With nearly a billion threats a year from malware alone, making full use of current market-leading antivirus software from providers such as Norton, McAfee, or MalwareBytes helps you stay one step ahead of hackers and software injections.
Malware can affect all kinds of computers – yes, even Macs! – so it’s essential to have the best possible antivirus software installed, running, and up to date.
The best antivirus software will run silently in the background and let you know instantly if there’s a threat to your system instead of you having to run manual scans that slow your computer down.
Check out our at-a-glance comparison of the best antivirus solutions that won’t break the bank.
How to check your antivirus software is properly installed
If you’re a Windows user, the basic antivirus protection available to you will depend on the version of your operating system, and beyond that you’ll need to protect your system from threats with third party software you install yourself.
To check your antivirus protection:
1. Click Start and go to your PC Settings (or Control Panel on older versions of Windows).
2. From there, choose Apps (or Programs and features on older versions of Windows) to see a list of your installed programs, including any third-party antivirus software.
3. Choose your antivirus software provider from the list to open the program and check for any errors. If you don’t see any antivirus software listed, we strongly recommend you choose a provider as soon as possible.
If you’re running a recent version of Windows, you may also see a warning triangle in your computer’s taskbar if it is completely unprotected.
If you’re a Mac user, click the Finder icon in your taskbar and choose Applications from the list. From here you can view all your installed programs, including antivirus software.
By default, Macs don’t include malware or virus protection, so you’ll need to look at a reputable provider.
Don’t forget that your internet-enabled mobile phones and tablets need protecting from viruses too.
The easiest way to protect all your devices is to opt for a multi-device antivirus plan, which costs as little as £2.04 per month from the leading providers listed on our homepage.
How to test your antivirus software actually works
The next step is to see if your antivirus software behaves as expected when confronted with a threat.
Can it detect a suspicious file, does it warn you in an appropriate way, and does it advise you on the next step to take (or, preferably, remove the dangerous file completely)?
It’s surprising how many free antivirus programs fail at least one of these standard tasks, so it’s vital you test drive the software to see if it’s up to the job.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to download a virus or wait until you come across some malware to put your antivirus program through its paces!
Use the pro EICAR test
Instead, you can perform what’s called the EICAR test, where you simply download a safe, clean file with specific attributes. These attributes lead good virus detection programs to treat the file as suspicious malware, so that you can test your antivirus software is up to the job without any risk to your computer.
To do this, visit the European Expert Group for IT Security and download their test files.
Before downloading, your web browser will prompt you that the page you are attempting to access contains the EICAR-Test-File (not a virus), and you should select “I understand the risks, take me there anyway” to initiate the download test.
If your current antivirus solution successfully detects the file as suspicious or containing a virus, it should prompt you immediately via a pop up notification or a tooltip. This is also an excellent way to demonstrate what a genuine virus notification looks like to less experienced computer users in your household or workplace so they know what to look out for.
It’s never been more important to check that your computer and smart devices are protected against malware, spyware, and other virtual viruses that can be used to access your personal data, steal your identity, and generally cause hassle by disrupting your computer use.
If you’re concerned that your antivirus software doesn’t meet the security standards of today’s world, take a look at our top recommended antivirus software providers.