Every time you use the internet or open an email, you’re at risk of becoming a victim. That’s because hackers use hundreds of methods to install dangerous apps on your computer every chance they get in an effort to steal your information and use it for their own purposes. Only strong malware protection can help stop them from infiltrating your computer.
The best malware protection apps 2021
Fortunately, there are many smart ways to try to fend off hackers. Free malware protection is available from several top companies, and you can also pay for a variety of increased protections that can help you keep your system in defense mode at all times.
Malware is short for malicious software, which is any kind of software designed to sneak onto your computer with the intent to take your information or damage your computer. But you can fight back against malware by using a combination of a VPN, strong passwords, network firewalls and malware protection apps.
You can also take advantage of online resources, such as a reverse email tool, to help address malware before it gets to your computer in the first place. Deducing, wherever possible, who might be sending you an email before you open attachments or click links, for instance, is a very simple yet effective method that could help you spot malware.
Another option is to install antimalware, also known as malware protection software, onto your computer. This kind of protection can ferret out dangerous applications that have infiltrated your system and even remove it so it can’t do any more damage. Antimalware is typically part of a larger antivirus software program, but occasionally it requires a companion antivirus program to ensure complete protection for your device.
There are differences between providers, of course, so it’s important to determine what coverage you want before you install one of these apps. The very best malware protection apps are simple to install, run multiple types of scans (both automatic and scheduled), and offer both detection and removal features. Sometimes, however, you don’t need every single feature or are just looking for specific types of detection, so take your time when selecting one to try or purchase. While expensive programs or upgraded versions can offer useful features, not all are necessary. A free program can work just as well for your needs as a paid one.
Cost: $89.95 per year
The price might seem high, but Bitdefender does something the others don’t: The premium version covers up to 10 devices for one year. Families who need coverage for multiple phones, computers, laptops and tablets can get strong malware protection pretty reasonably with this version, which offers a 30-day free trial. It also includes a dedicated priority support team and is compatible with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS.
- Includes VPN software and unlimited encrypted traffic
- Low system impact with little performance reduction
- More extra features than any other provider
- Very slow full scans
- Multiple software conflicts during installation could force you to uninstall other programs you might prefer to keep
- Must create a Bitdefender account with your email before you can configure and use the program
Cost: $39.99 per year
Malwarebytes is focused on fast, extensive protection and offers a 14-day free trial to try premium features, which includes a Play Mode to suspend notices during gameplay plus website blocking and real-time detection and removal features. Installation is highly customizable, and both manual and scheduled scans are available. However, real-time protection, scheduling and ransomware protection are not included in the trial. It’s compatible with Mac, Android, iOS, Windows and Chrome OS.
- Detects and removes cryptojacking, phishing scams and ransomware in real time
- Incredibly fast scans even when running videos
- Provides a quarantine option
- Doesn’t always provide enough information about items blocked
- Website blocking can be overzealous
Adaware Antivirus Free
Cost: Free; premium features from $36 to $48 per year
Adaware Antivirus is great at both protecting you from malware and removing any that you might have contracted prior to using the program. It continually runs in the background to monitor your files and updates definitions constantly to provide strong real-time protection against a variety of malware programs, including ransomware, spyware, viruses and more. It’s compatible with Windows operating systems only.
- Includes a gaming mode for disturbance-free gameplay
- Automated, real-time protection
- Quick, full, custom and automated scanning options
- Too many ads to count
- Lacks customization options
- Does not protect your email, network or internet activities
- Works only with Windows
AVG Antivirus FREE
Cost: Free; premium coverage from $79.99 per year to $119.99 family plan
AVG offers free, reliable protection and is compatible with Windows, Mac and Android operating systems. It provides basic, solid protection against malware (including ransomware and phishing detection) and quite capably blocks suspicious files and links. You’ll also get email protection for many programs, though it doesn’t include Microsoft Outlook protection.
- Very easy to install and use
- Offers some customization options, including the ability to exclude files or folders from scans
- Includes protection for files, most email programs and internet activities
- No password protector
- Continual suggestions to upgrade to paid version
Kaspersky Anti-virus 20
Cost: $23.99 per year
One of the oldest antivirus makers on the market, Kaspersky offers excellent protection against malware. It also includes a privacy cleaner to help clear your system of browsing history, recent file lists and other commonly stored data. While that can be annoying to some, you can easily roll back changes if something is removed that you want to keep. It’s compatible with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices.
- Can be installed on up to three PCs
- Includes real-time protection and website blocking
- Blocks cryptolockers and cryptomining malware
- Doesn’t work with most antivirus programs
- Can significantly slow system during scans
- Renewal pricing is expensive
Spybot Search & Destroy Home Edition
Cost: $15.99 per year
If you’re looking for pretty good protection at a reasonable price, you can’t go wrong with Spybot. It offers simple-to-understand notifications, lots of button options for easy administration, and live scans and monitoring. While some features are not terribly intuitive, the overall interface is friendly and straightforward. One of its biggest drawbacks is that it’s only compatible with Windows.
- Automatically downloads new signatures multiple times a day
- Protects in real time against everything from adware to Trojans
- Very easy to schedule
- Available only on Windows
- Can slow your system during scans
- Full system scans can take a very long time
- Could cause Windows Defender to stop running
Total AV Pro
Cost: $39.95 per year
Total AV is a relatively new player to the antimalware space, but that doesn’t mean it can’t do a good job. All editions include strong malware protection, and the Pro edition gets you three licenses that can be used across platforms. Installation on one device lets you protect the others as well. It’s compatible with Windows, Android, Mac and iOS.
- Offers strong ransomware and malware protection
- Protects in real time against email phishing scams
- Includes a password vault for extra security
- Scans noticeably slow system performance
- Very expensive renewal cost
- Quick scans take about 15 minutes
Trend Micro Maximum Security 15
Cost: $53.95 per year
Maximum Security by Trend Micro lives up pretty nicely to its name. If you have a lot of devices, this antimalware gives you the most coverage with five licenses for one year at about $10 per device. One enticing feature is Folder Shield, which gives you an extra layer of protection in the event any malware manages to slip by the program’s detection tools. It protects against all kinds of threats, including ransomware and email scams. It’s compatible with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS.
- Highly customizable with clear, easy-to-navigate dashboards
- Website blocking, parental controls and a sealed vault for sensitive files
- Some of the strongest tools available to unlock and remove malware
- Must manually disable game mode
- Slow installation process
- No built-in firewall
Preinstalled on Windows 10 devices, Windows Defender scores points for ease of use and automatic updates. It offers fairly comprehensive real-time protection against a variety of malware threats, including ransomware, but is only compatible with Windows devices. It’s a lightweight program in some ways but does offer a game mode and a one-way firewall.
- Offers email, internet, file and RAM protections
- Includes solid parental control options that extend to Xbox consoles
- Provides Find My Device service to help locate a lost Windows 10 device
- Limited extra features
- Not easy to navigate
- Some features only work with Microsoft web browsers