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Does antivirus software slow down internet speed?

We will show you cases where antivirus software only slows your browsing speed, and when antivirus actually reduces your overall internet speed.

person on laptop using a VPN
Image: Digital Trends

Quick Answer: Technically speaking, antivirus software shouldn’t slow down your internet speed, but it does have some effect on our browser experience. ;

Many people worry that antivirus software can slow down their internet speed. While there’s no simple answer, it’s important to understand how antivirus software works.

Technically speaking, antivirus software shouldn’t slow down your internet speed, but it does have some effect on our browser experience.

But there are some situations where it might use background data, like when it updates its database or software. Still, you shouldn’t notice much of a difference.

That said, there are specific functions of antivirus software that can slow down your browsing experience. This might seem like a small detail, but it’s actually an important distinction.

surfshark antivirus app on laptops

In most cases, antivirus software isn’t slowing down your internet speed—it’s just scanning pages, links, and scripts in real-time as they load, which can cause delays.

The good news is that this can vary depending on your antivirus software. Some companies do a better job than others at minimizing the impact on your browsing speed.

So if you’re experiencing slow browsing speeds, you might want to consider trying a different antivirus program.

Pro Tip: If you’re worried about antivirus software slowing down your internet browsing speeds, Surfshark Antivirus is worth considering.

It offers a built-in VPN and real-time protection against online threats. Its CloudProtect feature can even make your browsing experience smoother by blocking ads, trackers, and malware domains.

Surfshark Antivirus Surfshark Antivirus
4.5

Surfshark VPN is a virtual private network service that encrypts internet traffic and hides your IP address. The antivirus software protects against malware, viruses, and other security threats. 

Bonus Offer: Use promo code AntivirusDeal and get it for 76% off.
Pros:
  • Lightweight, no bloatware
  • Protection against malware, viruses, and other online threats
  • Blocks ads, trackers, and malware domains for a smoother browsing experience,
  • Includes a free unlimited VPN
  • Personal data leak notification to protect your privacy
Cons:
  • Can be pricey compared to other antivirus software
  • Offers a lower level of protection compared to TotalAV Antivirus Pro 2023
KnowTechie is supported by its audience, so if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale.

Antivirus software can impact your browsing experience, but it shouldn’t significantly affect your internet speed. And with a bit of know-how, you can stay safe online without sacrificing speed.

This article will show cases where antivirus software only slows your browsing speed (with no effect on your actual internet speed) and when antivirus reduces your overall internet speed.

How does antivirus software affect browsing speed?

internet speed test

Imagine a broadcast delay – a live news channel typically has a 7-second delay so the studio can censor any accidental content that shouldn’t be broadcast.

However, you wouldn’t say they’re “slowing” their recording; on the contrary, they’re recording at an average speed.

This is because there’s a delay in the broadcast content to filter out inappropriate material. Nearly the same thing is happening with real-time antivirus scanning.

How to tell if your antivirus is affecting your internet speed

When you load a webpage or download a file, your antivirus software will begin scanning immediately. However, it will first check the page for any malicious scripts that might try to exploit security holes in your browser.

As the antivirus software scans the page, the page may load a little slower, leading people to think that the antivirus is slowing down their internet.

An easy way to determine if your antivirus software is only slowing down your browser but not your actual data speed is to use an internet speed check test tool with your antivirus software, both enabled and disabled, and compare the results.

How can antivirus slow internet speed itself?

In some cases, the antivirus can slow down your internet. As mentioned earlier, antivirus software can use some of your bandwidth to update its virus definitions and software. This may be more noticeable if you’re on a slower internet connection.

Another way antivirus software may slow down your internet speed is through built-in firewall settings or a VPN.

Firewalls can slow down your internet speed, depending on the firewall configuration.

VPNs make for a solid antivirus software alternative

Thus, when an antivirus runs its firewall on top of a Windows built-in firewall, it can wreak havoc on your internet speed.

This is why it is generally suggested to choose one or the other. Imagine a firewall as a traffic checkpoint – all the traffic (your data) slows down to pass the checkpoint.

So imagine having two consecutive checkpoints – traffic nearly comes to a standstill.

Regarding VPNs, many of the best antivirus tools include an optional VPN that you can turn on or off. When connecting to the internet through a VPN, your data is routed through the VPN servers.

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Using another traffic analogy, it’s like taking a detour road longer than the main road. Instead of your data going directly from point A to point B, it goes from point A to point C and then to point B.

As a result, a VPN can noticeably slow down your internet speed depending on the VPN server you’re connecting to. But a good VPN will offer its users different servers and access points if this is the case.

Editor's Pick
Surfshark Antivirus Surfshark Antivirus
4.5

Surfshark VPN is a virtual private network service that encrypts internet traffic and hides your IP address. The antivirus software protects against malware, viruses, and other security threats. 

Bonus Offer: Use promo code AntivirusDeal and get it for 76% off.
Pros:
  • Lightweight, no bloatware
  • Protection against malware, viruses, and other online threats
  • Blocks ads, trackers, and malware domains for a smoother browsing experience,
  • Includes a free unlimited VPN
  • Personal data leak notification to protect your privacy
Cons:
  • Can be pricey compared to other antivirus software
  • Offers a lower level of protection compared to TotalAV Antivirus Pro 2023
KnowTechie is supported by its audience, so if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale.

If you live in New York and connect to a VPN in Chicago, the VPN’s impact on your browsing speed will be minimal.

However, if you live in mainland China and connect to a New York VPN, you may have to wait a while for a Facebook video to load – it could take so long that you could even boil a cup of coffee while you wait.

Can antivirus slow down internet speeds?

We all know how frustrating it can be when your internet speed takes a nosedive, especially when you’re streaming your favorite show or video chatting with your loved ones.

While it’s true that some antivirus software can slow down your internet speed, the good news is that most modern antivirus software are designed to work seamlessly in the background without causing any significant impact on your system performance or internet speed.

So, you can enjoy a safer browsing experience without sacrificing your need for speed. If you’re on the hunt for the best antivirus software, we rounded up all your best here: The best antivirus software.

Editors’ Recommendations:

Just a heads up, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale. It’s one of the ways we keep the lights on here. Click here for more.

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Kevin is KnowTechie's founder and executive editor. With over 15 years of blogging experience in the tech industry, Kevin has transformed what was once a passion project into a full-blown tech news publication. Shoot him an email at kevin@knowtechie.com or find him on Mastodon or Post.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. kirkyeehee

    August 10, 2023 at 11:10 am

    I don’t agree with this at all. I have 1.7 GBPS down and 1 GBPS up, and if I uninstall the virus scanners I get full speed. If I reinstall any virus scanner (Tried Avast, AVG, Kaspersky) it drops me to around 600 Mbps. That’s practically cutting my full speed by 1/3rd!

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