Whether you only use your computer for social media and browsing, are a full-time blogger, or operate a large e-commerce business, one thing that your Internet activities have in common is the need for a high-quality, dependable antivirus solution.
When the time comes to select an anti-virus software, you will probably do some research yourself or ask friends and co-workers for recommendations.
After some leg work you will likely get down to two popular choices: Avast and Malwarebytes. But how do you choose which antivirus software is right for your specific needs?
In this article, we will compare Avast and Malwarebytes to help you determine the right option for your computer antivirus protection. We will rank them based on how they perform and their top features to give you a clearer picture of the optimum choice.
First let’s see a side-by-side comparison table of the two options.
|Both Free and Paid Option||YES||YES|
|Free Option||Real-time protection||On-demand scanning only|
|Attacks prevented per month (according to each vendor)||1.5 Billion||240 Million|
|Current Market Share (according to “Statista”)||15.12%||10.38%|
|Operating Systems Supported||Windows, MAC, Android, iOS, IoT (smarthome)||Windows, MAC, Android, iOS, Chromebook|
|Ransomware Protection||YES (Paid Version)||YES (Paid Version)|
|VPN Support||YES (Paid Version)||NO|
|Extra Features (on Paid versions)||WiFi security, Password Security, Sandbox, Web browsing protection, Firewall, spam and phishing protection, webcam protection, computer cleanup, gaming mode etc||Anti-exploit, Anti-rootkit, Web browsing protection, gaming play mode.|
|Latest AV-TEST Protection Score (*)||6/6||4.5/6|
|Price||Up to 40% Discount||Check Price|
*AV-TEST Score: https://www.av-test.org/en/antivirus/home-windows/
Avast in Brief
An innovative leader in cybersecurity, Avast uses state of the art artificial intelligence and machine learning to scour the entire internet to constantly detect and block malicious software. Avast claims to prevent 1.5 billion attacks every month.
Being the market leader in Antivirus Software, they have the capability to have vast knowledge of virus and attack patterns that are happening in real-time over the Internet. This gives them the ability to detect and block attacks effectively.
Malwarebytes in Brief
Malwarebytes is a unique cybersecurity company focused on using creative ways to identify threats and protect against them. One strong component of their software that is not always available with others is their focus on zero-days detection, which refers to threats that have not been seen before.
Also, their Anti-exploit feature available on Premium version uses fingerprinting detection to prevent attacks on your local applications running on your machine.
Comparison of Antivirus and Anti-malware Software
When comparing Avast and Malwarebytes, you will encounter the terms “Antivirus” and “Anti-malware” assigned to each product respectively. This is one of the major differences between the two products.
The line is thin between the two terms. When we talk about “Antivirus” we usually mean a program that protects your computer from getting infected in the first place by preventing, detecting, and blocking the malware before it executes. Types of malicious software include viruses, worms, spyware, Trojan horses, and numerous others.
On the other hand, an “Anti-malware” solution will detect and remove malware from an already infected device or block malware execution that triggers some behavioral alarms.
Avast (both Free and Paid options) is categorized as “Antivirus” solution because it works real-time and keeps working in the background for continuous protection from viruses, malware, ransomware etc.
As you can see from the screenshot above, even the free version of Avast works continuously in the background and offers real-time protection with its core shields (configurable). On my computer (above) I have enabled the File, Behaviour, Web, and Mail shields.
Malwarebytes Free version is categorized as “Anti-malware” solution because it works on-demand. That is, you run it as often as you like to do a scan for finding possible malware on your computer. It does not work continuously.
Having said that, the free version of Malwarebytes is a great complementary solution for an existing Antivirus program such as Avast.
Malwarebytes Premium (Paid) version on the other hand includes Real-Time protection (just like Avast) offering Web, Exploit, Malware, and Ransomware Protections. When you install Free version, you will get 13 days free trial of the Premium version as shown below:
Therefore, the paid version of Malwarebytes can be used to replace an antivirus program. Moreover, I suggest to install the Free version first and take advantage of the 13-day free trial of the Premium version so that you can have first-hand experience of the paid product.
What the two products protect us from?
Malicious software is designed for various reasons from “bad guys”, mostly to invade and damage other programs on your computer or allow access to your sensitive and personal information.
Another type of attack comes in the form of phishing; when someone is lured to disclose private information to someone under false pretenses or by pretending to be working in an official capacity with known entities.
A prevalent security attack nowadays is Ransomware. This is malware code that encrypts all your data and demands “ransom” (in the form of Bitcoins) in order to decrypt your files and data.
Both Avast and Malwarebytes offer protection for PCs and Mac, as well as mobile protection for Android and iOS for all of the above security problems (and much more).
Further, they have differing levels of protection, from free home services to premium multi-device services to protect every way we connect online and open ourselves up to attacks.
Antivirus Protection Comparison
With Antivirus protection, the software scans every file that is downloaded or moved from external means (e.g USB, email etc) to your computer. The software runs in the background (in RAM memory) thus it is constantly in alert mode. Regular updates are important to keep the antivirus protection current as new threats pop up all the time.
Avast, as I’ve described above, offers antivirus protection as its main functionality in both the Free and Paid versions of the product.
The software includes both protection from zero-day attacks and also detection of the most common malware. The software alerts you when there is a threat or attack and you then choose what you would like to do with it.
Because Avast is one of the market leaders in AV (has the biggest market share with millions of users), they have extensive knowledge of new and old virus patterns. This means that their detection ratio is excellent.
According to the current independent tests from AV-TEST Institute, Avast is one of the few products that scored 100% (with score 6/6) in Protection against malware infections (such as viruses, worms or Trojan horses) (see screenshot above).
The institute above, tested the product with 309 samples of zero-day (i.e unknown) malware attacks and 13,668 samples of widespread and prevalent malware code.
In my opinion, Avast is my recommended choice (when comparing it with Malwarebytes) in terms of effectively detecting and blocking malware.
The real-time virus protection offered from Malwarebytes is only on the Premium paid version.
The program identifies the most current threats and scans for them instead of every type known. This allows the antivirus to work faster. You are still able to do a comprehensive scan when you want.
Their anti-exploit feature looks for possible attacks to your local applications (e.g Internet explorer, Microsoft products etc) to block malicious code from exploiting any possible vulnerabilities found on these applications. This feature has the potential of blocking zero-day attacks as well.
Protection of Web Access Activities (browsing, email etc)
Some of the most popular ways that hackers infect your computer with malware include “drive-by web attacks” and “email attacks”. These are two of the most popular web activities of users so a solid antivirus security solution must be able to protect you against attacks on your web activities.
The above attacks have the purpose of stealing your personal information and privacy or taking “hostage” your computer and files (such as ransomware).
Protecting your personal information and privacy are the most important part of cybersecurity-based software. Guarding against attacks focused on gaining access to this information is one aspect of good security.
Another key component of security is the protection of your information when you are sending that information to other companies and help to redirect your browser when you head toward a site known to contain malicious links.
Let’s see how the two products will help you on the above issues.
The “Web Shield” component of Avast (which is even included in the Free version) is the core shield for web related protections.
It checks data in real-time that is transferred between your computer and the Web, providing great protection with minimal false positives.
The Web Shield is one of the most important security mechanisms in Avast (together with the “File Shield”). It essentially scans data in memory and can block malware files before they even reach the hard disk of your system.
Another layer of protection includes the “Avast Online Security” browser plugin. This plugin checks every site you visit site to verify if it is deemed untrustworthy by using data from their community of 400 million users.
Regarding web protection performance and effectiveness, Avast wins compared to Malwarebytes in my opinion. I personally use Avast with Web Shield enabled, and my experience is exceptional so far.
Web Protection feature is included only in the Premium version. It blocks connections to websites that the company knows they are bad. This means “you are proactively protected from downloading malware, hacking attempts, and infected advertising” according to Malwarebytes.
This is a good concept however some users are reporting some false-positives which means the website is actually good but the software thinks is bad and thus blocks the access.
Impact on System Performance
Every type of software that is added to your computer has the potential to impact the overall performance. It is important to understand how much of an impact there will be on your system especially if you have a slow computer.
Antivirus software that causes your computer to run noticeably slower may impact not only how you are able to use your computer, but it may have an impact on how effective the software works.
Because the Avast software scans your computer for all known threats (with its huge signature database), it does cause a slight impact on overall system performance.
When scanning with the software on your computer, performance degradation can be negated somewhat by scheduled scans when your computer is not in use.
When visiting new sites some people complain a slightly slower internet speed (although Avast claims that there is not degradation in Internet speed performance).
It takes nearly 3% longer than the industry average to load popular websites which will not be noticeable by most people.
However, the program works faster than the industry average while copying files and launching frequently used apps.
This is where Malwarebytes really shines. Due to their efficient scanning process that only looks for the most current and active threat the software shows almost zero impact on overall system performance.
In fact, their impact was below the industry average on all aspects except launching or installing applications. In these areas, there is a small impact. This is due to the more in-depth scans that these processes trigger.
When it comes to any service, people want to be able to use the software without having too much trouble. When it comes to protection software, most people want to be able to download it, update it when needed, and for the most part not really have to think about it. Have a simple and user-friendly interface will mean that the software is more likely to be used correctly.
The menu is clean and easy to operate for even the most inexperienced user. However, if you only operate the free version of their software the prompts to upgrade may get annoying as you are constantly asked to upgrade and shown how much more protection the premium services offer.
The program is clean and just as easy to operate as Avast. You will notice a marked difference in the push to upgrade. That is probably because the free version is mostly a short-term trial version. Most users purchase a package.
Available Upgrades (Premium Packages)
Both Avast and Malwarebytes offer basic free packages that anyone can download to their computer. However, the freeware is limited compared to paid versions, only offering limited capabilities.
For Malwarebytes, the free version is not even considered an antivirus product because it does not work in real-time to detect viruses.
The case of Avast Free version is different though. Even in the Free version, Avast offers so many bells and whistles together with excellent protection.
Therefore, both offer premium packages that are designed to offer even better protection based on what you want to include.
Avast offers the following premium PC packages for purchase as an upgrade to their free virus protection:
- Avast Pro – the free plan plus Sandbox, Real Site feature, and premium customer support
- Avast Internet Security – Pro plus and an advanced firewall, email protection, and an extra layer of ransomware protection.
- Avast Premier – includes everything above and a data shredder, automatic software updates and a webcam shield
- Avast Ultimate – includes everything above plus Cleanup Premium, a VPN (a virtual private network) and Passwords Premium
Avast also offers comparable plans for Macs as well.
Malwarebytes only offers one premium package, the Malwarebytes Premium. This package offers real-time protection, anti-exploit shield, anti-ransomware protection, malicious website protection, anti-malware and spyware removal, and an anti-rootkit.
While both Avast and Malwarebytes offer some great protection, their differences are significant.
If you are only interested in basic protection and you don’t want to pay any money for now, I suggest you use Avast Free version for Antivirus protection and also use Malwarebytes Free for on-demand scanning.
It is not recommended to have two active antivirus solutions running concurrently. However, the above setup with the two free options will not cause any conflicts because only Avast will be actively protecting your system. Malwarebytes will be used on demand when its needed.
However if you want to have one of the best security solutions in the market with all the extra bells and whistles that you desire then you are going to want to go with Avast. Their multi-level plans mean that you can find the perfect package to fit your needs.
In my opinion, the Internet Security plan offers the most important security features that regular users need. The other two higher-end plans (Premier and Ultimate) offer some extra functionality (such as VPN, webcam protection etc) which however is not that important in my opinion.