(Last updated on April 26th, 2021)
Windows Defender or Avast, which antivirus software is a better option in 2021?
Read this in-depth Windows Defender versus Avast guide to make a smart decision.
If you consider today’s internet a safe place, think again. Every aspect of our life is connected to the internet these days and we are putting more and more of our personal data online than ever before.
This data includes confidential files and documents, photos of ourselves and our loved ones, credit card numbers, etc.
So, more information implies a greater risk. An antivirus program with a strong anti-malware engine and advanced features is a must these days if you want to protect your and your family’s data and privacy.
Although global malware volume has seen a sharp drop over the past year, the number of other more serious threats has reached new heights.
Stats from the 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report shows that while the number of malware attacks dropped 43 percent year-on-year to 5.6 billion in 2020, ransomware attacks skyrocketed 62 percent to 304.6 million.
Similarly, intrusion attempts were recorded at 4.8 trillion (up 20 percent) and IoT attacks at 56.9 million (up 66 percent).
These figures strongly suggest that we all need reliable antivirus protection. But which software should you pick?
Many companies are now offering free antivirus options with sound anti-malware protection. But they all have one big problem: lack of advanced features.
On the other hand, premium antivirus suites offer way more than just identifying and blocking malware threats. They include features like password manager, parental controls, VPN, safe browser for online banking, file shredder, webcam and microphone protection, identity theft protection, and much more.
Best Antivirus Suite for 2021
Overall Score: 9.9/10
60-day money-back guarantee
Right now, we think that Norton is the best antivirus software your money can buy. It regularly earns perfect or near-perfect scores from independent labs and has the least impact on system performance compared to rival products. Its products combine top-notch security with an array of excellent security features and, best of all, offer exceptional value for money.
Overall, Norton 360 Deluxe (currently at 70% off) is our pick for the best antivirus suite in 2021. It is competitively priced and comes with almost everything you could possibly ask for, such as a firewall, a fully integrated VPN, dark web monitoring, cloud backup storage (50GB), a password manager, and parental controls. You can cover up to 5 PCs, Macs, smartphones or tablets with this suite.
If you want full-on identity protection and don’t mind paying more, Norton 360 with LifeLock Select (currently at 35% off) gives those in the US a full range of identity protection features, more backup space (100GB), as well as all the above.
So, it’s obvious that you should go for a paid security program for excellent anti-malware protection and complete peace of mind.
In this detailed article, we are comparing Windows Defender and Avast side by side using different metrics to gauge their strengths and weaknesses.
In a hurry? Check out the summary of our comparison below to find out which antivirus product wins in each category.
A Quick Rundown of Winners in Each Category
Winner: Avast. Windows Defender comes with all the essential features, but Avast’s security products – especially the high-end ones – have all the advanced features and utilities you can expect to find in modern antivirus suites.
2. Malware Protection
Winner: Tie. Both software are neck and neck in terms of malware protection, as evidenced by two different independent evaluations.
3. System Performance
Winner: Avast. Independent tests show that Avast is exceptional in terms of impact on system performance, whereas Windows Defender failed one key performance test.
Winner: Avast. Avast’s interface is intuitive and straightforward; everything can be accomplished with just a few clicks. Windows Defender’s interface could be improved.
Winner: N/A. Since Windows Defender doesn’t have a paid upgrade, so there’s no comparison between both software in this category.
Independent tests prove that both software provide excellent anti-malware security, but Avast is better than Windows Defender in terms of the impact on system performance. Avast is the overall winner as it offers more security-enhancing features and utilities in its security suites than Windows Defender.
Best Antivirus for 2021
- Robust feature-set
- Excellent anti-malware security
- Minimal system impact
- Easy-to-use interface
- Automatic updates
- Trusted by 50 million users
- 100% virus protection promise
- 60-day money-back guarantee
#2 (Very Good)
- Exceptional malware protection
- Little impact on performance
- Trusted by millions of users
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- User-friendly interface
#3 (Very Good)
- Good malware protection
- Trusted by big corporations
- Minimal impact on performance
- Good value for money
- 30-day risk-free guarantee
Now, let’s dive into the in-depth Windows Defender vs Avast comparison.
One way to quickly differentiate between the two products is to look at their features.
Let’s start with Windows Defender.
Windows Defender comes built-in on almost all PCs that run on Windows operating system. You can’t uninstall or remove the software, unfortunately, but it automatically turns off when you install a third-party antivirus program.
The best feature included in Windows Defender is the firewall that keeps your computer secure against malicious traffic. It maintains a watchful eye on all the incoming and outgoing network connections and denies unauthorized access.
Like most antivirus software, the software has a signature-based scanner that regularly checks for all sorts of digital threats. The software’s definitions (or signatures) are routinely updated to provide immediate protection against new and emerging threats — thanks to Microsoft’s cloud-based malware database.
Also, there’s the Find My Device function that lets you track down your computer if it’s been lost or stolen; this is particularly useful for laptops. You can also erase your data or lock your computer if you think that your sensitive data is in danger of being stolen.
Further included with Windows Defender is a suite of parental controls. You can use it to monitor the web activity of your children, restrict screen time with automatic timers, and block your kids from visiting certain sites or apps that are not appropriate for their age.
Now, let’s take a look at Avast’s feature set.
Avast is one of those security companies that offer free, albeit limited, antivirus protection.
The Avast Free Antivirus suite blocks most malware threats, scans your Wi-fi for security weaknesses, and protects against ransomware. Overall, the free version is better than having no protection at all, but it lacks advanced features.
The first paid option from Avast is Premium Security. This package includes all the Avast Free Antivirus features, plus an advanced firewall (protects against all sorts of threats), fake-site filter (stops cybercriminals from stealing your passwords and banking details), webcam protection, file shredder, and automatic updates.
Another useful feature is Sandbox, which allows you to run suspicious files or apps in a secure environment, without putting other files on your computer at risk.
Moreover, the Automatic Software Updater minimizes security risk to your device by updating apps regularly.
The Premium Security package comes in both single-device and multi-device versions. The multi-device plan protects up to 10 devices and supports all platforms, including Windows, macOS, iOS and Android.
Finally, there’s Avast Ultimate – the all-inclusive premium offering from the company. This comes with everything found in the previous suites, plus a VPN utility that lets you anonymously access content that is restricted in your geographic area; the Cleanup Premium utility that cleans junk files and optimizes your PC performance; and the Avast AntiTrack tool to protect your online identity.
If you’re interested in Avast’s business-specific products, click here for more information.
Winner: Avast. It’s quite obvious that Avast offers more advanced features and tools than Windows Defender.
2. Malware Protection
Malware protection is a key component of a reliable antivirus suite. After all, it’s the reason why security products exist.
Let’s examine the recent evaluations conducted by independent labs like the AV-Test Institute and AV-Comparatives to see which among Windows Defender and Avast has better anti-malware capabilities.
The latest AV-Test evaluations were held in January-February 2021. All popular antivirus products were assessed in three different categories: Protection, Performance, and Usability.
Avast also proved that it was one of the top products and bagged a perfect 6 out of 6 score.
Let’s now look at the tests conducted by the other reputable antivirus testing lab: AV-Comparatives.
The lab conducts two types of protection tests: the Real-World Protection Test and the Malware Protection Test.
The Real-World Protection Test is a web-based evaluation, whereas in the Malware Protection Test, malicious files are executed on the system.
In the latest Real-World Protection Test, conducted in July-October 2020, AV-Comparatives evaluated 17 popular antivirus brands, including the names like Norton, Bitdefender, McAfee, Kaspersky and ESET.
Windows Defender and Avast were also among the participants and, once again, both managed to secure the highest-possible award. This shows that both antivirus suites provide excellent protection against all sorts of malware threats.
Winner: Tie. It’s a tie in this category as both antivirus suites have comparable results from two independent sources.
3. System Performance
An antivirus program that affects your computer speed is a pain in the neck. A reliable security suite is one that thwarts malware threats without impacting system performance.
To see how Windows Defender and Avast fare in this category, we will again refer to the independent lab evaluations.
In the AV-Test’s January-February 2021 performance evaluations, both Avast and Windows Defender clinched 6 out of 6 score.
AV-Comparatives also conducted a similar test in October 2020.
While Avast earned the highest ADVANCED+ award due to its exceptional impact score, Windows Defender got the one-star STANDARD award.
Windows Defender’s performance was particularly disappointing as it was the only product of the 17 tested that got the lowest ranking.
Winner: Avast. Independent tests show that Avast is better than Windows Defender in the system performance category, as it puts less influence on your computer speed.
Another important aspect that we can look at is user-friendliness. Let’s directly compare both software’s user interfaces and see which one is better.
Windows Defender has a simple, minimalistic visual aesthetic. Opening the software requires several clicks; you have to jump through several hoops before you can reach the Windows Security Center, which is the primary dashboard for controlling the software’s features and operations.
The interface is neat and clean, and everything is laid out well. The left-hand grouping allows you to reach various modules and operations.
There’s no option to schedule scans, which may be frustrating for some people, but you can run different types of scans.
Avast’s interface is simple and intuitive, dominated by dark colors. Even those who aren’t computer literate will be able to effectively utilize everything that Avast has to offer.
When you open the software, you’ll probably see a large green checkmark in the center, which indicates that everything is okay. The checkmark will change to a red exclamation point if there’s something wrong. Beneath the indicator icon is a quick scan button that allows you to immediately begin a smart scan of your computer.
The left-hand rail organizes all the major features and into four self-explanatory categories: Status, Privacy, Protection, and Performance. All the major features of the software are just a few clicks away from the main screen.
In addition, there are customization options available if you like to fine-tune your experience. For instance, you can schedule scans to work around your schedule or lower the number of automatic scans to free up processing speed for other tasks.
Winner: Avast. Overall, Avast’s interface provides a better user experience than Windows Defender’s.
Avast offers a full suite of antivirus products, including a limited freemium option, while Windows Defender is a free program with no paid-for upgrades. So, there’s no real comparison between both software in this category.
Avast Free antivirus is just like Windows Defender in that it doesn’t cost you a penny. However, this freemium software offers minimal value. Avast Internet Security, the company’s first premium offering, costs $59.99 per year for one PC. Avast Premium, the next step up, costs $69.99 per year for one PC license. Avast Ultimate, the highest tier of protection from Avast, also gives you one PC license for $119.99 per year.
|Avast Products||Regular Price||Discounted Price|
|Avast Internet Security||$47.99/year||Check here|
|Avast Premium Security (1 Device)||$69.99/year||Check here|
|Avast Premium Security (Multi-Device)||$89.99/year||Check here|
|Avast Ultimate||$99.99/year||Check here|
|Avast Business Antivirus||Varies||Check here|
Winner: N/A. There’s no comparison between both Avast and Windows Defender in this category.
The main difference is that Avast offers better malware protection than Windows Defender — without putting a burden on system performance. Avast offers a free antivirus product as well as several premium products at different price points whereas Windows Defender is completely free.
No. Avast can go it alone. It’s an excellent antivirus program that is packed with all the features you need to protect the data and privacy of yourself and your family. Plus, it’s advanced tools go beyond malware protection.
All antivirus programs use some computing power and impact your computer speed as a result. Avast has improved considerably when it comes to performance. Independent lab tests show that Avast is among the top products that don’t have much influence on system performance.
Avast is one of the best antivirus suites out there. Still, some programs are better than Avast. For instance, Norton comes with unmatched features and offers impressive malware protection. Bitdefender and McAfee also boast excellent features and offer affordable pricing plans.
Our recommendations: If you want to get the highest level of security and performance, there's no better choice than Norton, which protects over 50 million users worldwide.
After reviewing dozens of antivirus products from some of the biggest names in the cybersecurity realm, we believe that Norton 360 Deluxe is the best antivirus suite available on the market. It provides flawless anti-malware protection without slowing you down. Plus, you get almost all the advanced features you could ever want.
If you're willing to pay more for advanced identity protection features, we recommend Norton 360 with LifeLock select (only available in the US). It's a bit pricey but worth the price.
Anas Baig is a consumer privacy advocate and cybersecurity journalist by profession. Has has more than 7 years of professional experience under his belt. Anas has been featured on numerous media publications including The Guardian, Lifehacker, The Next Web, Infosecurity Magazine, Security Boulevard, Hacker Noon, CMS Wire, IAPP, SC Magazine, and many others. His interest includes Digital Privacy Rights, Information Security, Networking, Privacy, and Data Protection.