What is the best antivirus software for Windows 10 and 11? (Is Microsoft Defender good enough?)

Windows 10 and Windows 11 don’t bother you with antivirus software like Windows 7 did. Starting with Windows 8, Windows now includes a built-in free antivirus called Microsoft Defender. But is it really the best option for protecting your PC? Or even just good enough?

Microsoft Defender (formerly Windows Defender) was originally called Microsoft Security Essentials, and back in Windows 7 days, it was available as a separate download, but now it’s built into Windows and enabled by default. Many people are trained to think that you should always install third-party antivirus software, but this is not the best solution to today’s security problems like ransomware.

So what is the best antivirus software?please don’t make me read all this

Historically, we have recommended a combination of Microsoft Defender and Malware bytes. Since we know a lot of people will just scroll down and skim, here’s our TL;DR advice on how to keep your system safe:

  • Use built-in Microsoft Defender for traditional antivirus software – Criminals have moved from conventional viruses to ransomware, zero-day attacks, and even more serious malware that traditional antivirus software can’t handle. Built-in, Microsoft Defender is blazingly fast, won’t annoy you, and cleans up old-fashioned viruses.
  • Anti-Malware and Anti-Exploitation with Malwarebytes – Today, many large malware outbreaks are using zero-day exploits in browsers to install ransomware to take over your PC, and only Malwarebytes offers truly excellent protection with its unique anti-exploit system. It won’t slow you down without bloatware.

However, we know that many people prefer to use a more comprehensive security suite than Defender. Alternatively, you might be looking for an alternative to Malwarebytes. Be sure to consider our list of the best antivirus programs for other great tools.

notes: That’s not even mentioning that the people at this company, Malwarebytes, are some very good people that we respect a lot. Every time we talk to them, they get excited about their mission to clean up the internet. We don’t give official How-To Geek recommendations very often, but this is by far our favorite product, and one we use ourselves.

One or two punches: antivirus and antimalware

No matter how “carefully” you browse, you need antivirus software on your computer. Being smart isn’t enough to protect you from threats, security software can help act as another line of defense.

However, antivirus software is no longer sufficient security by itself.We recommend that you use a good antivirus program and A good anti-malware program. Together, they will protect you from most of the biggest threats on the internet today: viruses, spyware, ransomware, even potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) and more.

So which ones should you use and do you need to pay for them? Let’s start with the first part of the mix: antivirus.

Is Microsoft Defender good enough?

When you install Windows 10 or Windows 11, you will have an antivirus program already running. Microsoft Defender is built into Windows and automatically scans your open programs, downloads new definitions from Windows Update, and provides an interface that can be used for deep scans. Best of all, it won’t slow down your system, and most of the time it won’t get in your way – we can’t say enough about most other antivirus programs.

Microsoft Defender is faster than the industry average in most categories.

related: If I browse carefully and use common sense, do I really need antivirus software?

For a while, Microsoft’s antivirus software was lagging behind other software in comparative antivirus testing — far behind. It’s bad enough that we recommended something else, but it has bounced back and now offers great protection.

So in short, yes: Microsoft Defender is good enough (as long as you combine it with a good anti-malware program, as we mentioned above – more on that later).

But is Microsoft Defender the best antivirus? What about other programs?

If you check out that antivirus comparison we linked above, you’ll notice that Microsoft Defender, while excellent, has a lot of competition. What if you want to use something else?

First, let’s look at these scores. AV-TEST found that it caught 100% of “widespread malware” in January and February 2022, and 100% of zero-day attacks in the same time frame. You really couldn’t ask for better. It’s been doing pretty well for the first few months – it’s had a perfect protection score for almost two years now. It has the best third-party antivirus options.

related: Beware: Free Antivirus is No Longer Truly Free

Also, security is more than raw protection scores. Other antivirus programs may occasionally perform better in monthly tests, but they also have a lot of bloat, like browser extensions that actually make you less secure, horrible and unnecessary registry cleaners, tons of insecure ones Junkware even has the ability to track your browsing habits so they can make money. Also, the way they connect themselves to your browser and operating system often causes more problems than it solves.Something that protects you from viruses but leaves you vulnerable to other attack vectors is no good security.

Look at all the extra junk that Avast is trying to install along with the antivirus.

Microsoft Defender doesn’t do any of these things – it does one thing, free and out of your way. Additionally, Windows 10 and 11 already include various other protections introduced in Windows 8, such as the SmartScreen filter that should prevent you from downloading and running malware, no matter what antivirus software you use. Likewise, Chrome and Firefox include Google’s Safe Browsing feature, which blocks many malware downloads.

If you don’t want to use Microsoft Defender for some reason, we’ve put together a roundup of the best third-party antivirus software available.

If you choose to use third-party antivirus software, be sure to disable the bloated, unnecessary features they try to install.

Antivirus Isn’t Enough: Use Malwarebytes, Too

MalwareBytes Premium trial home screen.

Antivirus is important, but nowadays, it’s even more important to protect your web browser with a good anti-exploit program, which is often the target of attackers. Malwarebytes is the program we recommend here.

Unlike traditional antivirus programs, Malwarebytes is good at finding “potentially unwanted programs” (PUPs) and other unwanted software. As of version 3.0, it also includes an anti-exploitation feature designed to block common exploits in programs, even if they’re zero-day attacks that haven’t been seen before — like those pesky Flash zero-day exploits. It also includes anti-ransomware to thwart ransomware attacks like CryptoLocker. The latest version of Malwarebytes combines these three tools into one easy-to-use package for a low annual fee.

Malwarebytes claims to be able to completely replace your traditional antivirus software, but we disagree. It uses a completely different strategy to protect you: Antivirus will block or quarantine unwanted programs from entering your computer, while Malwarebytes tries to prevent unwanted software from reaching your computer in the first place.Since it does not interfere with traditional antivirus programs, we recommend that you run both Program that provides the best protection.

notes: As of 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 antimalware scans, and Microsoft Defender won’t run in the background. You can still run both at the same time if you want. Here’s how: In Malwarebytes, open Settings, click the Security tab, and disable the “Always register Malwarebytes with Windows Security” option. When this option is disabled, Malwarebytes will not register itself as a security application for the system, Malwarebytes and Microsoft Defender will run concurrently.

Note that you can get some of Malwarebytes’ features for free, with caveats. For example, the free version of the Malwarebytes program will only scan for malware and PUPs on demand – it doesn’t scan in the background like the premium version. Also, it doesn’t include the premium version’s anti-exploit or anti-ransomware features.

You only get all three features in our recommended full paid version of Malwarebytes. But if you’re willing to give up anti-ransomware and always-on malware scanning, the free versions of Malwarebytes and Anti-Exploit are better than nothing, and you should definitely use them.

There you have it: Combine a good antivirus program, Malwarebytes, and some common sense, and you’ll be well protected. Remember, antivirus is just one of the standard computer security practices you should follow. Good digital hygiene isn’t a replacement for antivirus software, but it’s critical to making sure your antivirus software works.

Want something else? Check out our picks for the best antivirus software.


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