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Malwarebytes Premium, 2021 review: Supremely simple virus protection

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

An exceptionally clean and effective antivirus solution, but accuracy is a concern

Simple to use
Effective protection
High rate of false positives
Short on features

Malwarebytes’ free virus scanner is a popular choice for locating and removing suspected malware, but that edition only performs on-demand scanning, which leaves you vulnerable to under-the-radar threats such as ransomware. For active, always-on protection you’ll need to pay for this Premium package.

It isn’t cheap by the standards of security suites. Many rival packages are available at knockdown prices from online retailers but, for this one, you’ll have to go to Malwarebytes’ own site and pay the full price of £30 per year for a single PC, or £70 a year for five devices.

It’s also short on features, compared with do-it-all security bundles such as BullGuard Internet Security or G Data Total Security. Still, the idea of clean, simple, one-stop security does have its allure. Is Malwarebytes Premium the perfect security solution?

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Malwarebytes Premium review: What do you get for the money?

According to the download page, Malwarebytes Premium package does four things: it prevents threats, removes malware, “crushes” ransomware and defends against harmful websites.

In fact, the first three of these are all basically the same thing. They’re taken care of by a real-time malware scanning engine that checks files on access and also carries out periodic scans to catch dormant files on your PC. That protection is also extended onto the web, assisted by the Browser Guard extension for Chrome, Edge and Firefox, which blocks dodgy sites and prevents malicious content from downloading or running.

Malwarebytes Premium also includes a distinctive exploit protection control, which lets you enforce advanced technical measures such as memory protection and script blocking on a per-application basis. These are largely things that can be turned on and off inside Windows, however, with no need for third-party software.

That’s really all there is to the package. There’s no active folder protection or rollback feature to save you if you’re hit by a ransomware attack. Nor will you find a firewall, parental controls, backup module, network monitor or vulnerability scanner – it’s the most stripped-down commercial security product we’ve seen.

Indeed, since you can get the Browser Guard as a free separate download, you’re paying £30 almost solely for the virus scanner.

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Malwarebytes Premium review: Does it keep you safe?

Malwarebytes Premium might be simple, but it’s effective. Tests carried out at the beginning of 2021 by independent security labs and confirm that: when pitted against a barrage of both prevalent and zero-day malware, Malwarebytes achieved an enviable 100% protection rate. You can be confident nothing’s getting through the net.

Unfortunately, there’s an element here of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In the same tests, Malwarebytes also mistakenly blocked a whopping 50 innocent files and programs. That’s not just annoying: it could compromise your security, by creating doubt as to whether or not it’s safe to manually unblock items that you want to access.

For comparison, Windows’ own security measures only racked up five false positives, while F-Secure SAFE and Eset Internet Security didn’t once raise the alarm incorrectly.

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Malwarebytes Premium review: What’s it like to use?

Since Malwarebytes is so basic, you’d imagine that it would have almost zero impact on the performance of your computer. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The test labs found it reduced the speed of common operations by an average of 9.1%.

That’s better than Windows Defender, which dragged the system down by 12.5%. However, there are plenty of nippier alternatives, with F-Secure SAFE incurring only a 6.1% slowdown.

The relatively high ratio of false positives also means you might have to step in and manually approve or restore flagged items more often than with other suites. It probably won’t happen frequently enough to be a major issue, but it’s hardly a plus point.

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Malwarebytes Premium review: Should I buy it?

In terms of protection, Malwarebytes Premium doesn’t really offer anything more than a free security tool like Avast Antivirus Free. However, as usual with paid-for security software, it is nicer to use: it doesn’t advertise to you and is overall slightly less intrusive.

Those benefits are, alas, outweighed by concerns over false positives. If you’re looking for lightweight, low-key protection, the latest tests indicate F-Secure SAFE or McAfee Total Protection are faster and more accurate. As it happens, they both deliver more features and are cheaper too, making Malwarebytes Premium look like a pretty poor deal.

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