For an informed decision, we have created this comprehensive guide, based on the research of our seasoned experts and the top independent labs in the world.

We follow four labs that regularly release detailed reports: AV-Test Institute based in Germany, MRG-Effitas, and SE Labs found in the UK as well as AV-Comparatives based in Austria.

Every day, the AV-TEST Institute registers over 350 000 new malicious programs. The total of malicious programs has increased from 597 million to 1.05 billion in the last five years.

As we spend more and more time online, the new trend is phishing sites. These are websites typically designed to look like the official version of other websites. PayPal is a commonly-mimicked site; for example, as gaining access to users’ PayPal credentials can be distinctly profitable for hackers. Banking and social media sites are also frequent targets.

That is why it is vital to choose an antivirus software that recognizes threats not just offline but also online.

In this comparison, you’ll see the security products, features, and tools both companies offer and how they stack up against each other regarding malware protection, system performance, user interface, cost, and more.

Here are the most important factors that we’ve compared:

  • Protection
  • Performance
  • Usability
  • Features
  • Pricing

That way, you can protect yourself against any digital threats and never have to deal with anything similar to Baltimore ever in your life.

So let’s dive in.

A quick overview of the results

If you’re in a bit of a hurry or just not too interested in all the nerdy stats, we have done a small summary of the results.

  • Protection

    Both software detected 100% of the threats, but Avast offered better protection than Windows Defender.

  • Performance

    Even though both software had their good and bad sides, Windows Defender takes this category. That is because Avast showed some slowdown loading websites and opening apps.

  • Usability

    Both Windows Defender and Avast offer simple, straightforward user interfaces. Both also showed some false warnings or detections in the last tests.

  • Features

    Windows Defender and Avast come with all the essential protection features, but Avast has a little more to offer. You also have to take account that all the extra features on Avast cost you a little extra.

  • Pricing

    Windows Defender doesn't have a paid upgrade. That is the reason we can't compare the two software in this category.

A short verdict

Windows Defender and Avast are both easy-to-use software, but Avast certainly offers more. It has better protection and features than Windows Defender. Windows Defender is a bit better when it comes to performance, but keep in mind that security is why you’d want antivirus in the first place.

  1. Overall winner
    Avast Antivirus Logo

    Avast

    Avast offers a high level of protection against malware and hackers. Still, all the features are not included in the entry-level product, so be ready to pay extra for them.

    Starting at $55,99 from Avast
  2. The built-in, free option
    Windows Defender Antivirus logo

    Windows Defender

    As it comes free with almost every Windows computer, it's hard to criticize. But keep in mind, when choosing antivirus software, you aim for it to protect you. Unfortunately, Windows Defender didn't show too good results in that regard.

    Get for only $0 from Microsoft

Detailed results

If you need some more information for a decision, get ready for some in-depth analysis. We put Windows Defender and Avast head-to-head in all the categories using data gathered by our experts and test results of top independent testing facilities.

So let’s see what’s what.

Protection

Protection against malware is undoubtedly the most crucial aspect of any antivirus software. In the last tests, Windows Defender and Avast both offered below industry average results regarding the protection of a computer against threats.

Let’s compare the test results of two labs, AV-Test and SE Labs, to see for yourself.

AV-Test put both software up against 304 samples of 0-day malware attacks and 20236 samples of malware in a 4 week period.

Windows Defender got a below industry average result of 96.3% regarding protection. Detection results were a clean 100%. Avast showed a bit better results protecting against 98,2% of threats and detected all of the malware. Still a below-average result, though.

Industry average Windows Defender Avast
Protection against 0-day malware attacks, inclusive of web and email threats

304 samples used

Detection of widespread and prevalent malware discovered in the last 4 weeks

20236 samples used

Source: av-test.org

SE Labs use a bit of a different testing method. It conducts tests and gives each product a protection score based on the overall level of protection, making no distinction between neutralized and blocked incidents. For each product, they add blocked and neutralized

cases together to create a straightforward tally. Both Windows Defender and Avast scored 98 out of a 100.

Windows Defender Avast
Protection Score

Source: selabs.uk

As you can see, there is a bit of a difference in results regarding the testing method. One resulted in a tie, but the other showed better results for Avast. Adding these two up, we have our winner.

Winner: Avast

Performance

We all know the infuriating feeling when our computer takes ages to load something. It usually means that something is wrong. The reason may be that software on our computer isn’t optimized too well.

Let’s see how our two competitors hold up against each other, performing mundane tasks.

AV-Test independent research shows that Windows Defender performs better than the industry average in almost every test. Except for the installation of frequently-used applications. The tests show that with Avast, you can install applications faster than the industry average, but launching websites and apps is slower.

Industry average Windows Defender Avast
Slowing-down when launcing popular websites

50 websites visited

Slower download of frequently-used applications

20 downloaded files

Slower launch of standard software

6 test cases applied

Slower installation of frequently-used applications

20 installed applications

Slower copying of files (locally and in a network)

7254 files copied

Source: av-test.org

Even though both software had their good and bad sides, Windows Defender takes this category. That is because you don’t need to install apps every day. Loading websites and opening apps, on the other hand, are daily tasks.

Winner: Windows Defender

Usability

There are two essential factors to the usability of antivirus software. The first is the interface and how easy it is to use. False reporting can also be a critical factor. If false reports keep popping up every time you try to open a file, it prevents you from being productive.

First, let’s compare the interfaces.

Windows Defender offers a simple, light, and easy-to-use client intuitive for anyone who has used computers before.

There’s no option to schedule scans, which may be frustrating for some people, but you can run different scans.

Everything is well laid out, and you can easily find anything you’re trying to find.

On the left, you have eight tabs – Home, Virus & threat protection, Account, protection, Firewall & network protection, App & browser control, Device security, Device performance & health, and Family options.

You can see if your device is being protected from the home screen under Virus & threat protection, when it says “no action needed”.

Windows Defender User Interface

Avast has a modern and simple design, a bit darker than the other contender, though. The interface is intuitive and lets you find the most important functions with ease.

The default layout is configured to suit most users. However, you can manually set your preferences in the Settings.

The most critical information is always there and lets you know if your computer is protected or not. There is a big circle with a tick to indicate that. You can also start a smart scan with just one click.

In addition to the status, you’ll find the information about protection, privacy and performance, on the left bar of the window.

Notifications and preferences can be found on the top right corner.

Avast User Interface

Now let’s dive into false reporting.

AV-Test also conducts usability tests that show if any false reports show up. Results show that both software show some false reporting. But to be honest, for an everyday user, such a small number of false reports doesn’t impact the usability.

Industry average Windows Defender Avast
False warnings or blockages when visiting websites

500 samples used

False detections of legimate software as malware during a system scan

1 018 634 samples used

False warnings concerning certain actions carried out whilst installing and using legitimate software

70 samples used

False blockages of certain actions carried out whilst installing and using legitimate software

70 samples used

Source: av-test.org

As you can see, Windows Defender and Avast both have great user interfaces and show precisely the same amount of false reporting – zero. That is the reason the result can be nothing else than a tie for this category.

Winner: It’s a tie

Features

Windows Defender and Avast come with all the basic protection features, but Avast has a little more to offer. You also have to take account that all the extra features on Avast cost you a little extra.

Let’s see what Windows Defender has to offer first.

Windows Defender is the default protection that every PC that is running Windows gets for free. You cannot uninstall or turn it off, but it will automatically deactivate when you install a third-party antivirus.

Microsoft Defender Antivirus is the next-generation protection component of Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (Microsoft Defender ATP). Next-generation protection brings together machine learning, big-data analysis, in-depth threat resistance research, and the Microsoft cloud infrastructure to protect devices in your enterprise organization.

Next-generation protection services include the following:

So as you can see, it is all a part of native Microsoft Windows protection.

Now let’s take a look at what Avast has to offer.

Avast product line consists of three different categories – Security, Privacy, and Performance. From the security part, you can find two options.

Avast Free Security is the most basic antivirus bundle you can get.

It offers you Anti-Malware Security that blocks viruses, spyware, Trojans, and other malware, and scans your computer for already-hidden threats.

Web & Email Shields alert you of unsafe websites, blocks insecure downloads, stops dangerous email attachments, and prevent intrusive web tracking.

Wi-Fi Security Scan checks your entire network and all connected devices for vulnerabilities to help you stop hackers from stealing your personal data.

But for the everyday user, ongoing protection is much needed. For that, you have to opt for the Avast Premium Security option.

With the premium product, real-time Wi-Fi security alerts feature is added so you can instantly be alerted to network weaknesses and intruders.

Also, one of the essential features today is ransomware detection, as this is the fastest-growing segment in malware. Ransomware attacks in the US alone cost an estimated $7.5 billion in 2019. Avast Premium Security offers a Ransomware Shield to protect your files.

The premium product comes with two purchase options. The first lets you use only one PC, and the other is for up to 10 devices, but you can use it on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS platforms.

Avast also offers Avast SecureLine VPN for some extra. This product lets you keep everything you do online totally private thanks to the bank-grade encryption. You can browse, bank, message, and shop without having to worry about hackers or anyone else seeing what you do online or stealing your data.

Another extra is its Avast AntiTrack that helps you online. It lets you know when you’re being tracked, keeps your true identity private, stops targeted advertising, and erases your browsing history automatically. For some more money, you can find a Secure Browser in Avast lineup as well. Password protection is another add-on the company offers.

On the Performance segment, Avast offers three products. Avast Cleanup Premium lets you boost your computer’s speed and performance. The last two options are available for windows only. Avast Driver Updater keeps your drivers up to date with a single click, and Avast Battery Saver maximizes your laptop’s battery life.

For the best all-round protection you must opt for Avast Ultimate. This is Avast’s all-inclusive bundle where you get everything we have mentioned before.

View all Avast products

As Avast is the only one with a long list of extra features, it has to take the cake.

Winner: Avast

Pricing

When buying really anything at all, you must keep in mind what you are investing in. With antivirus software, you are not purchasing an application but rather an ease-of-mind that your digital life is in safe hands.

But as Windows Defender doesn’t have a paid upgrade, we can’t really compare the two software in this category.

We can still show you the options for Avast. In our opinion, two options to consider from Avast are its Premium Security and Ultimate bundle.

  1. Avast Antivirus Logo

    Avast Premium Security

    A complete online protection for all of your computers, phones, and tablets.

    Starting at $55,99
  2. Avast Antivirus Logo

    Avast Ultimate

    Everything you need to keep all your computers, phones, and tablets secure, private, and running at their best.

    Starting at $79,99

Final Thoughts

There is usually a reason when something is available for free. As you can see, Windows Defender has some useful features. If you’d like to have a bit more protection, it is better to go with a paid option such as Avast.

We hope this review has been helpful to you. Keep in mind that we give our best to get you all the facts so you can make an informed decision for what is the best option for you.