The 6 Best (and Most Affordable) Laptop Antiviruses for 2018

Aviva Zacks
Posted: October 31, 2018

If you’re looking to narrow down your options of the best antivirus for laptops, you’ve come to the right place. Our experts have tried and tested 47 different antivirus products and examined their ability to detect and remove viruses and malware while still having a low impact on laptop performance. Contrary to popular belief, keeping your laptop safe doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg – an inexpensive yet solid antivirus can keep your laptop just as safe from viruses and hackers as pricier ones. 

An antivirus that uses too much processing power will slow your machine right down and reduce its battery life. Which is why we’re not going to suggest the usual go-to antivirus options like McAfee or Kaspersky, because they use a lot of RAM. Instead, try one of these six fantastic antivirus programs that will have minimal impact on the performance of your laptop’s CPU, RAM, hard drive, and network:

Quick links: 6 Best Value-for-Money Antiviruses for Laptops

  1. Windows Defender
  2. Panda Cloud Antivirus
  3. Malwarebytes
  4. Avira Antivirus
  5. Avast Antivirus
  6. F-Secure Safe

Windows Defender

Windows Defender (see user reviews) is Microsoft’s exclusive and free antivirus solution that comes pre-installed with all versions of Windows.  Despite the belief that free antiviruses are less reliable than paid services, it’s been ranked 12th out of 47 top-of-the-range antivirus companies and comes with a strong 4.6 user rating. But don’t just take our word for it – it’s also been listed as one of the top ten solutions for virus protection by independent laboratory AV-Test.

Why is it Ideal for Laptops?

  • Reasonable CPU and RAM usage
  • Users can customize how much CPU it can use (default is set to 50%)

Features Worth a Mention

  • Real time protection: Received a perfect score for malware removal in our tests
  • Comprehensive parental control features, linking family accounts
  • Compatible with older 32-bit systems and older versions of Windows
  • OneDrive cloud storage to protect data from hacks
  • Cloud protection against both known and emerging threats

What are the Drawbacks?

  • No gaming mode (Defender is notorious for interfering with games)
  • Not as powerful as other dedicated antiviruses

Defender is a great option as it’s readily available, easy to use and it stays up-to date-due to its integration with Windows. While it’s easy to use, beginners have access to one of the best support networks should they need it.

See Windows Defender Deals >>>

Panda Cloud Antivirus

Panda Antivirus (see user reviews) is a unique antivirus that consistently receives some of the best marks from major antivirus testing labs, including receiving the Gold award in the AV-Comparatives’ Real-World Protection Test. What sets it apart from the rest is that it does all of its processing in the cloud so your laptop itself has to do a lot less work. In fact, you won’t even notice it’s there!

Why is it Ideal for Laptops?

  • Uses minimal memory (only 9.8 MB)
  • Cloud processing means your laptop doesn’t have to execute software updates or scanning itself which means minimal interference and more speed!

Features Worth a Mention

  • Strong malware detection. According to AV-Test, it caught 98% of zero-day attacks and 100% of established threats
  • Free up-to-the-minute updates done automatically on the cloud
  • Compatible with multiple versions of Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • Process monitor for checking active processes and connection security
  • USB drive scanner
  • Parental controls and location services for tracking lost devices

What are the Drawbacks?

  • Slow scanning (16.4 MB/s) so scans can take several hours
  • Cloud is dependent on an internet connection

Panda Antivirus is perfect for beginners because you can set it up and forget about it – letting the software scan your laptop from the cloud.

See Panda Deals >>>


Malwarebytes (see user reviews) has evolved over the years to offer more advanced multi-layered real time protection. Coming in strong within the top ten of the 47 best antivirus companies we reviewed, it’s simple and easy to use but very powerful. For those who like to try before they buy, there’s a free two week trial version that’s in our opinion, better than most other free antiviruses out there, plus an optional paid subscription option for when you’re ready to commit, as we believe you will.

Why is it Ideal for Laptops?

  • Fast scanning and three scan depths to choose from
  • Very light on system resources

Features Worth a Mention

  • Excellent protection against malware and other threats
  • Web protection, including blocking traffic coming from dangerous addresses
  • Ransomware protection that observes a program’s behavior to see if it attempts to encrypt vital system files

What are the Drawbacks?

  • You have to upgrade to the paid version to unlock important features like scheduled scanning and real time protection
  • Free version needs to be combined with another antivirus: As it only tackles aggressive threats, it isn’t advisable as your only antivirus

While we’d strongly recommend upgrading to the premium subscription for best results, you can also combine the free antivirus with your standard antivirus, as it detects additional threats a normal antivirus may miss.

See Malwarebytes Deals >>>

Avira Antivirus

Coming in at a strong sixth place out of the 47 best antivirus companies we’ve reviewed, Avira Antivirus (see user reviews) is definitely one of the best free antiviruses we’ve tried and tested, catching up to 98% of all threats.  While many believe it to be a scam because of it’s many pop up ads, we found that the reputable antivirus, downloaded from the official website itself, is perfectly safe and actually one of the fastest scanning antiviruses we’ve used.

Why is it Ideal for Laptops?

  • Average memory usage at around 23 MB
  • One of the fastest scanning speeds at 36 MB/s

Features Worth a Mention

  • One of the best malware detection rates in the industry
  • Real time protection
  • Additional services include a VPN, a personal firewall and system vulnerability detection that monitors any weak spots, such as outdated software, that hackers can target
  • Paid services include a dedicated password manager and support for multiple devices

What are the Drawbacks?

  • Full scans are slow (a few hours) as they don’t skip verified files like other antiviruses
  • Installation for the free version is slow
  • Pop up ads can be annoying and slow your laptop down
  • Limited browser protection

Since there’s no such thing as a free lunch, you may wish to upgrade from the free trial to include the premium services to get the most out of this antivirus.

See Avira Deals >>>

Avast Antivirus

Avast Antivirus (see user reviews) is currently the most popular antivirus with the largest user base (that’s over 435 million active users every month), probably because it’s so good for gaming. Ranked in the top five of the 47 best antivirus programs our experts have trialed, it’s one of the few antiviruses that don’t try and encourage you to upgrade to the paid version.

Why is it Ideal for Laptops?

  • Lowest memory usage (6.6 MB of RAM)
  • Moderately fast scanning speed at 20 MB/s
  • Customizable installation lets you choose the features you want
  • It’s low profile allows it to run on lower-end laptops, both Mac and Windows

Features Worth a Mention

  • Real time protection
  • Browser plugin for blocking trackers and warnings about dangerous links in search engine results
  • Dedicated gaming mode for stalling updates, scans, and notifications during game play
  • Password manager for syncing credentials on multiple devices

What are the Drawbacks?

  • A few ads and pop ups in the free version
  • Reports of minor lags when scanning
  • Certain features can be complicated for beginners

The Avast free version is perfect for gamers looking to suspend certain functions as they play. For those looking for a more powerful antivirus, the paid version comes with extra perks like a firewall, spam filter, even more ransomware protection, a secure DNS system and a sandbox for running apps safely.

See Avast Deals >>>

F-Secure Safe

As it’s name implies, F-Secure Safe (see user reviews) is perfect for family use and ensuring safe online browsing. Because it only comes with the essentials, such as better-than-most parental controls and secure banking, it manages to be fairly light on your laptop’s resources. Rated within the top 20 of the 47 antivirus programs we tested, it was also awarded a 100% detection and removal score by independent testing laboratory AV-Comparatives, as well as 100% for regular malware detection by AV Test.

Why is it Ideal for Laptops?

  • Low impact on system performance
  • Comparatively quick scanning (about 15 minutes)

Features Worth a Mention

  • Top-notch cross platform parental controls (‘Family Rules’ to set bedtimes, time limits, content filtering etc)
  • Location services for finding lost devices
  • Protection for up to three devices with a single license
  • Secure banking protection and ability to submit links for checking
  • Real time protection against ransomware, Trojans, and viruses
  • Ability to set to scan when computer is idle

What are the Drawbacks?

  • Minimal features
  • No option to scan USB drives
  • A bit more expensive than similar products

As F-Secure has minimal features, it’s a great choice for experienced users who prefer to use it alongside their current URL blockers and firewalls. However, beginners may need to look at something like Panda for complete install-and-go protection.

See F-Secure Deals >>>

You Want an Antivirus with Minimal Impact on your Laptop’s Performance

You’re in good hands with any of these antivirus programs but if you haven’t quite found what you’re looking for, take a look at our full list of tried and tested antiviruses. Just remember, you want an antivirus that runs discreetly in the background, won’t pop up at inopportune times, but still 100% protects your system. Since you’re never going to get everything you want for free, and most antiviruses above will have their advanced features locked behind a paywall, then perhaps upgrading to something like Malwarebytes’s premium plan would work best. But if you’re just looking to scan your laptop for a short period of time or with limited features, then free antiviruses like Windows Defender and Avast would work well too.

About the Author

Aviva Zacks
Aviva Zacks

Aviva Zacks is a content manager, writer, editor, and really good baker. When she's not working, she enjoys reading on her porch swing with a cup of decaf.