Getting decent antivirus software is as essential as a keyboard and a mouse. It’s madness to plug in and get online without it, quite frankly. Because whatever computer you have, there’s something nasty out there trying to do it damage.

Staying safe from viruses, malware, ransomware, and phishing threats is just the beginning when it comes to what a good antivirus software package can protect you from. Many manufacturers now take a holistic approach to keeping your data safe, tackling more than just the odd dodgy file that might land on your system. 

There are plenty of options out there for securing your PC, so it can be hard to know what package to purchase. Free antivirus software is an option but, typically, free solutions have fewer options and features than paid software. It’s not so much the hardware that’s in danger, but details like your private documents, banking details, and personal photos that could be at risk here.

Generally, you do get what you pay for, and what price can you put on keeping your computer (and, more importantly, the data on there) safe from potential threats? But buying this stuff can be a chore — with science, jargon, and impenetrable tech speak blinding many consumers. That’s why we’re here help.

Here’s some handy need-to-know information.

What is antivirus software?

Antivirus software is a programme that’s designed to detect and remove viruses and other malicious software (or malware, as it’s better known) from your computer. They work by detecting, isolating, and deleting viruses, which prevents the malware from damaging your device. Antivirus products update automatically to provide protection against the latest viruses and malware.

What’s the difference between viruses and malware?

They’re different but also the same. Malware is an umbrella term for all kinds of malicious software. Viruses are just one type of malware. Other types include trojans, spyware, ransomware, and scareware.

How do computer viruses work?

A computer virus will replicate itself and spread to devices as widely and quickly as possible (hence the name virus — named after a biological virus, which infects living things in the same way). Computer viruses infect applications and email. They are transmitted via websites, email attachments, storage devices, and even routers. Simple viruses can damage a hard disk or delete files. More sophisticated viruses can cause you to spam or have clever ways of avoiding detection.

What’s the different between antivirus and anti-malware software?

Antivirus software detects and removes viruses and some other types of malicious software, while anti-malware is a program that safeguards the system from all sorts of attackers. Anti-malware tends to deal with newer, more sophisticated threats. Antivirus software often comes built into a new PC (but don’t let that stop you upgrading) while anti-malware is usually an add-on.

What’s the best antivirus software?

It’s tricky to pick one because each one will suit different people and different types of computer usage. It’s worth remembering that having multiple antivirus software programs installed can causes issues, so it’s best to stick with one. There are features worth looking out for to help make your choice. For instance, many threats stem from internet browsing so phishing protection can be a vital feature. Spyware and adware are also a problem, so it’s worth checking out antivirus software options that can scan for these too. 

Finally, you need software that provides an on-demand malware scan, as well as a vulnerability scan, so that you’re always in control of what’s going on with your data. Security is a fast-moving field so you want software that keeps on top of new trends, such as the recent growth in ransomware keen to steal your files from under you. 

If that all sounds a bit complicated, don’t sweat it — we’ve checked out the best paid antivirus software solutions and will outline why they’re worth the money.

These are the best antivirus solutions for every situation in 2022.