Computers have changed the way we live our lives, from helping students to learn how to learn, to monitoring patients in hospitals, and controlling critical manufacturing processes. This increased dependence on computer gadgets has also brought an increase in cyberthreats like malware, viruses and ransomware. Antivirus software is designed to detect these threats and prevent them from causing harm to your PC or stealing personal information.

When selecting an antivirus program take into consideration its virus scanning capabilities, whether it has an firewall and how it does in independent lab tests. You might also want to look at its customer support, how often it updates itself and the number of devices it will protect. Some programs, such as Norton have additional features that can help you secure your identity and protect your privacy online.

The best programs offer various options for protection such as heuristic detection which is a method of identifying patterns in behavior typical of viruses or malware, and signature matching, which checks the files against a database of known malicious software. Some programs also use Sandboxing, which blocks malicious files and then runs them in a secure virtual environment where they can’t cause harm.

Some of the best antivirus software is available for download. However, they might not offer as many features as paid alternatives. For instance, Bitdefender’s Free edition performed very well in our tests and comes with a firewall, and its premium version comes with parental controls, a file shredder and a password manager. In the same way, Malwarebytes’ free version received top marks in AV Test for 2023 but fell short in our tests for usability. Intego Mac Security X9 provides powerful tools which include VirusBarrier and NetBarrier, which detected and eliminated the most malware threats we tested.