Windows Defender vs. Other Antivirus Software Best for [{{current_year}}]

Windows Defender vs. Other Antivirus Software Best for [{{current_year}}]

While Windows Defender has made some big improvements over the years, it’s still not good enough to keep you fully protected.


Because it doesn’t get updated often, doesn’t provide protection against advanced malware, and has no accountability — you can’t complain to Microsoft if your PC gets hacked.

Relying on Windows Defender as your only antivirus leaves your computer vulnerable and all of your data exposed.

If you want to keep your devices and online accounts as secure as possible, you’ll need to invest in a high-quality antivirus suite. And while there are dozens of antiviruses to choose from, some of them are even worse than Windows Defender!

That’s why I’m here. I will help you find the perfect antivirus in just a few minutes.

I’ve tested every single Windows antivirus on the market to see if it could provide comprehensive internet security protection against the latest online threats (and if it would be better than Windows Defender).

Here’s what I found out.

Short on time? Here’s a summary of the best antiviruses which are better than Windows Defender in 2020:

  • 1.🥇 Norton #1 antivirus suite of 2020. Powerful anti-malware scanner, VPN (with unlimited data), excellent parental controls, system cleanup, web protection tools, and identity theft protection (US only).
  • 2.🥈 TotalAV — Intuitive user interface, 100% malware detection, lightning-fast VPN, device optimization tools, and a password manager.
  • 3.🥉 McAfee — High-performance antivirus engine, good VPN, the best mobile device protection on the market, and good system cleanup and file-shredding tools.
  • 4. BullGuard — Advanced anti-malware scanning, Game Booster mode for high-powered gaming, decent VPN, identity theft protection (worldwide).
  • 5. Bitdefender — Lightweight cloud-based scanner, good parental controls, fast VPN, strong mobile protections, and system cleanup tools.

Get the #1 antivirus (Norton) now >

What to Look for When Replacing Windows Defender With a Third-Party Antivirus

What to Look for When Replacing Windows Defender With a Third-Party Antivirus

Windows Defender offers some pretty good protections — Microsoft has worked really hard to improve it over the last few years. It now offers:

  • Real-time threat detection.
  • Firewall protection.
  • Basic parental controls.
  • Cloud-based virus database.

However, even after these upgrades, Windows Defender still isn’t good enough to keep you completely safe. For instance, Microsoft’s malware database isn’t updated regularly, so newer malware threats frequently sneak past Defender.

Also, Windows Defender doesn’t work cross-platform, so Android, Mac, and iOS users are out of luck if they want to have their antivirus protect them on other devices. And Windows Defender doesn’t do anything to protect users against web-based threats, like phishing sites, data breaches, and predatory data trackers.

Here are some of the internet security protections that make third-party antivirus software so much better than Windows Defender:

  • Multi-platform/multi-device support.
  • Machine learning + advanced heuristics.
  • Virtual private network (VPN).
  • Password manager.
  • Identity theft protection.
  • Advanced parental controls.

I looked through every single one of these internet security features, and I also ranked the programs on my list according to a few other important criteria:

  1. Level of protection
  2. Included features
  3. Ease of use
  4. Technical support
  5. Overall value

And here’s what I did:

  1. I tested each anti-malware engine for detection rates, types of malware covered, and overall strength of the protection in all the anti-malware products I could find.
  2. I used every single feature offered by each product to see if it functioned properly and added to the overall security of the program.
  3. I made sure that each product was simple, easy to understand, and intuitive for a wide range of users, both technical and non-technical.
  4. I contacted each product’s customer/technical support teams to see if they were able to resolve both common and uncommon problems.
  5. And I assessed whether or not each product provided a good value or if it was way overpriced and unreliable.

Norton 360 — Best All-Around Internet Security for Windows

Norton 360 couples a powerful anti-malware engine with the best internet security protections on the market. Norton caught several pieces of malware in my testing that Windows Defender failed to detect, including encrypted spyware and ransomware.

Norton 360’s interface is also extremely easy to use — it integrates well with all versions of Windows and offers way more security protections than Windows Defender.

Some of my favorite Norton 360 features:

  • Parental controls.
  • VPN (with unlimited data).
  • Password manager.
  • 10 GB encrypted storage.
  • Identity theft protection (US only).

I think Norton’s parental controls are some of the best out there. Parents can monitor their child’s device usage, filter YouTube searches, schedule and limit usage of specific apps, and even track the location of Android and iOS devices. Windows Defender’s parental controls look like trash in comparison.

Norton has a good variety of plans for individuals and families. Norton 360 Deluxe is the best deal — up to 5 devices, parental controls, and 50 GB of storage. International users can upgrade to Norton 360 Premium — up to 10 devices and 75 GB of storage.

USA users have three advanced plans (all with up to $1 million in identity theft insurance):

Bottom Line:

Norton 360 is simply the best choice for protecting Windows devices. Norton’s anti-malware scanner detected every piece of malware in my testing, and Norton’s extra features are all really effective, easy to use, and offer way more functionality than Windows Defender. All of Norton’s products come with a 60-day money back guarantee, so you can give it a try with zero risk.

Download Norton Now

TotalAV — Excellent Malware Detection with a VPN + Identity Theft Protection

TotalAV’s malware scanner is one of the best on the market today — it uses advanced heuristics and a regularly updated malware database to identify zero-day threats. TotalAV recognized every malware file in my testing, including a few encrypted rootkits that Windows Defender missed.

TotalAV also offers some really helpful special features which Defender doesn’t have, such as:

  • System cleanup tools.
  • Identity theft protection.
  • Anti-phishing.
  • VPN.

TotalAV’s VPN is pretty good — it provides lightning-fast connections to over 30 different countries. I had no problem accessing geo-restricted streaming content from Europe, Asia, and North America.

Also, TotalAV’s identity theft solutions are powered by Experian, so they work for users in the US, Canada, and most European countries. They offer up-to-the-minute information from credit reports, breach databases, and dark web forums around the world, plus a 24/7 identity theft restoration team to help you get back on track after a breach.

Both the VPN and the identity theft protection come included in TotalAV’s Internet Security (covers 5 devices) and Total Security (covers 6 devices) plans.

Bottom Line:

TotalAV is an excellent antivirus with a lot of great additional features. Their advanced malware scanner caught newer malware threats that Windows Defender missed, and TotalAV’s VPN provides secure browsing with servers around the globe. TotalAV also includes identity theft coverage for users in the US, Canada, and most of Europe. All TotalAV plans have a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Download TotalAV Now

McAfee — Great Antivirus Scanner + Network Security Tools

McAfee outperformed Windows Defender in both malware detection and system performance — catching and detecting many new types of spyware that Defender missed.

McAfee also offers some really good internet security features, as well, including:

  • Network security scanner.
  • Anti-theft protection.
  • VPN.
  • Parental controls.
  • Password manager.

McAfee’s network scanner is my favorite network security tool on this list. It protects any device on your network by scanning active connections and blocking unauthorized connections and activities. Windows Firewall just isn’t as effective as McAfee’s network security scanner.

I also think that McAfee’s VPN and parental controls are among the best on the market.

McAfee offers several different plans with different special features, but I recommend the Total Protection plan, which includes all of the features listed above for up to 10 devices.

Bottom Line:

McAfee’s excellent antivirus scanner caught all the malware in my testing. The network security tool will protect every device on your network, and all of McAfee’s extra security features are really excellent ways to protect against hackers. McAfee offers plans for 1-10 users, and all McAfee plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Download McAfee Now

BullGuard — Best for Gamers + High-Performance PCs

BullGuard’s malware engine detected viruses and spyware much better than Windows Defender — but they both had trouble with some newer ransomware files. Still, BullGuard is a substantially better malware scanner than Defender.

The thing I love most about BullGuard is its Game Booster feature, which boosts system performance while gaming. It actually increased the frame rate on my PC during a tense game of Destiny 2!

BullGuard also has lots of other great extra features (all of which are better than anything from Windows Defender):

  • Firewall.
  • Parental controls.
  • Identity theft protection.
  • VPN (separate purchase).

And like TotalAV, BullGuard’s identity protections are powered by Experian, so they offer coverage to users in the US, Canada, and much of Europe.

BullGuard offers 3 different plans for flexible pricing (with the Game Booster even on the cheapest plan), but the Premium Protection plan is my favorite, covering up to 10 devices and providing Experian’s identity theft protections and also a network scanner.

Bottom Line:

BullGuard provides powerful anti-malware protection along with a wide range of useful internet security features. It’s a significant improvement over Windows Defender, especially because of the unique Game Booster, which optimizes PCs for high-performance gaming. All BullGuard plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Download BullGuard Now

Bitdefender — Fast + Lightweight Antivirus

Bitdefender’s cloud-based scanner is the most lightweight anti-malware engine on my list — performing scans significantly faster (and more accurately) than Windows Defender.

Bitdefender’s scanner has almost zero impact on CPU performance, and it still detected almost every single piece of malware in my testing. Windows Defender slowed my computer down during scans, and it didn’t score as high in my tests.

Bitdefender also offers a huge variety of extra features, such as:

  • Anti-phishing protection.
  • Anti-theft tools.
  • Parental controls.
  • VPN.
  • Password manager.

I was impressed with all of Bitdefender’s extra features, especially the parental controls which even include geo-fencing, so you can have peace of mind when your kids are out of the house.

Bitdefender’s Total Security plan can cover up to 5 devices for a really good price, although you’ll have to pay a little extra to upgrade to unlimited data for the VPN.

Bottom Line:

Bitdefender is a powerful, low-cost antivirus suite. It uses a cloud-based scanner which is better and faster than Windows Defender. I also really like Bitdefender’s parental controls, which come with a great geo-fencing feature. All Bitdefender plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Download Bitdefender Now

Frequently Asked Questions About Windows Defender

👍 Is Windows Defender enough to stay protected?

It depends what you mean by “enough”. Windows Defender offers some decent cybersecurity protection, but it’s nowhere near as good as third-party products like Norton 360. Windows Defender can catch most well-known malware files, but it doesn’t have the advanced tools needed to catch new and encrypted malware files. If you have a lot of sensitive information on your device which might attract hackers — banking info, login details, private files — then no, it’s not “enough”.

😈 Can Windows Defender remove malware?

Yes. If Windows Defender detects malware, it will remove it from your PC. However, because Windows doesn’t update Defender’s virus definitions regularly, a lot of the newest malware won’t be detected, and as such, relying on Windows Defender as your sole antivirus puts your entire PC at risk of infection.

There are better Windows antiviruses out there which get updated regularly. McAfee has one of the biggest malware databases of any competitor, partially because they’ve been around for almost as long as Windows has. 

🛡️ Can Windows Defender protect against phishing scams?

Kind of. The Windows Defender Browser Protection extension is designed to protect you from a wide range of online cybersecurity threats, including phishing emails and malicious sites which attempt to steal your personal information.

But the phishing protection offered is basic, and Windows doesn’t update Defender enough to stay on top of this threat. Secure web protections from TotalAV and BullGuard use behavior analysis and up-to-the-minute phishing databases to identify even the newest phishing sites.

🆓 Is Windows Defender free?

Yes. Windows Defender is free for all PCs that have Windows 7, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10 installed. But you get what you pay for.

Premium antivirus suites like Bitdefender and Norton offer better malware protection, smarter web protections, secure VPNs, accurate location tracking, and cross-platform functionality. I’d much rather pay a few bucks a month for a low-cost antivirus solution than have to pay thousands of dollars to recover my devices and financial information after a malware breach.

🤔 Should I replace Windows Defender with another antivirus?

While Windows Defender has made a lot of progress over the past couple of years, Windows hasn’t been consistent about updating its software in line with the latest malware trends.

Using Windows Defender as a standalone antivirus, while much better than not using any antivirus at all, still leaves you vulnerable to ransomware, spyware, and advanced forms of malware that can leave you devastated in the event of an attack.

I recommend replacing Windows Defender with one of the top Windows antiviruses of 2020 like Norton or McAfee.

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