Microsoft Defender vs Avast: a side-by-side comparison
Microsoft Defender, previously known as Windows Defender, and Avast are two well-known antivirus software in the market. The former is a conveniently built-in free solution that comes with the latest Windows version. Avast, on the other hand, is a hard-hitting player with robust features, solid security, and excellent performance.
This raises a question, which one should you opt for?
In this Microsoft Defender vs Avast comparison, I’ll stack up the two providers in terms of their features, security, performance, and more. This will be done by testing their performance, including quick and full scans, and closely analyzing each feature.
Microsoft Defender vs. Avast
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Microsoft Defender vs Avast: feature comparison
Avast offers a much wider and more comprehensive set of features than Microsoft Defender. But, that is only if you opt for its paid versions. As for a comparison of Microsoft Defender and Avast free versions, it’s a draw with both diligently covering the essentials.
Here’s what the Avast vs Microsoft Defender feature comparison looks like:
|Banking and payment protection
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|✅ (only paid subscription)
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For those who’re willing to pay for more comprehensive protection, Avast has more advanced options to offer. This includes features such as Sandbox mode, webcam protection, and VPN. Microsoft Defender, on the other hand, offers parental control and sign-in protection, both of which Avast is missing.
As a full-blown security solution, Avast has plenty of features in its arsenal. However, what you get depends heavily on the package that you opt for.
Virus scans are included in all Avast plans, both free or paid. These scans will update virus definitions, scan for viruses and malware, and scour for advanced issues. Basic issues could quickly be resolved with a click of the Resolve All button. But, you’ll need to upgrade to a premium package if you want Avast’s help to resolve the more advanced problems.
The next must-have in any antivirus software package is malware protection, and Avast has plenty of tools to offer for your device security. Its malware protection includes real-time protection, assorted scans, real-time security updates, and more.
On top of that, Avast also offers a wifi inspector, which scans your wifi networks and all connected devices for vulnerabilities. This prevents hackers from stealing your data via your wifi network.
And, if you opt for Avast’s premium packages, you’ll get even more advanced features. For instance, the wifi inspector will be supplemented by real-time wifi security alerts. This means you get an alert if the network is vulnerable or if someone joins your wifi network.
Plus, Avast offers a ransomware shield. It protects your files and photos from ransomware attacks by preventing unauthorized changes, modifying, and encrypting.
And, if you spring for the Avast One bundle, it even comes with the Avast SecureLine VPN, which is also available for purchase separately. The VPN not only encrypts your data for privacy purposes but can also be used to bypass geo-restrictions and access content from all around the world.
For more information, check out our Avast antivirus review.
Microsoft Defender features
For a built-in security suite, Microsoft Defender has an almost complete set of security features. It has the basic threat protection down pat but also throws in a few extra measures like a firewall and parental controls.
Speaking of firewall, Microsoft Defender lets you manage who and what can access your networks to protect against malicious traffic. This includes your domain as well as private and public networks.
Besides that, Microsoft Defender offers quite a comprehensive set of parental controls under Family options that will help to protect kids online. You can prevent access to certain websites and apps, control screen time, monitor online activities, and even more.
Furthermore, Microsoft Defender takes care of regular automated updates – you don’t even have to restart your devices for that.
Plus, the software automatically scrutinizes files to weed out potential malware attacks. If a malicious file or program is detected, it’s swiftly blocked and deleted. You’ll be notified when the threat’s eliminated.
To learn more, check out our detailed Microsoft Defender review.
Microsoft Defender vs Avast: which offers better protection?
When it comes to Microsoft Defender vs Avast for security, it’s an evenly-matched faceoff with both battling for the win. Both providers scored the highest possible points in various independent lab tests.
Here’s a look at how they perform in independent lab tests:
From the get-go with the AV-Test, Avast and Microsoft Defender are in the same league, both snatching the TOP PRODUCT certificate. They scored the full 6 points in all 3 categories of the test: protection, performance, and usability.
Additionally, both received the highest possible Advanced+ grade for AV-Comparatives. And, to keep the heated match going, Avast and Microsoft Defender both got the AAA ranking from SE Labs, too.
Overall, it’s a draw when it comes to Microsoft Defender vs Avast security. Both providers offer uncompromisingly high-level protection, which is proved by independent laboratory tests.
Avast’s real-time protection works in the background and checks files/folders for viruses as well as other threats when opening, modifying and saving.
Plus, Avast’s sandbox tool is a terribly handy feature to have as well. It provides a safe, isolated testing environment where you can run programs, visit websites, and download and open files securely without affecting your device.
Similarly, Microsoft Defender also has a robust real-time protection policy. It’s enabled by default and runs in the background. Among other things, it has cloud-delivered protection for swift detection and blocking of new and emerging threats.
Microsoft Defender also offers always-on scanning, which employs file and process behavior monitoring as well as other heuristics measures to identify malware.
Both Avast and Microsoft Defender have plenty to offer when it comes to malware protection.
Avast’s malware protection includes a huge variety of features, including complete malware detection, various scans, real-time security updates, Web and Behavior Shields, and wifi intruder alerts.
Meanwhile, one of the measures that Microsoft Defender offers to protect against malware attacks is core isolation, which isolates computer processes from your OS and device. Additionally, it prevents malicious code from accessing high-security processes on your device.
Avast and Microsoft Defender each offer a firewall to shield against malicious traffic. Both providers’ firewalls also allow various customizations.
With Avast’s firewall you can monitor all network traffic and block unauthorized communication. Additionally, you can customize strictness and set application rules by adjusting various parameters, including name, action, protocol, direction, address, remote port, and more.
Also, you'll get even more features if you have an Avast premium subscription. This includes leak protection, port scan alerts, and address resolution protocol (ARP) spoofing alerts.
Meanwhile, with Microsoft Defender’s firewall, you can monitor incoming/outgoing network connections, as well as block unauthorized access. Beyond that, you also have great control over the firewall and can allow specific apps through the firewall, configure inbound and outbound traffic rules, and adjust connection security rules.
Microsoft Defender and Avast both provide multiple scanning options.
Avast, offers a wide range of scans. Beyond the more typical full and quick scans, you can also perform smart, custom, targeted (for specific folder), boot-time (before Windows start-up), and removable drive scans.
Microsoft Defender automatically scans your device, but you can also perform additional scans whenever you deem necessary. In addition to quick scans, you can also run full and custom scans. Plus, there’s also an option for offline scans, which takes place after a restart.
All in all, both providers are heavily packed with a wide selection of security measures, making this a neck-and-neck Microsoft Defender vs Avast race.
Pricing and plans
Avast offers a much wider collection of plans as it has both free and paid versions to cater to different needs. In addition to its free plan, it also offers 2 subscription options. Meanwhile, Microsoft Defender is completely free.
Here’s a look at their plans:
|Avast Premium Security
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On top of Avast’s Free plan, you can also choose from Avast One and Avast Premium Security as well as a range of business plans. A 30-day money-back guarantee is included in the paid plans so you can try it out risk-free.
Microsoft Defender offers only one free plan for Windows. It has no paid subscriptions, and all future updates are also free.
Avast antivirus plans
On top of Avast’s free version, it also offers paid packages for home users and several plans for businesses.
Now, Avast Free is a good option to get a taste of its services, but it only comes with very rudimental security measures.
For effective and comprehensive protection, you’ll need to pay up:
- Avast One – $50.28/year, 5 devices
- Avast Premium Security – $50.28/year, 1 device
- Avast Premium Security – $69.48/year, 10 devices
Check out our Avast coupon codes to get the best price.
Avast Premium Security is a good option if you require protection for many devices. It costs $69.48 for the first year and covers up to 10 devices. And, if you just need protection for 1 device, the price falls to $50.28 for the year. In any case, it comes with additional features like spoofing and webcam protection, password protection, remote access shield, and sandbox.
For most users, though, the Avast One plan offers the best value. Also priced at $50.28 for the year, the Avast One plan comes with everything in Avast Premium Security on top of extra features like Avast SecureLine VPN as well as adware protection.
Microsoft Defender antivirus plans
Microsoft Defender offers only one plan, which is completely free and already pre-installed with Windows 10. You can add up to 5 devices by signing in using the same account.
Once done, you can view the security status of all the devices as well as access various security features like virus and threat protection, account protection, firewall, and parental controls.
Overall, Microsoft Defender is both free and offers great basic security, but if you want more comprehensive security, Avast is a clear winner. Avast antivirus offers considerably more options on plans and device coverage, as well as additional security features with premium subscription plans.
When it comes to performance, Avast comes out ahead of Microsoft Defender rather easily. In comparison to Microsoft Defender, Avast’s scans are quicker and have relatively little impact on system performance.
It’s very common for security software to put a burden on device performance and slow things down since they’re constantly scanning all your files and programs. And, yet, the scans are still critical to update virus definitions, sweep for viruses and malware, and hunt down advanced issues.
As far as antivirus programs go, Avast and Microsoft Defender don’t impact system performance too disastrously. Avast scored 9.8 (ranked 8th) and Microsoft Defender 28.4 (ranked 16th) in the AV-Comparatives performance impact test in the AV-Comparatives performance impact test. Though Microsoft Defender placed close to the end of the list, it’s worth noting that plenty of other programs failed even to rank.
Meanwhile, for my tests, I performed 2 scans: quick and full scans. You’ll see below how they impacted CPU, memory, and disk load.
Avast easily has the lead when it comes to quick scans. Microsoft Defender’s quick scan took 4 minutes and, during this time, employed a fair bit of resources.
Meanwhile, Avast finished scanning in seconds and had comparatively little impact on system performance, though it did max out on disk usage. Here are the results:
|0 h 0 min 50 sec
|0 h 4 min 0 sec
|97% maximum, 35% average
|100% maximum, 90% average
Overall, Avast has the upper hand here with its swift and light quick scans. Just note that it’s rather intense when it comes to disk load.
When performing a full scan, Microsoft Defender worked quickly and completed in just 8 minutes. But, it took quite a toll on system resources, especially CPU and disk load. In contrast, Avast took longer to finish but was kinder to system resources.
|0 h 18 min 45 sec
|0 h 8 min 0 sec
|100% maximum, 60% average
|99% maximum, 70% average
Overall, Avast might take slightly longer to complete the full scan but it has the advantage of being lighter on resources. Hence, it has the edge here.
All things considered, Avast got the best of Microsoft Defender when it comes to performance. It scanned quickly and had minimal impact on system performance.
Apps and interface
Microsoft Defender and Avast both have clean, modern, and easy-to-navigate interfaces. Each provider’s interface will appeal to different tastes. Avast’s interface is significantly more colorful and packed but still very intuitive. Meanwhile, Microsoft Defender is minimalistic and very organized.
Let’s begin with Avast. Its desktop app is polished, contemporary, and very vibrant. Its many features are slotted into 4 different categories: status, protection, privacy, and performance. Navigating the app is a piece of cake since the layout is intuitive and beginner-friendly, with all the features just clicks away.
As for Microsoft Defender, it’s a Windows-only provider, and its interface is very simplistic and without frills. All the features you get from Microsoft Defender are within 8 main security items, so navigation is very straightforward. But if you’re unfamiliar with the interface, you might need to click around to find a specific feature you’re seeking out.
Ultimately, it all boils down to your preference. Microsoft Defender’s app is ideal if you want a no-fuss interface that keeps things very simple. In contrast, if you prefer a more modern interface, Avast’s is the one for you.
Avast’s mobile apps differ based on whether you use an Android or iOS app. The iPhone app is quite basic compared to the desktop one. It allows you to use a VPN and verify Wi-Fi security. Plus, it adds unlimited photo vault and identity protection.
The Android version is more extensive as more features are included compared to the iPhone one. Additional features include the ability to improve your device’s performance, block various threats, and even protect your device remotely.
Since Microsoft Defender is a Windows-only provider, there's nothing else to add here, except for the obvious truth that you should opt for Keeper if you want to get a versatile antivirus solution.
|✅ (24/7 with paid version)
|✅ (24/7 with paid version)
|✅ (24/7 with paid version)
Both providers’ customer support could be improved. Still, Avast is the better of the two.
Avast offers 24/7 email, live chat, and phone support. But, these channels are only accessible if you invest in the Avast Care package, which costs $39.00/year. Otherwise, phone and email support are available during business hours. Or, you could hit up its FAQ, knowledge base, or community forum.
In contrast, Microsoft Defender has very limited support channels and no live help unless you’re on a business account. Otherwise, your best bet is to submit a ticket. Alternatively, you could also submit a question to its forum or search for answers within its well-stocked knowledge base.
Overall, both Avast’s and Microsoft Defender’s support could be improved. But in terms of customer support, Avast is a clear winner thanks to the variety of contact channels offered.
Microsoft Defender vs Avast: final verdict
To sum up, Avast is clearly a better antivirus than Microsoft Defender. It offers an extensive range of free and paid plans that come with rich features to cover various vulnerabilities. Additionally, it’s no slacker when it comes to independent lab tests and performance as well. The only thing to watch out for is its high disk consumption.
Microsoft Defender doesn’t cost a penny, yet it offers great basic protection with all the essentials well-covered. Plus, it nailed all the independent lab tests. However, the provider has no options to scale, and its scans place quite a burden on performance.
Alternatives to Microsoft Defender and Avast
If you think that Microsoft Defender and Avast aren’t right for you, Bitdefender and Norton are great alternatives.
Often called the best antivirus in the market, Bitdefender is well-known for its strong security features and unrivaled malware detection. Plus, its plans are loaded with both basic and advanced features like real-time protection, a built-in VPN, password manager, and more.
Bitdefender’s plans start from $23.99/year, and it also has a very solid free version.
Norton Antivirus is every bit as popular as Bitdefender. The provider made a name for itself by offering super secure antivirus protection with excellent real-time protection and malware detection rates at very affordable prices – from only $9.99/year.
Despite its cheap pricing, Norton’s plans are stuffed with a huge and diverse selection of features, including advanced ones like VPN, password manager, dark web monitoring, and Norton Crypto for cryptocurrency mining.
Other antivirus software comparisons you might like:
Windows Defender vs Avast, which one is better for your PC?
Avast is better for your PC. It has options to cover more devices, more robust and advanced features, less impact on the device performance, and better customer support options.
Does Avast override Windows Defender?
Yes, Avast will override Windows Defender to prevent conflicts, just like most third-party antivirus programs would.
Is Windows Defender antivirus enough?
Windows Defender antivirus is not enough unless you need very basic security features. You’ll need a third-party program like Bitdefender or Norton Antivirus for more comprehensive and secure protection.
Can I use both Microsoft Defender and Avast for free?
Yes, you can use both Microsoft Defender and Avast for free. However, free plans come with very basic tools, so they will not provide the same level of security as a paid subscription.