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.
However, there are many other antiviruses that have performance optimization features and are great at preventing malware infections. So which one is best for you? To answer that, we did the dirty testing work for you and have compiled a list of the best antivirus software for gaming PC. Take a look and find the best antivirus for you.
Best antiviruses for gaming PC
- TotalAV – the best overall antivirus for gaming in 2023. It has received the highest performance evaluations on multiple lab tests and real-time protection without buffer for an exceptionally good price.
- Bitdefender – an excellent antivirus for gaming PC. Its automatic gaming mode and feature-rich packages enable you to have a secure and fast gaming experience.
- Norton – great antivirus software for gaming PC with a gaming extension. It offers decent speeds, strong security, and gamer-oriented optimizations.
- Avira Antivirus – lightweight gaming antivirus with cloud-based scanning. This antivirus offers game mode alongside with additional game boosting features for best player experience.
- ESET NOD32 – versatile gaming PC antivirus software. Splendid threat detection rates, multiple extra features to fight back cyber thefts, and nearly every essential AV feature you could expect.
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What to look for when choosing an antivirus for a gaming PC?
To effectively choose the best antivirus for gaming, all you need to do is be mindful of a few factors and features that could make or break your gaming experience.
Here are some of the main features that a good antivirus software 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 solution. 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. This will leave processing units available for the best gaming experience.
- Device cleaning. Clearing cache and other files that 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 highly valued.
- Additional features. Any extra features like antivirus with a VPN, a 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 that comes for a reasonable price, yet offers a good set of features.
The best antivirus for gaming PC – detailed list
If you wish to find the best antivirus for gaming windows 10, or any other operating system of your choice, look no further. Here’s our detailed list of the best antivirus for gaming:
1. TotalAV – performance-oriented gaming antivirus
|Price:||From $19.00/year, + free version available|
|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux|
|Current deal:||🔥Get TotalAV, now 84% OFF!🔥|
TotalAV is the overall best antivirus for PC gamers that excels at detecting and preventing malware and keeping CPU low for uninterrupted gaming. While the antivirus is not necessarily gamer-centered, its performance and robust security tools will surely make your gaming experience smooth and secure.
So why exactly is TotalAV among the leading gaming antivirus programs? Let’s take a look:
- Real-time protection – it checks all your installs or downloads (including games) in search of viruses or any threats that might be lurking.
- Performance optimization tools – TotalAV offers a junk and duplicate file cleaner as well as helps identify areas where the performance could be optimized not to take up so much CPU power. This means reduced lag not only in games but overall device performance. During our tests, CPU indeed remained quite low; however, some load spikes did cause barely noticeable lagging.
- Near-perfect malware detection zero-day threats – antivirus protection quickly detects and eliminates any potential threats and viruses that might be targeting or already have infested your PC.
- Additional features – TotalAV includes a built-in VPN, a password manager, and a browser extension. These features will help avoid DDoS attacks and keep all of your logins safe. More so, it’ll ensure that you don’t accidentally download a Trojan instead of that new game you’ve been eyeing.
Lastly, TotalAV has a free version to download. While it’s not as functional as the premium packages, it does include an anti-malware scanner and anti-phishing protection. For more advanced features like real-time protection, ransomware protection, Cloud scanning, or performance optimizations, opt for the paid version. The pricing starts at $19.00/year.
For more details, check out our TotalAV review.
- Optimization tools
- Excellent customer support
- VPN and password manager included
- Free version
- Real-time protection
- Great desktop app
- Safe Search doesn't always work
2. Bitdefender – the overall best antivirus for gaming PC
|Price:||From $23.99/year, + free version available|
|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS|
|Current deal:||🔥Get Bitdefender for up to 62% OFF!🔥|
Bitdefender is another top-tier provider for the best gaming PC antivirus software that offers an automatic gaming mode. Its feature-rich antivirus protection suite and excellent prices make this provider a well-rounded option for any player.
Here is how this antivirus ensures excellent gaming performance along with robust protection:
- Bitdefender Total Security’s profiles – among numerous modes, the provider includes an automatic gaming mode, which detects when you enter a full-screen mode and automatically limits background monitoring and push notifications. It seriously minimizes the antivirus impact to your resources while gaming. In our tests, with the gaming mode on, the frame rate increased by approx. 9%, and the CPU usage decreased.
- High malware detection rate – AV-Test and AV-Comparatives have both independently tested Bitdefender, and gave it the highest marks for security and virus detection rates.
- Real-time monitoring, also called Advanced Threat Defense, uses heuristic methods to scan your device for any potentially dangerous programs and activity, ensuring complete protection at all times.
- An integrated VPN and password manager – a VPN can aid in gaming matters 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.
One thing to note, the gaming profile does not limit the amount of CPU resources used by other apps, which is not a big omission – but definitely an interesting future implementation idea.
If you’re on a budget, Bitdefender has some great news. There is a free version with a functional malware detection software suitable for gaming. The premium version is also very affordable, and offers features like profiles, VPN, and password manager.
To learn more about the features, read our Bitdefender review.
- Best in class malware detection
- Automatically installs required system updates
- Has different working profiles
- Lots of additional features
- Free version
- Restrictive VPN capabilities
- macOS support only with paid plans
3. Norton – antivirus for gamers with gaming extension
|Price:||From $19.99/year, no free version|
|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS|
|Current deal:||🔥Get up to 66% OFF Norton Antivirus🔥|
Norton is a great antivirus for PC gamers, as it is one of the most feature-rich and gaming-focused antiviruses on this list. Among many of its offerings, you’ll find Norton 360 for Gamers – a specifically gamer-oriented extension for fast and secure gaming performance.
In this Norton 360 for Gamers review, you can see how this security software can lift your safety and gaming experience:
- Game Optimizer – this feature detects threats when you’re gaming and feeds your game maximum power from your CPU. Additionally, Silent Mode mutes or turns off other apps to lessen the impact of the background processes on your gaming experience. Our tests proved that even with the mode on, there was no buffering and the CPU remained low. Overall, the feature assures smoother visuals and an overall better gaming experience, all while staying safe.
- Norton’s real-time protection – it protects against phishing attacks in chats and detects malware or other vulnerabilities in games and launchers.
- 50GB cloud backups – Norton 360 for Gamers includes automatic cloud backup that stores your game clips online. This essentially saves you space on your own PC.
- PC Safecam – this webcam protection helps to detect and block anyone trying to access your webcam.
- Additional features – Norton also offers 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.
Norton also has a dark web monitoring feature, full-screen detection, and notification optimization to make sure your gaming experience is as uninterrupted as possible.
While there is no free version of this antivirus, you can make use of its 7-day free trial. Though, keep in mind that the process does require your credit card information. Afterwards, you would need to pay $19.99/year to have all the features available.
For more information, read our Norton review.
- Can detect all types of malware
- Separate product for gamers
- Feature-rich suite
- Performance optimization options
- No cloud-based scanning
- Pretty expensive
4. Avira – cloud-based scanning with gaming optimizers
|Price:||From $30.99/year, + free version available|
|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS|
|Current deal:||🔥Get 1 year of Avira at 40% OFF!🔥|
One of the pretty well-known antivirus tools, Avira antivirus is also a customizable solution focused on gamers. It has won several awards for its malware detection and protection rates: and it's a solid option to use for gaming.
Here are its top features that take the gaming and device performance to the next level:
- Game mode – this feature that Avira Antivirus Pro suite has is one of the most crucial features in terms of gaming PC. It limits background scanning as well as delays notifications and updates for a later time.
- Game booster – Avira Prime subscription has a game booster feature. The latter works by isolating background apps to a single CPU core, allowing for the rest to be available for the best gaming experience.
- Scanning process – a feature for 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.
Since Avira is one of the best antivirus solutions out there, its free version gives you top-notch protection from viruses. Besides, it includes the VPN and the password manager, making it the only provider that doesn’t leave these features for paid users only. Nevertheless, a premium Avira subscription is available for $30.99/year, and it guarantees even more possibilities, like protection for more devices.
To learn more, visit our Avira review.
- Outstanding results in lab tests
- Has cloud-based scanning
- Integrated VPN
- No web protection in the free version
- Game booster only on Avira Prime
5. ESET NOD32 – all-around gaming PC antivirus with multiple-platform support
|Price:||From $39.99/year, no free version|
|Platforms:||Windows, Linux, macOS, Android|
|Current deal:||🔥 Get ESET, save up to 33% 🔥|
ESET is an all-in-one gaming PC antivirus solution with excellent malware protection, gaming mode, and additional features. During independent and in-house tests, it showed flawless performance, protection, and usability results.
Here, you can find the key features that enhance your safety and improves gaming performance:
- ESET multi-platform protection – that’s the feature that hardcore gamers will like. With it, you can simultaneously protect multiple devices, running Windows, macOS, Linux, or Android. No matter what plan you choose, the same single license works for all of them. Meaning, you can play on one PC and work on another safely at the same time.
- Perfect malware detection rates – during both – the independent lab and our own tests – ESET has detected and blocked all given threats.
- ESET home network security – to protect your home network while gaming, ESET has implemented an additional security feature that spots any suspicious activity regarding your home network. It informs you if anyone tries connecting to it and inspects incoming packets for threatful attachments.
- Additional features – versatility is always a selling point. Here, you get anti-theft protection that includes your device’s location tracking, phantom account creation to mislead the intruder, and more. Plus, with the Premium Security plan, you receive a password manager that improves your passwords safety and eases their management.
ESET antivirus has 3 plans to choose from. The starting price is $39.99/year. And if you have any doubts regarding committing to the subscription, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee applied to all plans.
For more, check our ESET review.
- Real-time malware and ransomware protection
- Gamer mode
- Multi-platform protection
- No iPhone app
Comparing the best antiviruses for gaming PC
If you're in a rush to find out which antivirus is the best for your gaming PC, then check the table below and find each best-ranked provider compared:
|Starting price||Game mode/booster||Increases CPU power||Device cleaning||Cloud-based scanning||Extra features|
|$19.00/year||❌||✅||✅||❌||Safe Browsing VPN, WebShield, Disk Cleaner, password manager|
|$23.99/year||✅||✅||❌||❌||Profiles (work, movie, game, public wifi, battery mode), VPN, file shredder, password manager, parental controls|
|$19.99/year||✅||✅||❌||❌||Norton VPN, password manager, SafeCam, parental controls, Dark Web Monitoring, Norton Crypto|
|$30.99/year||✅||✅||✅||✅||Phantom VPN, password manager, Safe Shopping, file shredder, performance optimizer, Avira Crypto, breach monitor|
|$39.99/year||✅||✅||✅||✅||Anti-theft optimization, One way messaging, Browsing history and IP address access, ESET Password Manager|
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 gaming PC, 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. In our case, we made sure that each provider on the list had a success rate as close to 100% as possible, with Bitdefender getting the perfect score.
- Ease of use. Regardless if you’re a pro or a first-time user, it is important that the antivirus software is easy to download, install, and manage. We also considered whether the game mode is activated automatically or if it needs to be set up manually.
- 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 gaming PC, 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 on 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.
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 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 them 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.
What issues users may face with antivirus while gaming?
While it’s very uncommon, some users might face one or two issues while trying to figure out the best antivirus configuration for gaming. Some of the most frequently experienced problems include:
- Complicated configuration process and hidden functionalities. Some antiviruses might be a little confusing at first. However, in our list, we compiled the best options that won’t take up your time. Most of them have a gaming mode easily accessible, and the configuration is very straightforward.
- A game is not launching after installing an antivirus. This could be due to a certain configuration or parental control settings that do not allow playing at certain hours. Other than that, the antivirus might have detected a threat within the game.
- The antivirus is not allowing to download a specific game. If that’s the case, there’s a high chance that it’s a pirate game that is infected by malware and the antivirus is blocking it.
How to enable gaming mode on Bitdefender
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. Bitdefender is a decent choice for gaming.
2. Go to Utilities, click Profiles, and select the Game Profile.
3. Find and turn on the gaming mode/profile/booster feature (in Bitdefender's case this can be done by configuring Game Profile).
4. Choose your configurations.
5. Launch your game of choice 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.
All in all, having an antivirus can greatly improve your gaming experience. Not only does it protect your PC from potential online threats, malicious attacks, and phishing, but it can also improve your gaming performance.
However, while security features are undeniable, some players are discouraged from using an antivirus due to a common belief that it will slow down the game. Worry not, most antiviruses on our list are either performance-oriented or have a gaming mode that limits background notifications and CPU usage. So you can rest assured that your gaming experience will be fast and secure.
Now, if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution, check out TotalAV.
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What is the best internet security for gaming?
To stay safe while gaming, make sure you: never share your personal information with anyone, use strong, difficult, and different passwords for each gaming platform you use, preferably with two-factor authentication, download games from official sources, use an antivirus while gaming, we recommend TotalAV, and have other security services such as VPNs and password managers in place.
Can gaming PCs get viruses?
Yes, gaming PCs can get viruses just like any other device, gaming or not. No device is really immune to viruses and malware infections, and gaming PCs usually don’t have any additional protective features in them. That’s why investing in antivirus software for gaming PC would be a smart choice.
Do I need to keep antivirus on while gaming?
It would be best to keep antivirus turned on while gaming. You may think that antivirus running in the background will interfere with your gameplay with notifications and hogging the CPU power, but most of the best antiviruses have gaming modes to ensure the best gaming experience with antivirus being on at the same time.