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Best antivirus 2020: 5 secure and effective paid options

Trusted Reviews reveals its picks of the essential anti-virus products, based on our exhaustive, independent testing

What’s the best anti-virus software for most people?

Antivirus software is essential for everyone in 2020. Even when armed with the best practice, common sense, and the most carefully constructed passwords, thanks to ever-evolving types of malware and increasingly clever phishing attacks, you can never be too careful.

As more and more devices are hopping on your home’s Wi-Fi connection, it’s imperative that you take steps to keep everything secure. If you’re not properly protecting your home network, you’re potentially making life easier for hackers.

In addition to comparing the best free antivirus options out there, Trusted Reviews has taken a look at the best paid options available. The following list is based on our exhaustive reviews – scroll down to read the full review and to find out how we test.

  • Best antivirus overall: Symantec Norton 360
  • Best multi-platform anti-virus: Kaspersky Internet Security
  • Best value paid antivirus: Bitdefender Total Security
  • Best Windows-only anti-virus: ESET Internet Security
  • Another great value offering: McAfee Total Protection
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Best Paid Antivirus

Symantec Norton 360 Deluxe

Norton 360 Deluxe includes both antivirus and vpn software protection on up to 5 devices. Sign up for a year and save 62%.

Kaspersky Total Security

This multi-award winning cyber security product will protect you at all angles - from hackers, to malware and viruses. Sign up to Kaspersky Total Security for a year and save 30% off plus free installation.

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

Bitdefender Total Security 2020 - Rated 3rd top antivirus software on the market. Sign up now for a year and receive a near 60% off. This allows you to stay secure on the internet on up to 5 of your personal devices.

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Symantec Norton 360

1. Symantec Norton 360

The best multi-platform antivirus package currently available

Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS | Firewall | 50GB cloud backup | Webcam protection | up to 10 devices | Browser link checking | Norton Secure VPN full | Password manager


  • Perfect malware protection
  • Wide range of features
  • Includes full VPN
  • 50GB of online backup storage


  • High renewal price

Symantec’s Norton 360 range of AV software has been demonstrated to provide best-in-class protection, by three leading independent security labs. Not only that, the fact that you can get cover for one device, five, or up to ten devices means that individual users with a small number of devices as well as families can be fully protected.

As well as providing robust protection against malware, features like a password manager, webcam protection, a firewall, and even a VPN are included with all levels of Norton 360, with parental controls included in the Deluxe and Premium subscriptions.

The only minor complaint is that renewal prices can be steep, so be sure to search around for deals and discounts before signing up.

Kaspersky Internet Security

2. Kaspersky Internet Security

A good alternative to Norton

Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS | Firewall | Webcam protection | Parental controls | up to 5 devices | Browser link checking | Silent detection mode


  • Good range of features
  • Low impact on system performance


  • Lower protection rating than Windows Defender in one test

Recent tests have shown that Kaspersky doesn’t compare quite as well to Norton 360, but it’s still very good, offering many similar features, and, like Symantec’s antivirus software, Kaspersky Internet Security has a low impact on overall system performance.

Parental controls and a secure browser, letting you do things like safely check bank statements online are welcome features, and for further protection, you can sign up Kaspersky Secure Connection VPN through Kaspersky Internet Security if you want to.

Multi-platform support and payment plans covering one, three, and five devices at rates generally lower than that of the competition (not including discounts) mean that Kaspersky is a good value alternative to other, more expensive big name brands.

3. Bitdefender Total Security

Robust anti-virus suite, currently cheaper than Norton and Kaspersky

Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS | Firewall | VPN | Webcam protection | Parental controls | 3 devices | Password manager | Browser link checking | Silent detection mode


  • Wide range of features and device support
  • Includes VPN


  • High renewal costs
  • Lower protection rating than Windows Defender in one test

While Bitdefender Total Security has not performed quite as well the free Windows Defender or Symantec’s Norton 360 in recent tests, it still offers a good level of protection and comes bristling with features, including a VPN, firewall, password manager and parental controls.

Mutli-platform support and cover for up to 10 devices under one account mean that, for busier homes, Bitdefender is a little more generous than Kaspersky’s five devices offering. At the same time, renewal fees are high, even if first-year discounts are generous, so be prepared to shop around.

ESET Internet Security

4. ESET Internet Security

Excellent firewall, good Windows-only solution

Clients for Windows | Firewall | Webcam protection | Parental controls | 1 device |  Silent detection mode


  • Very clear interface
  • Particularly intelligent firewall
  • Clear data handling options


  • Expensive
  • Lower protection rating than Windows Defender in one test

If you’re just looking to secure a single Windows 10 PC or laptop, and you want something that gives you a bit more firepower than the standard Windows Defender, ESET Internet Security gives you that.

While independent testing revealed that ESET was beaten in just one test, Internet Security was shown to be better than Windows Defender at not flagging legitimate programs as threats. Perhaps mindful of how people will actually want to use their PCs, the software prompts you to set firewall rules before it turns it on, meaning that there is less of a chance of programs you actually want to use getting blocked when the firewall is on.

Other standard but welcome features – such as a secure browser, automatic and manual malware scans, as well as webcam protection and silent detection – make ESET Internet Security a solid choice. However, it’s not cheap, and only good for one Windows 10 device.

McAfee Total Protection

5. McAfee Total Protection

For truly busy households, McAfee offers unlimited cross-platform protection

Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS | Firewall | Unlimited devices | Webcam protection | Parental controls | Password manager | Browser link detection | Silent detection mode


  • Wide range of security and system optimisation tools
  • Unlimited device coverage
  • Low impact on system performance


  • High renewal costs
  • Lower protection rating than Windows Defender

While McAfee Total Protection looks far more expensive than rivals on the surface – £44.99 for the first year and £89.99 a year after that – it is also far more generous in terms of the numbers of devices it lets you protect. Total Protection does what it says on the tin, and there is no limit to the amount of devices you can protect with this.

That said, testing from AV-Comparatives, AV-Labs and SE Labs sees McAfee not quite as diligent at spotting malware as its rivals. While this may change in time, if you have 10 devices or fewer, then you may be better off putting everything under the smaller (but more protective) umbrella of Symantec Norton 360.

How we test antivirus software

Antivirus software is essential if you plan on going online, thanks to the proliferation of contaminated advertising iframes, opportunistic malware-laden spam and drive-by downloads that can affect even the most legitimate, upstanding and popular of websites.

While commercial AV often includes a wealth of useful extras, such as webcam protection, VPNs and enhanced firewalls, but their core features: real-time and on-demand virus blocking and scanning, aren’t very different to their free counterparts.

Windows 10 comes with Windows Defender antivirus already installed, and it’s the very effective baseline to which we compare all the other anti-malware software we review.

Related: Best VPN 2019

What’s a detection engine?

The key part of any antivirus software is its detection engine, which uses a combination of known signatures of malicious software and heuristic analysis of a program or file’s traits and behaviour to establish whether it’s potentially dangerous or not.

Detection engines are at the core of most antivirus companies’ business, and you’ll generally find that a company’s free products use the same engines as their paid-for versions, although the latter may be equipped with other extra features, such as firewalls and system optimisation tools

Modern antivirus software constantly monitors your PC and scans software, files and websites in real time to detect potential threats, but you can still run manual and scheduled scans for extra peace of mind. Most AV programs by default run an optimised scan that checks the files most likely to have been compromised.

How we test performance

In this test, we’ve relied on results produced by the respected AV-TEST, AV Comparatives and SELabs IT security labs to assess the performance of each antivirus program incorrectly identifying malicious files and websites and avoid false positive detections of benign software as malicious. AV-TEST also assessed the impact of antivirus software on system performance.

  • We use test data on a per-engine basis, rather than an identical product basis, so, for example, we’ve used results from Avast Free to help draw conclusions about the Avast Premium Security, which uses the same engine.
  • AV-TEST carries out both real-world testing, in which systems are exposed to live contaminated websites and emails, and reference set tests, in which several thousand malicious files collected in the previous four weeks are introduced to the system.
  • SELabs only carries out real-world testing, using live malware in the wild and targeted attacks designed to exploit known vulnerabilities in commonly installed software. These include both web-based exploits designed to compromise vulnerabilities in browsers, extensions and widely used software such as Java, and file format exploits against software such as Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat Reader, of the sort commonly found in malicious emails. We use a similar set of real-world test results from AV Comparatives.
  • In all cases, we’ve directly quoted the percentage of malware successfully defended against in tests, as well as more general metrics that include false positive testing against benign software and impact on system performance.

It’s worth noting that there can be fairly dramatic differences in malware protection test results from from month to month. Results depend on a given antivirus package’s ability to detect the malware that’s prevalent at any given time and the speed with which its signature database and heuristic detection rules are updated to reflect current malware.

AV-TEST’s performance tests time the impact of different antivirus suites on a number of common desktop tasks, such as downloading and installing applications, launching programs, copying files and visiting popular websites.

What about data security?

Most antivirus software by default reports back to its manufacturer when it encounters unknown malicious or even benign files. This data gathering is an important function of free antivirus suites as far as their creators are concerned. In practice, it means that the malware databases the software relies on are kept constantly up to date, helping to protect all its users and making both paid-for and free versions more accurate.

Some, but not all, paid-for antivirus suites provide a clear path for opting out of this data collection, while for others, it’s a key part of how their defence systems work.

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