Antivirus Software Review: Malwarebytes

"Cybersecurity that crushes what others can't" - Malwarebytes certainly won't be winning any awards for modesty. The American company promises to annihilate any virus that other antivirus programs can't, through its multiple security mechanisms and machine-learning technology. Our test will show if the program is really the 'Terminator' of viruses and malware that it markets itself to be.

What is Malwarebytes?

Malwarebytes is an antivirus program and developer based in Santa Clara, California. It comes in free and premium versions for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS, also offering specialized protection for Google Chrome devices. We tested "Premium version 4.0" for Windows and Android, but will reference all versions throughout the text.

Review

Review Score
3.8 / 5
01/2020
good
Visit Website
Installation & Usage
5.0 / 5
Customer Support
4.3 / 5
Features
3.0 / 5
Security & Performance
3.0 / 5
1.

Pros & Cons

User-friendly application

Solid results from AV-Test

Clear subscription structure

Missing certain functions

2.

Installation & Usage

Downloading and installing Malwarebytes takes a matter of minutes, if not seconds. There's no confusion about subscriptions, because the installation file is the same for each version, and only after the program is installed, are you asked if you have a license, plan to use the program's free version, or if you would like to start a 14-day free trial subscription. For the latter, you only need an email address, so you don't have to worry about falling into the dreaded "subscription trap" of using a credit card and then forgetting about cancelling before the deadline.

The user interface of Malwarebytes is organized into three zones: In the middle, you can view your current security status, which provides you with instant feedback about your computer's security. If action is needed, you'll be informed about it here first. On the menu bar above, you can view notifications, the support area, or modify settings.

The lower half of the screen consists of three modules: "Detection History", "Scanner", and "Real-Time Protection". Clicking on any of these will expand your options and enable you to view additional settings.

There's not really much else to say about the setup and user interface of Malwarebytes: The program is sleek, quickly-installed, immediately ready for use, and very easy to navigate.

Score: 5 / 5

3.

Features

In the free version of the program, only two of the three modules are activated: "Real-Time Protection" is reserved for premium subscribers. Scans can be performed without a license. In addition to the standard system scan, there's also a quick scan, which only checks your memory and startup objects, and a user-defined scan, that you can tailor to your needs and preferences. Using this last type of scan, you can select which folders and partitions should be analyzed for undesired programs and modifications, as well as what Malwarebytes should do in the event that they are found (ignore, warn, or automatically treat as malware).

With "Scan-Scheduler" you can set scans from any of the three categories to be run at specific times and how often. Scan reports are saved and archived allowing you to continually access and review them.

This is where the Malwarebytes experience ends for free users, since "Real-Time Protection" is limited to paying customers. This is divided into four categories:

"Web Protection" alerts you to dangerous websites, phishing attempts, and other online hustles. "Malware Protection" wards off programs that would harm your computer, such as viruses, adware, and other unwanted software. "Ransomware Protection" defends you against so-called extortion Trojans, which take your files or folders hostage (by encrypting them), and only free them after you pay a hefty ransom. "Exploit Protection" identifies malicious software that exploits weaknesses and errors in your system for its benefit.

Despite all of the above, the program lacks email protection: In other antivirus programs, you can set whether incoming and/or outgoing emails are scanned for threats or viruses. Webcam protection, which carefully monitors which programs have access to your webcam, is likewise absent.

Unlike ESET, Malwarebytes doesn't have any "hidden" features stashed away in its sub-menus. What you see in the main dashboard, is what you get, and in comparison to some other antivirus programs, this is unfortunately, not that much. In addition to the lack of certain real-time protection functions (email and webcam), the program also doesn't come with a data shredder or a firewall, both of which are fairly standard among antivirus programs.

More extravagant features (a password manager, parental controls, VPN, performance tuning, an adblocker, or remote (cloud) backup) are also nowhere to be found, however, this is more bearable than the absence of real-time email or webcam protection. In general, one often has the impression that antivirus software artificially inflates their features or extras, since in comparison to dedicated programs, these ad ons are almost always of inferior quality. Accordingly, we find the "minimalism" in Malwarebytes somewhat refreshing. Unfortunately, this attempt to get rid of bells and whistles seems to have claimed one too many victims in the form of features that we consider necessary.

Mobile Features

Malwarebytes is also available for free for Android users, albeit, again without any real-time protection features. Even the mobile app's premium version is, relatively speaking, kept to the bare necessities: Alongside automatic real-time protection and scans (with a few configuration possibilities) there is also privacy protection, which checks what kind of privileges are granted to your installed apps, providing you with a convenient overview of them.

For iOS, there isn't the ability to perform scans, which, at least according to support, is owing to a restriction by Apple. As a result, for iOS users, Malwarebytes only offers real-time protection.

Anti-theft features, an app lock, or remote access are also missing, with all focus instead on antivirus functions.

This emphasis on antivirus protection for both mobile devices and computers might be refreshing for some, if Malwarebytes really only cut back on the bells and whistles that other providers offer, and not core competences. Since some of these are missing, Malwarebytes is often used in conjunction with other software; the Terminator didn't need a sidekick to protect John and Sarah Connor, so we don't really see why the supposedly 'all-powerful' Malwarebytes does; perhaps it just isn't as strong as it's made out to be.

Score: 3 / 5

4.

Security & Performance

To assess antivirus programs, we typically consult AV-Test and AV-Comparatives, two of the leading online test labs, for their separate scores for performance and security. Unfortunately, Malwarebytes only appears regularly in AV-Test's evaluations, making our conclusions somewhat less representative.

SecurityPerformance

67% (4 / 6)

75% (4.5 / 6)

-

-

TOTAL

67%

75%

The results from the most recent (as of the time of writing) evaluation conducted by AV-Test (October 2019) are fine: Security received 4 from 6 points and performance 4.5 from 6. We couldn't find more-detailed tests from other independent labs, however, for what it's worth, Malwarebytes can lay claim to OPSWAT's platinum certificate.

In light of the satisfactory performance with AV-Test, and the lack of other results from third-party auditors, we can only rate Malwarebytes "average" in terms of security and performance.

Score: 3 / 5

5.

Support

In contrast, Malwarebytes is fairly well positioned in terms of support. The program's help center provides a variety of articles and videos, organized by operating system. A search function allows you to quickly find what you need.

From Monday-Friday, it is possible to directly contact the support staff via live chat, while an active forum and ability to file support tickets allow users to keep in touch. Our support ticket was answered within 22 hours, while during a live chat query, we spoke with support staff within a matter of seconds.

Score: 4.3 / 5

6.

Pricing

Malwarebytes' pricing structure is refreshingly straight-forward: Private customers can use the program for free, in the "Premium" package (on one device) or the "Premium Home" package (on up to three devices). Next, you can select for how long you'd like to agree a subscription (one or two years).

The offers are more personalized for business customers, depending largely on the number of potential users.

FreePremium
Pricing
Set-up fee $0.00 $0.00
Price per year $0.00 from $39.99
Software
Operating system
Windows
macOS
Android
Windows
macOS
Android
Max. Number of devices unlimited 5
Special Protection Features
Real-time Protection
Internet Security
Email Protection
Ransomware Protection
Webcam Protection
Premium Features
Firewall
Password Manager
VPN Access
Adblocker
Cloud Backup
File Shredder
Parental Control
Performance Tuning
Mobile Features
App Lock
Track Location
Remote Lock
Camera Trap

Since Malwarebytes is one of the few antivirus providers which makes pricing so easy, comparing it to other services can be relatively complicated. Within the sample of programs which we evaluated, "Malwarebytes Premium" had an average price.

Some programs are available in different premium versions, each of which comes with various features. Since subscription packages and features for each program vary, the table below compares each provider's offering on the basis of a sample, with similar conditions:

360 Total Security
Premium
$26.98
Visit Website
AVG
Internet Security
$39.48
Visit Website
Bitdefender
Internet Security
$39.98
Visit Website
Norton
360 Standard
$39.99
Visit Website
Kaspersky
Internet Security
$39.99
Visit Website
Avast
Premium Security
$39.99
Visit Website
Malwarebytes
Premium
$39.99
Visit Website
Avira
Pro
$44.99
Visit Website
Sophos
Home Premium
$45.00
Visit Website
ESET
Internet Security
$49.99
Visit Website
Panda Security
Advanced
$53.24
Visit Website

Conclusion

Review Score
3.8 / 5
01/2020
good
Visit Website
Installation & Usage
5.0 / 5
Customer Support
4.3 / 5
Features
3.0 / 5
Security & Performance
3.0 / 5

Despite its rather pompous claims of being able to do everything that other antivirus programs can't, Malwarebytes still leaves a good impression. This can be traced to its ease of use, navigation, and provision of most sought-after features, with almost no proverbial "fat" or filler. Unfortunately, the program is missing a few necessary features, and its superiority over its competitors is not conclusively demonstrated in any of the test lab results we consulted, or indeed, anywhere outside of the company's marketing materials. As a result, we recommend Malwarebytes as a supplementary, albeit not stand-alone antivirus program, to be used in conjunction with other software.

Malwarebytes Antivirus
(311,279)
user-friendly application
solid results in the test lab
easy to understand pricing
missing functionalities
Plan
Free
Devices
unlimited
Protection Features
1
Premium Features
0
Malwarebytes Free
$0.00
yearly price
Visit Website
Review Score
3.8 / 5
good

Customer Ratings

Customers like Malwarebytes: The program's user-friendliness is evidenced in dozens or even hundreds of reviews, with almost everyone rating the program as effective.

Customer Rating
4.6 / 5
311,279 Ratings
excellent
We analyzed the reviews and ratings from various portals and found 311,279 ratings with an overall rating of 4.6 out of 5 .
Show sources

Alternatives to Malwarebytes

Within its price segment, there are some antivirus programs that offer more features, such as Kaspersky. For another easy to use option which has been favorably (and regularly) reviewed by test labs, we can suggest Bitdefender. A list of the best alternatives can be found here:

Best Overall 2020
Bitdefender Antivirus
(265,104)
flawless user interface
excellent protection results
configurable quick actions
good support with 24/7 live chat
Our test winner Bitdefender not only offers high security, confirmed by independent test laboratories, but also convinces with its flawless usability and a comprehensive feature package.
Plan
Antivirus Plus
Devices
up to 10
Protection Features
4
Premium Features
2
70%
Black Friday Discount
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
from $19.99
yearly price
Visit Website
Best Overall
4.7 / 5
excellent
Norton Antivirus
(1,510,916)
elegant-intuitive application
outstanding protection performance
great support
incl. Password Manager and VPN
Norton Antivirus scores with a lean application, top results in the testing labs and unrivaled support with 24/7 live chat.
Plan
Antivirus Plus
Devices
1
Protection Features
3
Premium Features
3
Norton Antivirus Plus
$14.99
yearly price
Visit Website
Review Score
4.5 / 5
excellent
Kaspersky Antivirus
(3,468,692)
quick setup
intuitive use interface
a lot of features
special features like VPN
Kaspersky Internet Security is a user-friendly anti-virus protection with perhaps the best feature package on the market.
Plan
Antivirus
Devices
up to 5
Protection Features
2
Premium Features
0
50%
Black Friday Discount
Kaspersky Antivirus
from $29.99
yearly price
Visit Website
Review Score
4.4 / 5
good
ESET Antivirus
(883,728)
simple and intuitive interface
many features
many configuration settings
offers UEFI scanners
Plan
NOD32
Devices
up to 5
Protection Features
2
Premium Features
0
ESET NOD32
from $39.99
yearly price
Visit Website
Review Score
4.2 / 5
good
Sophos Antivirus
(44,013)
easy to use
many features
affordable premium licenses
Plan
Home Free
Devices
up to 3
Protection Features
2
Premium Features
0
Sophos Home Free
$0.00
yearly price
Visit Website
Review Score
4.1 / 5
good
Author Janis von Bleichert
Janis von Bleichert studied business informatics at the TU Munich and computer science at the TU Berlin, Germany. He has been self-employed since 2006 and is the founder of EXPERTE.com. He writes about hosting, software and IT security.
Other languages:
Deutsch