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Best Antivirus Software for Windows 10 PCs
June 20, 2019
Since the dawn of the internet age, cybersecurity has remained one of the most pressing issues PC users face all around the globe. Keeping your online browsing safe and secure has only become more intricate and difficult as online technology has become smarter.
As we become more and more dependent on the internet for work, play, and communication, the likelihood of falling victim to some form of a data breach has been on a steady trend upwards. In fact, a 2017 Ponemon Institute report estimated that one in four people are likely to experience a data breach .
Windows users who wish to protect themselves against these menacing odds are best served by equipping their devices with strong, reliable antivirus software. Antivirus software aims to fight cyber threats through prompt prevention, detection, and deletion.
Tasked with the responsibility of safeguarding all of your downloads, web-surfing, and connected devices from potential threats, good antivirus software should be able to employ advanced algorithms and techniques to provide constant real-time protection. It’s these very algorithms and techniques that matter most when choosing the best antivirus software for Windows 10.
Let’s take a deep dive into the top antivirus software applications. We’ll count down our top 5 picks along with the specs, pros, and cons of each.
5. Panda Free Antivirus
PC users on a tight budget looking for an exceptional set of basic cybersecurity software features will find exactly what they need with Panda Free Antivirus. Speedy and lightweight, this antivirus software is extremely user-friendly and uniquely visually appealing.
Offering real-time antivirus protection, multimedia/game mode, USB protection, and a free PC recovery system called Panda rescue kit, there’s a reason why so many Windows 10 users depend on Panda Free Antivirus for protection. Functioning as a top-notch set and forget cybersecurity program, Panda’s 100% virus detection ratio is a true force to be reckoned with.
- Usability - There is nothing complicated about Panda, even for complete cybersecurity novices. Its straightforward user interface features universally understood icons and quick, comprehensive scans and summaries.
- Android compatibility - Just because they’re smaller and seemingly less vulnerable than PCs, Android smartphones and tablets are still at risk of cyber attacks. Panda’s Android software checks access permissions on device apps, scans apps and app updates in real-time, and much more, all while optimizing your battery life and monitoring memory usage.
- Upgradability - If you’re looking to up your antivirus protection game, Panda has a number of affordable monthly payment options that offer heightened levels of security the larger the package.
- Sparse free features - Most antivirus software manufacturers will stock their free versions up with a hefty amount of features to build a reputation and gain a solid clientele base. Panda does the opposite. Of the 13 top features their premium subscription offers, the free version only offers 2.
- No parental controls - Parental controls become available at the third tier of Panda subscription pyramid, but are a basic enough function for a PC user to expect within the free version.
- Low malware download score - The first thing most PC users do after downloading an antivirus software is run a malware scan. A PC Mag malware test  found that the Panda malware scan missed almost twice as many verified downloads as it detected.
The Cost: Free
4. Avast Free Antivirus
Regarded as one of the best antivirus applications for online gamers, Avast Free Antivirus is an excellent option for those who regularly visit sites or use programs that tend to harbor malware. Supporting over 415 languages, this worldly software simplifies online privacy with a simple click of a button.
Avast SecureLine VPN allows you to hide your online activities from internet providers, advertisers, employers and more. No matter where you’re stationed; home, the local coffee shop, or the airport, SecureLine VPN ensures ultimate privacy.
As one of the most comprehensive free antivirus programs on the market, Avast does not disappoint in a number of areas where other antiviruses fall short. Gamers can play on without interruption; Avast is programmed to suspend non-critical functions and dismiss pop-ups before they can ruin a perfect shot.
- Do Not Disturb mode - In addition to accommodating your gaming habits, Avast’s newly introduced Do Not Disturb Mode blocks annoying pop-ups whenever you're gaming, watching movies, or using fullscreen mode.
- Compatibility - The Avast family is a huge one, so if you’re looking for protection for your Mac, iPhone, Android, or IoT device, Avast is your one-stop-shop.
- Password manager - For free antivirus software, Avast’s inclusion of a password manager is a generous addition. Capable of storing all of your passwords and all of your credit card numbers, Avast offers secure auto-fill login information which makes your user experience completely seamless and shielded.
- Customizable - Whether you’re looking for simple antivirus protection or complex security, Avast is fully customizable and allows you to tailor-make your perfect antivirus software.
- Pop-ups - When Do Not Disturb is switched off, users may find the frequent pop-up notifications irritating. Though useful, they can be a mild nuisance.
- Difficult interface - Users who aren’t quite accustomed to more complex interfaces may find the Avast control center difficult to operate.
- Password manager - While it is incredibly handy that this free antivirus software offers a password manager, the actual manager could use a bit of sprucing up. Hopefully, in future updates, Avast will include multi-factor authentication.
The Cost: Free
3. Windows Defender
As a guaranteed antivirus feature built into Windows 10 PCs, Windows Defender is one of the most widely used antivirus programs that most PC users don’t even know they own!
In an effort to upgrade the average Windows user’s cybersecurity experience, Microsoft employed Windows Defender along with many other features that are built into Windows 10. They continue to evolve to protect customers against today’s threats and those that come tomorrow .
Across the board, Windows Defender has proven to perform well on scan test scores and offers simple, yet effective ransomware protection. Offering cloud-delivered protection, this intelligent antivirus software tackles real-time virus protection, parental controls, SmartScreen web protection, and more. Paired with Windows Firewall, this built-in antivirus is strong enough to protect casual users from cyber threats.
For seasoned PC users who know what red flags to look out for while browsing the web, managing downloads, and connecting devices, Windows Defender is an excellent stand-alone antivirus software that effectively protects and prevents against threats from harming you and your precious data.
- Unobtrusive - The simple fact that the vast majority of Windows 10 users don’t know that their PCs come pre-installed with antivirus software speaks volumes as to how unintrusive it is. No annoying pop-ups constantly interrupting your workflow, just seamless background functioning.
- Always working - Unless you’ve got another antivirus installed and scanning your files, connected devices, or browser pages, Windows Defender assumes the role as your primary antivirus software.
- Full integration - One of the major perks of Windows Defender is the simple fact that it comes preinstalled with your purchase of a Windows 10 operating computer. That means updates generally come in larger Windows updates rather than program-specific updates.
- Future potential - With an expressed determination to evolve with the times, signs of improvement and more impressive results are basically a guarantee coming from Microsoft itself.
- Slow scanning speed - There are a number of key elements that could be slowing down the speed of your unique Windows Defender virus scan, but overall, users have found that a single scan can take hours to complete.
- Limited features - If you’re in the market for a customizable antivirus program that allows you to cover a number of cybersecurity bases, Windows Defender will not be your best bet. Though it’s great at eliminating threats, its limited features may not be enough for full protection.
The Cost: Free (pre-installed on all Windows 10 machines)
2. Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus
This cloud-based antivirus for Windows 10 is not like most of its non-cloud-based competitors. Webroot’s installer is an astounding 4MB and installs with blazing speed. Featuring an easy-to-use interface, this antivirus has become a recent favorite among many PC users. Among many things, Webroot offers webcam protection, lightning-fast scans, identity theft protection, and real-time anti-phishing web browsing.
Though they do not offer a free option, they make an easy-sell for why their antivirus is worth forking over a one-time annual payment, stating that when it comes to protecting you and your family's devices, you get what you pay for. There is no shortage of features with Webroot, and across the board, the software has tested well in malware, anti-phishing, and ransomware protection departments.
One of the biggest sells of Webroot is its Identity Shield feature that is uniquely designed to protect all of your online shopping, social media, web browsing, and online banking by protecting your credit cards and other personal data. First-timers can even try Identity Shield for a 70-day no-questions-asked, money-back-guarantee trial.
- Cloud-based - Being fully cloud-based allows Webroot to complete scans faster than most hard drive based antivirus software applications. Webroot calculations estimate that it only takes 20 seconds to scan your PC for malware. That’s 60x faster than the average scan time. This also means freed up space on your PC.
- Compatibility - Functional on Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 10, Webroot offers dominating compatibility. Webroot’s safe browsing is also compatible with Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla, Internet Explorer, and Opera.
- Evolving landscape - Webroot is dedicated to keeping you secure, even in the face of brand-new threats that could compromise your identity, files, and finances.
- Cloud-based - Since Webroot is completely cloud-based, that means that you need to be connected to the internet for the best possible results.
- Missing valuable features - When there are free antivirus software programs on the market offering a number of free added features such as password managers and parental controls, it’s easy to feel a bit remiss about paying for a service that forgoes these elements.
The Cost: $29.99 annually
1. Norton AntiVirus Plus
As one of the nation’s leading antivirus programs, Norton Antivirus has built itself a trusted reputation within the realm of cybersecurity. Proving to be one of the most reliable antivirus software programs available on the market, Norton AntiVirus Plus understands device security.
Offering up to 2GB of backup cloud storage, a smart firewall, online threat protection, anti-spyware, antivirus, ransomware protection, and more, Norton AntiVirus Plus is a capable program worth the price-value ratio. Working quietly in the background, you’ll forget it’s even there as you go about your daily computing business. It’s truly tough for competitors to contend with Norton AntiVirus Plus.
Though it may be a tough sell to purchase an antivirus software when there are a number of free services out there, Norton ensures that your monthly or annual rate is an affordable one that is worth the cost.
- Password manager - Norton AntiVirus Plus’ password manager syncs passwords all across your windows, iOS, and Android devices while reporting password strength and suggesting password changes when necessary.
- Multi-layered protection - 5-layer protection designed to detect and block threats before they infect your devices is one of the most sophisticated elements within the Norton AntiVirus software.
- Affordable annual and monthly cost - At $39.99 annually or $5.99 monthly, you get the full antivirus package for a reasonable cost. Even at the top end, the most premium Norton cybersecurity coverage only costs $100 annually, or $14.99 a month.
- Support and updates - Since Norton is one of the most well-known antivirus software providers with incredibly strong industry ties, you’ll be safe and secure with high-powered updates protecting you from the latest cyber threats.
- System resource usage - One of the biggest roadblocks users have found with Norton AntiVirus Plus is that since it runs all the time to provide real-time protection, it tends to hog too much RAM that you'd like to allocate other computing tasks.
- Uninstallation process - Users have reported that the uninstallation process is not as simple as wiping the computer clean from the hard drive. Norton AntiVirus Plus tends to linger, especially in comparison to its competitors.
The Cost: $5.99 monthly or $39.99 annually
 Ponemon Institute; 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study
 PC Magazine; Panda Free Antivirus
 Windows 10 Security; Evolution of Malware Protection
About the Author: Tulie Finley-Moise is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tulie is a digital content creation specialist based in San Diego, California with a passion for the latest tech and digital media news.