You say you’ve installed antivirus protection on all your devices? Hooray! That’s a very good start, but you may want to consider leveling up. Data on your computers is protected behind the antivirus program’s defenses, but once that data leaves your computer those defenses lose their power. A VPN protects that data in transit, and has other virtues as well. If you have kids, you may want a parental control system. Backup is the ultimate security for your data. Upgrading to a full-on security suite gets you a panoply of protection a simple antivirus can’t match.
Some security companies just add the most essential components to create a suite, while others rope in a huge variety of security elements. Just which of these security juggernauts should you choose? We’ve reviewed nearly 40 different suites and pulled together the best, from simple entry-level suites to cross-platform multi-device lollapaloozas. We're sharing the top suites we've tested here, along with what makes them unique and how they can work for you.
This article briefly mentions the many tests we use to evaluate security suites and determine which are the best. If you want more details on the torture tests we perform on every product we review, please read the full explanation of how we test security software.
The Best Security Suite Deals This Week*
- Bitdefender Total Security (Opens in a new window) — $35.99 for 5-Devices on 1-Year Plan (List Price $94.99)
- Norton 360 Deluxe (Opens in a new window) — $49.99 for 5-Devices on 1-Year Plan (List Price $109.99)
- Bitdefender Internet Security (Opens in a new window) — $32.99 for 3-Devices on 1-Year Plan (List Price $84.99)
- McAfee (Opens in a new window) — $89.99 for Unlimited Devices on 1-Year Advanced Plan (List Price $199.99)
- Webroot Security Complete (Opens in a new window) — $36 for 5-Devices on 1-Year Plan (List Price $79.99)
*Deals are selected by our commerce team
Norton 360 Deluxe
Best for Full-Featured VPN
Why We Picked It
When you buy a security suite, there’s an implied promise it will keep you safe. Norton 360 Deluxe makes that promise explicit. As long as you choose auto-renewal, you’ve got a guarantee Norton support will handle any malware that gets past the app’s protection. And that’s some powerful protection—all four independent labs we follow routinely give Norton perfect to near-perfect scores. It also aces our hands-on tests.
This suite includes a robust, intelligent firewall, a basic password manager, and a local spam filter, as well as a dark web monitoring system to warn if your private data is exposed. As a standalone, the parental control system is an Editors’ Choice. Your subscription lets you protect up to five devices running Windows, macOS, Android, or iOS. It also gets you five full licenses for Norton’s VPN. That’s a rarity; many other suites make you pay extra to remove limits from their included VPN components. And the 50GB of online storage for your backups is a nice bonus.
Some users were put off by the inclusion of Norton Crypto, an Ethereum-mining component managed by Norton. That's over due to Ethereum's merger and move away from GPU-based mining. Users can keep or cash out any cryptocurrency they've already accumulated, but Norton-backed mining is over.
Who It's For
Norton security products have been around for decades, and the brand has plenty of fans. This is a good choice for anyone who wants a time-tested suite that covers all the bases, but it's especially good for those who wisely opt to protect their connections with a VPN.
- VPN with no bandwidth limits
- Excellent protection against dangerous and fraudulent websites
- Streamlined mobile apps
- Hosted online storage for backups
- Powerful, self-sufficient firewall
- Virus protection promise
- Parental control unavailable on macOS
- Online backup strictly for Windows
Bitdefender Internet Security
Best for a Wealth of Bonus Features
Why We Picked It
Bitdefender’s standalone antivirus packs in more features than some self-proclaimed suites, and Bitdefender Internet Security piles on even more. The core antivirus technology consistently earns perfect and near-perfect scores from independent testing labs, and its ransomware-specific protection aced our tests. Other key features include a no-hassle firewall, a simple spam filter, password management, file shredding, a full-powered parental control system, and more. And it wraps all this protection in an AutoPilot system that lets you sit back and enjoy your protection, with minimal interaction.
Bitdefender does include a VPN, but with limits. You can’t pick and choose among available servers, and you can only use 200MB of bandwidth per day. That’s enough to try out the VPN protection, but if you plan to make serious use of the VPN you’ll have to pay for an upgrade.
Who It's For
Maybe you’re torn between two choices. On the one hand, you want a security suite that packs in every important security component. On the other hand, you don’t want those components clamoring for your attention when you’re working, gaming, or relaxing with a video. Is that you? If so, then Bitdefender Internet Security, with its multitude of components reined in by AutoPilot, is just what you need.
- Perfect scores in independent antivirus lab tests
- Effective ransomware protection
- VPN included
- Full-featured parental control
- Many bonus features
- Parental content filter less effective in Android, macOS
- VPN requires separate subscription to remove limits
- Parental control for iOS limited
Bitdefender Total Security
Best for Unusual Bonus Features
Why We Picked It
You almost certainly have security protection for your PCs, but have you protected your other devices? Bitdefender Total Security pours all the excellent, well-behaved features of Bitdefender Internet Security into your Windows boxes, and goes on to offer protection for your macOS, Android, and iOS devices. It also kicks its Windows game up a notch with system optimization and an unusual anti-theft component.
You manage your installations (or launch new ones) from the handy Bitdefender Central online console. Installing protection on a Mac you get Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac, an Editors’ Choice in its own realm, as well as the same limited VPN you see in Windows. The password manager and parental control features also support macOS.
Installed on Android, Total Protection brings a comprehensive collection of security features. It scans for malware on demand and also scans every new application. If you lose your phone, you can log in to Bitdefender Central and locate, lock, or wipe it. Scam Alert flags suspicious text messages, Web Protection fends off malicious and fraudulent web pages, App Lock adds a second PIN for your most sensitive apps, and Account Privacy checks known data breaches to see if your email was involved. This is an impressive Android app.
The same Apple-enforced strictures that make writing iOS malware difficult also interfere with creating security software for iOS. As with all cross-platform suites, Bitdefender’s iOS protection is relatively limited. You do get Account Privacy and the same limited VPN as on other platforms. However, there’s no antivirus component, nor does anti-theft make an appearance. Web Protection is limited. On the plus side, as long as you don’t enable Web Protection, your iOS installation doesn’t use up one of your licenses.
Who It's For
Bitdefender Total Security protects your Windows devices just as Bitdefender Internet Security does, which should make anyone happy. But Windows boxes are only part of the picture. Total Security adds award-winning protection for your Macs, a comprehensive suite for your Android devices, and even a modicum of security for iOS. If you need to secure and manage a household full of disparate devices, this one’s for you.
- Award-winning antivirus
- Protects Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices
- Online management and remote control
- Many bonus features, including VPN and ransomware protection
- Full VPN access requires separate subscription
- Parental content filter needs work on non-Windows platforms
- Support for iOS is limited
Norton 360 With LifeLock Select
Best for Privacy Protection
Why We Picked It
Norton’s security software can protect your devices and your local data, but it can’t reach out into the real world and protect your identity. That’s why you want Norton 360 with LifeLock Select. This suite starts with everything we like about Norton 360 Deluxe and adds identity monitoring and identity theft remediation supplied by identity pioneer (and Norton property) LifeLock.
Once you’ve set up LifeLock, Norton monitors the dark web for any sign that your identity has been compromised. It tracks possible misuse of your SSN, unexpected new accounts in your name, and anomalous financial transactions. If you lose your wallet (or have it stolen) Norton can help deal with the fallout. You get periodic credit reports, along with help freezing your credit if necessary. And if the worst happens and your identity is stolen, Norton will spend up to a million dollars on remediating the theft.
This suite costs about $45 more than Norton 360 Deluxe alone, and you still get just five security suite and five VPN licenses, though storage for your backups rises to 100GB. At the Advantage level, which costs $100 more per year, you get ten of each license type and 250GB of storage, along with enhancements to monitoring and larger payouts for losses. Spend another $100 and you reach Ultimate Plus, which maxes out monitoring options and payouts and lets you install security suite and VPN protection on every device in your household.
Who It's For
Are you horrified to think that some malefactor could masquerade as you, open accounts in your name, spend your money, even get arrested while posing as you? Yes, identity theft can be a nightmare. Norton 360 with LifeLock Select protects your devices against malware and such, and also functions as an early warning system so you can nip identity theft in the bud. What a combination!
- LifeLock identity theft mitigation
- Full VPN with no bandwidth limits
- Excellent security protection
- Supports Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS
- Identity theft remediation promise
- Security protection limited on iOS devices
- No parental control or backup for macOS
- Cannot actually prevent identity theft
Best for Multi-Device Households
Why We Picked It
You installed security on your PC, and on your Mac, and your mobile devices. But what about your partner’s devices, and all those electronic devices that so enrapture your children? You could be looking at quite an expense to get them all secured. Unless, that is, you turn to McAfee+. This generous suite lets you protect every device in your household, whether it runs Windows, macOS, Android, or iOS. It even supports Chromebooks and ARM-based laptops. That protection includes use of McAfee’s VPN with no limits on bandwidth or server choices, as well as numerous security bonus features. Better still, the antivirus component aces our hands-on protection tests.
McAfee+ comes in three tiers, Premium, Advanced, and Ultimate. You get basic Dark Web monitoring of personal information at all three levels. The Advanced and Ultimate levels include full-scale identity theft monitoring and remediation, roughly parallel to Norton’s LifeLock. It doesn’t monitor quite as many different aspects of your identity, but it hits the important ones. And, like LifeLock, it comes with a guarantee. If you suffer identity theft, McAfee will spend up to a million dollars helping you to a full recovery.
Who It's For
If you live in a Manhattan rent-controlled apartment with your cat, your Mac, and your iPhone, this isn’t the suite for you. But if you have a house full of modern digitally active people, it can be a godsend. More than 10 devices? More than 20? Relax, they’re all covered!
- Identity protection and remediation with million-dollar guarantee
- Protects all devices in your household
- Credit scores, reports, and monitoring
- Excellent antivirus lab test scores
- No-limits VPN
- Family plan protects two adults, four children
- Missed one hand-modified real-world ransomware attack
- Spam filtering no longer present
- Several features are at end of life
- Children's identity features limited in Family Plan
Trend Micro Maximum Security
Best for Cross-Platform Users
Why We Picked It
What kind of security do you want for your devices? Maximum security, naturally! Trend Micro Maximum Security has you covered, with protection for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices. All four of the antivirus testing labs we follow consider the Trend Micro antivirus engine important enough to merit examination, though it doesn’t always get the best scores. It did score very well in our hands-on tests defending against malware-hosting websites and phishing frauds.
On Windows, Trend Micro presents a wide array of features, among them: multi-layered ransomware protection; protection for online transactions; a PC Health Checkup system; a scanner for privacy lapses in social media; an advanced encryption system for your sensitive documents; and a file shredder to securely delete originals after encryption. A few of its features aren’t quite as stellar. The parental control system is limited, password management handles just the basic, and spam filtering works only with Outlook. Even so, the collection of security features is impressive.
In cross-platform suites, it’s not uncommon for Windows to get all the goodies, leaving Macs with just a basic antivirus. Not so with Trend Micro. The macOS product gets top scores from the testing labs. It scans for malware on access, on demand, and on schedule, and also scans any removable drives you mount. Other features include ransomware protection, detection of web-based threats, preventing misuse of the camera and mic, parental control, and the same social network scan as on Windows. Android users likewise get a feature-complete security suite, and it offers more protection than most on iOS devices.
Who It's For
On Windows, Trend Micro Maximum Security is feature-rich, but has a few rough edges. But on macOS, Android, and iOS, it outperforms the competition. It’s a great choice if you need to protect across multiple platforms, and even greater if Windows isn’t your primary platform.
- Excellent scores in our phishing and malicious download tests
- Comprehensive Android security
- Protection for macOS beyond the basics
- Unusually feature-rich iOS protection
- Many useful security features
- Lab scores from perfect to dismal
- Poor score in hands-on malware protection test
- Parental control weak
Best for Excellent Lab Scores
Why We Picked It
Instead of the typical geometric shapes, Avast One decorates its display with color splotches, doodles, and happy people. If you like top-notch lab scores, you’ll be happy too. The labs all keep an eye on Avast, and it takes perfect scores in almost all of them. It rates near the top in our hands-on tests, too, and its full scan is faster than most. If malware interferes with Windows itself, Avast’s boot-time scan takes care of it, and it balks ransomware by banning unauthorized file changes.
Antivirus protects your data locally, while a VPN protects it in transit. Avast’s VPN isn’t the most feature-rich, but you can use it with no limits. Among other unusual security features, Avast can: protect sensitive documents from others including other accounts on the same PC; prevent use of the webcam by untrusted programs; and check to see if any of your passwords got exposed in a breach. You also get a set of performance enhancement features liberated from the limits imposed in Avast’s free edition.
Two independent labs verify that Avast offers excellent protection for your Macs. Many features carry over from Windows, among them ransomware protection, performance enhancements, web-level protection against dangerous sites, and the VPN. And Mac users get an anti-tracker feature that doesn’t appear in Windows. It’s not as comprehensive on Android, though, and offers even less on iOS.
Who It's For
Avast is a household name around the world, with millions relying on its free antivirus. If you’re an Avast aficionado looking to kick your security game up a notch, this suite is the way to go.
- Excellent antivirus lab scores
- No bandwidth or server limits for VPN
- Protection for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS
- Enhanced privacy and performance features
- Unusual poor score in malicious URL blocking test
- Protection limited on Android, more so on iOS
- Most features available in free edition
- Increased (though small) impact on performance
Best for Forward-Looking Users
Why We Picked It
An Avira Prime subscription gets you every security tool from Avira, but that’s not all. Any time Avira comes up with a new security product, you get that too. Many of these are available separately in both free and Pro editions—Avira Prime users naturally get the Pro editions. And it supports Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
All the independent labs I follow include Avira, and it aces most (but not all) of their tests. In my own hands-on tests, though, it came up a bit short. On the plus side, you can use its VPN freely, with no limits on bandwidth or server choices. System Speedup Pro With HyperBoost aims to fine-tune performance, Software Updater Pro automatically finds and applies needed security patches, and Password Manager Pro adds an advanced security report that’s not available in the free edition.
Other than removing VPN limits, Avira's Pro-level macOS edition doesn’t add a lot beyond what you can get for free. Android users wind up installing three apps: Antivirus Security Pro, Phantom VPN Pro, and Password Manager Pro. On an iOS device, Avira’s scan covers Protection, Privacy, and Performance, but not malware. The password manager and VPN are among the other apps that have an iOS presence.
Who It's For
When Avira Prime is your suite, you don’t have to fear missing out on the latest and greatest features. Whatever marvel Avira’s developers and wizards come up with, it’s yours. Avira is the no-FOMO choice.
- Includes Pro editions of all current and future Avira tools
- Protection for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices
- No-limits VPN
- Mostly excellent scores from antivirus testing labs
- Lacks many expected suite features
- Poor score in malware-hosting URL test
- Dark Web Monitoring did not work in testing
- Browser-independent Web Protection not effective
ESET Internet Security
Best for Techies
Why We Picked It
That blue-eyed cyborg peering at you from the main window makes it clear that ESET Internet Security leans toward high technology. For example, it offers a Device Control system that gives you granular control over what device types and devices can connect to your PC. You could block USB drives in general, but allow use of those you’ve personally vetted. This suite comes with a big set of security tools, some that are fine for all users and some that require serious tech expertise.
An impressive Network Inspector lets you see all the devices connected to your network, with an option to get notified when new devices connect. It also checks your devices for security problems such as ports open that shouldn’t be. Avast once boasted a similar feature, but no longer does so. Other ESET features include firewall, spam filter, anti-theft for laptops, webcam security, banking protection, and a limited parental control system.
As for the core antivirus protection, ESET slips a bit. Its test scores, from just two labs, range from average to excellent, but it tanked our hands on malware protection test. On the positive side, it scored well when we tested its protection against malicious and fraudulent websites. ESET’s Android edition provides a comprehensive set of security features, and the labs give it top marks. As for protecting your Macs, ESET offers antivirus, firewall, parental control, and a simplified device control. However, the labs no longer put it to the test, and it tanked one of our hands-on tests.
Who It's For
Quite a few features in the ESET Internet Security suite require an uncommon level of technical expertise. If you’re that uncommon person whose expertise rises to the necessary level, this suite is for you. You’ll use the Network Inspector to gain full insight into your devices, take system status snapshots with SysInspector, and build a perfect set of device control rules. Not you? Maybe look elsewhere.
- Very good antivirus lab scores
- Full-featured Android protection
- No impact in performance tests
- Useful home network security scanner
- Anti-theft software for laptops
- Very limited parental control
- Poor score in hands-on malware protection test
- Unusually annoying firewall pop-ups
- Pro edition adds little for macOS
Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Complete
Best for Advanced Users
Why We Picked It
I check free space before and after each security suite installation, to see how much space is needed. Results are typically in the 1GB to 2GB range. Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Complete, on the other hand, comes in at about 21MB—less if you don’t install the bundled LastPass Premium. And its antivirus scan takes about five minutes, where the average runs to over an hour. It definitely gets the tiny-and-speedy prize.
Webroot does wipe out known bad programs on sight, but its primary detection mode is behavioral. For any unknown program, Webroot monitors behaviors and journals all changes to the system. Irreversible actions like transmitting data from the system are forbidden to unknowns. Sooner or later, Webroot’s online HQ comes up with a verdict. If it’s guilty, Webroot terminates the program and rolls back every single change. It can even roll back ransomware. This technique is a bad fit for most organized testing systems, which assume that an antivirus will take action immediately or not at all, so Webroot doesn’t have any current lab test scores. In our own hands-on tests, though, it gets excellent scores. You won’t find parental control in this suite, nor spam filtering, and Android security has dwindled from its foreign glory.
Webroot offers 25GB of hosted storage along with a system to back up or sync your files. Its firewall focuses on program control, leaving Windows Firewall to do what it does best. You get some simple tuneup tools, plus a collection of features meant to be used by experts or (more likely) tech support.
Who It's For
Is your dog a teacup poodle? Do you build miniature models of your favorite cities? Or do you just like things that do their jobs quickly? Webroot is the smallest security solution around, and among the fastest.
- Excellent antivirus protection
- 25GB hosted storage to back up and sync files
- Third-party password manager
- Light on system resources
- Fast scan
- Backup no longer available for macOS or Android
- Android support seriously diminished
- Firewall not working during testing
- Secure deletion tool does no data overwriting at default level
Basic vs. Advanced Security Suites
Most security companies offer at least three levels of security products, a standalone antivirus utility, an entry-level security suite, and an advanced suite with additional features. Most entry-level suites include antivirus, firewall, antispam, and parental control. The advanced "mega-suite" typically adds a backup component and some form of system tune-up utility, and some also add password management, a VPN, or other security extras.
When a new product line comes out, we start by reviewing the antivirus. In our review of the entry-level suite, we summarize results from the antivirus review and dig deeper into the suite-specific features. And for a mega-suite review, we focus on the advanced features, referring to the entry-level suite review for features shared by both. Your choice of a basic or advanced security suite depends entirely on what features matter to you, and what you're willing to pay for them.
The suites we've rounded up here aim to protect consumers. You can use any of them in a small business, but as your company grows you may need to switch to a SaaS endpoint protection system. This type of service lets an administrator monitor and manage security for all the company's computers.
Kaspersky offers products at three levels—Kaspersky Standard, Kaspersky Plus, and Kaspersky Premium—all of them rated four stars or better in our reviews. In the past, Kaspersky has been very prominent in this roundup. The products remain highly effective, with excellent scores from the independent testing labs. So where's Kaspersky?
For years, Kaspersky has faced accusations and censure based on its Russian origins, though none of the accusations have come backed by hard evidence of malicious behavior. We at PCMag focused on the capabilities of the products, not on the brouhaha around the company. However, the current war in Ukraine has raised the stakes. Governments and third parties are cutting ties with Kaspersky. The FCC labeled Kaspersky a national security risk.
After consideration, we can no longer recommend you purchase Kaspersky security products. We've left the reviews in place, with a warning, since they provide useful information. But at least for now, we're removing Kaspersky products from our "Best for" lists.
Is Windows Defender Good Enough?
Over the years, the Windows Defender program built into Windows 10 has evolved into Microsoft Windows Defender Security Center. That imposing name reflects the fact that in addition to antivirus protection it manages Windows Firewall and other Windows security features. It doesn't truly qualify as a suite; it's just an antivirus that manages other Windows components. Independent antivirus test scores for Windows Defender have literally come in below zero in the past, but its scores have been steadily improving. You can still get better overall protection from the best third-party free antivirus utilities, but Windows Defender is looking better all the time. Even so, it can't replace a full-scale security suite.
Fighting Malware, Adware, and Spyware
Malware protection is the heart of a security suite; without an antivirus component, there's no suite. Naturally you want a suite whose antivirus is effective. When evaluating an antivirus, we look for high marks from the independent antivirus testing labs. The fact that the labs consider a product important enough to test is a vote of confidence. The very best antivirus products get high ratings from many labs.
We also perform our own hands-on testing. For one test we use a relatively static set of malware samples that's replaced once per year. We note how the antivirus reacts when we try to launch those samples and score it on how well it protects the test system. For another, we try to download very new malicious files from URLs no more than a few days old. Lab test results, our own test results, and other aspects like ease of use go into our antivirus rating.
What Do You Want in a Firewall?
A typical personal firewall offers protection in two main areas. On the one hand, it monitors all network traffic to prevent inappropriate access from outside the network. On the other, it keeps a watchful eye on running applications to make sure they don't misuse your network connection. The built-in Windows Firewall handles monitoring traffic but doesn't include program control. A few security suites skip the firewall component, figuring Windows Firewall already does the most essential firewall tasks.
The last thing you want is a firewall that bombards you with incomprehensible queries about online activity. Should I let KiberViyna.exe connect with IP address 188.8.131.52 on port 8080? Incoming or outgoing? Allow or Block? Once, or always? Plastic or paper? Modern firewalls cut down on these queries by automatically configuring permissions for known programs. The very best also handle unknown programs by monitoring them closely for signs of improper network activity and other suspicious behaviors.
Spam Filtering Is Mostly Built In
These days, most of us hardly ever see spam messages in our inboxes because our email providers filter them out. If you don't get this service from your provider, it can be hard to even find your valid mail amid all the offers of male enhancements and magic COVID-19 cures.
If your provider doesn't squelch spam, it's smart to choose a suite with spam filtering built in. Look for one that integrates with your email client. Client integration lets it divert spam into its own folder, and sometimes lets you train the spam filter by flagging any spam messages that get through or, worse, valid messages that wound up in the spam pile.
Stop Phishing and Protect Your Privacy
The best antivirus in the world can't help you if a fraudulent website tricks you into giving away your security credentials. Phishing sites masquerade as bank sites, auction sites, even online gaming sites. When you enter your username and password, though, your account is instantly compromised. Some clever frauds will even pass along your credentials to the real site, to avoid raising suspicions. You can learn to avoid phishing scams, but it's important to have backup from your security suite for those times when you're not as alert. We test phishing protection using real-world fraudulent sites scraped from the internet.
Steering users away from phishing sites helps protect privacy, but that's not the only way suites can keep your private information out of the wrong hands. Some offer specific protection for user-defined sensitive data, credit cards, bank accounts, that sort of thing. Any attempt to transmit sensitive data from your computer sets of an alarm. Some contract with third-party companies to offer credit protection. Other spyware protection techniques include foiling keyloggers, preventing misuse of your webcam, and supplying a hardened browser that lets you do online banking in an environment isolated from other processes.
What About Parental Control?
We don't penalize a suite for omitting parental control. Not everyone has kids, and not every parent feels comfortable about controlling and monitoring their children's computer use. However, if parental control is present, it has to work properly.
Blocking inappropriate websites and controlling how much time the child spends on the Internet (or on the computer) are the core components of a parental control system. Some suites add advanced features like instant message monitoring, limiting games based on ESRB ratings, and tracking the child's location. Others can't even manage the basics successfully.
VPNs Protect Your Communications
Local antivirus and security suites protect your data and documents, but their protection doesn't extend to your internet communications. A virtual private network, or VPN, secures your internet traffic and can also serve to hide your actual IP address or location from snoops. Most VPN companies have just the one product, but some security suite companies have ventured into the VPN realm.
Typically, though, you don't get full VPN protection as part of your suite. Some install a free edition, or a free trial. Others offer a link that sends you online to subscribe. Norton 360, McAfee+, and Panda Dome Premium are rare exceptions, both offering a VPN without such limits.
Will a Security Suite Slow Down My PC?
One big reason to use a security suite rather than a collection of individual utilities is that the integrated suite can do its tasks using fewer processes and a smaller chunk of your system's resources. Or at least, that's what ought to happen. Few modern suites have an appreciable effect on performance.
For a hands-on measure of just what effect installing a suite has, we time three common system actions with and without the suite installed, averaging many runs of each test. One test measures system boot time, another moves and copies a large collection of files between drives, and a third zips and unzips that same file collection repeatedly. Suites with the very lightest touch have no measurable effect on the time required.
Do I Need Backup and Tune-Up Utilities
In a sense, having a backup of all your files is the ultimate security. Even if stray debris from an uncontrolled Chinese rocket destroys your computer, you can still restore from backup. Some companies reserve backup for their mega-suite offering, while others include it in the entry-level suite. Read our reviews carefully, as backup capabilities vary wildly. At the low end, some companies give you nothing you couldn't get for free from IDrive or another online backup service. At the high end you might get 25GB, 50GB, or even more online storage hosted by the company, along with the separate ability to make local backups.
Tuning up your system performance has no direct connection with security, unless it serves to counteract the security suite's performance drag. However, tune-up components often include privacy-related features such as clearing traces of browsing history, wiping out temporary files, and deleting lists of recently used documents. For a dedicated system-cleaning app, read our roundup of the Best Tune-Up Utilities.
What Can I Do About Identity Theft?
No software solution can guarantee malefactors won't capture and misuse your personal information. What they can do is alert you when they find evidence your data has been compromised, so you can head off full-scale identity theft. This kind of dark web monitoring is becoming more common.
If the worst happens and your identity is thoroughly stolen, you can get help. McAfee+ includes identity theft remediation at its two higher pricing tiers, and Norton offers suites that include LifeLock identity protection. The top-level Bitdefender Ultimate enhances Bitdefender's already-impressive security suite with identity theft remediation, as well as a no-limits VPN. All three will assign a caseworker to help you recover, and spend what it takes to remediate the problem, typically up to a million dollars.
Do Suites Provide Mac, Android, and iOS Security?
Windows still dominates the desktop, but many households include Macs as well. Cross-platform multi-device suites give you once source of protection for all your devices. Typically you don't get as many features on macOS. In fact, most companies just offer a Mac antivirus, not a full suite. Do take advantage of the option to protect your Macs. They're not immune to malware.
Android devices are ubiquitous, and the Android platform isn't locked down the way iOS is. Even if you stay away from third-party app stores and refrain from jailbreaking your device, you can still get hit with Trojans, ransomware, and other kinds of Android malware. Smart users protect their devices with an Android antivirus. All the best Android antivirus utilities include antitheft features such as the ability to locate, lock, or wipe a lost or stolen device. Some include bonus features like blocking unwanted calls or warning when you connect to an insecure Wi-Fi network.
As for iPhones and other iOS devices, Apple's built-in security makes life tough both for malware coders and antivirus writers. Many cross-platform suites simply skip iOS; those that don't typically offer a seriously stripped-down experience. Given the platform's intrinsic security, it rarely makes sense to expend one of your licenses installing protection on an iPhone.
What Else Isn't Here?
We've evaluated nearly 40 security suites, including entry-level suites, feature-packed mega-suites, and suites that extend protection across multiple different platforms. The products listed in this article have all received at least 3.5 stars.
In some cases, multiple products from the same company appear in the chart. For example, Bitdefender Internet Security is an Editors' Choice winner for entry-level suites, and Bitdefender Total Security earned the same honor as a security mega-suite. Norton also claimed two entries with two products earning four stars or better.
What's the Best Internet Security Suite?
This article identifies nearly a dozen security suites we recommend, including multi-device suites, mega-suites, and entry-level suites. If you're looking for a suite that covers the basics without getting in the way, Bitdefender Internet Security is our Editors' Choice winner. In the mega-suite range, the Editors' Choice award goes to Bitdefender Total Security, with more features than you can imagine.
Norton 360 Deluxe is our Editors' Choice product for cross-platform multi-device security suite. If you're looking to combine powerful device-level protection with identity theft remediation, our Editors' Choice pick is Norton 360 With LifeLock. With a powerful, integrated suite protecting your devices, you can stay safe and calm without worrying about balancing security against performance.