What’s the Best Antivirus Software for You? [Guide]

With the ubiquity of the internet and ever increasing security threats, no gadget is safe from spyware and malware. If you believe you are doing fine, you are mistaken. While it may look like everything is working fine, some spyware could be spying at everything you do. One day you will wake up and find that half of your files were corrupted by some dormant malware. In this day and age, whether you are connected or not, you must have an antivirus software installed to keep you safe.

It doesn’t matter if you are a newbie to computers or someone with massive experience and know your way around a PC. Protecting yourself against viruses and malware is no easy job. Even standalone antivirus software can no longer keep up with the influx of new malware. This has led to the development of centrally connected cloud-based protection and monitored antivirus solutions.

It would be wrong to say that there is one best antivirus solution which suits all types of users. Some users require light antivirus solutions or less intrusive anti-trojan software, while others need the most secure antivirus out there, one which deals with the security threats by itself. Therefore, we will list multiple antivirus software categorized based on their performance and real world test results.

The antivirus software listed below are categorized based on the following 4 criteria:

  • Real World Test: The testing is done on a Windows 7 Home Premium with latest third-party software which is mostly used by the general users. The results are based on 368 live test cases including malicious URLs.
  • Performance Test: The same system is used in performance tests. SSD drives are used to provide a better reflection of the effect of each software. During the tests, file copying, installation, launch and download speeds are used as a benchmark. PC Mark is also used to get an accurate measure of the antivirus’ burden on the PC.
  • File Detection Test: This test is used to detect the efficiency of an antivirus in detecting a malware. During the test Windows 10 64-bit was used and 163,763 malware samples were used.
  • False Alarm Test: False Alarms occur when a file is incorrectly marked by an antivirus as a virus. The more False positives (FPs), the more unreliable the antivirus is in terms of automatic decision making.

How Adequate is the Default Protection?

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Microsoft Windows 7 and above users can use the free Windows Defender (formerly known as Microsoft Security Essentials). Latest iterations of Windows come with the default protection pre-installed but is it sufficient? Tests show it is not.

Microsoft’s solution is better than nothing but its not enough to protect you in this day and age. It isn’t cloud connected and doesn’t come with advanced heuristics. Even its performance in tests shows this.

Microsoft’s Antivirus managed to fend off only 91% of malware in real world protection test, lowest amongst all paid and free antiviruses. Even in the File Detection and False Positives tests it came out second last. The antivirus failed to detect 1.6%, or over 2,600 infected files, in the tests. As far as performance is concerned, it is no longer as fast as before. The software was the second slowest and scored only 159.3 points. However, its score in PC Mark was acceptable at 99.3 (still in the bottom 10).

With the results mentioned here, it leaves little doubt that if you want free and better protection, you are better off using a third-party antivirus solution. If you have the cash, a paid one would serve you even better.

The Least Resource Hungry Antivirus

Avira Antivirus 15 is the lightest antivirus this year. When compared with 18 other antivirus solutions, Avira comes out on top in every single test. It has the least impact on file copying, archiving/unarchiving, installaing/uninstalling applications, launching apps and downloading files. The antivirus beats all its competitors in each category or ties for the top spot. It doesn’t matter if you start a task for the first time or several times, Avira keeps it quick and smooth.

When tested with PC Mark, it retains the top spot. If a PC without any antivirus is considered to score 100 points on PC Mark, Avira scores a virtually perfect 99.8. Overall Avira scores 174.8 out of 175 performance points.

Avira is closely followed by ESET Antivirus solution which scores 174.7 and only loses in the PC Mark benchmark.

The Most Secure Antivirus

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Kaspersky and Avira antivirus identified 99.9 percent of the malware samples in the file detection test. Trend Micro Internet Security 10.0 and Kaspersky Internet Security 2016 and F-Secure Safe 2016, managed to evade 100 percent malware infections in the real world performance test. However, Trend Micro raised 6 FPs while F-Secure raised 10 FPs. Meanwhile, Avira has a tendency of claiming a few false positives every now and then too.

To sum up and decide the most secure antivirus, our decision goes in favor of Kaspersky Internet Security 2016. Real World Performance matters more than scanning through a huge number of malware samples and it secured the top spot in both tests while raising 0 False Alarms.

Top Free Antivirus

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Avira Antivirus Free uses the same engine as the one found in the pro version. The Free version of Avira lacks some of the advanced features, firewall, spam filters and user control that make it a complete suite. However, since it employs the same security protocols and engine as the pro version, the free variant offers premium security at no cost.

Avira also topped the performance and file detection tests. The real world detection tests were great too and it scored a good 99 percent. The only downside of Avira was the number of FPs, which was the only result where it didn’t make it among the top 3 antivirus.

Avira Free can be downloaded free from here.

Best Overall Antivirus Solution

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The title for the best antivirus software/suite is best suited for Kaspersky Internet Security 2016 (We assume the simple Antivirus will offer similar protection and performance as well).

Kaspersky offers a multitude of features and tops the file detection and real world performance tests. The antivirus software comes third in the performance tests with a score of 174.6, 0.2 points below Avira in the PC Mark benchmark score.

Finally, Kaspersky is among the top 3 antivirus in terms of least number of False Positives as well. It raised zero alarms in real world performance and displayed rare occurrences of FPs in the False Alarm test.

Best Alternative Antivirus Solution

antivirus bitdefender-new-logo

Bitdefender Internet Security 2016 comes in second after Kaspersky. Bitdefender’s score nearly tied with Avira Antivirus Pro 15.0. The only point which goes in favor of Bitdefender is the lack of False Positives.

Other than the paid features of the software, you will get an antivirus software which scored 174.6 points in the performance test and recorded one of the highest scores in file detection, real world performance and false alarm test.

Bitdefender is available as a free edition, which comes with basic security features, and three different paid version, which come with additional features, for different types of users.

Update: The article was updated with test results regarding Microsoft’s own antivirus solution and its reliability.

The information in the article is sourced from the advanced tests undertaken by AV-Comparatives Labs. Fore more detail head over to the AV-Comparatives website.

Have something to say or want to know more about this? Drop an email at [email protected] or find Aadil Shadman on Twitter (@ashadman25) or Facebook(fb.com/AadilShadman).

He is the Editor at ProPakistani.


  • Mirza Moazzam Baig

    Windows 10 inbuilt defender is also pretty efficient never had a problem with it since I installed it.

    • Muhammad Yasir

      agreed

    • Oralover Odeveloper

      yeah, previously i was using Kaspersky IS but when upgraded to W10, am using its own AV … many people recommended it to me.

    • Arslan Ejaz

      Yes the latest result zero day tests of WD are very good. Microsoft is now serious about WD.

    • Aadil

      How do you install something when it is already “inbuilt” in Windows 10?

      • Mirza Moazzam Baig

        I think it was pretty obvious that I meant ‘installing windlows 10’ (when you know what inbuilt means, you should’ve figured out the later part of the sentence…. Mr Einstein)

        • Aadil

          LOL. It definitely needed clarification

    • Aadil

      And look at the results for Windows Defender. It doesn’t even compare to the rest of the pack.

  • Ali

    I use comodo Antivirus it is good.

  • Muhammad Ashraf

    Microsoft security essential is the best

    • Umar Farooq

      :”D

    • uaia

      personally kaspersky is one of best antivirus in the world.Once my computer was infected by sirf gen/c type virus.I used different malware softwares and other antivirus softwares but they all failed.My experience says if your pc is infected install TDSkiller from kaspersky labs studio.It immediately killed my pc virus

  • Raja Maja

    WOW jeet gia Kaspersky Haar gai saaray…………………yahuuuu

  • Usman Arif

    i am using ESET and this article says:
    “Avira is closely followed by ESET Antivirus solution which scores 174.7 and only loses in the PC Mark benchmark.”
    which is excellent

  • Saqib

    Never knew about an anti-virus software, a Linux user here.

    • Zawyar Ur Rehman

      The irony!

    • Faizan Ul Haq

      kash ziada loog use kartay “linux” to ap sun laitay :P :P

      • Saqib

        more precisely, lower the dumb userbase, otherwise Linux powers almost everything out there apart from the desktops.

        • Faizan Ul Haq

          i have used linux and i am completely convinced no linux distro is even near windows , yes there are few pen-testing distros which overpower windows and mac , but for regular computer user linux has nothing great to offer . linux is powering servers because it is good at it , but it is still not “good” for desktop users (majority users), and majority is not dumb my friend :) majority likes clean interface ,tons of applications to choose from.

  • Hassan Salman Dita

    Windows Defender in Win 10 is excellent detect malware/spyware in no time…

  • NaQi Hamdani

    Avast is best.

    • Sulaiman Lalani

      avast used to be best was using since 5years but suddenly its stopped working , unusal behavior of avast i tried reinstalling but failed to operate ,then came back to Avira its better now but its downloading takes a lot of time

  • Muhammad Yasir

    which is the BEST free one .. ? thats the real question :D !

    • Faizan Ul Haq

      Avira ,
      said in article

      • Muhammad Yasir

        thx

  • Tanweer

    No review for ESET? No words for Emsisoft?

  • Naru-hudo

    using Avira for 4 years and i think it is the best antivirus software.

  • hamid

    Once virus detected my pc I cleaned my pc with avira after updating the antivirus but virus was not removed then I tried with default Microsoft Security essential and virus was removed immediately therefore I think specially for mine Microsoft Security essential is better than other free antivirus.

  • Muhammad Haris

    I think webroot antivirus is the LEAST resource Hungry . 1 MB storage and 4-8MB Ram usage . Can’t say about its detection rate as I installed it a week ago

    • hold the door

      File size DOES NOT define resource consumption of any program. I would not have commented, but your sheer negligence compels me to, lest someone puts this third class putrid protection called webroots in their computer. Everyone should avoid webroots like a plague. It not only messes with device drivers but also fails to uninstall itself 50% of the times.

      • Arslan Ejaz

        My experience with webroot was not that bad as you have wrote but i accept that webroot depends on cloud for its analysis and if you doesn’t have internet then you are doomed.

  • hold the door

    My observations:
    In PC world, only two contestants at all. ESET NOD32 and Kaspersky. All other antiviruses are equally junk and dont even come close.
    ESET NOD32 is best for removal and detection of rootkits.
    Kaspersky pure is highly unstable.
    Kaspersky Internet Security 2015 is the best.
    2016 releases are all buggy no matter which the antivirus/net security product it relates to.
    Resource consumption should not be a matter any more. Slow processors / ram is a matter of past. If one has an old computer, one should sell it for around 20k, add 20k and get any new computer which shall be at least twice as fast.
    Zonealarm firewall is still the best.
    Windows 10 security scheme is the best out of the box. Leave UAC, Smart Screen, Windows Sec etc settings intact and it will be as good as the best antivirus out there. But the same windows is now a privacy hazard. MSFT looks into everything we do, and learns from that data/activity.
    Linux or mac (unix) are certainly not virus free. Just that Windows has biggest share of personal computers and it makes sense to target the biggest platform. Infections in Linux/Unix/Mac are very much possible and also very much difficult to detect/remove. Apple did not remove flash just because Steve Jobs hated that. Its because it was the most popular attack vector in mac world.

    There are intelligent infections like ransomware, bitcoin stealers, or Poweliks.A (http://www.virusradar.com/en/Win32_Poweliks.A/description). They dont have any file on your disk yet they load on every computer startup by means of exploiting registry and rundll32.exe or dllhost.exe. ESET is better than Kaspersky, when it comes to combating such payloads.
    If ransomware encrypts your data, guys at Emsisoft can help in 50% of the cases. They have mathematicians actually, to analyze patterns and develop a decrypting module to finally unlock all your files.
    Perhaps I should have written this article. So many things are missing.

  • Abdal Pti

    ESET NOD32

  • Arslan Ejaz

    I think you have not tried Emsisoft Yet

  • Muhammed Ovais Alam

    MS Security Essentials all the way along with MalwareBytes.

  • Sulaiman Lalani

    no antivirus is best in the world, its all depend on your internet behavior , system specs, your daily usage. chose the one which suits your pc activity whether you r a corporate user or regular user

  • Syed Umr Iftikhar Ahmed

    Check Gartner Report and write this article again. You’ve missed out on the best ones actually. :)

    • Aadil

      Gartner report covers an overview of all the antiviruses and lists the features as pros and cons.
      The above is based on actual real world and lab tests, with the results displayed in an easily consumable manner.
      For example, Gartner lists Trend Micro as one of the best antivirus solutions but it does not tell you that it is the most resource hungry antivirus in the market and that it has a false alarm issue in real world tests. AV say TM has a 100 percent real world performance accuracy, however, it doesn’t top the file detection tests and the rest for the tests.
      AV’s reports are more up to date than Gartner as well.

      • Syed Umr Iftikhar Ahmed

        Indeed. But Kaspersky itself is considered one of the most resource hungry AVs as well.
        Anyhow; your take on Intel Security?

        • Aadil

          Kaspersky resource hungry? Read the post man. It has been one of the least resource hungry antivirus on the market for years.
          Intel Security is more or less based on McAfee, which isn’t great. So its average at most, middle of the pack.

  • Try Sophos Home Bro :)

  • Mr.toooddlessssss

    This review sucks, he just blindly assumes blame on every antivirus and he only talks about 4

  • Abdulrehman Altaf

    i also used windows defender from last 4 year and its working fine against virus.