Malwarebytes versus Avast: Step by Step Comparison


When consumers are seeking protection for their devices, they want to know which antivirus software is simply the best. Because there are so many antivirus products available, it can be difficult to figure out which product is right for you. This problem is further compounded by the fact that many antivirus companies offer several different products.

We aim to clear up the confusion and help you make an informed decision, by comparing antivirus products against each other. We list every popular product offered by antivirus companies, what features and tools are found in each separate product, and whether they’re worth it or not.

In this article, we’ll be pitting two titans against each other – Malwarebytes versus Avast. Now, it could be said that Malwarebytes is not purely an antivirus product, even the developers say it should be ran alongside a traditional antivirus software. So why are we comparing it against one of the top antivirus products available? Because many people do decide to use Malwarebytes by itself, so by comparing it against a traditional antivirus software, we’ll be able to get a better idea if such a practice is really feasible.

Norton vs Avast: Quick Comparison
Basic protection: Avast comes out on top. Malwarebytes is not a traditional antivirus replacement, so for best malware protection even in the basic level, you should go with Avast’s free product. Still, Malwarebytes is a highly useful tool to complement and be used alongside any AV product.

Advanced protection: Avast, for the same reason as above.

System performance: Avast scores slightly higher in performance tests, but again, we are comparing two different types of products. Avast is meant to be left in the background and constantly monitoring, while Malwarebytes is more of a clean-up tool.


Malwarebytes, also known as MBAM, was released in 2006, and very quickly garnered a reputation as a highly useful infection-removal tool to have. It has received numerous awards and accolades from publications such as PC World, CNET, and PC Magazine.

Malwarebytes was not originally intended as a traditional antivirus software. The company originally focused on detecting and removing various threats that traditional antivirus companies did not necessarily include in their scans, such as zero-day malware commonly found on the web. This includes things like rootkits, dialers, rogue applications, and PUPs (potentially unwanted programs), such as spyware and junkware commonly bundled in free installers for popular software.

Thus, Malwarebytes was intended to complement traditional antivirus, and be run alongside it. However, Malwarebytes offers Malwarebytes Premium in the modern day, and this could be a full replacement for other antivirus products. So later in this article, we’ll see how well Malwarebytes Premium performs in threat detection when compared to Avast.

Malwarebytes Products List

  • Malwarebytes Free
  • Malwarebytes Premium


Malwarebytes offers the same software for Windows, Mac, Android, and Chromebook devices. This is convenient for users, as other security companies offer different products, depending on the OS and device you use. It can become a little confusing, so by keeping it simple, Malwarebytes does the consumer a favour.

Malwarebytes Free is not a real-time protection software, like a traditional antivirus that runs in the background. It only offers scanning and removal capabilities. This is why many people, including the Malwarebytes developers themselves, do not recommend Malwarebytes as a replacement for traditional antivirus. The free version of Malwarebytes’ main purpose is catching infections that your traditional AV may have otherwise missed, including spyware, rootkits, and PUPs (potentially unwanted programs).

Malwarebytes Premium, on the other hand, does offer real-time threat monitoring. This has led Malwarebytes to claiming that the Malwarebytes Premium software is in fact a “next-generation antivirus replacement”, so we’ll see later in this article if that claim holds any weight.

Some other features you’ll find in Malwarebytes Premium are an anti-exploit module, which will protect your OS and critical files from exploit attacks. It can stop ransomware attacks, offers a safe web browsing mode for Windows and Android, and detects bad apps for Android and Chromebook.

Finally, Malwarebytes Premium comes with automatic software updates, so you’ll always have the latest version and virus definitions.


Avast was founded in 1988. One of its co-founders wrote the first program capable of removing the Vienna virus from DOS computers. Additionally, Avast Antivirus was one of the first AV products available for Windows 95 computers.

Avast Free 2019

Avast has long been known as a reliable antivirus product, having been given numerous awards from publications such as PC Magazine, Tom’s Guide, and Tech Radar.

In 2016, Avast acquired rival company AVG Technologies for $1.3 billion USD, giving Avast access to all of AVG’s customers and technologies. The following year, Avast also acquired Piriform, the developers of popular computer clean-up tool CCleaner.

All of these smart business moves has given Avast the largest market share of all anti-malware application vendors out there, and it may be a long time before anyone may knock them off the throne.

Avast Products List

Avast currently offers a different lineup of products for Windows, Mac, and Android operating systems.

  • Avast Free Antivirus (Windows)
  • Avast Pro Antivirus (Windows)
  • Avast Internet Security (Windows)
  • Avast Premier (Windows)
  • Avast Ultimate (Windows)
  • Avast Security (Mac)
  • Avast Security Pro (Mac)
  • Avast Antivirus – Mobile Security & Virus Cleaner (Android)
  • Avast Passwords (Android)
  • VPN SecureLine by Avast – Security & Privacy Proxy (Android)


Avast Windows Products

Avast Basic Protection

As a free product, Avast’s Basic Protection is actually really quite good, and offers numerous tools that you would otherwise normally find in premium products from other companies.

Aside from Avast’s well-known threat detection capabilities, you’ll get a WiFi Inspector for detecting weak points in your local network, an encrypted password vault, a rescue disk utility, and other features such as a passive “Gaming Mode”.

Avast Antivirus Pro

If you need more than what Avast Basic Protection offers, Avast Antivirus Pro is more expensive, however you can use it on up to three devices. This is a fairly generous offer, as other companies may offer only single-device licenses in this price range (for example, see our Norton vs Avast comparison article).

You can also purchase Avast Antivirus Pro licenses in bulk, which reduces the price per device when you purchase 10 licenses or more at a time.

Avast Antivirus Pro’s features include a desktop sandbox environment, which launches apps in a strict, isolated environment. Apps are unable to create any permanent modifications to your system files while being hosted within this sandbox.

Additionally you get “Real Site” security, which prevents DNS attacks, browser hijacking, and redirects to phishing websites.

Avast Internet Security

This product includes all the benefits and features of Avast Antivirus Pro, while giving you some extra features including an advanced firewall, anti-spam filter for desktop email clients, and additional ransomware protection.

Avast Premier + Avast Ultimate

Avast Premier comes with a data shredder and anti-webcam spying technology.

Avast Premier 2019

At the top of the tier list is Avast Ultimate, which is the most expensive option. Is it worth it for a single machine license? That’s hard to say, unless you’re really enticed by the features being offered. In Avast Ultimate, you get an advanced Ransomware Shield, an Automatic Software Updater for keeping all apps on your computer up to date, a Data Shredder for completely deleting files from your computer, an encrypted password vault, and numerous other tools such as browser junk cleanup and optimization.


Avast Mac Products

Avast only offers two plans for macOS users: Avast Security and Security Pro.

Avast Security is a freeware which provides a basic level of malware protection, a WiFi scanner for finding vulnerabilities in your network, and web / email shields. Upgrading to Avast Security Pro gives you ransomware protection, and a WiFi intruder alert.

There are of course various tools and utilities available for Mac that come as separate downloads for Mac users. These are Avast Passwords, Cleanup Pro, and SecureLine VPN. All of these tools have their own prices, but users can avail of free trials to get a feel for them.

Avast Android Products

It’s been said that Android antivirus products are largely a waste of space, as Android isn’t really susceptible to the traditional virus types that plague computers. However, there’s still some useful security features found in the Avast products for Android.

Avast Mobile Security 2019

Most antivirus companies are aware of this, and so for Android-based antivirus products, the focus isn’t necessarily on actual virus protection, but on the additional security tools found in the apps. With Avast’s mobile security app, you get an app locker, call blocker, a private photo vault, a VPN, a firewall for rooted devices, a junk cleaner, web shield, Wi-Fi security, and others.

You’ll also get a handful of anti-theft features, such as audio and photo capture of the phone thief, a GPS-based last known location of your device, automatically registering your device as lost after the SIM is changed, and others.

The free version of the app includes video advertisements, but users can upgrade to Pro to remove ads. Aside from that, all of the features are unlocked and included in the free version, so if you don’t mind ads, the free version is perfectly fine to use on your Android device.

For Avast’s other Android products, they are basically just individual app versions of the features found in the mobile security app.

Malwarebytes vs Avast: Threat Detection

Anti-malware software commonly uses two types of detection methods for protecting users. There is signature-based detection, which checks files against a database of known threats. If a match is detected, the antivirus software proceeds to remove / isolate the file.

The second type is heuristic monitoring. This means that even if a file does not contain a known virus, the antivirus software monitors for virus-type behavior. So if an .MP3 file tries to launch a command prompt and edit critical Windows files, that would obviously be a huge red flag to the antivirus software, which would then proceed to treat the file like a virus. It will also upload the file to the database for further investigation, and if the file is indeed a previously unknown virus, it will be added to the database.

Because many antivirus companies use cloud-based databases, heuristic monitoring helps everyone around the world. If the antivirus detects a previously unknown virus on a user’s computer in Hong Kong, for example, that file is added to the cloud database in seconds, protecting everyone else around the world.

So to figure out which antivirus companies are the most effective at threat detection and prevention, we turn to independent lab testing results. We like to use results from two separate, and completely unbiased labs. AV-Test, and AV-Comparatives, both highly respected independent security labs with a track record of rigorously testing the various antivirus products available on the market.

So let’s begin with AV-Test. This lab uses an isolated and controlled environment for their testing, and then gives a percentage-based score to the products. They expose the antivirus software to thousands of malware samples, both known and unknown, and record how many threats the antivirus software blocks.

A quick note before we continue, but it’s also worth paying attention to how many false flags an antivirus product sends out. False flags are sometimes normal with antivirus products, but some products are notorious for having absurd amounts of false flags, likely due to bizarrely strict security settings. Would you buy a pregnancy test kit that was known for giving many false positives? It’s the same principle here.

AV-Test Avast results April 2019

So for the latest round of AV-Test results, Avast was shown to protect against 99.2% of threats in March, and 99.3% in April. This gave them a 5.5/6 protection score.

For AV-Comparatives, their testing method is a bit different. While they do an isolated test similar to AV-Test, they also perform a “real world” test, where they leave the antivirus software on its default settings while browsing the web, to track how many threats it blocks in normal usage.

Avast was given the “ADVANCED” award from AV-Comparatives.

As for Malwarebytes, the company for a long time did not participate in any lab testing until only very recently. A representative on the official Malwarebytes forums explained their stance on independent lab testing:

First off, Malwarebytes 3.0 is not an actual antivirus and we have never said that it was.  What we did say and are continuing to say is that it can replace your antivirus software because our protection mechanisms (such as Malicious Website Blocking, Anti-Exploit and Anti-Ransomware) are more proficient at blocking/preventing infection when using the web than a traditional antivirus which relies mostly on signatures to attempt to detect and stop threats (the same signatures used for file scans, for example).

This also means that properly testing our protection is very different from the methods used by many organizations when testing AVs because most of them tend to rely on flat file scans of dormant executables sitting in a folder on the desktop, while much of our signature-less protection relies on detecting and stopping the actual behaviors of malware and malicious scripts/exploits etc. that get the infection downloaded and installed on the system in the first place, thus not only preventing the infection, but even preventing in most cases the infected file/installer etc. from ever reaching your system to begin with, thus trying to be the best at detecting those files becomes pointless and will always be less effective than stopping the malicious behaviors that get the infections onboard.

So the bottom line is, we claim that any user running our software alone should be safe online from becoming infected by malware, and that is what we believe is the most important thing for any security/anti-malware solution (AV or otherwise) to do.

However, Malwarebytes did finally participate in AV-Test this year.

AV-Test Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes achieved a 5.5/6 protection score, the same as Avast.

Final Thoughts

We’re hesitant to say Malwarebytes is a total antivirus replacement, even in 2019 with their updated philosophy. However, that does not mean we believe Malwarebytes is an inferior product. It is an incredibly useful tool for its primary purpose, which is cleaning threats that traditional antivirus products may not focus on.

Thus, no matter what antivirus product you have on your computer, you can’t go wrong with running MBAM alongside it, as an extra protection method.


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