Antivirus Software Review

The Best Antivirus Software for 2019

Do I Need An Antivirus?

For most people, the answer to this question is a no-brainer: Yes! However, there have been sources on the Internet that have recently popped up, stating that people in the Internet Security industry don’t use antivirus protection. If you use your computer for memory intensive processes, you may be tempted to drop yours.

It is true that if you never go on the Internet with your computer or attach any devices to your computer that have been online, you are probably safe. If you always practice extreme Internet safety:

  • Never visit new URLs
  • Never open links or attachments you get in an e-mail (included e-mail sent to you by trusted friends/family)
  • Never click on ads or external links
  • Always keep backups of your important information on a drive that isn’t connected to your device

You are probably safe. If you have knowledge about removing viruses, malware, spyware, adware, ransomware, etc. that can help as well. Keep in mind—people in the security industry collect viruses on purpose.

But for the rest of the population (i.e., most of us), antivirus is a must. It represents a last line of defense when our extreme safety practices have slackened or when someone comes up with a new scam that flies under our radar. It also is designed to work silently in the background, so that we do not even need to think about it. Which antivirus products work best? Here we review five and let you decide.

#1 Total AV

At a Glance:

PROS: CONS:
  • Easy to use interface
  • No false warnings detected by AV Test (others haven’t reviewed yet)
  • Improved performance during standard software launch, frequently-used software installation, and file copying
  • Unique optimization feature that deletes duplicate files on your computer
  • Dramatic price increase after the first year
  • Performed much lower than average on 0-day attacks
  • Drastically slowed down popular website launch time

TotalAV

Total AV is relatively new to the antivirus market. As such, it has undergone many changes to the different features and packages that it offers as it finds its niche in a saturated market. Currently, there is a free version available that you must download before you can upgrade and unlock the additional features of the paid product.

The free version itself is not impressive. You must manually scan files after the fact since there is no real-time protection. Most of the features are blacked out because you are unable to access them. The computer optimization tools are at your fingertips, but if you don’t mind searching, similar features are included in your PC without the addition of another program.

One nice optimization feature that cannot be found elsewhere is the ability to remove duplicate files from your computer. Freeing up computer space always improves speed, and Total AV’s disk cleaner tool allows you to eliminate files that were copied instead of moved from one folder to another. Currently, only Windows systems have a built-in disk cleaner tool that finds temporary files, cached Windows updates, error reporting files, and recycle bin contents that you can select for deleting to clear up space. But even that one does not detect duplicate files and offers you the chance to delete the duplicates as well. In most cases, you would have to download yet another program just to perform that one feature of Total AV.

Once you decide to pay for Total AV to get real-time virus and malware protection, then you have a few package options from which you can choose. The more expensive versions come with features like a VPN, Safe Site (which detects if a website may harm your system or steal your information), a Password Vault for storing passwords, ad blocking, and Identity Protection for customers located in the USA. However, if you are only planning to use the service for a year and do not want it to automatically renew at the normal rate, you must actually cancel the service. There have been some negative reviews because customers went in and only deleted their credit card information without officially canceling. In this case, the system will try to bill the deleted credit card or will send you annoying renewal messages about paying your bill, so make sure you actually let them know you are canceling. Granted, this seems to be a complaint across antivirus platforms.

All-in-all, Total AV performed about average at detecting malware that had been released in the last four weeks (industry average = 100%; Total AV 99.9% according to AV Test results). Even the real-time protection slightly struggled with 0-day attacks, but as a newer product, one would expect this. The antivirus protection will also slow you down a bit on some popular websites, but it actually speeds up installing and launching software apps in comparison to the average from other antivirus companies. You will also notice that copying files on your computer goes slightly quicker than it might with other antivirus offerings.

If you are interested in the add-ons, it is cheaper to upgrade to a larger package than to purchase these separately. Of note, the VPN service is offered through Windscribe and has some interesting routing locations including one through Hong Kong.

Interestingly, the Identity Protection is not offered through a package. This is an add-on cost you must pay for separately if you are interested in it. You must have a paid package to add this feature to your account. Identity Protection monitors the use of your information—from your name to your phone number—across the web. It also monitors your credit through Experian. Suspicious activity is immediately reported to you. This is a very nice feature for people who are concerned about identity theft or for those who have reason to believe their identity might have been (or might be) stolen.

The bottom line is that Total AV is a competitive up-and-coming company that offers 24/7 support with its paid products and focuses on offering amazing features. The real-time antivirus protection is not yet on par with some other antivirus offerings at 0-day, but they clearly are trying to get a foothold in this tough market. At this point, they have created deep discounts for new customers expecting that once you try their full-service offerings you will love them enough to stick around through the first year price increase. People who prefer a smaller new company to some of the giants will appreciate this product.

Base Cost: $19.00 for the first year, but it will auto-renew for $99 the second year if you do not cancel the service.

Accepted Payment Methods: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, & PayPal

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android devices

Free Trial: No real-time protection, but the free version does allow you to manually scan your computer for viruses and malware and also do a computer performance scan.

Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

Number of Concurrent Devices Per Account: 3 devices with the base paid product and up to 6 devices with the most expensive “Total Security” version.

Key Features of the Base Paid Windows Version:

  • Real-time antivirus protection (not available with the free version)
  • Removes trojans, viruses, & malware
  • Protection against phishing, ransomware, adware, & spyware
  • Blocks phishing and spoofed websites
  • Remote firewall
  • Phone & live chat support 24/7
  • Computer optimization tools and disk cleaner
  • Web browser manager and cleaner
  • Cloud scanning

#2 McAfee Total Protection

At a Glance:

PROS: CONS:
  • Blocks 98-100% of all viruses and malware across platforms
  • Money-back guarantee if you become infected with a virus.
  • Excellent at blocking or alerting you to dangerous URLs across browsers
  • Identity Theft Protection is included in the 5- and 10- device packages
  • Contains Cryptojacking Blocker that prevents websites from using your computer for cryptocurrency farming
  • Did not perform very well at removing pre-existing malware in AV Comparatives testing
  • Notorious for slowing down computer processes, but when clocked the slowdown is not drastic
  • An anti-ransomware feature is listed but this part of the program does not yet seem to live up to its name

McAfee Total Protection

McAfee is one of the oldest, continuous antivirus products still on the market today. However, founder, John McAfee resigned from the company in 1994. At one point it was solely under the control of the Intel Corporation but is now controlled by both Intel and TPG Capital.

McAfee offers a free trial of the full product for 30 days. If you choose to purchase the full suite during this time, the purchase will be added to your account after the trial is finished. You can choose monthly or annual payments, but like most other antivirus programs, your subscription will automatically continue to be renewed unless you cancel it. Once you cancel your subscription, you will need the official removal tool (not just a basic uninstaller) to delete most of it from your computer because it works by becoming integrated with your system.

As an antivirus program, McAfee lives up to its name. Although it has had up and down years in the past, in 2019 it consistently did an excellent job of blocking malware and viruses across platforms, even with Mac and iOS. You will lose some of the features if you need a product for those platforms, but the antivirus itself is very effective compared to other products. It also offers a money-back guarantee if your computer does become infected, as long as you contact McAfee first about the infection, and you allow them to verify it and attempt removal.

McAfee offers Identity Theft Protection that works similarly to the Identity Protection offered through other antivirus suites by watching for any unusual online activity involving your information and monitoring your credit report through Experian. It also comes with $1 million identity theft insurance. Although the basic level of Identity Protection is technically listed as part of the “Multi-device” Total Protection package, the only way it becomes available to you is if you accept auto-renewal. However, McAfee, like other antivirus products, pretty much requires this anyway. You can also purchase different levels of Identity Theft Protection individually with higher levels monitoring court records and all three credit bureaus.

McAfee does struggle with its Ransom Guard. This is a newer feature, so it can be expected to improve. When real-time protection fails to recognize ransomware, Ransom Guard is supposed to kick in and pick it up. In some cases, 0-day ransomware could get past both the antivirus and the Ransom Guard. Older ransomware was detected, but not at the 100% detection rates that McAfee has for virus protection. It also performed on the poorer end of the scale in an AV Comparatives test that measured its ability to find and remove pre-installed malware.

McAfee does slow down your computer, but in some cases, it performs better than average according to AV Test. The biggest delays seem to come when you are installing or updating a frequently used application. McAfee is also notorious for using a larger percentage of your computer’s resources, so this is probably not a good choice for gamers. AV Comparatives ranked it as having few false alarms, though, which means you shouldn’t have to worry about it flagging programs you know are safe.

On interesting feature is the Cryptojacking Blocker. This feature prevents websites from hijacking your computer processes for cryptocurrency mining. Some websites do this with your permission to support the site without ads, so McAfee allows you to suspend this feature for those sites.

Another place where McAfee shines is at blocking or alerting you to dangerous websites. Websites that are notorious for viruses or phishing can wreak havoc on your system especially if you happen to accidentally click one you receive in an e-mail or Facebook message. McAfee does an excellent job of preventing you from visiting these sites or warning you that you are about to visit a dangerous website. Its URL protection is at the top of the antivirus field across different supported browsers.

The bottom line is that McAfee offers excellent virus protection and URL blocking for those who want a superior product. Although some of its add-on features are not as highly rated, overall, its performance is still great. McAfee Total Protection would be best for those wanting a well-recognized company that has been around awhile and for those who are primarily looking for an antivirus/firewall that recognizes the first line of defense is avoiding suspicious websites and blocking the infection before it starts.

Base Cost: $34.99 for the first year, but it will auto-renew for the second year if you do not cancel the service at the available renewal price (currently $79.99). There are monthly options, but these also auto-renew at the end of the month.

Accepted Payment Methods: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, & PayPal

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android devices

Free Trial: No credit card is required for a 30-day free trial period where you can protect up to 10 devices.

Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

Number of Concurrent Devices Per Account: Only 1 device is allowed with the base price, but up to 10 devices can be added with the most expensive “Household” version. Some reputable sources report that the “Household” version is actually for an unlimited number of devices in the same household despite its 10-device advertised limit.

Key Features of the Base Paid Windows Version:

  • Real-time antivirus protection (not available with the free version)
  • Removes trojans, viruses, & malware
  • Protection against phishing, ransomware, adware, & spyware
  • Blocks phishing and spoofed websites
  • File shredder
  • Remote firewall
  • Phone & live chat support 24/7
  • Computer optimization tools and disk cleaner
  • Cryptojacking Blocker
  • Password Manager

#3 Bitdefender Total Security

At a Glance:

PROS: CONS:
  • Very high-performance speeds
  • 100% detection of 4-week old viruses across platforms and near 100% consistent detection of 0-day attacks
  • The base product comes with Anti-tracker, Anti-spam, and Anti-theft features
  • The Parental Control feature also monitors cyberbullying and scammers trying to attack your children
  • You can use a VPN for 200MB of data per day and this can be upgraded to unlimited use
  • Very pricey to purchase the product for 10 devices even in the first year
  • Not for those with advanced knowledge who want complete control over what the antivirus does

Bitdefender Total Security

If you want a full-featured antivirus suite that can act as your personal security assistant or can run quietly in the background, Bitdefender Total Security is the antivirus program for you. Bitdefender has been around since 2001 when Florin Talpes founded it. He has remained in charge of the company since its creation. Although it is not as old as some players on the antivirus field, it has many years of experience behind it.

Bitdefender is a solid antivirus, anti-malware, and anti-ransomware product. However, many antivirus products offer similar protection. Because of that, most people look at additional features when they make their antivirus program choice. If you choose Bitdefender, you will find a hands-off Autopilot feature and sleek performance during gaming sessions.

In fact, PC Gamer recommends Bitdefender as the number one all-around best antivirus for the average gamer. Bitdefender has a suite of optimization features that allows you to use all of them with one click—and then it reminds you when you are due for your next Windows update or if you need to clean out your cookies. However, it has a “gaming” option that can be manually or automatically initiated. During “gaming” or “movies” modes you will not see annoying pop-ups and even Windows updates will be suppressed. No more dropped connections as your computer shuts down to update right at the climax of the movie or the critical point of a 2-hour battle. Plus, Bitdefender is fast and not process intensive. AV Test reported quicker than average performance times during various activities.

But Bitdefender’s Autopilot feature is for more than just the intensive Netflix watcher or gamer, it also helps protect those who don’t want to think about what their antivirus is doing and those who don’t know enough about the working of their computer to choose what is important and what isn’t. The Autopilot will do all of that for you. This may not be a benefit for those who do know what they are doing and who enjoy accepting or denying even minute changes. Bitdefender tends to not give users all the options for complete control because it assumes correctly that the average user does not need or understand what to do with these options.

Another downside is Bitdefender’s price. They do offer specials throughout the year for first-year subscribers only (similar to other antivirus products), but not all prices are discounted and these discounts tend to leave users with a higher cost than discounted first-year plans offered by other companies. Uniquely, if you stick around after the first year and decide to purchase a long-term plan, such as the 3-year plan, you will continue to get a somewhat reduced price. In addition, no other suite offers all the add-on features of Bitdefender. Everything you could possibly want for security you can find here from device optimization to a VPN to Anti-Theft features to Safe Banking to Parental Controls that even monitor for scammers and cyberbullies attacking your children. So, in the short term you might end up paying more, but in the long run, you are getting a deal.

The bottom line is that Bitdefender is about performance. It is an excellent antivirus, anti-malware, anti-ransomware, anti-phishing, etc. product that works quietly in the background. It is also about features. Gamers and those who want a feature intensive personal security assistant will love this product.

Base Cost: Currently $35.99 for the first year, which is discounted from the normal $89.99 price. There are also 2- and 3- year options, but these are not as deeply discounted right now as the 1-year introductory price is.

Accepted Payment Methods: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, JCB (Japan Credit Bureau), Cash at 7-Eleven or ACE, wire transfer, check, & PayPal

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iOS, & Android

Free Trial: There is a 30-day free trial download on the website of this specific version. There is also a free version that has few of the additional features you find in the Total Security version.

Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

Number of Concurrent Devices Per Account: 5 devices with the base paid product, but you have the option of selecting a 10 device plan for a non-discounted higher annual price.

Key Features of the Base Paid Version:

  • Real-time antivirus protection
  • Removes trojans, viruses, & malware
  • Protection against phishing, ransomware, adware, & spyware
  • Autopilot allows the program to be less intrusive
  • Anti-tracking with webcam protection and microphone monitoring
  • An included VPN
  • Blocks phishing and spoofed websites, as well as links, passed through social media by unwitting friends
  • Remote firewall
  • Phone & live chat support 24/7
  • Computer optimization tools and disk cleaner
  • Anti-loss and anti-theft tools
  • Rescue mode
  • Safe Files to protect specific files from ransomware
  • Password manager
  • Parental Controls
  • Game, movie, and work modes
  • Anti-spam filter for Outlook and Thunderbird
  • File shredder

#4 PCProtect

At a Glance:

PROS: CONS:
  • The actual antivirus product seems to be powered by Avira and works well
  • The interface is user-friendly but borrowed from Total AV
  • Uses a bunch of free programs crunched together into one product
  • Has not been independently reviewed by a testing lab
  • Easily shut down by malware
  • No support unless you pay for upper-tier packages
  • Very expensive considering what you get
  • The “Free scan” download is an ad to get you to purchase the full product

 

PC Protect

A simple scan of the PCProtect privacy policy will inform you that it is owned by SS Protect Limited—the same company that makes Total AV and Scanguard. In fact, it is the same privacy policy you will find on the websites for those products. Since both of those are good antivirus products, you would expect PC Protect to perform equally well, but prepare to be disappointed. PC Protect is the Frankenstein of antivirus products.

To start with, PCProtect uses Avira to power its antivirus program. This is a good choice since Avira is a superior antivirus that detects most viruses and malware even at 0-day. However, Avira offers a superior free product, which will have many wondering why would you pay money to a third party for it? Also, Avira alone has passed many tests from independent labs. PCProtect has not been tested independently, yet. To make matters worse, since PCProtect uses borrowed code to fuel its features, it is easily disabled completely by new threats that are smart enough to try shutting your antivirus suite down before attacking. Few are that smart, but it still poses a risk.

The interface is very user-friendly, but also not original. This time, they used their own interface though—you will find the same one in Total Av and Scanguard. Since Total AV is a lab-tested superior product, why would you invest in PCProtect simply for the interface?

PCProtect has fewer features than its cousins, but the price is equal to Scanguard and higher than Total AV for the first year. One of those “not included” features is the 24/7 support offered by the other two. This should be a given part of any paid antivirus software package.

It would be great if PCProtect offered a free version of their product to test for those who enjoy making their own decisions, but all you will get from PCProtect is a “free scan.” That’s right: you can download the app, and it will scan your computer. Once it finishes, it will tell you everything that is wrong with your computer (expect a lot), and then it will tell you that if you want to fix these issues you need to pay. It will not even remove viruses that it might find.

When it came to computer optimization, in some cases, PCProtect did as well as Windows’ built-in functions or worse. The firewall looks identical to the built-in Microsoft product and the Disk Cleanup found fewer items to remove than Microsoft’s built-in Disk Cleanup.

While Total AV is an up-and-coming product that has some polished features that are worth the bumpiness you should expect from a newer company, PCProtect has nothing to recommend it. Even the 30-day money-back guarantee should not tempt someone to download this since there are so many better antivirus offerings out there—plus should you want to cancel, you would not have customer support during the cancellation process without purchasing the most expensive package, making it more difficult to do. As far as we’re concerned, SS Protect Limited should simply discontinue this product and focus on improving the two good offerings it already has, but perhaps that is why Total AV is the only product advertised on their company website.

Base Cost: $24.00 for the first year, but it will auto-renew for $99.95 the second year if you do not cancel the service.

Accepted Payment Methods: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, & PayPal

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android devices

Free Trial: No. The advertised “Free Download” is not real—it is simply a device to get you to purchase the full product.

Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

Number of Concurrent Devices Per Account: Only 1 device with the base paid product and up to 5 devices with the most expensive “Ultimate” version.

Key Features of the Base Paid Version:

  • Real-time antivirus protection (not available with the free version)
  • Removes trojans, viruses, & malware
  • Protection against phishing, ransomware, adware, & spyware
  • Blocks or warns against phishing and spoofed websites
  • Firewall
  • Computer optimization tools and disk cleaner
  • Web browser manager and cleaner

#5 Norton 360 Internet Security

At a Glance:

PROS: CONS:
  • Excellent virus protection, including excellent cleanup of pre-installed viruses
  • Monitors webcam access
  • Dark web e-mail monitoring even with the basic level of paid protection
  •  “Standard” 360 package includes a VPN
  • Difficult to remove all the components when you change antiviruses
  • The first-year discounted price is higher than most other companies, but the non-discounted second-year price is lower

Norton Internet Security

Norton (Symantec) has been around as a company since 1982. Initially, the company focused on artificial intelligence, but by the time the company formed a merger with Peter Norton Company, it had already begun making a name for itself in the antivirus field.

Since Norton is such a big company with so many users, it naturally has more complaints about it that make bigger headlines than some of the newer and smaller guys. For example, like many antivirus suites, you must enroll in autorenewal and simply deleting or changing your credit card information will not cancel your subscription. It is recommended that users cancel two weeks before the subscription is set to renew or sooner. (Even after cancellation, your subscription will continue until the next renewal date.) Although this creates suspicion and problems when consumers hop around to different antivirus offerings for the best deal, the simple fact is that you should never be without an antivirus program, and it does take time for them to stop the autorenewal process. Also, Norton is not unique in this requirement—all antivirus suites require some sort of autorenewal information, and none allow you to stop paying without officially canceling in advance of the renewal date.

Another complaint about Norton is that it is difficult to uninstall. Big names, like Norton and McAfee, that have been around a long time have tailored their antivirus to work seamlessly as a part of the operating system. In many cases, they have components that arrive pre-installed on your computer because of an agreement with the manufacturer. This means it is difficult to pull everything out of your computer with a basic uninstall through the add/remove programs app that comes with your computer.

Norton knows that some people do hop around for the best deal, and therefore they (and other big antivirus suites) want to ensure that you aren’t taking advantage of duplicate introductory offers from them by uninstalling and then reinstalling their program as a “new user.” Norton used to offer an official uninstaller just like McAfee, but now it only offers the traditional method of removal (by going into the antivirus program itself and uninstalling through the program instead of through Windows or operating system based uninstallers) and a “Removal and Reinstall” tool for people experiencing problems with their installed product. Since reinstalling will not be helpful for those who want to end their relationship with Norton, just understand that once you uninstall Norton through the program itself, you might still find pieces of it on your computer.

The thing is, Norton has been around a long time, so they know what they are doing. It is a good antivirus that does well in AV Test’s independent testing situations. It found 100% protection against any malware thrown at it even in 0-day attacks. Norton also performed well in an AV Comparatives test for removing malware that was already installed on a system. (Norton would have detected and prevented installation if it had been installed first.) With zero false positives from AV Test and few from AV Comparatives, this is a solid product. (Just bear in mind there have been times when Norton has flagged completely innocent programs as viruses due to update issues.)

In real world situations, Norton has a reputation for slowing down overall computer performance, but it had minimal clocked performance slowdown according to AV Test and AV Comparatives. In many cases, the slowdown can be attributed to running two antivirus programs at the same time, compatibility issues with your computer (which you can check before purchasing Norton), and the expected slowdown during system scans and antivirus updates. Some people report a slower boot time, but this can be alleviated by ensuring that non-essential items, such as word processing programs, are placed on a delayed startup.

Norton also offers an ad blocker, cloud backup, Windows web cam takeover prevention, a VPN, and Dark Web e-mail monitoring as part of its basic 360 package. These added layers of security are nice, especially in a basic package. Since you can manage all their settings, they are adaptable to anyone’s style of computing. For example, if you are the type of person who constantly forgets to backup your information, you can allow Norton to do it for you. If you prefer, you can also set it to backup at a regular interval. Or, if you want to be in complete control, you can perform manual backups. The Norton interface allows you every option.

Some people have complained because they are surprised by all the new pop-ups that begin appearing once these added features are active, but Norton has several notification settings controls in their “Other Settings” menu that allow you to tweak what you see. If you don’t want to know that your antivirus is working, you can turn off all the notifications to allow it to run in the background silently.

Norton is a solid product. It is best for those who want a big name in antivirus protection and who do not tend to hop around from company to company each year. It has premium security features for people looking for an antivirus that keeps their computer safe and protects them from infections and phishing. Norton is also a good selection for those who want customized service that they can tweak to meet their needs.

Base Cost: Norton offers the option of monthly payments of $7.99 per month for their Norton 360 standard subscription or $39.99 for the first year, but the annual subscription will auto-renew for $79.99 the second year if you do not cancel the service. Likewise, the monthly subscription will also auto-renew each month unless canceled 14 days before the end of the month.

Accepted Payment Methods: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, JCB (Japan Credit Bureau), & PayPal

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android devices

Free Trial: 30 days

Money-Back Guarantee: 60 days (with an annual payment plan purchase)

Number of Concurrent Devices Per Account: Only 1 device is included with the base paid product and an unlimited number of non-commercial devices belonging to a single household with the most expensive “Ultimate Plus” version.

Key Features of the Base Paid Version:

  • Real-time antivirus protection
  • Removes trojans, viruses, & malware
  • Protection against phishing, ransomware, adware, & spyware
  • Blocks phishing and spoofed websites
  • Remote firewall
  • Password manager
  • Anonymous browsing
  • Bank-grade encryption
  • Secure VPN
  • SafeCam (Windows only)
  • Dark web monitoring (LifeLock—specifically for e-mail address monitoring)
  • Refund of up to the full price you paid for a single term subscription if you become infected with a virus and Norton’s agents cannot remove it.
  • Phone & live chat support 24/7 (but you may be charged an extra fee in some cases)
  • Cloud backup (10GB—Windows only)