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Malwarebytes review: does the free version offer enough protection?

Malwarebytes is a well-performing yet plain antivirus software. While it delivers excellent results in both protection and functionality, the app lacks some modern but essential features.

Apart from the ability to detect up to 100% of either zero-day or 4-week-old threats, we noticed a couple of unique features. For example, the Browser Guard, which works as an ad blocker, or the Exploit Protection to stay safe from exploit attacks.

Nevertheless, one or two exclusive features do not compensate for several crucial antivirus features, such as firewall, parental control, or data breach monitoring, that Malwarebytes lacks. Indeed, it can be a good protection tool for those that already use additional security tools and don’t need this antivirus to be versatile. However, knowing that you can easily find a reputable antivirus with a better price-to-quality ratio changes the game.

For instance, one of our top antiviruses, TotalAV, comes with even better malware detection and removal results, a more comprehensive security suite, and budget-friendly pricing.

Best alternative to Malwarebytes
TotalAV is one of the market-leading antiviruses today that offers all critical security features. With it, you also receive a password manager, VPN, identity protection, and more.
cybernews® score
4.6 /5

But if Malwarebytes still has your attention and you have some burning questions to answer without further ado, let’s review its test scores, performance, security features, and other critical aspects.

⭐ Rating:
🥇 Overall rank:#13 out of #25
💵 Price:From $33.74/year
✂️ Free version:Yes
🖥️ Platforms:Windows, Android, macOS, ChromeOS, iOS
🔥 Coupons:Malwarebytes coupon 25% OFF
Best Malwarebytes alternatives:

Malwarebytes review: pros and cons

Is Malwarebytes safe?

Malwarebytes is a safe antivirus service. It has the ability to prevent viruses in real-time, stop ransomware from infecting your system, and protect you from accidentally visiting malicious websites. The service will also remove the existing malware from your computer or smartphone.

Their advanced virus detection techniques and several security features protect against a garden variety of online threats. That said, Malwarebytes doesn't have an integrated firewall. Not to mention, the free version only has malware scans, and other features are locked behind a paywall.

It's worth mentioning that Malwarebytes was affected by a cyberattack back in 2021. Some of their emails were breached by the same attackers responsible for the SolarWinds hack. So, part of their internal emails was leaked. That said, there is no evidence that any user data was compromised.

Independent Malwarebytes testing

Before you download any antivirus software, it is a good idea to not only read its reviews, but also check its independent testing results. After all, you don’t want your computer to become the test subject – that’s what testing labs are for. The company decided to participate in AV testing in 2018 and their results have been improving ever since.

Malwarebytes virus tests

In April 2021, the 4.3.0 version of Malwarebytes was selected as the top product by the experts. It scored a maximum of 6 points in Performance, Protection, and Usability.

It’s nice to see the improvement, especially when keeping in mind that Malwarebytes has managed to beat the industry average in virus detection. The antivirus program detected from 99.4% to 100% of zero-day threats and 100% of 4-weeks old malware. With results like these, you can be sure that your device is protected.

Moreover, Malwarebytes has recently joined the AV Comparatives testing in 2021. The independent experts performed the Real-World protection, malware protection, and performance tests with it.

Real-World protection tests include using all security-related features on the web. Malwarebytes Premium version showed that it can successfully block from 99.4% to 99.6% threats.

The malware protection tests execute malicious files on the system and not on the web. Unluckily, Malwarebytes results here are not as impressive – experts categorize its security as standard.

Malwarebytes performance test

However, the testing of its performance shows a rather promising improvement. Malwarebytes performance abilities have risen from standard to advanced in just 6 months (April, 2021 - October, 2021).

Malwarebytes security features

Even though Malwarebytes offers quite a few useful features, it is not as feature-rich as, say, Avast, McAfee or any other top antivirus software. For example, you won’t find Parental Controls, a firewall, or a password manager in your Malwarebytes antivirus package. However, you won’t miss any crucial features like virus protection or file quarantine - in other words, Malwarebytes will simply act as a decent, no-nonsense antivirus product.

There’s one more thing I want to mention in this Malwarebytes review. During installation, the program will ask you whether you want to install it on your home or work computer. Don’t worry about this choice - both versions are identical in terms of features. The only difference is priority customer support for business users, which is not such a big deal for most people.

Real-time protection

This is a feature that is only available with the Premium version of Malwarebytes - and it’s quite important, too.

Real time protection

You see, real-time protection is a background process that prevents various online threats (like viruses, malware, and ransomware) from entering your device. It uses minimal system resources and has virtually no effect on CPU usage.

The Real-Time Protection option of Malwarebytes antivirus includes Web Protection (that blocks infected websites), Malware Protection, Ransomware Protection, and Exploit Protection.

Exploit protection

Even though included in the Real-Time Protection list, the Exploit Protection feature deserves its own paragraph. That’s because this is an advanced security technique that deals with exploit attacks against security flaws and software vulnerabilities in applications.

These kinds of attacks are much sneakier than regular viruses, as they only require you to open an infected page or a file. Luckily, Malwarebytes Premium has you covered - it “shields” vulnerable applications so that malicious code couldn’t exploit their security issues.

Three system scan modes

If you had Malwarebytes antivirus software on your computer a couple of years ago and decided to reinstall it, don’t be surprised by the scan mode changes. You see, Malwarebytes Version 3 had four types of scans: Full, Threat, Hyper, and Path.

However, Version 4 changed things up a bit. Now, we only have the Quick scan, the Custom scan, and the Threat scan. It seems that Malwarebytes simply adapted to the market and adjusted some of their scanning titles into more familiar ones.

Keep in mind that Malwarebytes can only run one type of scan at a time. For example, you cannot do a system scan and check a specific file for antiviruses. So, schedule your on-demand scans accordingly.

Malwarebytes scan options
  • Quick scan. Lasting up to a minute and using between 0,0 to 0,2% CPU, the quick scan of Malwarebytes scans your device’s memory and startup objects for active threats.
  • Threat scan. If you have Malwarebytes Premium, this scan will take place every single day. It will scan memory objects, startup objects, registry objects, as well as file system objects, and it will perform a heuristic analysis for better protection in the future. Keep in mind that this is not the same thing as a full scan - it doesn’t cover every single corner of your system.
  • Custom scan. If you desire, the custom scan can check your whole system. As a result, it may last a bit longer: the scan’s duration is strongly related to the number and size of files on your computer. The more there is, the longer it takes to scan everything. You can scan even for rootkits, which are among the most difficult malware to detect.
Malwarebytes custom scan

I like that no matter which type of scan you select, Malwarebytes will perform it very quickly with almost zero CPU usage. This makes it stand out among slower antivirus programs like McAfee.

On the other hand, I’m a bit disappointed in the lack of a dedicated Full scan. Although, those who prefer the DIY approach can set it up themselves. Users can modify how often the app updates its list of known malware, what the default scan should look for, and whether you want to use it as a primary or secondary antivirus. This goes as far as what actions will be performed PUP or PUM is detected. So, it can be tailored to your unique preferences.

Browser Guard

Malwarebytes Browser Guard is a free browser extension for Google Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. It blocks ads and protects you against third-party trackers, malware, scams, and PUPs (potentially unwanted programs, e.g., browser hijackers).

Browser guard features

It comes together with your Malwarebytes antivirus software. However, you get the option to choose whether you want this extension installed or not. I like how Browser Guard is not shoved into your system without your consent and how clear the choice is presented to the user.

Malicious Website Protection

Malwarebytes offers the Malicious Website Protection feature to help you avoid reaching scam and phishing sites. Additionally, it prevents hosting malware or potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) on your device.

This useful feature is also known as URL filtering and works in a simple manner: automatically checks and blocks both malicious domains and IP addresses by intercepting relevant DNS queries.

Keep in mind that the Malicious Website Protection is only included in the Premium Malwarebytes subscription plan.

URL filtering feature by Malwarebytes

You can easily enable or disable the feature in the antivirus settings. Just go to the Settings on Malwarebytes app and find the Detection and Protection tab on the left-side panel. You should find the radio buttons under the section of Malicious Website Protection.

Quarantined files

When Malwarebytes antivirus finds an infected file on your device, it instantly neutralizes it by putting it in the quarantine section. However, if you are sure that the file is safe and that’s only a false alarm, you can restore it and bring it back to its original place.

You can even put the file on the Allow list. Then, Malwarebytes won’t target it during future scans.

Malwarebytes Privacy VPN

Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy plan includes a VPN. It's actually one of the most impressive VPN packages coupled with an antivirus. The service covers 30+ countries with over 450 servers, which is a bit on the lower side compared to the dedicated VPN providers. Still, it should be plenty of places to connect to.

The VPN includes the WireGuard tunneling protocol, which is all the rage right now among VPN services. Considering that not all dedicated VPN service providers have it included, it's really an achievement for Malwarebytes.

On top of that, their connection will be protected by 256-bit encryption. This means that no hacker will be able to brute-force through it. Not to mention that Malwarebytes doesn't leave any backdoors to your data with a strict no-logs policy.

Plans and pricing

In total, there are three different plans for Malwarebytes antivirus: the Free version, the Premium version, and the Premium + Privacy version. Let’s take a look at how they differ.

Malwarebytes FreeVirus scans$0.00
Premium (1 device 1 year)Virus scans, real-time protection, ransomware protection, exploit protection$33.74/year
Premium (1 device 2 years)Virus scans, real-time protection, ransomware protection, exploit protection$59.05/year
Premium + Privacy Virus scans, real-time protection, ransomware protection, exploit protection, VPN$99.99/year

Malwarebytes Free

Once your 14-day Premium trial ends, you are left with the free version of Malwarebytes antivirus. Is it any good? Well, all it does is scanning your device and removing threats that are already there.

In other words, it lacks one of the most important features of any antivirus software - real-time protection. Which means that you need another antivirus solution to protect you when browsing the web or simply doing your everyday tasks.

Of course, Malwarebytes Free is a good solution when your computer is already infected. And let’s get real - most free antivirus programs don’t offer real-time protection, so we shouldn't be too harsh on Malwarebytes.

However, in the future, I’d like to see more free features. Otherwise, Malwarebytes might not withstand the competition.

Malwarebytes Premium

Malwarebytes Premium is the full version of the software. You get a taste of it during your 14-day trial. Afterwards, you need to buy a yearly subscription if you want the program to continue protecting your device in real-time.

This edition includes everything covered in this Malwarebytes review: the different kinds of scans (including the daily Threat scan), all the Real-Time Protection features (Web, Malware, Ransomware, Exploit), as well as the possibility to get Device Alerts that warn you about security issues with your devices.

Currently, there is a discount for Malwarebytes Premium - it costs $33.74 a year. It covers only one device and is available for Windows, iOS, Android, macOS, and Chrome devices.

Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy

Finally, we have Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy. This version comes with a VPN, which will protect your privacy while browsing.

Malwarebytes VPN

Their VPN is quite good - it offers over 30 countries, each having lots of different servers (450+ in total).

This package of antivirus software and a VPN costs $99.99 a year. In comparison to other antivirus programs, this is quite costly. I suggest you buy this edition only if you’ll surely use the program and the VPN.

Right now, the VPN is available for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS - the version for Chrome will come in the near future.

Is Malwarebytes good value for money?

Yes, Malwarebytes is good value for money. The subscription prices are on par with what other service providers are currently offering. And it doesn’t lag behind – you get excellent real-time protection, protection against phishing sites, and a speedy VPN.

Malwarebytes also branches out its offering, so you can choose a budget-friendly option (which is free) or one their paid subscription plans. The free version has an amazing value too, as you can start the essential clean-up without spending a single penny.

Ease of use and setup

An easy and quick setup truly has a great impact on your further experience with a product. Well, Malwarebytes did great to provide you with exceptionally pleasing ease of use and set up.

Additionally, if you are jumping right into a free trial – no email address or payment information is required. You can try it safely and without any risk.

Take a look at what you shall experience on different operating systems:


Like the majority of antivirus programs, Malwarebytes is extremely easy to install. After a few clicks and a couple of minutes, you’re all set. Keep in mind that, during the installation process, Malwarebytes will ask you whether you want the Browser Guard extension.

Malwarebytes dashboard

At first glance, Malwarebytes looks quite simplistic. The dashboard displays the Virus Detection History, the Scanner section, and the Real-Time Protection features. To find more stuff, you have to dig a bit deeper. For example, to access different virus scans, you have to open the Scanner window and then click on “advanced scanners”.

However, if you want to have more control over how Malwarebytes functions, you’ll have to go to Settings. For this, simply click the gear icon on the top-right corner of the screen. Here, you’ll see seven tabs, under which you can modify the program to your liking.

malwarebytes customization options

For example, you can disable notifications, turn on device alerts, choose from over 20 languages, and even select the program’s visual theme (light, dark, or default) and background image. I especially like the latter option, as it is quite rare in the world of antivirus software.

All in all, in this Malwarebytes review, I can firmly say that the program’s user interface is really intuitive and easy to navigate - something that I’d expect from a popular brand like this.


Visually their macOS app looks quite similar. The malware scans are about as fast, so there are no strange performance drops just because the platform is different.

malwarebytes mac app

That said, the similarities end there. Apple users once again get a barebones version of what Windows users are getting. It does feature a Quick Scan and other means of malware protection, that's about it.

The only unique toggle included in the Mac version is the App block, which blocks untrusted apps from running in the background. Although Gatekeeper is included by default, I didn't notice any differences in functionality.

Malwarebytes mobile apps

Both Android and iOS have mobile apps. Although visually they look the same, the features that you get will be different.

android security audit malwarebytes

Android has a fully-fledged Malwarebytes scanning. It even tells you that you have Developer Mode, NFC, and Android Beam enabled. It generally isn't intrusive and doesn't restrict your usage if you don't give the app all the permissions that it asks.

However, they do tell you exactly how the permissions will be used and why they are needed. This is something that I'd like to see from more developers.

iOS only has protection against malicious URLs, unwanted callers, and text message filtering. So, as is often the case with iOS antivirus counterparts, it pales in comparison.

Customer support

If you encounter any problems while installing or using Malwarebytes, click the Help icon on the top-right corner of the dashboard. This will open a window with various links to program guides and frequently asked questions, as well as a download link for the support tool that will fix some of your issues automatically. You can also get help via the live chat option.

Malwarebytes live support chat

Alternatively, you can click on the button that says “Malwarebytes Support”, press “Help” at the bottom-right corner of the screen, and type in your question. Then, the support bot will give you lots of FAQ links and an option that says “Get in touch”. It finally allows you to fill in a form, provide your email address, and start waiting for an answer (that might take a few days).

Video review

Malwarebytes video review

Is Malwarebytes good, and worth the money?

Malwarebytes is a decent antivirus tool. In comparison to its previous versions, it has greatly improved in terms of performance and virus detection rates. The current version will surely protect your device even from zero-day threats.

However, there are some downsides, too. Even though Malwarebytes is safe and good enough for an experienced user, those who are not really tech-savvy might struggle a little when encountering a problem. That’s because Malwarebytes is a bit limited in the customer support department, offering only email support and FAQ sections.

Also, the program is a bit pricey (especially if you consider the Premium + Privacy version). So, if I had to pick the best version, I’d go with Malwarebytes Premium. It is better than Malwarebytes Free in terms of safety (as it offers real-time protection), and it’s not as expensive as the Privacy suite.

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If you didn’t find everything you want to know in this Malwarebytes review, check out our FAQ section for a quick answer.


Guest review
Guest review
prefix 6 months ago
Dang, all this time I've just been on the auto threat scan and have not actually been doing the full scan. I liked the old GUI of malwarebytes better, it was easier to see everything possible on one single page with easy to use tabs. The full scan and rootkit scan are now hidden behind the pop ups and scheduling areas. Thanks for the detailed article. Hope I don't find anything... Great, clear, that's nice.

I like malware bytes because I surf a lot of news from wherever the links and references lead me. With some sites they will have some sort of image embedded trojan or something in the endless video squares or advertisement images embedded in pages, and malware bytes will pop up a string of blocked for this or that reason. The benefit primarily is on the front side to keep things from getting in. I use a free version of spybot S&D alongside for track cleaning. And I keep ad block u block privacy badger and lots of services limitations to just shut it all out. Most people run with entirely too many service permissions than they need. So it's helpful to scroll through the entire MS Services list and just disable what you don't need too. If you're not needing remote assistance, turn it off in the services menu because the microsoft GUI user friendly settings mean nothing, they flip everything back on when you update anyways. So tired of microsoft at this point, they're unable to provide a finished product and I still want windows 7 pro back.

So for many years I find nothing on the pc and it is healthy enough. But now and then it also finds little trojan files trying to fake the system and something with heuristics recognizes the file is not behaving as it should, and quarantines it. I liked the old quarantine better too though, I'm not sure if I'm deleting the reference of quarantine or deleting the file, the GUI is too overly simple now. Drives me crazy the way the entire industry now dumbs every graphic down for mobile device users. I'm on a full strength PC and don't need simple hamburger menu GUI's, want more control, more options, more detail in the interface please. Symbols are for ameture users, we need detailed explanations for every single function, like the old fashioned approach where you could hover and a help box read about this feature sort of thing would be there. And really, this program should automatically run complete entire detailed scans on it's own at least once a month so people don't miss out with the scheduled scan approaches. I've been with malware bytes for a decade or so, worth it and I'm staying. Thank you.
Duarte Carvalho
Duarte Carvalho
prefix 1 year ago
I have a Malwarebytes licence and renew it last December, but I just can't install the last version cause it stops the installation after the fifth %.And it is not something wrong with my computer because i tried whith other computers and ask friends to try to install the free version in their computers and always with the dame results. I've paid something that I did not get. and I don't find a way to get some real person in your company to talk with; just automatic answers. It seems like a scam, to me.
Robert Cook
Robert Cook
prefix 1 year ago
Will Malwarebytes work with Windows Defender as the default antivirus?
Rūta Rimkienė
Rūta Rimkienė
prefix 1 year ago
Hi there! Yes, you can use any antivirus even if your system has Windows Defender.
William Skyner
William Skyner
prefix 1 year ago
Do they charge yearly and can I discontinue paying for a 2nd year
Rūta Rimkienė
Rūta Rimkienė
prefix 1 year ago
Hello! If you want to be charged yearly, you should buy a 1-year subscription. However, if you don't want to be automatically charged after the year ends, you must turn off the auto-renewal option before the end of your subscription period. To do this, go to your account and click on the Payments tab. Then click the pencil icon under Active Subscription. Lastly, click Turn Off.
Kat Lowe
Kat Lowe
prefix 1 year ago
For several years I enjoyed all the premium features offered to home users and found it far superior to anything I had tried. Sadly I was misinformed and made a schoolboy error in falling for a McAffee offer.
Within months I had a horrible infestation which compromised my bank account and stole my identity including a copy of my fingerprint. It had completely taken control of every function of the device and a crypto account, my personal email and any information complacency had led me to leave there. I am still being monitored by the bank fraud department for any suspicious activity.
That device is now located at the bottom of a deep body of water.
McAffee failed to detect a thing even after speaking with their team who were equally useless. Despite having paid for 2 years protection, they went the same way as the device and I immediately reinstalled malwarebytes.
They have been amazing and provided personal specialist support that completely checked the entire system of 2 devices. That kind of peace of mind is truly priceless. I have absolute faith in the current product and the VPN is really simple and effective too.
Thanyou to the people who made me feel safe again, at Malwarebytes.
prefix 1 year ago
I was reading the list of things that the premium version protects against but saw at the bottom that the protections with asterisks beside them, are only for Windows. That was the deal breaker for me. Everything I own is Mac.
Cathy Baumbusch
Cathy Baumbusch
prefix 1 year ago
Hmmm, I don’t know what the $23.99 pricing is because they charged me $30/mo for the real-time scanning…I did enjoy having the free version but definitely like the real time scanning.
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