Windows 10 won’t bother installing an antivirus like Windows 7 did. Since Windows 8, Windows now includes a free built-in antivirus called Windows Defender. But is it really the best to protect your PC, or even good enough?
Windows Defender was originally known as Microsoft Security Essentials in the Windows 7 days when it was offered as a separate download, but now it’s built into Windows and enabled by default. Many people have been trained to believe that a third-party antivirus should always be installed, but that is not the best solution for today’s security problems, such as ransomware.
So what is the best antivirus? Please don’t make me read all this
We definitely recommend that you read the full article so that you fully understand why we recommend a Windows Defender combination Y Malwarebytes, but since we know tons of people will just scroll down and browse, here is our TL recommendation; DR on how to keep your system safe:
- Use the built-in Windows Defender for traditional antivirus – Criminals have moved from normal viruses to focusing on ransomware, zero-day attacks, and even worse malware that traditional antivirus just can’t handle. Windows Defender is built-in, blazing fast, doesn’t bother you, and does its job of cleaning up old-school viruses.
- Use Malwarebytes for Anti-Malware and Anti-Exploit – all the big malware outbreaks these days use zero-day flaws in your browser to install ransomware and take over your PC, and only Malwarebytes provides really excellent protection against this with its unique anti-exploit system. There is no bloatware and it won’t slow you down.
Editor’s note: This doesn’t even mention the fact that Malwarebytes, the company, is made up of really great people who we really respect. Every time we talk to them, they are excited about the mission of cleaning the Internet. It’s not often that we give an official How-To Geek recommendation, but this is by far our favorite product and something we use ourselves.
A double whammy: antivirus and antimalware
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 you act as another line of defense.
However, antivirus itself is no longer adequate security on its own. We recommend that you use a good antivirus program. Y a good anti-malware program. Together, they will protect you from most of the biggest threats on the internet today – viruses, spyware, ransomware, and even potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), among many 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 Windows Defender good enough?
When you install Windows 10, you will already have an antivirus program running. Windows Defender comes built into Windows 10 and automatically scans the programs you open, downloads new definitions from Windows Update, and provides an interface that you can use for in-depth scans. Best of all, it doesn’t slow down your system and generally stays out of your way, which we can’t say for most other antivirus programs.
RELATED: Do I really need an antivirus if I browse carefully and use Common Sense?
For a short time, Microsoft’s antivirus lagged behind the others when it came to antivirus software benchmarks-far behind. It was bad enough that we recommended something else, but it has since recovered and now provides very good protection.
In short, yes: Windows Defender is good enough (as long as you pair it with a good anti-malware program, as we mentioned earlier, more on that in a minute).
But is Windows Defender the best antivirus? What about other programs?
If you look at the antivirus comparison we linked to above, you’ll notice that Windows Defender, while good, doesn’t rank highest in terms of raw protection scores. So why not use something else?
First, let’s look at those scores. AV TEST found that it still detected 99.9% of “widespread and prevalent malware” in April 2017, along with 98.8% of zero-day attacks. Avira, one of AV-TEST’s top-rated antivirus programs, has exactly the same scores for April, but slightly higher scores in recent months, so its overall rating is (for some reason) much higher. But Windows Defender isn’t as damaged as AV-TEST’s 4.5 out of 6 rating would have you believe.
RELATED: Beware: free antivirus is no longer really free
Plus, security is more than just raw protection scores. Other antivirus programs may occasionally perform better in monthly tests, but they also come with a lot of bloat, such as browser extensions that actually make it less secure, registry cleaners that are terrible and unnecessary, piles of unsafe garbageand even the ability to track your browsing habits so they can earn money. Also, the way they connect to your browser and operating system often causes more problems than it solves. Something that protects you against viruses but opens you up to other attack vectors is do not good security.
Windows Defender doesn’t do any of these things: It does one thing right, for free and out of the way. In addition, Windows 10 already includes the other protections introduced in Windows 8, such as the SmartScreen filter that should prevent you from downloading and running malware, regardless of the antivirus you use. Chrome and Firefox similarly include Google’s Safe Browsing, which blocks many malware downloads.
If you hate Windows Defender for some reason and want to use another antivirus, you can use Avira. It has a free version that works quite well, a pro version with some extra features, and it provides great protection scores and only has the occasional pop-up ad (but make they have pop-up ads, which are annoying). The biggest problem is that you have to make sure to uninstall the browser extension you are trying to force, which makes it difficult to recommend to non-technical people.
Antivirus is not enough: use Malwarebytes, too
Antivirus is important, but these days, it is more important that you use a good anti-exploit program to protect your web browser and add-ons, which are the most targeted by attackers. Malwarebytes is the program we recommend here.
Unlike traditional antivirus programs, Malwarebytes is good at finding “potentially unwanted programs” (PUPs) and other PUPs. As of version 3.0, it also contains an anti-exploit feature, which aims to block common exploits in programs, even if they are zero-day attacks that have never been seen before, like those nasty Flash zero-day attacks. . It also contains anti-ransomware, to block extortion attacks like CryptoLocker. The latest version of Malwarebytes combines these three tools into an easy-to-use package for $ 40 a year.
Malwarebytes claims to be able to replace your traditional antivirus entirely, but we do not agree with this. Use completely different strategies to protect yourself: Antivirus will block or quarantine harmful programs that reach your computer, while Malwarebytes will try to prevent harmful software from reaching your computer in the first place. Since it does not interfere with traditional antivirus programs, we recommend that you run both of them programs for the best protection.
To update: As of Malwarebytes 4, the Premium version of Malwarebytes is now registered as the system security program by default. In other words, it will handle all your anti-malware scanning and Windows 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 uncheck the “Always log Malwarebytes in Windows Security Center” option. With this option disabled, Malwarebytes will not register as the system security application and both Malwarebytes and Windows Defender will run at the same time.
Note that you can get some of the Malwarebytes features for free, but with caveats. For example, the free version of the Malwarebytes program will only scan for malware and PUAs on demand; it won’t scan in the background like the premium version does. Also, it does not contain the anti-exploit or anti-ransomware features of the premium version.
You can only get all three features in the full $ 40 version of Malwarebytes, which we recommend. 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: with a combination of a good antivirus program, Malwarebytes, and some common sense, you’ll be pretty well protected. Just remember that antivirus is just one of the standard computer security practices that you should follow. Good digital hygiene is not a substitute for antivirus, but it is essential to make sure your antivirus can do its job.