(Last updated on January 12th, 2021)
Windows Defender or Malwarebytes, which antivirus software is a better option in 2021?
We have put together this detailed Windows Defender versus Malwarebytes comparison to help you make an informed decision.
These days, it is riskier than ever to go online without excellent antivirus protection. More people are using the internet than ever before, which means there is an increased threat from hackers who are continually surfacing new malware and coming up with clever ways to steal your financial data and personal information.
In 2018 alone, over 10 billion malware attacks were recorded worldwide. Also, over 1.5 million new phishing sites are created every single month. Ransomware attacks have also increased by over 97% over the past two years. These numbers are alarming, and they are expected to go even higher as time goes on.
So, it’s evident that you can no longer count on flimsy protection offered by free or low-end antivirus programs. Instead, getting a full-blown premium security software is the way to go. But we know that finding the right antivirus software can be difficult.
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.
In this ultimate guide, we’ll compare Windows Defender and Malwarebytes to see which software is a better choice. We’ll see how both software compare in terms of features, anti-malware security, impact on system performance, and more.
In a rush? Take a look at the quick rundown below for a quick view of the battle.
A Quick Rundown of Winners in Each Category
Winner: None. Many advanced security-related features and utilities are missing from both software.
2. Malware Protection
Winner: Windows Defender. Independent evaluations confirm that Windows Defender offers better anti-malware security than Malwarebytes.
3. System Performance
Winner: None. Both Windows Defender and Malwarebytes need to improve their performance scores.
Winner: Malwarebytes. Malwarebytes has a better and more intuitive user interface than Windows Defender.
Winner: N/A. Windows Defender is free, while Malwarebytes offers several products, including a freeware. There isn’t a real comparison between both software in this category.
Windows Defender is free, whereas Malwarebytes offers several excellent premium security products. Independent lab tests show that both software provide good malware protection with minimal impact on system performance, but Malwarebytes has a better user interface 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 dig into the details …
Most modern antivirus software provide you with excellent features and utilities that promote extra value and utility beyond just anti-malware protection.
First, let’s examine what features are included in Windows Defender.
Windows Defender Security Centre (also called Windows Defender) is the default antivirus product that comes with almost all versions of the Windows operating system. You can’t totally uninstall this software, unfortunately, but it automatically turns off when you install a third-party antivirus program.
The software comes with a comprehensive malware scanner that gets updated regularly with new definitions, as well as a firewall that inspects all the data flowing in and out of your network.
The Find my Device function that lets you locate your PC when it gets lost or stolen is also part of the software. This utility enables you to erase or lock your system if you fear that your personal information is in danger of being stolen.
A suite of parental controls also comes built-in with Windows Defender. These features let you block your kids from accessing certain websites or apps that aren’t appropriate for their age. Further, you can limit their screen time with set limits or monitor their web activity.
Other than the features mentioned above, there isn’t much included in the software.
Let’s see what Malwarebytes offers in terms of features.
Malwarebytes does have a free version called Malwarebytes Free. However, the freeware can only remove infections from your computer and doesn’t offer real-time anti-malware monitoring and protection, so it’s not a good option for defending your computer against malware threats. However, if you have already been infected by some sort of malware, this tool can turn out to be useful.
Malwarebytes Premium for You (compatible with Windows, Mac, and Android) is the first paid antivirus package offered by the company. This suite offers superior malware protection against all kinds of threats, plus a safe web browser that allows you to surf and shop online with peace of mind and advanced ransomware protection.
The premium version also allows to schedule different scans around your schedule, rather than having to manually run each scan. You’ll also get automatic protection updates from Malwarebytes, so your computer will always be protected against all the latest digital threats.
A single license of this suite covers one device.
Malwarebytes Premium for Home is another antivirus suite offered by the company. This suite has everything that the previous suite offers but gives you licenses for up to 10 devices. It’s an excellent pick for families who have several different devices running on different platforms and don’t want to get OS-specific protection for each one.
As a premium Malwarebytes customer, you can contact support 24/7 via email, online chat, or phone.
If you’re interested in Malwarebytes’ business-specific solutions, click here to find more information about these products.
Winner: None. Both Windows Defender and Malwarebytes offer a few useful features as part of their software packages, but many advanced security-enhancing features and tools are missing from both companies’ offerings.
2. Malware Protection
Malware defense is the most critical aspect of any security software. To see whether Windows Defender or Malwarebytes is better when it comes to anti-malware defense, let’s check out unbiased results from two well-known independent companies: AV-Test and AV-Comparatives.
The results of AV-Test’s recent two-round evaluations were released in April 2019. Windows Defender scored a perfect 6 out of 6 rating in the Protection category of these evaluations, exhibiting excellent anti-malware capabilities.
Malwarebytes scored a slightly lower 5.5 out of 6 in the same examinations, which is a good score but not perfect.
The experts at Austrian lab AV-Comparatives also conduct a similar study, called Real-World Protection test. Windows Defender got the second-best ADVANCED award in the recent Real-World test, while Malwarebytes – for some reason – didn’t participate in the evaluations.
Winner: Windows Defender. Overall, both independent tests confirm that Windows Defender is better than Malwarebytes in terms of providing anti-malware security. Malwarebytes also refrained from participating in AV-Comparatives’ evaluations.
3. System Performance
Good antivirus software shouldn’t just defend you; it should run smoothly and allow you to enjoy your device without slowdowns. To that end, let’s check independent performance tests and see which of the two software puts the least impact on system performance.
In AV-Test’s Performance evaluation, Windows Defender didn’t quite get a perfect score, earning 5.5 out of 6.
Malwarebytes also got a 5.5 out of 6, matching Windows Defender.
AV-Comparatives also has a Performance test of its own. The recent version of the test was conducted in April 2019. Microsoft’s product had a horrible time in this test; it came last in a trial that involved more than a dozen top security products. Malwarebytes, as said earlier, didn’t take part in the AV-Comparatives’ recent examinations.
Winner: None. Overall, both software registered decent scores in the AV-Test examinations, but neither Windows Defender nor Malwarebytes performed well in the other evaluation.
Another important factor you can consider is how user-friendly and easy-to-use is the interface of a security software. This will ensure everyone can make use of all the features included in the software, even people who only have basic computer skills.
Let’s examine the interfaces of both Windows Defender and Malwarebytes.
Windows Defender’s dashboard, which is renamed as the Windows Security Center, takes a bit to get to. You have to go through several different clicks just to reach the dashboard. Once you’re on the software’s main window, you’ll see all of the major categories on the left-hand side of the screen. Each category is self-explanatory and contains several different features and options.
The biggest downside of the software is the lack of the ability to schedule scans. This means that any scan that the software performs should be manually initiated.
Overall, the interface is neat and intuitive but has some roadblocks to stop it from being truly great.
Now let’s examine Malwarebytes’ interface and see if they do a better job.
Malwarebytes has a crowded main screen that uses large icons and horizontal bars to provide you with all the essential information. The bars will light up and change color quickly if there’s an issue and return to normal color if everything is okay.
As usual, you’ll find different blocks on the left side of the screen, such as Scan and Settings. There’s also a Scan Now button on the screen that lets you initiate a scan with a single click.
The right of the main window shows the status of different protection modules, such as web protection, exploit protection, and ransomware protection, along with information about when that last scan was conducted and when the next scan is scheduled to run.
Winner: Malwarebytes. Overall, both software offer a decent interface, but Malwarebytes’ is more intuitive and easy-to-use than Windows Defender’s.
Windows Defender is totally free, while Malwarebytes offer a free version as well as two paid antivirus packages, which are Malwarebytes for You and Malwarebytes for Home.
Malwarebytes for You costs $39.99 per year and gives you one license, which you can use to protect your PC, Mac, or smartphone. Malwarebytes for Home costs $59.99 per year and protects up to 10 devices.
|Malwarebytes Products||Regular Price||Discounted Price|
|Malwarebytes Premium for PCs||$39.99/year||Check here|
|Malwarebytes Premium for Mac||$39.99/year||Check here|
|Malwarebytes Business Products||Varies||Check here|
Winner: N/A. Since Windows Defender doesn’t offer a paid upgrade, there isn’t a real comparison to make between both software in this category.
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.