What is the best antivirus and firewall software?

With the proliferation of malware, viruses, and hacking attempts, having a robust antivirus and firewall suite is more important than ever for protecting your devices and personal information. But with so many options on the market, how do you determine which software provides the best protection? We’ve analyzed the top antivirus and firewall tools to help you find the right solution for your needs.

Quick Answer: The Best Antivirus and Firewall Software

Based on our research, these are the top options to consider:

  • Bitdefender Antivirus Plus – Offers excellent malware protection and includes a firewall for an affordable price. Our top overall pick.
  • Kaspersky Internet Security – Very effective at catching viruses, trojans, and ransomware. Comes with a firewall and parental controls.
  • Norton 360 Deluxe – Long-trusted antivirus with robust firewall protections. More expensive but provides complete security suite.
  • Avast One Essential – Solid free antivirus option that covers basics like phishing and spyware protection.
  • Windows Defender – Microsoft’s built-in antivirus and firewall for Windows devices. Good for a minimum level of security.

What criteria should you consider when choosing antivirus and firewall software?

There are several key factors to evaluate when selecting an antivirus and firewall product:

  • Malware detection rate – How effective is it at identifying viruses, trojans, spyware, ransomware, and other threats?
  • Impact on system performance – Does it slow down your device or use up a lot of RAM and CPU?
  • Firewall capabilities – Does it include a network firewall and how customizable are the rules?
  • Cost – Is there a free version or does it require a paid subscription?
  • Ease of use – Is the interface intuitive and easy to navigate?
  • Extra features – Does it provide additional utilities like a password manager, parental controls, or VPN?

Below we dive deeper into the leading antivirus programs and assess how they stack up across these criteria.

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is our top overall recommendation for delivering robust antivirus protection coupled with an effective firewall. Here’s an overview of its key features:

  • Uses signature matching, machine learning, and behavior monitoring to catch 99.96% of malware
  • Very fast scanning engine has minimal impact on PC performance
  • Firewall blocks cybercriminals from accessing your device and data
  • Stops ransomware from encrypting your files
  • Protects your online privacy and prevents webcam spying
  • intuitive, easy-to-use dashboard interface

Bitdefender normally costs about $60 per year for a subscription. However, the antivirus plus version can often be found for around $25 which makes it very reasonably priced compared to competitors. It runs seamlessly in the background without slowing down your system. The malware detection rate is superb and it does an excellent job against ransomware. The firewall gives an added layer of protection by filtering inbound and outbound traffic.

Overall, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus hits the sweet spot of providing robust antivirus and firewall security without bogging down system performance or costing too much. It’s a great choice for both individuals and families.

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus Key Features

Malware detection rate 99.96%
Impact on performance Minimal
Firewall Yes
Ransomware protection Yes
Price Around $25/year

Kaspersky Internet Security

Kaspersky is well-known for its top-tier antivirus engine that catches all types of malware, viruses, trojans, worms, spyware, and more. Here are the key highlights:

  • Detected 98.9% of malware samples in recent lab tests
  • Real-time protection against ransomware
  • Prevents exploits from leveraging vulnerabilities
  • Blocks network intrusions with the firewall
  • Allows flexible customization of firewall rules
  • Comes with parental controls for family use

Kaspersky Internet Security costs around $60-70 per year depending on current discounts available. So it’s on the pricier side but you get what you pay for with the top-notch malware detection. It excels at identifying cutting-edge, emerging threats that other antivirus tools miss. The firewall is also extremely capable and network admins will appreciate the granular control over rules.

This is a great choice for security-focused users who want maximum protection. The high price tag may deter some home users though.

Kaspersky Internet Security Key Features

Malware detection rate 98.9%
Impact on performance Moderate
Firewall Yes
Ransomware protection Yes
Price Around $60-70/year

Norton 360 Deluxe

Norton 360 Deluxe provides wide-ranging antivirus and firewall protection along with additional utilities like a password manager, cloud backup, and dark web monitoring.

  • Strong antivirus catches known threats through signature matching
  • Uses behavior analysis to identify ransomware and exploits
  • Advanced firewall filters traffic and blocks cyberattacks
  • Comes with a password manager, VPN, cloud backup, and PC cleanup tools
  • Can monitor and alert you about credit fraud and data breaches
  • Intuitive web portal simplifies security management

A Norton 360 Deluxe subscription costs around $100 per year so it is one of the more expensive options. However, you get a huge breadth of security features beyond just antivirus and firewall. The bundled utilities like password manager, online backup, and dark web monitoring help justify the higher price tag.

Norton 360 is a worthwhile investment for users who want true all-in-one protection for their digital lives. But if you just need basic malware and firewall protection, it may be overkill.

Norton 360 Deluxe Key Features

Malware detection rate Very good
Impact on performance Moderate
Firewall Yes
Ransomware protection Yes
Price Around $100/year

Avast One Essential

If you’re looking for a free antivirus option, Avast Free Antivirus provides capable protection against common threats. Key details:

  • Real-time scanning catches viruses, malware, spyware, and ransomware
  • Blocks phishing sites trying to steal usernames and passwords
  • Software updater automatically patches vulnerable programs
  • No included firewall, but works fine with Windows Firewall
  • Some extra utilities require upgrading to paid version
  • Lightweight impact on system resources

Since it’s free, Avast One Essential understandably has some limitations in its feature set. The core antivirus scanner, though, is on par with paid competitors and will protect you against widespread threats. But more sophisticated users may want to upgrade to Avast One Prime for $70/year to get extras like a firewall and encrypted online connection.

For basic antivirus requirements, Avast One Essential is a capable free solution. But you miss out on a firewall and other bonus tools.

Avast One Essential Key Features

Malware detection rate Good
Impact on performance Minimal
Firewall No
Ransomware protection Yes
Price Free

Windows Defender

Microsoft’s built-in Windows Defender provides a free baseline of antivirus and firewall security for Windows PCs. Here’s an overview:

  • Automatically enabled by default on Windows devices
  • Uses signature matching to detect malware threats
  • Heuristic monitoring looks for suspicious behaviors
  • Windows Firewall controls network traffic in/out
  • No advanced options like ransomware protection
  • Decent protection but misses some threats

Since Defender comes pre-installed, it conveniently provides fundamental antivirus and firewall functions at no extra cost. It leverages Microsoft’s considerable resources to regularly update malware definitions. But it lacks deeper defenses like behavioral analysis or ransomware blocking.

Overall, Windows Defender is suitable for security-conscious users who don’t engage in high-risk activities. But anyone who frequently downloads files or visits dubious sites may want a more robust third-party antivirus program with stronger protections.

Windows Defender Key Features

Malware detection rate Average
Impact on performance Minimal
Firewall Yes
Ransomware protection No
Price Free

Which antivirus and firewall software is best for you?

Choosing your ideal antivirus and firewall protection involves balancing factors like effectiveness, cost, ease of use, and other included features. Here are some recommendations based on common user needs:

  • For affordable but robust protection – Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
  • For maximum security at a premium price – Kaspersky Internet Security
  • For an all-in-one solution with extras – Norton 360 Deluxe
  • For free essential antivirus – Avast One Essential
  • For minimum baseline security – Windows Defender

Take inventory of your budget, the types of digital hazards you face, and convenience factors like how much system impact is tolerable. This will steer you towards the best antivirus and firewall software for your situation.

Key factors for evaluating antivirus and firewall tools

Let’s recap the main criteria to examine when assessing antivirus and firewall programs:

Malware detection rate

This benchmark shows how successful the software is at identifying malware from its library of threat signatures and behaviors. Top antivirus engines like Bitdefender and Kaspersky achieve rates above 99% in testing. Free tools like Windows Defender range between 80-90%.

Impact on system performance

Antivirus software requires computing resources to actively scan files and monitor system activity. Cheaper products tend to have less impact on CPU and memory. But the tradeoff is sometimes lower detection rates.

Firewall capabilities

A firewall creates a barrier between your device and the outside network. This blocks unauthorized connections and cyberattacks. Paid antivirus suites typically include a firewall component with customizable rules.


Prices range from free (Windows Defender, Avast) up to around $100/year (Norton). In general, free antivirus options provide decent but basic protection while paid suites offer stronger defenses, more features, and superior tech support.

Ease of use

Antivirus and firewall settings can sometimes overwhelm novice users. Choose a product like Bitdefender with an intuitive interface and minimal configuration requirements.

Extra features

Higher-end paid antivirus suites bundle in bonus utilities like password managers, online file backup, PC optimization tools, and identity theft protection. This boosts value but not everyone needs the extras.


Protecting your devices and personal data from cyberthreats requires reliable antivirus and firewall software. The top programs leverage signatures, heuristics, behavior analysis, and machine learning to catch viruses, malware, ransomware, phishing scams, and network intrusion attempts. Our recommendations balance strong protection with affordable pricing and ease of use.

For most home users, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus hits the sweet spot with its near-perfect malware detection and minimal impact on system performance. Kaspersky Internet Security provides maximum security for valuable data. And Windows Defender supplies baseline protection for free. Compare your needs against the criteria outlined to determine the best antivirus and firewall solution for your situation.