A good antivirus program is characterized by the fact that it does its job unnoticed and reliably. Best for free. But the previous leader at Stiftung Warentest had to vacate its place – and the testers are now recommending alternatives.

The good news first: Almost all antivirus programs work at a similarly reliable level, there are no complete failures. And another edifying piece of information: Free software is in no way inferior to expensive products when it comes to protection. Nevertheless, this year’s comparison of antivirus programs by Stiftung Warentest could cause you to change the software you use – because last year’s test winner, of all things, was completely excluded from the rating.

As usual, the programs had to prove themselves in four categories. The protective effect, i.e. the defense against malware, viruses, etc. as well as the so-called phishing protection, were the top priority and accounted for 65 percent of the overall rating. For example, phishing means that a website tries to illegally steal information from you by mimicking the look of a bank homepage and asking for account information.

Handling accounted for 25 percent of the overall grade. This includes the installation and removal of the software as well as daily use. The remaining ten percent is the computer load. The fewer resources a program allows itself, the better.

Kaspersky is eliminated as an antivirus program

Last year, “Kaspersky Internet Security” in particular had reason to celebrate (only one “very good”: product test checks antivirus software). Because the Russian company based in Moscow was the only provider to achieve the overall grade “very good”. The joy lasted only a few weeks, however, because after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) issued a warning and recommended that the company’s software no longer be used. Kaspersky then vehemently defended itself, but the warning remained until today. Stiftung Warentest still certifies good performance for the software, but no longer awarded a grade.

“Avast One Individual” took first place among the alternatives for Windows this year. The fee-based program for around 54 euros per year received the overall grade “good” (1.6) and completed all sub-disciplines with a very good grade – it obviously just didn’t get the top grade.

According to Stiftung Warentest, if you don’t want to spend money on protecting your data and computer, “Bitdefender Antivirus Free for Windows” is a good choice. The free software also achieved the overall grade “good” (1.6) and, according to the verdict, protects even a little better than the test winner. Smears, albeit marginal ones, were evidently noticed during handling.

Protection for MacOS consistently worse – but system generally less endangered

For Apple computers, the Windows winners swap roles. Here “Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac” won with the overall grade “good” (1.9), but costs 20 euros a year. On the Mac, “Avast One Essential” offers the best free solution with an overall rating of “good” (2.1). What is striking: Both the protective effect of the software and the handling are worse for MacOS programs across the board.

According to Stiftung Warentest, this is apparently due to weaknesses in phishing protection in connection with the standard browser Safari. However, according to the testers, this is the greatest danger for Macs – because “there is hardly any need to fear other attacks,” they say.

“F-Secure” also proved to be a good alternative on both platforms. The solution for MacOS received the overall grade “good” (1.9) in the test, on Windows the software finished with the grade “good” (1.6). The costs are 29.90 euros per year.

As far as the free on-board solution “Windows Defender” is concerned, Microsoft’s antivirus protection has to line up at the end of the test field. The software only received the grade “satisfactory” (2.6) on both Windows 10 and Windows 11 and thus the worst rating in the test. Stiftung Warentest justifies this with an overcautious – sometimes annoying – behavior of the software, which also classifies “clean files as supposed dangers”. The testers also criticized the lack of phishing protection in browsers other than Microsoft’s Edge.

You can find the complete test for a fee at test.de.

Also read:

Spoiled for choice: Warentest compares 18 mobile computers, all are “good” – but there are big differences

Warentest compares the latest smartphones: Apple is fighting back, Nothing is off to a good start

Home cinema on a large scale: Warentest checks 15 projectors – only one has a “very good” picture

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