The top performers in our review are Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, the Gold Award winner Kaspersky Anti-Virus, the Silver Award winner; and Norton Security Standard, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the top antivirus software solutions.

This comparison is specific to antivirus solutions that were tested using the Windows 10 operating system. However, we have tested and evaluated solutions for Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac. We also have tested versions specifically designed as small business solutions.

The Best Antivirus Software of 2017

Antivirus software is a generic term for solutions that detect and block internet programs that threaten to infest and wreak havoc on your computer These threats come in through email, program downloads, popular websites and removable files such as USB flash drives. Once settled into your system, computer viruses change settings, prohibit files and programs from opening, and poke holes in your system for hackers to get in to collect your personal data.

Some websites use cookies, which collect personal data from your computer when you visit a site and use it for spam email and adware, programs responsible for annoying pop-up ads. These aren’t necessarily a threat to your computer, but they do cause it to run slower. The best virus protection software is designed to evolve with the changes of internet threats and run seamlessly on your computer without causing it to lag, so you don’t know it is working while you are browsing, chatting, gaming or watching movies online.

Most of the internet threats today are more accurately defined as malware, because of the way they infest and attack your computer, files and programs, though “virus” has stuck as the most common umbrella term. As part of our research on computer virus protection, we identified some of the most common and malicious threats to your PC that antivirus protection helps block from your computer. For more in-depth information about the many internet threats, check out our articles on antivirus software.

One of the current and fastest-growing threats is ransomware. Ransomware infects your computer and locks it, restricting access to your computer system, preventing you from surfing the internet, accessing the hard drive or opening files. The creators then demand payment that ranges from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars in order to remove the threat. Some ransomware looks legitimate. For example, some forms of it tell you that your user license for a particular application has expired and you need to repurchase the license. Unfortunately, once payment is made, often the creators skip out and leave the threat intact. Some of the trickiest ransomware creators have acquired millions of dollars from unsuspecting users. There are only a few antivirus programs that have jumped in to tackle this area of internet security. There are only five solutions in our antivirus software review that specifically target ransomware. In addition to our top pick, McAfee and Trend Micro are among those that offer it.

Antivirus software is designed to combat these and many other threats by preventing the programs from entering your system and quarantining and removing any malware that does get through. The best way to protect yourself from PC viruses is to update your computer system when prompted and to purchase third-party antivirus software that protects your computer.