If you’re searching for the best antivirus or security solution for your Windows computer, you may be overwhelmed with all of the options on the market. You know you need an antivirus, but you don’t know what criteria it needs to meet to be good.
After all, every security company is going to tell you they have the best antivirus software, the best firewall, or the most complete products, right? The trouble is knowing who to trust, and how to best choose your personal security solution. In this guide, we’ll share the criteria you should use in order to pick the best security product (or products) for you.
What to look for when evaluating your options
When researching different antivirus and security products, there are a number of things you should look for:
- Protection which is all-inclusive: In the past, you only needed a good antivirus to protect your computer. However, a good security product is no longer just about the antivirus - it should also include a strong firewall, Web protection when browsing, protection against ransomware, and more. Look for a product which provides you with a solid suite of protective options.
- Protection that’s reliable: One of the most important - if not the most important - criteria for choosing a solid antivirus product is its reliability. A reliable product should be able to:
- Provide protection without causing conflicts with your browsing or with other programs
- Protect its processes from unwanted or unexpected termination
- Provide up-to-date protection
- Provide reliable, automated security scans
- Protection with solid performance: Because security programs require a decent amount of resources to do their job, you want to look for a suite which minimizes its impact on your computer’s performance. For example, if your computer isn’t the most powerful in the market, you want to take performance impact into consideration - a strong antivirus program might provide you with top-notch protection, but that’s not useful if using it slows your computer to a crawl. A good security product will have a small impact on your boot times and computer’s performance while being fast at scanning your computer for malware.
Protection that’s easy to use: The best security products on the market are easily accessible to both knowledgeable computer users and casual users who don’t know a lot about antivirus protection. To meet this requirement, your security product should:
- Be easy to navigate
- Be easy to use on devices with touchscreens
- Be easy to understand
- Be easy to configure
- Have documentation that’s easy to find
- Provide you with complete control over how it works
- Protection that comes with support: It’s very important to be able to call for help when your product doesn’t work the way it should. That’s why you should consider the support options you get with your security product - it’s at least as important as how well the product will protect your computer. The best IT security companies will create security programs with a large array of support options, like support tickets, online chat, direct email, or a phone number you can call.
- Protection with a good reputation: We know what you’re thinking - we just want to support the big names in the IT security market. But that’s not true; reputation matters, and buying and using a security product made by a company with a solid reputation is generally safer than using a product from an unknown firm. There are a lot of malware programs that disguise themselves as so-called security solutions; it can be easy to mistake a virus for a new antivirus software and install it on your computer - the exact thing you were trying to avoid! So we believe that reputation matters a lot in the security world.
- Protection that’s cost-effective: We know that many users tend to choose less expensive products when purchasing security software, but that’s not always the best choice. What you should be looking for is a security product which is within your price range and offers you the protection that you need. While it might not be the least expensive on the market, it could cost you a lot more if you buy a bargain security product that can’t protect you from everything. Just think of the repair bills if a virus fries your hard drive, or your computer gets taken over by ransomware! There are 3 ways to find the best free or paid antivirus for your needs:
- User opinions
- Expert reviews
- Independent testing
- User comparison and reviews for paid or free antivirus: The major benefit of user comparisons and reviews for antivirus software is that they give you a good sense of how the product works in real life. A comparison can help you decide which product is best for you - or help you choose between the free or paid version of a product.
- Expert reviews on good antivirus software: Sites like Antivirus.best are created to answer any questions you may have regarding viruses, antiviruses, and how to keep your computer safe. You can see our list of our top antivirus software programs, and which ones we named the BEST.
- Antivirus test results: Professional reviewers thoroughly test antivirus systems to determine which is the best at blocking and eliminating malware. You can use the same testing sites to get a better picture of what the antivirus you’re thinking of using is capable of.
Free versus fee
There are many different forms your antivirus software can take, from stand-alone scanners to complete Internet security suites that bundle the antivirus program with a firewall, privacy controls, and other security protection. Vendors like Microsoft, AVG and Avast offer free antivirus software options for home use, and will sometimes extend it to small home office use as well.
Periodically, people will debate the capabilities of paid antivirus software vs. free antivirus software. AV-Test.org’s long-term antivirus software testing analysis suggests that paid products tend to demonstrate higher levels of prevention and removal than free antivirus products. However, because free antivirus software has less features, it consumes fewer system resources, meaning it will run better on older computers or computers with limited system capacity.
Whether you choose free or fee-based antivirus software is a decision that should be made based on your financial capabilities and your protection needs. However, you should always avoid pop-ups or advertisements that promise a free antivirus scan. These ads are called scareware, and are bogus products that claim your computer is infected in order to trick you into buying a fake antivirus scanner.
Read up on the experiences of others
One of the best barometers for the effectiveness and stability of an antivirus product is what other people have to say about it. You should check resources like: