Best Paid Antivirus Software in 2020
Our top pick overall is Kaspersky’s Windows antivirus lineup, which combines excellent malware protection, a full slate of extra features (such as a hardened web browser, webcam protection and file encryption) and an easy-to-use interface.
Right behind it are Bitdefender, whose cheapest paid product is the best bargain in antivirus software, and Norton, which offers excellent protection with optional identity protection and unlimited VPN service.
For free antivirus software, we liked Kaspersky Free Antivirus, which barely edged out Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition for the top spot. Both offer excellent protection against malware without slowing down your system, but Kaspersky lets you schedule scans and has a quick-scan option.
1. Kaspersky Total Security
The best Windows antivirus software overall.
Kaspersky Total Security 2019
Nearly perfect malware protection
Backup software, rich parental controls, unlimited password manager
Two-factor authentication for online account
Heavy system impact during full scans
VPN data usage capped unless you pay extra
Kaspersky’s Windows products have excellent malware-detection scores and a moderate system-performance impact, the two most important criteria in our rankings. The basic program, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, has dedicated ransomware protection, a virtual keyboard and a convenient online account portal. But at this price level, it’s beaten by Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, which has even more features.
Kaspersky Internet Security is our top choice among the midrange packages. It has decent parental controls, a secure browser, anti-theft protection for laptops, webcam protection and a limited-use VPN client that kicks in when you connect to an open Wi-Fi network. It also includes software for macOS, Android and iOS.
The premium antivirus suite, Kaspersky Total Security, adds backup software, file encryption, a file shredder and an unlimited password manager. It’s our favorite among all the premium security suites.
2. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
Strong protection on the cheap.
Very good malware protection
Small performance penalty
Lots of useful extra features
Malware protection not quite perfect
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is our top choice among entry-level antivirus products. It has very good, if not perfect, malware-detection scores and a very light system performance impact during scans.
It also offers the most value, with an unlimited password manager, a secure browser, a Wi-Fi network scanner, a file shredder, protection against encrypting ransomware and Bitdefender’s new web-privacy software. It can stop scans if you’re playing a computer game.
The midrange Bitdefender Internet Security adds parental controls, file encryption, webcam protection and a two-way firewall, while Bitdefender Total Security tops off the lineup with an anti-theft feature for laptops, a system optimizer and licences for Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac and Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android.
A new product, Bitdefender Premium Security, is basically Total Security with unlimited VPN usage and priority tech support. (All the other programs limit you to 200MB of Bitdefender VPN usage per day.) But the best deal is the Bitdefender Family Pack, which puts Total Security on up to 15 devices for (a frequently discounted) $120 per year.
3. Norton 360 Deluxe
Almost everything you could ever need.
Excellent malware protection
Parental controls, backup software, online storage, password manager, webcam protection
Unlimited VPN service
Light background performance impact
LifeLock identity-protection with top tiers
Heavy slowdown during full scans
No file shredder, encryption or secure browser
All eight of Norton’s antivirus products offer excellent malware protection, and the once-heavy system-performance load is much lighter. The number of extra features each program has varies according to price, but the sweet spot in the lineup is Norton 360 Deluxe.
It includes a password manager, unlimited VPN service, dark-web personal-data monitoring, parental controls and up to 50GB of online storage space. Two retail-only offerings, Norton 360 Premium and Norton 360 Platinum, give you more online storage and expand the antivirus and VPN coverage to 10 and 20 devices, respectively.
If you want full-on identity protection, Norton offers three bundles with varying degrees of LifeLock service and even more online storage space. Their annual subscription prices run well into the triple digits, but still cost less than if you were to buy the identity protection, password manager, cloud-backup storage and antivirus software separately.
Unlike many other antivirus makers, Norton doesn’t offer a file shredder, file encryption or secure web browser with any of its products. Yet every other digital protection service you could possibly ask for is included with at least some of its bundles.
4. Trend Micro Maximum Security
Heavy scans yield many false positives.
Trend Micro Maximum Security
Fast full scans
Very good malware protection
Secure browser to protect online shopping
Too many false positives
Heavy performance hit during scans
Lacks extras that many other brands offer
Trend Micro offers very good protection, but its malware-detection engine creates a heavy system load during scans and returns a lot of false-positive results. The entry product, Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security, is pretty basic in terms of extra tools, though it does come with a secure web browser.
Parental controls, a system optimizer and a file shredder come with the mid-range Trend Micro Internet Security. The top-end Trend Micro Maximum Security adds a password manager, a secure browser and file encryption.
But none of Trend Micro’s programs include a two-way firewall or webcam protection. Nor does the premium product have the cloud storage, backup software or VPN service that other antivirus brands like to add as enticements.
5. McAfee Internet Security
Good but not perfect
McAfee® Internet Security
Generous device-installation policy
Small background performance impact
Built-in password manager
Good, but not great, malware detection
Lacks several common device protections
No parental controls
McAfee’s malware detection has improved greatly in the past couple of years, but it’s still not top-of-the-line. Despite that, the entry-level McAfee AntiVirus Plus is a bargain: $60 per year buys software for up to 10 (in fact, unlimited) devices, whether they run Windows, OS X, iOS or Android, and the software comes with a file shredder and a two-way firewall. (A single-device license costs $40.)
McAfee Internet Security adds one of the best password managers in the business, but to get parental controls, you’ll have to spring for the 10-device license of McAfee Total Protection or its sibling McAfee LiveSafe, which comes pre-installed on many new PCs. The multi-device licenses of those two security suites also come with an identity-protection service, but none of the McAfee products have a secure browser or webcam protection.
At the top is McAfee Total Protection + VPN, which adds unlimited VPN service. Hardcore PC gamers may consider McAfee Gamer Security, which for $60 per year offers low-overhead protection for a single rig.
6. ESET Smart Security Premium
ESET Smart Security Premium
Small system-performance impact
File encryption, hardened browser extension, webcam protection
So-so malware protection
Can get expensive
Lacks some extras other brands offer
ESET is one of the biggest antivirus names in Europe, but while it has a small system-performance load, its malware-detection rate isn’t as good as many of the other antivirus brands on this page.
The entry-level ESET NOD32 Antivirus is easy to use, but has few useful extra tools. ESET Internet Security adds webcam protection, parental controls and a browser-hardening extension, as well as ESET security-software licenses for Macs and Android devices. The top-billed ESET Smart Security Premium tosses in file encryption, a virtual keyboard and a password manager.
ESET’s pricing is per device, optimal for users with several but not too many systems to protect. But if your device count gets into double digits, the costs can add up.