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The Best Antivirus Protection for 2021

 The Best Antivirus Protection for 2021

.Wildfires are blazing through the western US, forcing some families to evacuate in the trusty four-wheel drive packed with people, pets, essential documents, and PCs. You can’t miss the flames and smoke of a fire like that, and you can take action to stay safe. But would you notice ransomware blazing through your documents, turning them to encrypted gibberish? You, probably not. But if you’ve got antivirus protection in place, it should notice and prevent that sort of data disaster. Trojans that tap your bank accounts, spyware that steals your data, bots that enlist your computer in a zombie army—a proper antivirus aims to protect against all kinds of malware. If you don’t have antivirus protection, get it now. If you do, check our reviews anyway; you may decide to switch. We’ve evaluates more than 40 antivirus utilities, hitting them with real-world malware attacks and exercising all their features.

Malware, Spyware, and Adware Protection
We call it antivirus, but in truth it's unlikely you'll get hit with an actual computer virus. Malware these days is about making money, and there's no easy way to cash in on spreading a virus. Ransomware and data-stealing Trojans are much more common, as are bots that let the bot-herder rent out your computer for nefarious purposes. Modern antivirus utilities handle Trojans, rootkits, spyware, adware, ransomware, and more. As noted, PCMag has reviewed more than 40 different commercial antivirus utilities, and that's not even counting the many free antivirus tools. Out of that extensive field we've named four Editors' Choice products, honored others with a four-star rating, and bestowed 3.5 stars on several more. If you have malware, one of the products listed in this article should take care of the problem.

These commercial products offer protection beyond the antivirus built into Windows 10; the best free antivirus utilities also offer more than Windows does. However, Microsoft Windows Defender Security Center is looking better and better lately, with some very good scores from independent testing labs. The combination of good lab scores and a great score in our hands-on malware protection test was enough to bring it up to 3.5 stars. It doesn't appear in this roundup of commercial antivirus products, naturally.

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Listen to the Antivirus Testing Labs
We take the results reported by independent antivirus testing labs very seriously. The simple fact that a company's product shows up in the results is a vote of confidence, of sorts. It means the lab considered the product significant, and the company felt the cost of testing was worthwhile. Of course, high scores in the tests are also important.

We follow four labs that regularly release detailed reports: SE Labs, AV-Test Institute, MRG-Effitas, and AV-Comparatives. We've devised a system for aggregating their results to yield a rating from 0 to 10.

We Test Malware, Spyware, and Adware Defenses
We also subject every product to our own hands-on test of malware protection, in part to get a feeling for how the product works. Depending on how thoroughly the product prevents malware installation, it can earn up to 10 points for malware protection.

Our malware protection test necessarily uses the same set of samples for months. To check a product's handling of brand-new malware, we test each product using a large collection of extremely new malware-hosting URLs supplied by MRG-Effitas, noting what percentage of them it blocked. Products get equal credit for preventing all access to the malicious URL and for wiping out the malware during download.

Some products earn stellar ratings from the independent labs, yet don't fare as well in our hands-on tests. In such cases, we defer to the labs, as they bring significantly greater resources to their testing. Want to know more? You can dig in for a detailed description of how we test security software.

Multilayered Malware Protection

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