system infectionSource: Malwarebytes

Best answer: It isn't necessary to run both traditional antivirus software and Malwarebytes at the same time. Most of the top antivirus software protect computers in real-time, meaning they block infections from happening in the first place. Malwarebytes' free program is typically used when an antivirus software isn't installed on a computer and it's infected. It will round up threats and remove them from your system so you can then install an antivirus program for better protection in the future. If you'd like to have both an antivirus program and Malwarebytes installed at the same time, there are a few programs that support tandem protection.

How antivirus works

Bitdefender Antivirus PlusSource: Nicole Johnston/ Android Central

The best antivirus software has real-time protections in place to stop malicious files from downloading or opening on your computer. The threat inside these folders is then either scrubbed from the system or placed in a quarantine folder before being permanently deleted. When you don't have an antivirus program installed, it is much easier to accidentally open a file or click on a link that unleashes malware. Even innocent files, like games from popular websites, may have malware hidden in them. Some antivirus programs use a safe browser extension to block or mark websites known to harbor malware, including phishing schemes.

When should you use Malwarebytes

If you notice your computer is running slower, browsers and apps are closing without prompting, or you can't access programs or visit certain websites, you likely have a malware infection. While antivirus programs may be able to gather up these threats during a virus scan, antivirus is typically better at stopping threats in the first place instead of removing already downloaded malware. Many malware files block you from visiting antivirus websites to download a program, too. In this case, it's a good idea to use Malwarebytes to round up threats on your device.

Malwarebytes will also remove threats so they can't reinfect your system. Once your computer is cleaned from malware, you can decide to continue using Malwarebytes on its own, or in conjunction with another antivirus program. Note that Malwarebytes does not recognize or stop ransomware threats. For this type of malware, you will need a third-party antivirus program.

Malwarebytes Free vs Malwarebytes Premium

Malwarebytes Scanning EditedSource: Nicole Johnston/ Android Central

Most people think of the free version when referring to Malwarebytes, as we have here in our guide. It's best used to stop threats already on your computer, but Malwarebytes does have a Premium version that offers real-time protection like many other more traditional antivirus programs. Malwarebytes Premium stops threats before they infect your computer, including ransomware. It tags dangerous websites and blocks you from accessing some with known threats on them. Malwarebytes Premium also has a package that includes a VPN, though the price is pretty steep to include and it only works on Windows computers.

Malwarebytes Premium hasn't been tested as much by third-party labs because it is a newer program. However, when it has been tested it doesn't earn as high scores for protection as other antivirus software. It does still fall within the industry average. It offers some good basic protection, but for the price it is lacking in other areas.

For example, programs like Bitdefender include a personal firewall, safe banking tools, and password management. It also includes a VPN with its most basic antivirus software rather than requiring you to purchase it as an add-on or with a higher tiered program.

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Free and Premium protection: Malwarebytes

For when you need to remove the threats ASAP

Choose Malwarebytes Free to clear infections on your computer, or Malwarebytes Premium to stop threats in real-time.

The best antivirus software that works with Malwarebytes

Here are some of the best antivirus software picks that will work in tandem with Malwarebytes.

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus

The best antivirus program around is Bitdefender. It stops threats in real-time and is so fast they don't have a chance to even begin the download process. Most threats are scrubbed from your system rather than placed in quarantine first. Bitdefender also has a few extra protection tools like a VPN. Most threats, including ransomware, will not get past Bitdefender, and those that do are quickly rounded up and disposed of. However, since no antivirus program is 100 percent perfect, Malwarebytes would be a good backup just in case Bitdefender misses something.

While Bitdefender won't allow you to install another third-party antivirus program while it is running, it doesn't have an issue with Malwarebytes also being installed and used alongside it.

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Best overall: Bitdefender Antivirus Plus

Bitdefender stops malware, including ransomware, before it has a chance to fully download to your computer.

From $30 per year at Bitdefender

Avast Premium Security

Avast is the king of tandem antivirus programs. It is one of a very few software that won't ask you to uninstall any existing antivirus program before you install Avast. And it is smart enough to know when to allow your primary antivirus program to work and when to step up and cover the gaps. Avast is the most widely downloaded and used antivirus program worldwide, so on its own, it is very powerful and good at stopping malware. It is excellent at stopping threats and has an amazing gamer mode that stops popups and notices while you play games or even watch movies online. Its Premium Security program includes password managers, vulnerability scanners, and a VPN. Because of its tandem programming, you'll have no issues running Avast along with Malwarebytes.

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Most popular: Avast Premium Security

The most downloaded antivirus worldwide

Avast is the most popular antivirus software used around the world. It is effective at stopping threats, including ransomware.

From $70 per year at Avast

Windows Defender

We don't recommend using Windows Defender on its own if you have click-happy kids. Still, if it's just you and you are consciously not clicking on suspicious links or visiting shady-looking websites, Defender is a good solution. Defender comes with your Windows 10 operating system, so there is no need to purchase anything else. It is a good antivirus program on its own. It has real-time monitoring, but there is a lot that gets missed, especially coming in through web browsers. It doesn't recognize malicious websites, phishing schemes, or links unless you use it along with Microsoft Edge. Still, it will quickly stop most threats downloading or opening and quarantine them before they infect your computer. If you opt to use only Windows Defender rather than a third-party antivirus program, it is strongly recommended using Malwarebytes, too. Malwarebytes recognizes and gathers up several threats that slip by Windows Defender, so it makes sense to use these two programs together.

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Included with Windows: Windows Defender

No cost protection

Defender is included with all Windows 10 operating systems. It will stop most threats and includes a firewall.

Free at Microsoft

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