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The best anti-virus to keep your PC safe in 2018

Keep your PC in tip-top health with the best anti-virus out there.

If you’re investing in, building or receiving a new PC this festive season then it’s critical to protect it with the best anti-virus you can find. There are a lot of options out there, so way more effective than others (and some more of a nuisance than a help), but whatever your needs, there’s something that’ll give you peace of mind.

There are some genuinely great products out there that will do a great job, but the champion remains Bitdefender. It’s such a strong performer and works almost silently to protect your machine and files. After its installed, Bitdefender goes into its autopilot mode by default and silently makes all the (correct) security decision for you, not bothering you with popups and alerts, or ask you to configure its behavior or work patterns. It does not need any support or guidance, it know how to best protect your system and is confident in its own abilities. Read more about it below.

In a world still filled with viruses, malware and other nasties trying to get into your machine, corrupt your files or steal your data it is still crucial that you don’t forget that there are some great defenses available and these are some of the best. Particularly around the festive season when new laptops and PCs abound and are being unpacked and booted up all around the globe, the threats will never be greater, in a way, so heed this advice and get your self protected. And remember, an antivirus is not just for Christmas, its for all year… (Or 6 months, or a separate deal for multiple PCs…)

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Best full featured security package

  • Autopilot mode protects without nagging
  • Tough protection against all malware
  • Anti-ransomware added to 2017 edition
  • This level of protection isn't cheap

 

There are a few different options we could have picked for this category and the biggest reason we chose Bitdefender is because when it comes to AV protection, we prefer the strong and silent type. That’s Bitdefender in nutshell. Once installed, Bitdefender goes into Autopilot mode by default and makes all security related decisions for you. It won’t bother you with popups and alerts, nor does it even ask you to go through and configure its behavior. There’s no handholding here—Bitdefender is confident in its abilities to protect your system without making a fuss.

We’re confident in Bitdefender too, both because of own experience throughout the years, and because it continues to do well in independent lab tests. In AV-Test.org’s latest evaluation, Bitdefender detected every single threat, including 213 zero-day malware samples and over 20,000 widespread and prevalent malware discovered in the past four weeks. It did pick up a few false positives, but not enough to ding Bitdefender’s Usability score. And it’s passed 32 straight VB100 comparative tests by Virus Bulletin dating back to October 2010. In other words, Bitdefender rarely trips up.

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Best lightweight antivirus

  • Barely uses any storage or RAM
  • Doesn't interrupt gameplay
  • Suprisingly well fleshed out
  • System optimizer doesn't do much

When Webroot approached us several years ago about a nimble security product that existed almost entirely in the cloud, we couldn’t help but roll our eyes. The level of hype that followed felt like a marketing schtick—here was this new AV program that was supposed to install in under 10 seconds and barely help itself to RAM or storage, yet provide adequate protection on the level of much bigger security suites. Yeah, right!, we thought. But here’s the thing, Webroot was right.

SecureAnywhere was and still is a remarkable outlier in AV. It takes up just a few megabytes of disk space and uses about 5MB of RAM when idle. During an active scan, Task Manager shows SecureAnywhere using around 50MB of RAM and less than 15 percent CPU utilization, yet takes just a couple of minutes to scan 150GB of data spread across two SSDs. It doesn’t get more lightweight than this, not unless you take your chance without any AV software.

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Best free antivirus: Avira Free Antivirus for Windows

  • It's free!
  • Customizable firewall
  • Reliable protection
  • Nags with ads

Arguing over the best free antivirus is a lot like debating beers. Some prefer a fuller bodied ale with hints of fruits and spices, while others go for a less bitter lager to quench their thirst. And so it goes in our free antivirus category in which we narrowed the choices down to Avira and BitDefender. We ultimately gave the nod to Avira, but it was close.

We chose Avira because of the level of customization available. Whether you want to duck your head into the software’s menus and start fiddling with knobs and dials is up to you, but if you do decide to tweak Avira’s behavior, you’ll find a modest toolchest of options. One setting we highly recommend enabling is to search for rootkits before scanning. It will increase scan times, but rootkits are particularly nasty in how they dig their hooks deep in the OS, so it’s better to err on the side of safety.

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Conclusion

Finding the right level of AV protection is largely a personal thing. Yes, there are solutions that are better than others, but once you separate the good from the bad, it comes down to features, price, and whatever other criteria is important to you. That’s our way of saying if you don’t agree with our choices, don’t sweat it; we’re not saying your AV software stinks.

There’s also the question of whether you even need to run third-party security software. Windows Defender is free and it’s built into Windows 10. The advantage of running a security suite is that it bundles a more comprehensive solution into a tidy package. And of course the disadvantage is that they cost money. That is, unless you’re willing to piece together your collection of security software and utilities.

Finally, understand that no single AV software keeps you immune from all malware 100 percent of the time. There’s always a chance that something could slip through. No matter what you run, one thing we recommend doing is getting a second opinion from Malwarebytes. It doesn’t conflict with AV software and it can help root out foul files that have slipped past your AV scanner.

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