Malwarebytes Review: Quick Expert Summary
Malwarebytes is a minimalistic, easy-to-use antivirus program that provides good protection against malware, but not much else. During my testing, Malwarebytes detected 95% of the malware files I had previously downloaded to my device, which is a pretty good result. In terms of real-time protection, Malwarebytes successfully blocked 98% of the malware files, which is excellent.
Other than the malware scanner, Malwarebytes has a web protection feature that is pretty good (it had near-perfect detection rates during my phishing tests). Users can also upgrade to the Premium + Privacy plan to get a VPN, which is a good option for hiding online activity (but it’s missing a lot of the features and functionalities found in standalone VPN competitors.
While Malwarebytes is lacking many of the protections I’m used to seeing in top antivirus software (like device optimization tools, parental controls, and a password manager), I think Malwarebytes is a good choice for users who want a simple, install-and-forget antivirus that’s able to detect and block the majority of malware.
Malwarebytes doesn’t provide nearly as many additional features as top competitors like Norton and Bitdefender but it’s reasonably priced, offers a 14-day free trial, and provides a generous 60-day money-back guarantee on all premium plans.
|Overall Rank||#11 out of 62 antiviruses|
|VPN||Yes (with unlimited data)|
|Money-Back Guarantee||60 days|
|Operating Systems||Windows, Android, Mac, iOS|
Malwarebytes Full Review
Malwarebytes has all of the core security features that I expect from an antivirus program, including real-time malware protection, ransomware protection, and web protection.
But unlike so many of its competitors, Malwarebytes hardly offers any additional features, like a firewall, system tuneup tools, a password manager, or parental controls.
That said, if you’re looking for a basic, no-frills antivirus that offers good malware protection, Malwarebytes is an excellent, low-cost option.
Malwarebytes Security Features
Malwarebytes uses a signature-based approach as well as heuristics to detect malware. This means that Malwarebytes has a malware database that it uses to detect malware on your system, and it also examines files for suspicious behavior in order to identify new malware that hasn’t yet been added to its database.
Malwarebytes has four different virus scans you can choose from:
- Threat Scan. Scans key areas of your device’s system, memory, and startup programs.
- Quick Scan. Scans your memory and startup programs for active infections.
- Custom Scan. Scans any file or folder you want (including the entire disc).
- Single File/Folder Scan. Scans an individual file.
It’s important to note that Malwarebytes doesn’t have a default full system scan option, so if you want to check your entire system for malware, you need to use the Custom Scan option and select all of the options.
Advanced users will have no problem with this, but I think Malwarebytes should definitely make it clearer for less tech-savvy users that the only way to scan the whole device is with a Custom Scan of the entire disk.
Most other antivirus brands, including Norton, McAfee, Bitdefender, Avira, BullGuard, TotalAV, and Kaspersky, offer full system scans, so a full scan is definitely something Malwarebytes should add to its antivirus.
During my tests the Threat Scan only took 1 minute and 26 seconds to scan over 300,000 files on my device. This is comparable to competitors’ quick scan options, which usually take anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes.
Before installing Malwarebytes on my Windows device, I downloaded my standard set of malware samples to my test device, which includes around 1,000 malicious files (viruses, trojans, spyware, etc.). Once Malwarebytes completed the Threat Scan, it found around 76% of the files. But when I performed a Custom Scan that scanned my entire device (and took around 3 hours), Malwarebytes’s detection rate increased to 95%. While this is a good score, the best antivirus programs, like Norton or Bitdefender, have a perfect 100% malware detection rate.
Overall, Malwarebytes has an industry-average detection rate of around 95%, which is pretty good. I’d also like to see Malwarebytes add a full system scan to its scan options instead of forcing users to run Custom Scans to check their whole system. But I like how quick the Threat Scan is, taking around 2 minutes to check system areas where malware is commonly found.
Malwarebytes’s real-time protection (available only on the paid plans) includes four different layers of protection:
- Web Protection.
- Malware and PUP Protection.
- Ransomware Protection.
- Exploit Protection.
Malwarebytes’s real-time malware protection performed really well in my tests, successfully blocking 98% of the malware I attempted to download to my device. This is a great result that’s comparable to most premium antiviruses. Malwarebytes’s web protection was also very successful at blocking phishing websites, identifying around 90% of the known phishing sites I tried visiting.
However, Malwarebytes’s ransomware protection isn’t as good as the other real-time protections. I used a ransomware simulator to see whether or not Malwarebytes could detect and block ransomware, and Malwarebytes blocked around two-thirds of the ransomware files on my device. When I used the same simulator on Norton, McAfee, and Bitdefender, all ransomware simulations were instantly blocked.
Overall, Malwarebytes’s ransomware protection needs some work, but the real-time virus protection and web protections are on par with the best antiviruses on the market.
Malwarebytes’s Browser Guard is a free browser extension for Google Chrome, Edge, and Firefox. The extension protects against malware, ads and trackers, scams, and PUPs.
Browser Guard is very easy to use, as all of the protections are turned on by default and there’s nothing else for you to do. However, if you’d like to turn off certain layers of protection — for example, if you know a website is safe but the extension is preventing you from entering the site — you can easily toggle each protection on or off.
During my testing, I visited 40 known phishing sites and Browser Guard blocked 36 — a success rate of 90%, which is pretty good.
Because Malwarebytes claims that Browser Guard can make your browser run 4 times faster due to blocked ads and other unwanted content, I also tested the extension against sites filled with ads. However, Browser Guard didn’t block all of the ads on these websites — it blocked around a third of the ads on most sites I visited, whereas competing brands like Avira blocked almost all of the ads on the same sites.
Overall, Browser Guard isn’t a good ad blocker, but it’s effective at detecting phishing sites.
VPN (Virtual Private Network)
Malwarebytes’s Premium + Privacy plan comes with a VPN — it has:
- Over 300 servers across 30 countries. This is a good number of locations for a VPN that comes bundled with an antivirus — Norton and TotalAV both offer approximately 30 server locations as well, whereas VIPRE’s VPN offers over 80.
- WireGuard protocol — This is one of the fastest and most secure protocols, which many standalone VPNs like ExpressVPN and CyberGhost VPN offer.
- Strict no-logs policy. Malwarebytes doesn’t log or store user data, including browsing history or connection logs.
Malwarebytes’s VPN doesn’t include a kill switch. A kill switch shuts off your internet connection in case your VPN connection fails. This is a really important VPN feature, and antivirus competitors like Bitdefender and Kaspersky both offer a kill switch with their VPNs, so this is something I’d really like to see Malwarebytes include in its VPN, too.
Malwarebytes’s VPN has good speeds. To assess its speeds, I first ran a speed test without the VPN, and then I ran another test when I was connected to a nearby US server (I’m in Canada). I also tested the VPN’s speeds while connected to distant servers.
As you can see, my ping increased, but my download speeds were actually faster with the VPN than when I was connected to my local server, so I was able to seamlessly watch HD video and surf the web.
Using Malwarebytes’s VPN, I also tried accessing geo-blocked streaming services. However, Malwarebytes can’t bypass geo-restrictions on streaming sites, and I was unable to access Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Go, or BBC iPlayer. But it’s worth mentioning that some of my colleagues were able to access BBC iPlayer and HBO Go — they are located in the US, so their location may have played a factor.
Unfortunately, Malwarebytes’s VPN doesn’t allow torrenting copyrighted material. Malwarebytes is based in the US, so the company is subject to The Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Users that download copyrighted torrents are at risk of having their account disabled and/or terminated.
Malwarebytes’s VPN also doesn’t work in restricted countries. I asked my friends in China and the UAE to test Malwarebytes’s VPN and they were unable to connect to unrestricted sites. If you’re looking for a good VPN to bypass government firewalls, I recommend ExpressVPN.
Overall, Malwarebytes’s VPN is basic and there are better options out there. While it has some nice advanced features, like the WireGuard protocol, Malwarebytes’s VPN isn’t able to access international streaming services, doesn’t allow torrenting, and is unable to bypass restrictions in high-risk countries like China. But if you’re only interested in hiding your online activity from your ISP and staying anonymous online, Malwarebytes’s VPN is a decent option.
Malwarebytes Plans & Pricing
Malwarebytes offers 3 plans:
All of Malwarebytes’s paid plans include a risk-free 60-day money-back guarantee (the same as Norton). This is pretty generous compared to most competitors, which usually only offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Malwarebytes also offers a lock-in rate — if you decide to auto-renew your subscription, the price of your next renewal will be the same as the initial price you paid (even if the prices have increased). This is something that not many other antivirus brands do, so it’s a really nice offering from Malwarebytes.
Malwarebytes Free — Decent Option for Virus Removal
Malwarebytes Free only includes the malware scanner and Browser Guard extension. I only recommend this plan to users that are looking for a quick way to remove an existing malware infection from their device.
However, if you want standalone protection, Malwarebytes Free isn’t good enough, as it doesn’t have real-time protection. While most free antiviruses aren’t that good, there are competitors like Avira Free that include both real-time malware protection and additional features like system tuneup tools and a VPN. So if you want a free antivirus, there are better options.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to spend some money on an antivirus suite, Malwarebytes Premium is a good choice for users looking for a high-powered antivirus scanner. Plus, Malwarebytes Free comes with a 14-day free trial of Malwarebytes Premium, so you can test all of the premium features risk-free.
Malwarebytes Premium — Strong Antivirus Protection
Malwarebytes Premium offers malware scanning, real-time protection, and the Browser Guard extension. With this plan, you can cover up to 5 devices, including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.
The real-time protection alone is worth the upgrade to premium from the free plan. With the real-time protection, you get layers of added protection against online scams, phishing, ransomware, PUPs, and attacks taking advantage of bugs and vulnerabilities in your device’s security.
However, Malwarebytes Premium is similarly priced as top competitors like Norton or Bitdefender, both of which have better malware detection rates, better phishing protection, and a ton of additional features.
While Malwarebytes Premium isn’t as good as the best antivirus software in 2021, it’s a good option for users looking for a simple but effective internet security solution. Malwarebytes offers a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy — Antivirus with a VPN
Malwarebytes’s most expensive plan includes all of the features of its Premium plan plus a VPN. This is a good plan for users who want to combine Malwarebytes’s strong antivirus and phishing protection with a fast and reliable VPN. However, Malwarebytes’s VPN doesn’t unblock Netflix, support torrenting, or work in countries with internet censorship. If you’re looking for a good VPN for streaming, torrenting, and bypassing government firewalls, I recommend ExpressVPN.
Overall, Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy is priced similarly to the top antivirus competitors, but it doesn’t offer as many features. For example, Norton 360 Standard is cheaper than Malwarebytes, and Norton offers real-time malware protection, web protection, a firewall, a VPN, a password manager, identity theft protection, 10 GB cloud storage, and more. Bitdefender Total Security is also more affordable than Malwarebytes, and Bitdefender offers more extra features than most other brands.
But if you’re interested in Malwarebytes, you can test the antivirus and VPN with a 60-day money-back guarantee and see whether or not it’s the right choice for you.
Malwarebytes Ease of Use & Setup
Installing, setting up, and using Malwarebytes is very simple — it took me only a couple of minutes to download and set up the software, and I had no problems using all of the provided features.
One thing I really appreciate is that Malwarebytes doesn’t ask you to provide any personal information in order to activate the free trial. Most competitors ask for your email address or even credit card number, so I like that Malwarebytes really does offer a zero-commitment free trial.
Malwarebytes’s interface is clean, simple, and easy to navigate. Choosing which scan you want to run, setting up a Custom Scan, and scheduling scans is pretty straightforward.
All of the real-time protections are also turned on by default, so most users won’t need to customize anything to be fully protected.
During my testing, Malwarebytes didn’t noticeably slow down my computer’s performance. In fact, I barely noticed it was there at all. Some antiviruses can slow down a system’s performance, especially during full system scans, but Malwarebytes ran quietly in the background throughout all of my tests.
I also like that Malwarebytes has a simple Play Mode, which hides notifications when certain apps are in full-screen mode — this is great for gaming and streaming. However, I don’t like that users need to add the apps, as competitors like BullGuard automatically turn on a similar mode when an app is in full screen mode (BullGuard also improves gaming performance with its excellent game booster).
Overall, Malwarebytes is really intuitive and easy to use, it doesn’t cause system slowdown, and it even has a simple Play Mode for pausing notifications when playing games or watching movies.
Malwarebytes Mobile App
Malwarebytes is available on both iOS and Android — both apps are well-designed and easy to use, but the Android app offers more functionality than the iOS app. During my tests, both apps worked well. I found it easy to install and use the apps, as well as access and customize all of the available settings.
The Android app has all of the same features as the desktop app (malware scanning, ransomware protection, web protection, and exploit protection), but it also includes a couple of useful extras, like spyware protection and a privacy audit tool. I like this tool because it allows users to check which apps have what permissions. For example, you can view apps that can read your personal information, track your location, monitor calls, cost you money, and much, much more.
The iOS app doesn’t have as many features as the Android app, but this is understandable as iOS can’t get viruses (so they don’t need a malware scanner). That said, the iOS app has decent web protection, ad blocking, and scam call blocking. While this isn’t much, I like how simple it is to use the app.
There are better apps for both Android and iOS users — Norton is my favorite Android antivirus (includes malware protection, an app advisor, and Wi-Fi protection), whereas McAfee is my top choice for iOS protection (it comes with a malware scanner, anti-theft, a VPN, and more).
But Malwarebytes’s Android and iOS apps are also good, and I would recommend them for beginner or less tech-savvy users.
Malwarebytes Customer Support
Malwarebytes offers a good knowledge base, a live chat, and email support. These are ok customer support options, but I’d like to see the company offer phone support as well. Most competitors have multiple options (for example, TotalAV has email, phone, and live chat support).
In testing Malwarebytes’s customer support I first accessed the support chat bot. The bot works as a search function for Malwarebytes’s knowledge base — when you ask the bot a question, it will provide you with a list of links to appropriate articles. The articles in the knowledge base are pretty good, with very detailed explanations on how to use the program as well as all of its features.
If the articles don’t answer your questions, you can get in touch with Malwarebytes’s email support team. I submitted a ticket on the official website, and I got a helpful response in around 24 hours. While this is a decent response time, I’d really like to see Malwarebytes include a live chat option so users could immediately get answers to their questions.
Malwarebytes’s most readily available customer support is pretty basic and not that helpful if you need immediate assistance with a complex issue. But the knowledge base is very thorough and can answer most questions. The email support team is also very friendly and knowledgeable, but I really missed having the option to chat with a company rep using a live chat feature.
Is Malwarebytes Premium Worth the Price?
Malwarebytes provides excellent real-time malware protection, good phishing protection, and a fast VPN, all for a good value. However, Malwarebytes lacks a lot of the features that I expect to see in a premium antivirus — it doesn’t have many of the extras that top competitors include even in their basic plans (firewall, system optimization, password manager, etc).
During my tests, Malwarebytes’s antivirus scanner performed well, detecting 95% of my test malware files. While this is a very good result, competitors like Norton, McAfee, and Bitdefender all have 100% malware detection rates. Malwarebytes’s real-time protection was better than its malware scanner, though — real-time protection blocked 98% of the malware files I tried launching, which is comparable to the top antiviruses on the market).
Malwarebytes also has web protection (with a detection rate of 90% against phishing sites) and a fast and reliable VPN. Unfortunately, the VPN is unable to unblock streaming services like Netflix or bypass government restrictions in countries like China.
If you’re looking for a full-featured internet security suite with lots of cybersecurity protections, I recommend Norton 360 Standard or Bitdefender Total Security (both have better malware protection and come with a wider range of top-notch extras).
But if you’re looking for a simple, easy-to-use, install-and-forget antivirus scanner with good web protection, Malwarebytes is a great option. Plus, Malwarebytes has a 14-day free trial and a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.
Malwarebytes — Frequently Asked Questions
Does Malwarebytes have a free plan?
Yes, Malwarebytes has a free plan, but it’s very limited. It only has a malware scanner and a browser extension that provides anti-phishing protection and ad blocking (but it’s not very good at blocking ads).
While all free antiviruses have limited functionality, there are better free antiviruses than Malwarebytes — my favorite is Avira, which comes with an excellent malware scanner, real-time protection, device optimization, and even a VPN.
But if you don’t mind paying for premium protection, Malwarebytes Premium is a decent antivirus with a 95% malware detection rate (98% for real-time protection). And you can try out Malwarebytes Premium with a risk-free 14-day free trial (no credit card required), or a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Is Malwarebytes safe?
Yes, Malwarebytes is safe. It has a decent antivirus scanner, real-time protection that offers multiple layers of protection against malware, system vulnerabilities, and online threats, and a browser extension that provides additional protection against phishing and malicious sites.
While Malwarebytes isn’t as good at detecting malware as the best antiviruses of 2021, it’s a good program for beginners, non-tech-savvy users, or users looking for basic antivirus functionality.
The VPN that comes in the Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy is also very safe — it uses 256-bit AES encryption, offers the high-security WireGuard protocol, and doesn’t log user data.
Is Malwarebytes compatible with my device?
Malwarebytes is available on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Chromebook devices.
While most of its features work across all operating systems, keep in mind that the VPN is only available for Windows and Mac computers. But Malwarebytes says that it’s working on making the VPN available on mobile, too.
All of Malwarebytes’s apps are easy to use, intuitive, and work well. Malwarebytes is a good antivirus for users looking for a minimalistic antivirus that’s very, very easy to navigate. During my tests, I had no problems finding and accessing all of the features, and the antivirus didn’t slow down my system, not even during a Custom Scan (which I set up to scan my entire system).
Is Malwarebytes worth buying?
It depends on your needs. If you want a really simple antivirus with only real-time malware protection and web protection, then yes, Malwarebytes Premium is a good enough product.
But there might be better options out there. For example, Norton, Avira, Bitdefender, and TotalAV are all easy to use, provide perfect or near-perfect malware detection rates, and come with a wide variety of additional protections (firewall, system tuneup, password manager, VPN, etc.).
Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy adds a secure, fast, and reliable VPN, but the VPN can’t bypass restrictions imposed by streaming services or restrictive countries like China and Iran. If you want a good VPN, I recommend taking a look at standalone VPNs like ExpressVPN, ProtonVPN, or CyberGhost VPN.