Is Antivirus Software Necessary in 2024?

The rate at which viruses get created in the modern era may terrify you. Here’s how antivirus software can help.
We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Getting antivirus software can be expensive, but unfortunately, most devices don’t have adequate protection. This can leave your devices vulnerable to hackers, so we believe antivirus software is still necessary in 2024. Case in point: In 2023, around 116 million people were impacted by health dat breaches.[1]

If this statistic seems scary, keep reading to learn why you still need antivirus software, how it protects you and your loved ones, and whether you can avoid paying high prices by using free antivirus programs.

In this article
Is antivirus software necessary?
How does antivirus software protect your device?
How much does antivirus cost?
Is built-in antivirus software enough?
Is free antivirus software still good?
Bottom line

Is antivirus software necessary?

Antivirus software is necessary even in 2024. When you invest in antivirus software protection, you're ensuring your sensitive information remains private. You can think of it as a shield that surrounds all your critical data.

Most iPhone users don’t have issues with virus attacks, but all other operating systems and smartphones need protection. Many viruses can inflict incredible damage to your devices. Over 6,000 new viruses get created every month.[2] With so many unwanted programs out there, you don’t want to be vulnerable to a cyber attack.

Are computer viruses still a threat?

Just as there are old viruses that many users have experienced, there are new viruses and malware released every day. As one fades out, another one takes its place.

Another issue with viruses is that they can spread before you even know they're present. A computer virus is like an illness to your device. It goes throughout the system, causing destruction everywhere it touches. Many of us use external hard drives or flash drives for storage. A virus can spread to these like a disease spreads throughout the human body.

These computer viruses run rampant through programs and files. The instructions for the computer virus get set up in code. The code gets carried throughout the computer when the infected program gets booted or launched.

Some viruses get programmed to infect by certain triggers. These can be specific functions, dates, or other events. Imagine typing along on your keyboard and entering your wedding anniversary or birthday on a form. Once you type the number, your computer freezes and nothing you do fixes the problem. That is an example of how a virus can get triggered by a date or number.

The table below illustrates how quickly new viruses present themselves and wreak havoc on any device or operating system.

New malware by operating system in 2021 and 2022

Operating system New malware in 2022 New malware in 2021
Windows 30.53 million
116.85 million
Android 599,258
3.33 million
macOS 16,809

If you’re an Android user and think you have enough security because you have Google Play Protect, you could be wrong. It works by removing malware from the Play Store, so you may still download malware accidentally. Google Play Protect won’t necessarily keep malware from breaching the store, so you should opt for antivirus for Android to keep your smartphone protected.

We must also think of the number of internet sites that exist today. There are more than ever before. Most sites, including social media, mean more chances to stumble on a nasty virus. When you go online unprotected, you're taking a serious risk every time. No matter how safe and responsible we try to be, there are always threats like ransomware, identity theft scams, and other malicious software lurking on the web.

Do you need antivirus for Windows?

You need antivirus for Windows if you’re concerned at all about internet security. Although you’ll get Windows Defender when you buy a Windows-based co, that might not be enough to protect your data. Windows Defender is a good, basic antivirus that helps keep your information safe, but it lacks important features you could get with another antivirus program.

And if you want to get all the benefits of Windows Defender, you’ll need to use other Microsoft products along with it. For example, if you use Firefox, Opera, or a web browser other than Microsoft Edge, Defender doesn’t protect those. It’s also hit or miss with phishing protection, and you won’t get extras like a password manager or a virtual private network (VPN).

The fact is that Windows operating systems are more susceptible to malware than other systems. That could be due to the popularity of the platform. Windows computers got hit with 91% of all ransomware in 2020, according to managed services providers.[3] So we recommend getting reputable, Windows-friendly antivirus software, like Norton or Bitdefender to help protect your data.

Do you need antivirus for macOS?

Some users believe Mac computers are exempt from needing antivirus, but that isn’t the case. If you want to be sure your information stays safe, antivirus is imperative, even for macOS.

Apple does a great job of using tools to improve security on macOS by making it harder to download malware. But one type of malware Mac users need to be especially cautious of is phishing emails and scams. 

It’s also a good idea not to make a habit of using public Wi-Fi without an antivirus and VPN to help protect your device. Although Apple stays on top of security, having that extra layer of protection always helps. A good Mac-friendly product that offers phishing protection is CleanMyMac.

Do you need antivirus for Android devices?

Although Google removes malware when it finds it in the Google Play Store, that still leaves a security gap. The malware can sometimes still reach the store, allowing you to download it before it gets removed. Another potential issue is the use of sideloading on your Android device, or the process of installing an app from a source other than the Google Play Store.

If you want to maintain security on your Android device, it’s best to use antivirus software since Google Play Protect may not catch all the malware that comes through. Two antivirus products with Android apps, Bitdefender and AVG, both received perfect scores with third party tester AV-TEST.

Do you need antivirus for iOS devices?

iOS could be the one device that doesn’t need antivirus. Apple has designed iOS in a way that makes it hard for malware to invade the system — especially since iPhones and iPads can only use apps that come from Apple’s App Store. These apps get reviewed and approved before they even enter the App Store.

Your iPhone apps also get sandboxed, which means they’re isolated from your operating system and other apps. That makes the risk of getting a virus on your iPhone extremely low. As long as you don’t plan to jailbreak your phone and bypass Apple’s security, your iOS device likely doesn’t need antivirus protection.

If you opt for extra protection, you should look for an antivirus that alerts you immediately if something isn’t right with your operating system or if it spots a suspicious link or app. We recommend Norton Mobile Security for iOS, which comes with built-in Wi-Fi and device security features.

How does antivirus software protect your device?

Antivirus software works by scanning your computer files and hard drive. It also checks the programs on your computer. As the software runs the scans, it looks for any suspicious behavior.

Antivirus quarantines infected files

If the antivirus software finds malware or viruses present, it will give you the option to remove or quarantine the offensive files. Most antivirus programs will allow you to automate scanning and run manual scans at your preference.

Some antivirus programs block remote access

Some astute hackers know how to gain control of your devices remotely. They create a backdoor into your computer that gives them access without you knowing. Some antivirus applications come with premium features that will block remote access.

Antivirus lets you run apps in a sandbox

There are multiple new apps available for use. Some may look suspicious at first glance. You can get antivirus software that will let you run these apps in a “sandbox” so they won’t affect your other programs and files. The new apps get held away from your other apps until scanned.

Look for antivirus with permanent file deletion

When you buy an antivirus software program, you may want the benefit of permanent file deletion. Many people delete old files that contain sensitive data. Sometimes you might forget that putting a document in the recycle bin does not permanently delete it. That could be detrimental if you decide to sell your device or throw it away. Someone else could see the files you thought got destroyed.

How much does antivirus cost?

How much an antivirus costs depends on the features you get and how many devices you want to cover. You should review different products to see which one has the most options you need for the price you want to pay.

To get a general idea of the price ranges you might find, we compared five of the most popular antivirus programs. But it’s important to note that antivirus prices change frequently — keep looking and you may even find a special limited-time price.

4 antivirus programs and their prices




Price range $29.00–$49.00/yr (first year only) $39.99–$249.99/yr $14.99–$49.99/first yr Free–$65.99/first yr
Free version
Learn more Get TotalAV

Read TotalAV Review

Get McAfee

Read McAfee Review

Get Bitdefender

Read Bitdefender Review


Read TotalAV Review

When you’re looking for antivirus software, you want to look for a product with the features that matter most to you. In general, these are the antivirus features we recommend:

  • Real-time protection
  • Manual and scheduled scans
  • Phishing and ransomware protection
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Automatic malware definition updates
  • Coverage for all your devices

You may want software that has all the fancy bells and whistles, like a password manager and VPN, included. If you travel or use your device on public Wi-Fi, a VPN is worth paying a little extra to maintain secure browsing.

Many reputable antivirus products also offer free trials or money-back guarantees, so you can change your mind if the security suite doesn’t meet your needs.

Is built-in antivirus software enough?

Most devices will come with a trial version of antivirus software preloaded. Some of these trials last for a specific time frame and end afterward unless you pay to extend it. Still, the built-in antivirus software that gets pre-installed on your device may not be enough.

Most built-in antivirus software programs offer minimal protection. When you consider how much damage a virus can do, you may want more from your antivirus application.

Preloaded antivirus software may not provide endpoint protection or remediation, which businesses need. If an organization receives a cyber threat, endpoint protection or remediation will contain it. Additionally, you most likely won’t get software that blocks against adware or potentially unwanted programs.

Some free antivirus software also only offers on-demand scanning. That means you essentially must remember to run scans to check for malware or viruses. If you forget, you could have a virus that replicates itself throughout your computer system. Once you realize what has happened, it could be too late to stop it.

If you’ve purchased a device recently, the chances are good that you are either using the Windows 10 operating system or macOS. These are the two most popular systems available.

If you use a device that has Windows 10, it will come equipped with Windows Defender security software, also called Windows Security. A newer Mac computer will have the macOS operating system. It comes with XProtect antivirus software built-in. Apple designed this software to run in the background so that the user has nothing extra to do. It scans without you noticing any changes. When you purchase your new device, you may not understand how the built-in antivirus software works or what it protects.

Microsoft Defender Antivirus and Firewall

Microsoft Defender Antivirus claims real-time protection against malware, viruses, and spyware. The software looks for threats in email, apps, cloud storage, and the web. To get endpoint protection for Windows 10, you would need to buy Defender for Endpoint. Also, if you have an older version of Windows, you will not be able to use Windows Defender. For new versions of Windows, you will get Windows Defender Antivirus and Windows Defender Firewall pre-installed, but you will have to go through a few steps to enable it.

To assess threats, Microsoft recommends running Defender Vulnerability Management. This program is supposed to protect against data breaches and predict the likelihood of them happening. One of the shortcomings of Windows Defender is that it has some trouble blocking phishing attacks.

macOS XProtect antivirus

XProtect is the built-in antivirus software that Apple designed to run in the background while users work. The problem is that this does not block potentially unwanted programs that can sneak in without the user knowing. XProtect also won’t block adware, so some malware can still get by it and bog down the device.

Is free antivirus software still good?

Some people argue that free antivirus software is the way to go because it can work as well as anything else. You should remember that not all antivirus software systems are created the same. Also, depending on your operating system, the one you choose may not work at all. There are specific antivirus software programs designed to work with Windows and some are for macOS only.

We don’t discourage the use of reputable free antivirus software programs. Avast, AVG, and Bitdefender are some of the more popular options. Having more protection is certainly not a bad idea. In addition, free antivirus software can be a foundation for a more premium antivirus program. That alone can make using a free program worthwhile.

Free antivirus options likely protect one device. The average user has multiple devices, and this would force a choice to get made. You would need to decide which device you need to protect the most.

Many free antivirus options come with a time window. You can use them for a limited time, usually 30 days. Then, you will need to buy the license or forfeit coverage.

Some programs also change your computer’s default functions, which can be annoying to say the least. Many free antivirus software programs will install bloatware you may not want or need. These can contain offers to buy other programs, and ads will pop up at inconvenient times.

As a user, the best antivirus software you can get will give you all the protection without the unwanted issues that come with free programs. You can get a solid antivirus software platform that is affordable and gives you much-needed peace of mind.

Many subscriptions offer annual pricing and discounts when you pay for extended periods. Some also come with extra features that give the user more value for their money. Having the flexibility to choose a tailor-made option appeals to many users.

You can purchase antivirus software that will update all the apps on your device. That is crucial because some apps become outdated and can pose security threats. Updating apps can lessen the chance of virus vulnerability.



Do I need antivirus for Windows 10?

Yes, it is advisable to get an additional antivirus software package for Windows 10. With more malware created all the time that targets Windows operating systems, more protection is better than the basic coverage you may have with Windows Defender.


Is antivirus necessary for Mac?

Contrary to popular belief, Macs can get viruses, too. Although Macs may seem the safer option regarding threats of malware and viruses, they may benefit from extra antivirus protection.


Is antivirus necessary for Android?

The Google Play store can get malware. Because of this, we recommend antivirus protection for Android users. Otherwise, you could download an app that infects your android device. Some malware looks like a genuine app you might choose to download. These can compromise your device.


Is antivirus necessary for the iPhone?

iPhone users may be the exception when it comes to antivirus software. This is the case because the Apple iOS system does not allow apps into the App store before getting checked for potential threats. That leads to extremely minimal chances of iPhone users needing extra virus protection.

Bottom line

Although technology is always evolving, many are hopeful we won’t need antivirus software one day. We haven't reached that day in 2024. With so many threats floating around and more malware created every day, you need antivirus software to safeguard all of your devices.

You never know when you could make your computer susceptible to the next bit of malware. Internet searches, traveling with your device, and opening emails can pose potential risks. Keeping your devices secure requires antivirus software that meets your specific needs.

If you have children that use any of your devices, getting an antivirus software program is a good decision, as they are often the target of internet scams. Children also don’t know much about internet safety. Extra protection may make parents feel more comfortable with their loved ones using devices online.

Is antivirus software necessary? If you want to know that your personal information is safe and all your data stays secure, then yes, it is imperative.

There are tons of antivirus applications available for users. What you choose will depend on factors like the number of devices you have and product features you may want. Many offer advanced settings that can give you options to run scans manually and at automated times. Look through some of the highest-ranking antivirus software options to see which ones work for your budget and security needs. Check out our website for more on which antivirus software programs could offer the best protection for you.

No Fuss, Real-Time Online and Mobile Protection
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On TotalAV's website
Antivirus Software
First year discount on paid plans
  • Real-time protection from viruses, malware, and online threats
  • Blocks tracking cookies and ads, proactively monitors for data breaches, and option to schedule smart scans
  • 100% compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS operating systems on up to 3 devices
  • Lacks firewall protection

Author Details
Patti Croft is a seasoned writer specializing in technology, with three years of experience. With a B.S. in Computer Science and a background as a technical analyst and security specialist, she covers a range of topics like data security and parental control software.


[1] Health data breaches hit an all-time high in 2023 

[2] Interesting Facts about Computer Viruses

[3] What systems have you seen infected by ransomware?