Not installing the best antivirus software for 2020 is rather like hanging around the bad side of your town with a big sign saying "I'm carrying lots of cash and I'm not very good at fighting" – it's a question of when not if trouble will arrive at your digital door.
Virus protection remains a particular problem on Windows, because the sheer number of users makes Windows a tempting target. That said, macOS users shouldn't ignore the benefit of good antivirus protection either, even with Apple's strong security record.
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You might think you're tech savvy enough to be able to spot a malware or virus threat from a distance, but don't be so sure: these threats are constantly evolving, and the best way to make sure your computer stays free from harm is with a constantly evolving antivirus tool.
While these tools are called antivirus programs, they actually protect against a whole host of online dangers, including ransomware, keyloggers, spambots, clickjackers and more. The good news is they won't cost you too much, or even anything at all in some cases.
For the purposes of picking the best antivirus software of 2020, we've taken a range of factors into consideration – they include price, our experiences of using the software ourselves, and the excellent tests and reports produced over at AV Comparatives.
The best antivirus software 2020
Norton is one of the most well-established names in computer security software, and its Norton 360 suite of tools continues to impress – the Deluxe edition gets you all the antivirus protection you need, covering real-time threats, identity theft, ransomware and more. You also get parental control software and an integrated VPN built in as well.
It's comprehensive then, but it's also effective: Norton always scores highly in independent tests when it comes to threat detection and removal. If we were being super-critical we'd say the interface wasn't the easiest to navigate, and scans can slow down systems just a little, but these are minor annoyances in what is otherwise an all-round fantastic package.
Going for a free antivirus isn't always the right choice, because paid-for products often give you more comprehensive protection, but you don't need to worry about the free edition of AVG Antivirus – it's been effectively protecting computers and mobile devices for years, and has a very capable threat detection system that keeps you safe around the clock.
AVG Free Antivirus digs deep into your system to cover your browser, your email account, your download queue and more besides (if anything, it tries to do too much, but you can dial back its efforts). Add in the friendly, easy-to-use interface that lets you know everything is running smoothly (or otherwise), and it's well worth your consideration.
Bitdefender is another name that's been around the internet security scene forever, and its longevity shows that it's a brand to be trusted. Its most recent Internet Security package combines a smart and speedy barrier against viruses, as well as a lightweight interface that won't bring your computer to a grinding halt while it scans in the background.
You get some much besides the (very effective) malware and virus protection – a VPN component, social networking protection, parental controls, a secure password manager, a secure file shredder for sensitive data, a smart battery manager for your laptop, and even straightforward webcam protection to save you sticking bits of tape over the lens.
You can rely on F-Secure Safe for rock-solid system security, an intuitive interface across all of its apps, and a few features that perhaps you didn't realise you needed – like a browser scanner that makes sure the banking sites you connect to are actually secure banking sites. It's certainly a comprehensive package, and it scored highly in AVC's 2020 tests too.
While the client applications aren't the fastest or most polished we've ever come across, they certainly won't get in the way, running in the background while you get on with the rest of your day. There's no free tier when it comes to F-Secure Safe, but you can try out the software for 30 days without paying, and without entering any credit card details.
We're big fans of Avira's products, and it did very nicely indeed in the latest AVC tests (see above). A range of Avira packages are available, but the Antivirus Pro one is a good option for combining excellent security with value for money – you can specify how many devices you want to protect and for how long when you buy, potentially saving you money.
As well as being very reliable, the Avira software is also elegantly laid out and easy to use, giving you peace of mind when it comes to browsing and emailing. The software also connects to a central database of malware threats, collected from users all across the world, so you know you're going to be safe when it comes to the newest online dangers.
Panda takes an interesting approach to virus scanning, doing most of the work on its own servers, which are capable of number-crunching feats the average PC can only dream of. You're therefore at the mercy of your internet connection speed, but it does also mean your PC isn’t doing any heavy lifting, and that your software is always right up to date.
The detection rates that Panda Free Antivirus hits are very impressive – otherwise it wouldn't be on our list of the best antivirus software for 2020 – and the software you get is speedy. It's the pricing that's likely to appeal most though, and if you decide you like it then you can pay a monthly fee for some useful extra features (like USB drive scanning).
As the name suggests, Kaspersky Internet Security protects you against everything bad on the internet, and we do mean everything – while no security program can guarantee a 100 percent success rate all the time against everything, present and future, Kaspersky's packages manage to get pretty close, and this is the mid-ranger in its current line-up.
You get protection while you're browsing, protection while you're emailing, protection while you're banking, protection while you're video calling, and more. Even better, the interface is straightforward for anyone to master. You don't get password management and parental controls here though – try Kaspersky Total Security for those features.
Another of the leading free antivirus programs on the market, Avast Free Antivirus comes with a whole host of clever tricks up its sleeve – like the way it watches out for any weird behaviour from your installation applications, the way it checks a cloud database for any unrecognised threats, and the way it warns you about potentially unsafe passwords.
Did we mention it's free? Avast also offers a number of paid-for options, if you want to bulk up your defences, but the free option is going to be perfectly fine for many users, and won't cost you anything to use. What's more, the software is lightweight enough not to interfere with any of your everyday computing tasks, so there's no system slowdown.
Eset is perhaps not as well known as some of the other security companies here, but don't let that put you off its rather excellent antivirus package. Eset Internet Security is affordable, competent, and very effective when it comes to keeping viruses and other nasties off your computer(s), always scoring highly in various independent tests.
Besides the usual computer protection, Eset Internet Security also protects threats to your online banking, your webcam, your smart home gadgets, and plenty more besides. You pick how many devices you want to protect, and how long you want to sign up for, and the price to pay changes accordingly (which is very welcome if you appreciate flexibility).
Trend Micro is a company that's been around the security block once or twice, and so you can rely on its Internet Security suite to keep you and your devices safe. As you go round the web, it'll keep you (and your kids) safe from a wide variety of threats, including ransomware and phishing emails as well as the standard viruses and malware.
In addition to its excellent detection engine, Trend Micro Internet Security has some useful tools for optimising your social media privacy settings, blocking the transfer of sensitive data (like your phone or credit card number), and identifying benign but unnecessary files that you can safely delete from your computer without causing any harm to it.