It is important to note that cyberattacks are evolving at an alarming rate and can be irreversibly destructive if mishandled. Sophisticated pop-up ads, process injections, phishing emails, and malware waiting to appear under the guise of all sorts of trustworthy sites double the protection of your system. There is so much of our personal information stored on our computers these days that it’s just one more reason to make sure you’re protected too.
We’ve reviewed all the major antivirus programs and put together this compilation that lists the ones we recommend to protect your gaming PC. None of them are very expensive, and there are even some free options if you’re looking to save some money.
While there are plenty of effective antivirus apps on the market, the best antivirus for gaming should get the job done without hindering your performance or being too intrusive in everyday use. What makes Bitdefender so good is that once installed, it immediately goes into auto-pilot mode. Autopilot makes all security-related decisions for you based on your usage patterns, so you’re not bombarded with alerts and notifications. However, don’t worry; you still have a lot of control if you want it.
One of our favorite things about Bitdefender is that it can scan for any active vulnerabilities, be it outdated software, missing Windows updates, or even bad passwords, and present it in easy-to-read reports. It has its own VPN and improved parental controls if you have a child using your computer. We rarely ever see antivirus software go all out like Bitdefender.
As with most antivirus software, Bitdefender’s pricing structure depends on how many years you want to use for five or 10 devices.
As much as we love Bitdefender, there are other effective security suites out there. Kaspersky Internet Security is one of them. In this case, we recommended paying $10 extra for Kaspersky Total Security, a more complete package with some handy utilities, rather than just nonsense.
Among the additional goodies is a file shredder that overwrites deleted files. Hence, they are almost impossible to recover, the ability to create encrypted folders to protect sensitive files from prying eyes, password synchronization across multiple devices, and PC cleaning tools, just to name a few. You can find free alternatives to all of these, but it’s handy to have them all in one place.
We like Kaspersky Lab because it’s consistently good at detecting and blocking malware and has minimal impact on system performance. That’s not to say it’s perfect – we recall one particularly nasty case where Kaspersky allowed a potentially unwanted program (PUP) to block the mouse cursor in a field. It took some persistence (and safe mode) to fix the problem. However, for the most part, Kaspersky Lab does an excellent job of protecting PCs. Even on rare occasions we encountered problems, they were relatively minor.
Currently, there is also a half-price discount for Kaspersky Lab for new customers, so you can get three pcs covered within a year for $29.99.
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McAfee has always been a celebrity in the antivirus world. Chances are if you bought your computer in the early 2000s, it came preinstalled with McAfee antivirus software. Fast forward to today: McAfee created an antivirus specifically for games. This simplifies the process so you can rest easy knowing that you can still play Apex Legends without getting bogged down in performance by security-related pop-up notifications.
McAfee Gamer Security knows when you are in a game and will stop everything running in the background while you are playing. This makes games a priority for system resources, disables notifications and anything else that might get in the way of your fun. This is great for those who want to know they’re safe from all the common intruders on the internet, but don’t want to fiddle around with any settings. McAfee Gamer Security does everything for you.
SecureAnywhere has been and continues to be an outstanding AV solution. It takes up only a few megabytes of disk space and uses about 5 MB of RAM in standby mode. Task Manager shows that SecureAnywhere uses about 50MB of RAM and less than 15% CPU usage during an active scan, however, it only takes a couple of minutes to scan 150GB of data spread across two SSDs.
Webroot also releases a special version of SecureAnywhere for gamers. It differs from the regular version in that it offers a system optimizer tool that “analyzes your devices and operating systems for system problems, erases all traces of online activity, and makes deleted files unrecoverable.” In practice, we have only seen deleting temporary files to free up disk space. SecureAnywhere also politely stays in the background, so you’re not bothered by updates or extra lag while you play.
Since SecureAnywhere is based on the cloud, it works best when you have an internet connection. In the era of ubiquitous broadband, this won’t be a problem for many people, especially gamers. And while SecureAnywhere is lightweight and requires less storage space, there are surprisingly many customizable options. There are over 100 of them and you can export your settings to make setting up on another PC quick and easy. In terms of pricing, Webroot is currently on par with $19.99 per device for one year. (ignore the countdown, it’s always that price).
We chose Avira as the free option because of the level of customization available. Whether you want to dive into the software menus and start fiddling with knobs and dials is up to you, but if you choose to customize Avira’s behavior, you’ll find a modest set of tools. One of the options we highly recommend enabling is to scan for rootkits before scanning. This will increase the scan time, but rootkits are especially dangerous because of how deep they bite into the OS, so it’s better to err on the side of security.
You can also adjust how aggressively Avira scans for zero-day threats using heuristic analysis, the default detection level is medium. By increasing it to the maximum, Avira becomes very cautious but risks reporting false positives. A low level has the opposite effect, or you can disable heuristic analysis altogether, an option we don’t recommend.
What you don’t get with the free version of Avira is the game mode. And although Avira does not cost any money, you pay for it through annoying ads. This is the advantage of the free version of BitDefender. On the contrary, it does not use ads, does not annoy users with pop-ups, and pauses system scans when you are playing. It’s a no-fuss solution, although the downside is that there aren’t many options, just a couple of on/off switches.