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Best antivirus software for PC gaming in 2022

What many gamers don’t know is that statistically, gaming PCs are just as susceptible to malware and phishing attacks as a regular person’s computer. In fact, there have been reports of threat actors and scammers targeting gamers specifically.

Getting an antivirus for gaming might be the smartest choice you can make when faced with the risks of malware, phishing, and doxxing. However, antiviruses also have an impact on the CPU performance, making the gaming experience worse.

Thus, finding an antivirus that has performance optimization features and is great at preventing malware infections may not be so easy. But worry not, because we’re here to help - read our list of the best antivirus software for PC gaming and find the best antivirus for you.

Best antiviruses for PC gamers

  1. Bitdefender - the best antivirus for PC gaming
  2. Norton - the most feature-rich gaming antivirus
  3. TotalAV - the most secure antivirus for PC gamers
  4. McAfee - antivirus for gamers with focus on performance
  5. Avira Antivirus - antivirus for gaming with cloud-based scanning

What to look for when choosing antivirus for PC gaming?

Choosing the best antivirus for PC gaming is not exactly easy if you don’t know what to look for. So here are some features that a perfect gaming antivirus should have:

  • Game mode or game boosters. While antivirus software is necessary to protect you and your device, it can also negatively affect your gaming experience. In this case, you want to get an antivirus that has a game mode. Such a feature is designed to optimize CPU and GPU performance when gaming, so the antivirus can still run in the background without affecting the gameplay.
  • Cloud-based scanning. If the whole antivirus suite is cloud-based, it means that it won’t use your CPU power for scans and other antivirus-related activities, leaving processing units available for the best gaming experience.
  • Device cleaning. Clearing cache and other files that just take up space helps with overall device performance. An antivirus that does this without prompting is worth considering.
  • In-game threat detection. In-game malware is no joke - there have been instances of malicious code, files, and links being distributed in various multiplayer servers. An antivirus that is able to detect and inform you about harmful data before it reaches your device is always nice to have.
  • Additional features. Any additional features like VPNs, cloud storage for your file, or a password manager just add to the best antivirus experience you could have.
  • Price. Antivirus suites are known to be pretty expensive, so look for a service which’s price won’t hurt your wallet that much.

The best PC gaming antivirus – our detailed list

If you want to know more about the best PC gaming antivirus software solutions, look no further. Here’s our detailed list of the best antivirus for gaming:

1. Bitdefender - the best antivirus for PC gaming

Bitdefender interface
Price:From $23.99/year
Gaming mode:Yes
Free version:Yes
Current deal:Get all Bitdefender plans at 60% OFF!

Bitdefender is our top choice for the best PC gaming antivirus software. First and foremost, it has an incredibly high malware detection rate, according to independent lab tests. Bitdefender’s real-time monitoring, called Advanced Threat Defense, uses heuristic methods to scan your device for any potentially dangerous programs and activity, ensuring complete protection at all times.

What makes it perfect for gaming and other activities that require CPU power, are the Bitdefender Total Security’s different working profiles. Apart from work and movie mode, Bitdefender also has a game mode that limits background monitoring and push notifications, so the impact on the system is minimal and optimized for gaming.

We actually tested the Bitdefender gaming profile. With it being turned on, the frame rate increased by approx. 9%, and the CPU usage decreased. That said, the profile does not limit the amount of CPU resources used by other apps, which is something that Bitdefender could consider implementing.

As for additional features, Bitdefender also has an integrated VPN and password manager - they can aid in gaming matters, too. A VPN does so by hiding your IP address and helping you avoid DDoS attacks and doxxing, while a password manager generates and safekeeps your login information to various game launchers and websites.

And to make matters even better, Bitdefender also offers a free version. It doesn't have the premium features like the profiles, VPN, and password manager. But the best-in-class malware detection software still works perfectly well and makes the antivirus suitable for gaming.

To learn more about the features, read our Bitdefender review.

2. Norton - antivirus for gamers with launcher monitoring

Norton logo and user interface
Price:From $19.99/year
Gaming mode:Yes
Free version:No
Current deal:Get up to 66% OFF Norton Antivirus!

Norton is a near perfect antivirus for PC gamers. In fact, it has a separate product designed for gamers specifically.

Norton 360 for Gamers is a sort of extension of the Norton 360 Deluxe suite. This antivirus promises such features as Game Optimizer, which detects when you’re gaming and feeds your game maximum power from your CPU, muting or turning off other apps at the same time. This allows for smoother visuals and overall better gaming experience, all while staying safe.

Additionally, Norton’s real-time protection protects against phishing attacks in chats and detects malware or other vulnerabilities in games and launchers. For gamers and regular users alike, it offers a VPN for preventing DDoS and doxxing attacks, as well as a password manager in case you need to secure your logins to gaming platforms and launchers.

Unfortunately though, Norton for Gamers doesn’t have a cloud-based scanning solution, meaning that it will take up both memory and CPU power on your PC. On top of that, it can get pretty expensive, and there is no free version for any of its products.

For more information, read our Norton review.

3. TotalAV - the safest antivirus for PC gamers

totalav antivirus banner 1
Price:From $19.00/year
Gaming mode:No
Free version:Yes
Current deal:Get TotalAV, now 84% OFF!

Also one of our favorites for gaming, TotalAV is not only really good at detecting and preventing malware from damaging your device (and your honor and pride). It also is really good for PC gaming, as it includes performance optimization tools which work like a charm.

While TotalAV doesn’t have a specific product for gamers nor a gaming mode, it’s top-tier protection kind of makes up for it. The antivirus suite has a near-perfect track record of detecting malware and zero-day threats on your device and in the cloud. It’s real-time protection also does a good job, so you’ll be able to play all your games without having to worry about a thing.

When it comes to performance optimization, TotalAV offers a junk and duplicate file cleaner, as well as helps identify areas where the performance could be optimized in order to not take up so much CPU power. This means reduced lag not only in games, but overall device performance.

And as for additional features, TotalAV includes a VPN, a password manager and a browser extension, among other great tools for security. These features will help avoid DDoS attacks, will keep all of your logins safe and inaccessible to anyone but you, and ensure that you don’t accidentally download a Trojan instead of that new game you’ve been eyeing.

4. McAfee - gaming antivirus focused fully on performance

McAfee interface and logo
Price:From $34.99/year
Gaming mode:Yes
Free version:Yes (Android, iOS)
Current deal:Get McAfee, save up to 67%!

McAfee is another antimalware tool with a special antivirus solution for gamers. It’s called McAfee Gamer Security (MSG) and its price starts at $59.99 for the first year.

MSG has plenty of gaming-related features. For example, the MicroAV Engine, which offloads any activities related to scanning and threat detection onto the cloud. This allows for better CPU performance. And talking about the CPU, there is a Game Boost Engine which lets you prioritize games over background applications that might be hogging the power.

And in case you’re very interested in metrics and how your game is doing, there is the Realtime Performance Monitoring. This MGS feature allows you to see and control the performance of your devices while gaming.

Unfortunately, there is no password manager, nor identity theft protection features. McAfee has a VPN for its clients, but it works in full capacity only with subscription auto-renewal turned on. Otherwise, the VPN is limited to only 500MB/month of data.

There is a 30-day free trial, and seven days prior to the subscription renewal, you will be charged the renewal price, which is currently $124.99/year.

For more details, check out our McAfee review.

5. Avira - cloud-based scanning with gaming optimizers

Avira antivirus interface and logo
Price:From $30.96/year
Gaming mode:Yes
Free version:Yes
Current deal:Get 1 year of Avira at 40% OFF!

One of the pretty well-known antivirus tools, Avira antivirus is also a suitable solution for gamers. It has won several awards for its outstanding malware detection and protection rates.

The Avira Antivirus Pro suite has a game mode that limits background scanning and saves notifications and updates for a later time. Meanwhile, the Avira Prime subscription has a Game Booster for multi-core CPU computers. The latter works by isolating background apps to a single CPU core, allowing for the rest to be available for the best gaming experience.

In terms of further performance optimization, Avira’s scanning processes are cloud-based, meaning that the full scanning of suspicious files is done on the cloud, without taking up the memory or CPU power on your device. This allows for a faster performance overall, not only while gaming.

As for additional features, Avira offers a Phantom VPN for internet privacy and a password manager to safeguard all of your passwords.

Avira antivirus has a pretty good free version, too. It includes the VPN and the password manager, making it the only provider that doesn’t leave these features for paid users only.

To learn more, visit our Avira review.

How we tested and selected these antiviruses

There are many good antivirus software solutions on the market, but not every one of them is fit for gaming. To find out which antivirus is the best for PC gaming, we tested numerous services and selected the best ones based on the following criteria:

  • PC performance optimization while gaming. As gaming takes a lot from the CPU and GPU, it’s important that the antivirus game boosters and performance optimizers work properly and don’t take up much of the processing unit’s power. And kudos to the antivirus software that actually increases CPU performance.
  • Malware detection rates. Independent testing labs do thorough malware detection tests with numerous antivirus software tools. We ranked our antivirus recommendations based on these labs’ reports and our own experience.
  • Real-time protection. It is important how well antiviruses react to real-time threats and stop malware from being installed onto your device.
  • Price. As antivirus suites tend to be pretty expensive, we looked for the ones that can offer the best protection and features for the most affordable price.
  • Customer support. In case you experience any issues with the antivirus, qualified and quick customer support is crucial.

Why do I need antivirus for gaming?

If you’re still not sure why you need an antivirus for PC gaming, here are some reasons to consider:

  • Protect your device from malware. In-game malware distribution is a thing and there have been instances of it in the past. Although malware is most common in games downloaded for free or from unofficial sources, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be present in officially ‘safe’ games. Using a reliable antivirus that has the ability to detect malicious code or files can help you stay safe while playing in multiplayer servers, and when downloading and purchasing any addons or the games themselves.
  • Avoid phishing and scams. Scammers are prone to targeting gamers with promises of ‘cheap’ skins, tools, or in-game currency, as well as by ‘selling’ normally expensive games for almost nothing. The majority of the best antiviruses, however, have browser extensions that scan for phishing and malicious websites and disable suspicious links before you can click on them.
  • Protect your privacy. Many of the best antivirus suites offer additional privacy protection features, such as VPNs and password managers. With these tools, you can hide your IP address and avoid DDoS attacks, or generate strong passwords and protect your gaming platform accounts from being stolen and exploited.

Comparison of the best PC gaming antiviruses

Starting price:$23.99/year$19.99/year
Game mode/booster:YesYesNoYesYes
Increases CPU power:YesYesYesYesYes
Device cleaning:NoNoYesYesYes
Cloud-based scanning:NoNoNoYesYes
Extra features:Profiles (work, movie, game, public wifi, battery mode), VPN, file shredder, password manager, parental controlsNorton VPN, password manager, SafeCam, parental controls, Dark Web Monitoring, Norton CryptoSafe Browsing VPN, WebShield, Disk Cleaner, password managerQuickClean, file shredder, McAfee WebAdvisor, McAfee Speed Up, password manager Phantom VPN, password manager, Safe Shopping, file shredder, performance optimizer, Avira Crypto, breach monitor

Does an antivirus slow down gaming?

No, the best antivirus programs don’t slow down and interfere with your gaming. In fact, many antivirus software solutions have a gaming mode and performance optimization features. These features might actually make your gaming experience better by limiting the CPU resources used by other apps and directing it to the game instead.

On top of that, the best antivirus software for gaming recognizes when you’re playing a game and limits the amount of notifications and scans, so you can play without malware scares and other interruptions.

How to enable gaming mode?

Enabling gaming mode may be slightly different from client to client, but the general process is more or less the same. Here are four easy steps on how to enable gaming mode in your antivirus client:

  1. Open your antivirus client. We recommend Bitdefender for gaming.
  2. Go to settings and/or advanced settings.
  3. Find and turn on gaming mode/profile/booster feature.
  4. Launch the game and get to playing.

Can I use a free antivirus for playing games?

Using a free antivirus software vs. a paid one comes with certain disadvantages. You can try gaming with a free antivirus, however, most free antiviruses are designed to do only the bare minimum, such as running scans and warning you of potential malware infections. They probably won’t have additional features such as gaming mode, performance optimization, or device cleaning.

I advise you to do some research and choose the best free antivirus that you can find. Untested and unreviewed free programs of any kind may carry malicious software and infect your device instead of protecting it. You definitely don’t want that to happen.