to total security, we’ve rounded up a list of the top five anti-virus tools you need to check out. Four of the five are pay services – but the good news is that all include free trials that let you try before you buy.
The 2015 edition of Symantec Norton AntiVirus (now called Norton Security) remains one of the sleekest and most polished products you can get your hands on as a home user. User-friendly aesthetics aside, it’s also got a lot going on under the hood, including real-time protection that can detect malware before it’s even had a chance to infect your PC. Since you’ll also want to extend your malware protection to your mobile devices, Norton Security brings an online management console that also lets you cover all of your Windows, Android or Mac devices.
Of additional note is something called Virus Protection Promise, which basically says that if a virus gets past Norton Security, they’ll take care of the removal for free or refund your money if they can’t. Norton Security’s 2015 release is compatible with Windows 10, and costs $44.99 to $79.99, depending on the number of PCs and level of protection, for the first year, as of this writing. As of this writing, Norton Security 2016 is available in beta only.
Newly released, Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2016 is fully functional with Windows 10 and ranks at the top of the list among the best anti-virus programs available. Renowned for rapid scan times, intuitive user interface and top-notch malware protection, the 2016 edition of Kaspersky packs a slightly revamped layout and is easily installed. It costs $39.99 to $59.98 for one to three years of protection for one to three PCs, as of this writing.
In addition to malware detection and virus removal, Kaspersky also provides phishing protection that not only prevents you from inadvertently downloading malware but also steers you away from websites that can steal your personal and banking information. A feature called On-Screen Keyboard that disables any undetected keyloggers from capturing passwords and login information. Additional tools include remote management tools and the ability to create a bootable rescue disk.
McAfee AntiVirus Plus
A longstanding major name in the anti-virus field, McAfee’s 2015 edition of its AntiVirus Plus has a UI designed for the revamped Windows 8 (and beyond) experience. Individual tiles let you access a variety of functions including launching virus scan, firewall configuration and security history. It starts at $34.99 as of this writing, for one PC for one year.
It performs excellently at filtering out web-based malware attacks, blocking invalid and potentially harmful URLs and throwing up warnings to inform you to be cautious. Scanning is a bit slower than some of the higher-ranked anti-virus products, but makes up for a lack of brevity in the fact that it cleans up your system as it runs instead of requiring you to take additional action at the end of its scan. It’s also equipped to let you remotely manage multiple computers with the software installed.
Just because it’s not as well-known as some of the aforementioned players doesn’t mean VIPRE Antivirus lacks the ability to be a proactive protector against malware. The 2015 edition boasts rapid scan times and minimal drag on your computer while operating, and includes an updated interface designed for optimal usability.
In addition to real time protection against browser- and email-based threats, the program also includes a Social Watch Scan that checks out the validity of links that come through via Facebook and greatly reduces your chances of clicking links that could open up your computer to serious damage. Removable device scanning also keeps your USB flash drives protected. It adds an Erase Files option to your Windows Explorer menu that you can use to easily and permanently delete files.
The built-in anti-virus formerly called Microsoft Security Essentials, Windows Defender comes with all Windows 8 and later operating systems (including Windows 10). Although it can be automatically overridden by third-party anti-virus programs, Windows Defender is capable of safeguarding you from potentially harmful computer viruses – albeit to slightly lower ranked success than some of the previously mentioned aftermarket products.
One of the benefits of Windows Defender, for those who feel uncomfortable installing software on their computers, is that it comes preloaded on your Windows system and runs hands-free in the background. Anytime malware is detected you’ll receive a notification, and updates are automatically taken care of when Windows updates are downloaded. The down side to this is that you won’t get updates as frequently as you will with some third-party anti-virus programs. On the upside, it’s totally free. Considered “better than nothing” by critics, Windows Defender is a reasonably capable anti-virus program if you don’t want to be bothered with other pay services.