Windows 10 and Windows 11 won’t hassle you to install an antivirus like Windows 7 did. Since Windows 8, Windows now includes a built-in free antivirus calledMicrosoft Defender. But is itreally the best for protecting your PC — or even just good enough?
Microsoft Defender (formerly Windows Defender) was originally known as Microsoft Security Essentials back in the Windows 7 days when it was offered as a separate download, but now it’s built right into Windows and enabled by default.Many people have been trained to believe that you should always install a third-party antivirus, but that isn’t the best solution for today’s security problems, like ransomware.
So What’s the Best Antivirus? Please Don’t Make Me Read All This
Historically, we’ve recommended a combination of Microsoft Defenderand Malwarebytes.Since we know that tons of people will just scroll down and skim, here is our TL;DR recommendation for how to keep your system secure:
- Use the Built-in Microsoft Defender for traditional antivirus – The criminals have moved on from regular viruses to focus on Ransomware, zero-day attacks, and even worse malware that traditional antivirus just can’t handle. Microsoft Defender is built right in, blazing fast, doesn’t annoy you, and does its job cleaning old-school viruses.
- Use Malwarebytes for Anti-Malware and Anti-Exploit – Many of the huge malware outbreaks these days are using zero-day flaws in your browser to install ransomware to take over your PC, and only Malwarebytes provides really excellent protection against this with its unique anti-exploit system. There’s no bloatware and it won’t slow you down.
However, we know that a lot of people prefer to use a more full-featured security suite instead of Defender. Or, you may be looking for an alternative to Malwarebytes. Be sure to consider our list ofthe best antivirus programs for other excellent tools we recommend.
The Best Antivirus Software of 2022
Best Antivirus Software Overall
Bitdefender Internet Security
Best Free Antivirus Software
Avira Free Security
Best Antivirus Software for Windows
Best Antivirus Software for Android
Bitdefender Mobile Security
Note: This doesn’t even mention the fact that Malwarebytes,the company, is staffed by some really great people that we really respect. Every time we talk to them, they are excited about the mission of cleaning up the internet. It’s not often that we give an official How-To Geek recommendation, but this is our favorite product by far, and something we use ourselves.
A One-Two Punch: Antivirus and Anti-Malware
You need antivirus software on your computer,no matter how “carefully” you browse. Being smart isn’t enough to protect you from threats, and security software can help act as another line of defense.
However, antivirus itself is no longer adequate security on its own. We recommend you use a good antivirus programanda good anti-malwareprogram. Together, they will protect you from most of the biggest threats on the internet today: viruses, spyware, ransomware, and even potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) — amongmany others.
So which ones should you use, and do you need to pay money for them? Let’s start with the first part of that combo: antivirus.
Is Microsoft Defender Good Enough?
When you install Windows 10 or Windows 11, you’ll have an antivirus program already running.Microsoft Defender comes built-in to Windows, and automatically scans programs you open, downloads new definitions from Windows Update, and provides an interface you can use for in-depth scans. Best of all, it doesn’t slow down your system, and mostly stays out of your way — which we can’t say about most other antivirus programs.
RELATED: Do I Really Need Antivirus If I Browse Carefully and Use Common Sense?
For a short while, Microsoft’s antivirus fell behind the others when it came tocomparative antivirus software tests — way behind. It was bad enough thatwe recommended something else, but it’s since bounced back, and now provides excellent protection.
So in short, yes: Microsoft Defender is good enough (as long as you couple it with a good anti-malware program, as we mentioned above — more on that in a minute).
But Is Microsoft Defender the Best Antivirus? What About Other Programs?
If you look at that antivirus comparison we linked to above, you’ll notice that Microsoft Defender — while excellent — has some stiff competition. What if you want to use something else?
First, let’s look at those scores.AV-TESTfound thatit caught 100% of the “widespread and prevalent malware” in January and February of 2022, along with 100% percent of the zero-day attacks in the same time frame. You literally can’t ask for better. Its performance in the preceding months was comparably excellent — it has had perfect protection scores for almost two years. It’s up there with the best third-party antivirus options.
RELATED: Beware: Free Antivirus Isn't Really Free Anymore
Furthermore,security is about more than raw protection scores. Other antivirus programs may occasionallydo a bit better in monthly tests, but they also come with a lot of bloat, likebrowser extensions that actually make you less safe,registry cleaners that are terrible and unnecesary,loads of unsafe junkware, and eventhe ability to track your browsing habitsso they can make money. Furthermore, the way they hook themselves into your browser and operating system oftencauses more problems than it solves. Something that protects you against viruses but opens you up to other vectors of attack isnotgood security.
Microsoft Defender does not do any of these things — it does one thing well, for free, and without getting in your way. Plus, Windows 10 and 11 already include the various otherprotections introduced in Windows 8, likethe SmartScreen filterthat should prevent you from downloading and running malware, whatever antivirusyou use. Chrome and Firefox, similarly,include Google’s Safe Browsing, which blocks many malware downloads.
If you don’t want to use Microsoft Defender for some reason, we have a roundup of the best third-party antivirus software available.
If you choose to use a third-party antivirus, just be sure to disable the bloated, unnecessary features they try to install.
Antivirus Isn’t Enough: Use Malwarebytes, Too
Antivirus is important, but these days, it’s more important that you usea good anti-exploit programto protect your web browser, which is commonly targeted by attackers.Malwarebytesis the program we recommend here.
Unlike traditional antivirus programs, Malwarebytes is good at finding“potentially unwanted programs” (PUPs) and other junkware. As of version 3.0, it also contains an anti-exploit feature, whichaims to block common exploits in programs, even if they are zero-day attacks that have never seen before — like thosenasty Flash zero-day attacks. Italso contains anti-ransomware, to blockextortion attacks like CryptoLocker.The latest version of Malwarebytes combines these three tools intoone easy-to-use package for a low yearly fee.
Malwarebytes claims to be able to replace your traditional antivirus entirely, but we disagree with this. It uses completely different strategies for protecting you: antivirus will block or quarantine harmful programs that find their way to your computer, while Malwarebytes attempts to stop harmful software from ever reaching your computer in the first place. Since it doesn’t interfere with traditional antivirus programs, we recommend you run both programs for the best protection.
Note: Starting with Malwarebytes 4, the Premium version of Malwarebytes now registers itself as the system’s security program by default. In other words, it will handle all your anti-malware scanning and Microsoft Defender won’t run in the background. You can still run both at once if you like. Here’s how: In Malwarebytes, open Settings, click the “Security” tab, and disable the “Always register Malwarebytes in the Windows Security Center” option. With this option disabled, Malwarebytes won’t register itself as the system’s security application and both Malwarebytes and Microsoft Defender will run at the same time.
Note that you can get some of Malwarebytes’ features for free, but with caveats. For example, the free version of Malwarebytes program will only scan for malware and PUPs on-demand — it won’t scan in the background like the premium version does. In addition, it doesn’t contain the anti-exploit or anti-ransomware features of the premium version.
You can only get all three features in the full paid version of Malwarebytes, which we recommend. But if you’re willing to forego anti-ransomware and always-on malware scanning, the free versions of Malwarebytes and Anti-Exploitare better than nothing, and you should definitely use them.
There you have it: with a combination of a good antivirus program, Malwarebytes, and some common sense, you’ll be pretty well protected. Just remember that antivirus is only one ofthe standard computer security practicesyou should be following. Good digital hygiene isn’ta replacement for antivirus, but it isessential to making sure your antivirus can do its job.
Want something else instead? Take a look at our picks for the best antivirus software.
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What’s the Best Antivirus for Windows 10 and 11? (Is Microsoft Defender Good Enough?)? ›
High-quality free security products do exist, and Windows Defender is a good way to keep you and your computer safe. It is, however, not the best. For that, we recommend Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, and Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus, among others.Do I need antivirus software if I have Microsoft Defender? ›
Windows Defender scans a user's email, internet browser, cloud, and apps for the above cyberthreats. However, Windows Defender lacks endpoint protection and response, as well as automated investigation and remediation, so more antivirus software is necessary.Is Windows Defender good enough for Windows 11? ›
If you're comfortable with all this — and in our experience, Edge is lighter and faster than Chrome — then Microsoft Defender Antivirus and the related protections built into Windows 10 and 11 should absolutely be good enough to protect you from malware infection, and give you a few useful extra security features as ...Is Microsoft Defender good enough antivirus? ›
Microsoft's Defender is pretty good at detecting malware files, blocking exploits and network-based attacks, and flagging phishing sites. It even includes simple PC performance and health reports as well as parental controls with content filtering, usage limitations, and location tracking.Is Microsoft Defender good enough 2022? ›
Yes, Microsoft Defender is a good enough choice for basic protection against malware. However, if you want more rounded device protection against online threats, there are much better antivirus options available.Do I really need an antivirus for Windows 11? ›
Yes, we recommend all Windows devices use antivirus software. Currently, the only antivirus software known to be compatible with Windows 11 in S mode is the version that comes with it: Windows Defender Security Center.Does Windows 11 have built-in antivirus? ›
Windows 10 and 11 include Windows Security, which provides the latest antivirus protection. Your device will be actively protected from the moment you start Windows. Windows Security continually scans for malware (malicious software), viruses, and security threats.Which antivirus is best for Windows 11? ›
- Bitdefender Antivirus – best Windows 11 antivirus for everyone. ...
- Norton 360 – solid all-around antivirus for Windows 11. ...
- TotalAV Antivirus – essential protection for Windows 11. ...
- Surfshark Antivirus – support for multiple devices. ...
- Avira Antivirus – a reliable virus detective.
Spoiler alert: McAfee is the best choice. Although it's not free like Microsoft Defender, McAfee ensures you get what you pay for, providing all-around protection from online threats to save you money in the longer term. Keep reading to find out how I tested both providers to select the ultimate antivirus solution.Is it safe to only use Windows Defender? ›
High-quality free security products do exist, and Windows Defender is a good way to keep you and your computer safe. It is, however, not the best. For that, we recommend Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, and Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus, among others.
Is Microsoft Defender as good as Norton? ›
Norton 360 takes the top spot as the better antivirus option against Microsoft Defender. While Microsoft Defender provides a great real-time malware detection rate, it doesn't match up to the Norton 360, which detected and blocked every threat thrown its way.Does Windows Defender scan for malware? ›
Microsoft Defender Antivirus is a built-in malware scanner for Microsoft Windows 10. As part of the Windows Security suite, it will search for any files or programs on your computer that can cause harm to it. Defender looks for software threats like viruses and other malware across email, apps, the cloud, and the web.Can Windows Defender remove Trojan? ›
Windows Defender comes packed with the Windows 10 update and offers top-notch antimalware protection to keep your device and data safe. Although, Windows Defender is not capable of handling all kinds of viruses, malware, trojan, and other security threats.Is Windows Defender free with Windows 11? ›
Microsoft Defender which is built into the Windows 11 provides you a comprehensive and strong protection against malwares and it is free. We recommend users to use it as their default Anti-Malware program.Is Windows 10 better than Windows 11? ›
The multitasking improvements in Windows 11 are exclusive; they aren't being backported to Windows 10. If you want the latest productivity improvements, Windows 11 is for you. In Windows 11, you can increase your multitasking and system performance with Snap Layouts that group your windows and save them to the taskbar.Which AntiVirus slows down computer the most? ›
It is clear that Avast is in last place in the free bunch. Not only was it tied with Bitdefender Free for the largest full-scan slowdown, but it had the largest background impact (after AVG AntiVirus Free) and a whopping quick-scan slowdown of 53%, the most among all the free programs.What is the number 1 best antivirus? ›
- #1 Bitdefender.
- #2 Norton.
- #3 Kaspersky.
- #4 ESET.
- #5 Webroot.
- #5 Avast.
- #5 McAfee.
- #5 Trend Micro.
Compatible: Your McAfee software is considered compatible after it has been tested and found to install as expected on Windows 11.Can you use Windows Defender with another antivirus? ›
You can benefit from running Microsoft Defender Antivirus alongside another antivirus solution. For example, Endpoint detection and response (EDR) in block mode provides added protection from malicious artifacts even if Microsoft Defender Antivirus is not the primary antivirus product.Is Windows Defender as good as McAfee? ›
|Best Free for||Windows 🖥️|
|Best for:||Gamers 🎮|
Does Windows Defender scan for malware? ›
Microsoft Defender Antivirus is a built-in malware scanner for Microsoft Windows 10. As part of the Windows Security suite, it will search for any files or programs on your computer that can cause harm to it. Defender looks for software threats like viruses and other malware across email, apps, the cloud, and the web.Do you still need antivirus with Windows 10? ›
Using Microsoft's built-in antivirus software can protect your Windows devices from viruses and malware. But to really keep your network and all of your devices secure, it's good to rely on comprehensive protection like McAfee Total Protection.