The aims of this article are to review the evidence regarding the use of non-vitamin K oral anticoagulants (NOACs) for secondary stroke prevention as compared to vitamin K antagonists in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) and in patients with embolic strokes of uncertain source (ESUS), and when to initiate or resume anticoagulation after an ischaemic stroke or intracranial haemorrhage. Four large trials compared NOACs with warfarin in patients with AF. In our meta-analyses, the rate of all stroke or systemic embolism (SE) was 4.94% with NOACs vs. 5.73% with warfarin. Among the patients with AF and previous transient ischaemic attack or ischaemic stroke, the rate of haemorrhagic stroke was halved with a NOAC vs. warfarin, and the rate of major bleeding was 5.7% with a NOAC vs. 6.4% with warfarin. There was no significant difference in mortality. In a trial comparing apixaban with aspirin in patients with AF, the rate of stroke or SE was 2.4% at 1 year with apixaban vs. 9.2% at 1 year with aspirin and the rates of major bleeding were 4.1% with apixaban vs. 2.9% with aspirin. Data from registries confirmed the results from the randomized trials. Initiation or resumption of anticoagulation after ischaemic stroke or cerebral haemorrhage depends on the size and severity of stroke and the risk of recurrent bleeding. Two large trials tested the hypothesis that NOACs are more effective than 100 mg aspirin in patients with ESUS. Neither trial showed a significant benefit of the NOAC over aspirin. In the meta-analysis, the rate all stroke or SE was 4.94% with NOACs vs. 5.73% with warfarin and the rate of haemorrhagic stroke was halved with a NOAC. The four NOACs had broadly similar efficacy for the major outcomes in secondary stroke prevention.