Windows Defender vs. Avast: Which is the Best?

LAST UPDATED: March 11th, 2019

The number of malicious files out there increases every year, so these days it’s important to be cautious about what you put on your computer. You need to be careful about what you click on and the things you purchase online.

Antivirus software is so much more than looking for viruses and making sure you don’t install something you shouldn’t. Once a piece of malware infects your machine, it’s often too late to fix it. It can compromise your sensitive data, delete files, and even cause your computer to crash.

There are more antivirus solutions out there than we can count, helping you to easily keep your computer safe. Windows Defender and Avast are just two of those options. So, let’s see how they compare in a head to head comparison.

You’ll get an in-depth look at how each product performs when it comes to features, protection, system performance, user interface, and cost. Keep reading to learn if Windows Defender or Avast is better for your digital security needs.

Windows Defender Features

Windows Defender Antivirus, previously called Windows Defender, is built-in to protect Windows 8, 8.1, and 10 from viruses and malware. It’s also available for Windows Vista and Windows 7 as a program called Microsoft Security Essentials.

While it’s not the most feature-rich antivirus software on the market, it has everything an antivirus software should like manual quick scans, full scans, custom scans, and offline scans. You can check specific files and folders you think may be infected or perform deep malware scans before you start up. Plus, it’s all free.

The built-in firewall with Windows can monitor the traffic on your network and keep suspicious people from gaining access to any connected devices. The Fresh Start feature will reinstall the latest version of Windows on your computer while still keeping your settings and personal files intact.

You can use the SmartScreen utility to block dangerous websites, stop unsafe downloads, or check unrecognized apps. Unfortunately, this feature only works with Microsoft Edge, so in a world where there are many different preferred browsers, this isn’t the most ideal scenario.

Built-in parental controls help you monitor and control which websites your kids can see or the amount of time they are allowed to spend online. You can also restrict access to only the apps you want them to use. This feature is, again, only available on Microsoft Edge.

Avast Antivirus Features

In comparison, Avast Free Antivirus has a variety of security features and a lot of useful utilities that many solutions don’t include in their free versions. You can run smart scans, full scans, and boot-time scans, just like Windows Defender.

Avast also has a Wi-Fi Inspector included in the free tool that helps you identify vulnerable settings and networks at home. You can use the Software Updater to show you outdated applications and you can use other antivirus solutions with Avast while setting it to run in passive mode.

Use the silent mode to prevent interruptions while gaming, use the rescue disk option to remove malware infections that are deeply rooted, and use the password manager to store unlimited passwords for all of your favorite sites. It also includes email client protection.

You also have access to two different browser extensions with Avast. Avast Online Security will warn you about dangerous websites and block websites involved in known phishing scams. Avast SafePrice can compare product prices to help you find the best deal on the items you’re shopping for.

However, if you like Avast and want to take advantage of even more features, you can upgrade to any of the premium plans Avast offers for the best antivirus protection and experience.

Avast Pro Antivirus offers everything in the free version, as well as a Sandbox feature that helps you test files in a secure, virtual environment, a Real Site feature to prevent scammers from taking control of your DNS settings, and premium customer support.

Avast Internet Security is the most popular option and it includes an advanced firewall, an anti-spam filter to block phishing attacks and junk email, and an extra layer of ransomware protection.

Avast Premier steps it up with a Data Shredder to permanently delete sensitive files, a Software Updater to automatically update your software, and webcam protection to prevent webcam spying.

Avast Ultimate’s top-tier protection includes an unlimited VPN, a clean-up utility, and an upgraded password manager.

Windows Defender vs. Avast: Protection

Windows Defender and Avast both have signature-matching detection which compares files against their database of malware threats. They can find known malware by using heuristic analysis which monitors the behavior of files to identify them as malicious. They can also detect zero-day malware by using the same behavior tracking attributes.

AV-Test and AV-Comparatives are two trusted and very well known cybersecurity institutions, so in order to determine which product has better protection, let’s look at how they compared in tests conducted by these independent evaluations.

Tests on the Windows 10 platform performed by AV-Test showed that Windows Defender can protect against 99-100% of previously unseen or unknown malware. That’ a huge win! AV-Test gave it a 5/6 rating in protection.

Avast scored perfect results by detecting 100% of zero-day and known malware and earned a 6/6 rating from AV-Test.

Similar tests on Windows 7 showed that Avast offered between 99% and 100% protection against zero-day malware and widespread malware, while Windows Defender scored a 5 out of 6 because of 97-99% protection rates.

AV-Comparatives also tested both products for their protection against malware before, during, and after execution. Windows Defender received the TESTED award, which is the lowest status. Their protection rate was 98.84% and they returned 6 false alarms.

Avast scored an ADVANCED + for their 99.99% protection rate but did return 9 false alarms. Misidentifying files as malware might be annoying, but missing a malicious file would be even worse.

In real-world tests, AV-Comparatives measures each company’s antivirus products in rigorous, real-world scenarios. Avast received an ADVANCED + status and Microsoft Defender squeezed out an ADVANCED in this category.

Avast provides solutions that offer better overall protection against all types of malware. While there were no tests for it, Avast also offers protection against adware and other items that may be less risky, but still annoying. These Potentially Unwanted Programs, or PUPs, may not contain malware but could have things in them that slow down your system performance.

Windows Defender vs. Avast: System Performance

Antivirus software should provide ultimate protection against things that could infect your computer while running in the background, being unobtrusive, and allowing your computer to run optimally the entire time. It shouldn’t be hogging system resources.

AV-Test provides performance tests that evaluate how these antivirus products slow down your computer while performing important tasks like downloading applications, visiting popular websites, or copying files.

Windows Defender caused higher than average slowdowns of the system when installing frequently used applications, caused average slowdowns when it came to launching popular websites and downloading applications, and caused fewer slowdowns when copying files.

Avast caused more than average slowdowns when downloading and launching applications and copying files, caused average slowdowns when launching websites, and caused less than average slowdowns when installing applications.

Both solutions were awarded a 5 out of 6 in protection from AV-Test on Windows 10 machines, although they did conduct similar tests on Windows 7 with 5 out of 6 stars for Avast and 4.5 out of 5 stars for Windows Defender.

A performance test from AV-Comparatives gave an ADVANCED + award to Avast and a STANDARD award to Windows Defender. They measured the impact of each solution on system performance by completing tasks like archiving, installing, downloading, and copying files.

Avast puts less of a strain on your system’s performance than Windows Defender, but neither causes a significant slowdown, so there’s no reason not to use Windows Defender, especially since it’s always free.

Windows Defender vs. Avast: User Interface

Trying to use software that’s not intuitive is a pain. Understanding menus, settings, and other options need to be easy, even for beginners. Let’s look at how these two providers handle their user interfaces to make it easy for users.

Windows Defender just went through an update, modernizing the interface and turning it into a comprehensive security center complete with access to all of the security features and settings you need to customize your solution.

From the home screen, you can access each of the different modules and shows the date and time of your last health scan as well as the protection status. A green check mark tells you that everything is normal and a red check mark will indicate a problem.

The bottom left shows a button that allows you to access the settings page. You can resize the Windows Defender window, making it easy to use and place anywhere on the desktop that works for you.

Avast has a streamlined interface, but it’s a bit more complicated and can be overwhelming for beginners. Because of the comprehensive features and optional upgrades, the Avast interface contains a lot more options.

The left-hand menu contains tabs for status, privacy, protection, and performance. Each one contains a submenu displaying all of the features associated with it. A red color tells you there’s a problem and a green color tells you everything is fine. The settings are available via the button located in the bottom left.

The free Avast interface also has ads and prompts to upgrade, which can be a pain for those who aren’t interested. Windows Defender wins the user interface battle with a simple, minimalistic experience with no ads or complications.

Windows Defender vs. Avast: Cost

Windows Defender is always free for Windows users. Avast has a free version, but also charges for upgrades.

  • Avast Pro Antivirus is $49.99 per year for 1 device.
  • Avast Internet Security is $59.99 per year for 1 device.
  • Avast Premier is $79.99 per year for 1 device.
  • Avast Ultimate is $119.99 per year for 1 device.

If you need to cover more than one device, Avast may not be the best option because you need to purchase a subscription for each device you want to cover. However, Windows Defender also requires a separate install for each device, so while it’s free, you don’t get a comprehensive interface showing all of your devices.

The Windows Defender vs. Avast Verdict

Antivirus software is a must-have solution for modern technology in our connected world. You need to make sure all devices connected to the Internet are secure and safe from hackers and cyber-criminals.

Avast offers many more features that enhance your security as well as extra utilities and upgraded options. It performed better in most independent tests in terms of malware detection and its impact on your system performance.

Just because Windows Defender is always free, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for your digital security needs. We recommend Avast Antivirus for the best combination of value and protection for Windows devices.