Antivirus Software Review: Bitdefender
Not a day goes by without a new type of malware appearing. They can wreak considerable damage, and the worst part is that anyone connected to or using the Internet is at risk. As such, having adequate antivirus software is more important than ever, and thankfully, the choice of providers grows almost as quickly as the number of threats.
Bitdefender's goal is to be the first thing that comes to mind whenever anyone thinks of cybersecurity. Below, we'll show you how close the Bucharest-based software developers have come to reaching this.
What Is Bitdefender?
Bitdefender is a Romanian cybersecurity company, founded in 2001. This company's antivirus software, which can be found on more than 500 million systems worldwide, is available for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. We evaluated "Bitdefender Total Security" on Windows and Android, but throughout this review will discuss the provider's other subscription options as well.
Pros and Cons
Excellent user interface
Configurable quick actions
Strong results from the testing labs
Good support with 24/7 live chat
Confusing license structure
VPN data limits in most packages
Installation & Usage
Bitdefender's installation file entails around 512 MB. After installation, you'll need to create a user account and input a license key, with first-time users being eligible to start a free trial account. Should you consent to it, the developer's "Anti-Tracker" is automatically installed in your browser. When first opening the program, you'll be asked whether you'd like to run a scan to assess your system's critical areas and learn more about their current security status.
Despite the large size of the installation file, the entire process only required a few minutes.
Bitdefender was installed and ready to use in a matter of minutes.
After installation, a short tutorial plays in the main window (which can be skipped). Even if you don't watch it, the program is fairly easy to come to terms with.
In the upper corner of the screen, you can see your current status, which lets you know whether everything on your system is in order, or if there are some issues that require your attention. Below this, you'll find recommendations for how to improve your system using its integrated features.
The rest of the dashboard can be tailored to your preferences since the modules in the lower half of the screen are freely customizable. As such, it's possible to pin the features that are most important to you, making them easily accessible. We think that this is a really nice touch.
You can adjust the program's modules to meet your precise needs.
All of the software's other features can be accessed through the main menu to the left, which is divided into the sub-categories "Protection", "Privacy", and "Utilities". The first includes security features, such as manual scans. By default, these aren't as prominently displayed in Bitdefender's dashboard, however, you can modify this in the configurable quick actions.
Under "Privacy" you'll find data protection tools, such as a password manager. All other features can be found under "Utilities", which includes anti-theft and optimization modules.
In the "Utilities" section of Bitdefender's dashboard, you can configure the software's anti-theft tools or optimize your device's performance.
The remainder of the menu's options include settings, notifications, account and subscription details, as well as a support area.
Bitdefender's user interface is nearly perfect, and the ability to customize quick actions means that at least part of the dashboard is entirely user-customizable, ultimately setting the program apart from its competitors.
Score: 5 / 5
Bitdefender certainly doesn't suffer from a lack of features. For Windows users, these are divided across four different subscriptions, Antivirus Plus, Internet Security, Total Security, and Premium Security. The most affordable of these, Antivirus Plus, offers basic antivirus protection as well as extras like a password manager. Manual scans, real-time protection, web protection, and anti-phishing can all be utilized in the free version. Below, we'll go through the most important features and which subscription packages these are offered in.
User-defined manual scans
Manual scans are one of Bitdefender's biggest strengths. For these, you can select between a "Quick Scan", a "System Scan", or the "Rescue Environment". Beyond these ready-made options, you'll also be able to perform user-defined scans, pinpointing which areas of your drive(s) should be checked and when.
Additional options include the ability to scan new or modified files and ignore archives that exceed a specific size. Overall, Bitdefender offers users the ability to configure their scans to a high degree.
For serious threats that can't be dealt with by your operating system, the "Rescue Environment" offers a helping hand: Using this, you can digitally disinfect your device without using Windows.
You can choose between a pre-made scan, or create and plan a user-defined one.
Real-time protection across all subscriptions
Real-time protection, which continually scans files, is also offered by Bitdefender. Under advanced antivirus settings, you can set parameters for this, such as whether Bitdefender should only check files or applications when they are accessed, or if it should also search through archives as well.
Basic real-time protection is offered to all subscribers.
Ransomware and brute-force protection
Bitdefender's "Online Threat Prevention" feature proactively shields you from malware on websites, and even checks search results so that you don't inadvertently visit dangerous sites, all the while defending you against phishing. This tool also looks for weaknesses in your network and can stave off both complex exploits and brute-force attacks.
Bitdefender's "Ransomware Remediation" secures your system against extortion by special Trojans that encrypt your files and demand a ransom in exchange for their release.
Bitdefender also protects against ransomware.
Enhanced real-time protection starting with Bitdefender Internet Security
Antivirus Plus subscribers will need to make do without some real-time protection features, such as "Webcam Protection", which prevents unauthorized access, alerting you whenever an app attempts to use your webcam. Similarly, "Anti-Spam" and "Microphone Monitor" are only offered to Internet Security subscribers and above.
The same goes for the integrated firewall which offers users an overview of their connection, generating a log of attempted cyber intrusions. Under settings, you can configure this feature further, for example, by setting individual guidelines for each program installed on your system.
Using Bitdefender's firewall you can filter your network traffic, identifying and blocking potential attacks and threats before they have a chance to jeopardize your system.
With the software's file shredder, you can completely remove files from your system without leaving any traces. Outside of the program, simply right-click on a file or folder you want to permanently dispose of and select "Shred with Bitdefender".
Functional password manager
All Bitdefender packages include a password manager, which protects your identities, net banking data, and WLAN passwords in a cyber vault. Used in conjunction with the accompanying browser extension, you can also generate secure passwords or auto-complete login fields. During our evaluation, we didn't encounter any issues when using this on sites like Facebook.
Secure your sensitive data in Bitdefender's cyber vault. Using the service's browser extension, you can autofill forms as well.
We certainly won't trash it as an extra, however, as so often, this tool can't really compare to stand-alone programs. If interested in learning more about these, we recommend taking a look at our comprehensive evaluation of the best password managers on the market.
Parental controls and anti-theft measures
Parental controls are included for subscribers to the provider's more expensive packages. These allow you to monitor your children's online activity through Bitdefender's browser central. Here, you'll see their screentime and be able to prohibit or allow certain content. You can't create user-defined categories, but you can block or allow individual websites.
This browser dashboard also doubles as your anti-theft headquarters, but to take advantage of all it has to offer, you'll need a "Total Security" subscription or higher. Bitdefender's anti-theft measures can help you GPS locate your device, lock it, view its IP address, remotely delete files, or even trigger an alarm.
You'll find parental controls and anti-theft tools in Bitdefender's neatly arranged Web interface.
Full VPN power only for premium subscribers
All versions of Bitdefender come with a VPN, however, even "Total Security" users have a daily limit of 200 MB. If you're looking for unlimited usage, the "Premium Security" subscription will be your best bet.
With Bitdefender's VPN, you can surf the web anonymously.
With 48 locations and 1,300 servers around the world, Bitdefender's VPN is a nice extra, however, considering the price difference between Total Security and Premium, you'd save more purchasing the former and a stand-alone VPN subscription, rather than the latter. To check our evaluation of the best VPN services on the market, be sure to have a look at our comprehensive VPN comparison.
System tuning, featuring one-click optimization which finds and removes unnecessary data, is likewise only available to Total Security subscribers.
Bitdefender looks out for its users on the go as well. "Antivirus Free" doesn't offer anything beyond a virus scanner, so for comprehensive protection, you'll need "Mobile Security" (which is included with the "Total Security" package).
On Android and iOS devices, Bitdefender allows users to scan their systems and enjoy the benefits of real-time protection. Unfortunately, in contrast to other mobile apps, like ESET's, scans can't be scheduled in advance.
Bitdefender's mobile app also comes loaded with plenty of features.
"Web Security" ensures that you won't be threatened by malware when using mobile browsers. With "App Lock", you can decide which apps you would like to endow with additional protection in the form of a PIN or fingerprint authentication. You can also set Bitdefender to photograph anyone who repeatedly enters the incorrect PIN or fingerprint.
"Account Privacy" is another practical feature, recognizing data breaches that threaten your user or email accounts and alerting you to them. The service's VPN is also integrated into Mobile Security, even though Bitdefender offers a dedicated app for it.
Apart from that, the same anti-theft measures included on the desktop also feature in the mobile app. Once you activate these, you can locate your device or remotely delete files. One feature missing is automatic locking when an unknown SIM card is inserted.
You can remotely locate or lock a stolen device using Bitdefender "Anti-Theft".
Bitdefender's intuitive user interface is filled to the brim with useful features. The free and lowest-priced subscriptions could do with access to a few more of these, with extras like the password manager and VPN not worth upgrading to "Premium Security" and above, at least in our eyes. Nevertheless, Bitdefender offers pretty much everything that we look for in an antivirus program.
Score: 4.7 / 5
Security & Performance
In this series of reviews, the testing labs are the gatekeepers to the winners' podium. Some programs that perform well in every other aspect trip up when examined by the experts. This isn't the case with Bitdefender: Because of its excellent test results, we count the software among the most secure antivirus solutions from our sample.
In June 2021, AV-Test awarded "Bitdefender Internet Security 25" maximum points for both security and performance. On AV-Comparatives' real-world protection test (February-May 2021), Bitdefender impressed with only 0.1% of compromised files not identified and five false positives. As such, Bitdefender was the only software awarded Advanced+ status by AV-Comparatives.
In the performance test, Bitdefender received a very respectable 83 points, however, AV-Comparatives did note a few negatives here. For example, some lag was encountered when copying files or launching programs while a scan was running. This matches our own subjective findings: During a full system scan, which lasted around an hour, we had the impression that our computer was performing somewhat slower than usual. All the same, this wasn't system-crippling.
Among the antivirus programs in our sample, Bitdefender is definitely an A student, as shown in its ability to continually ace testing lab evaluations.
Score: 4.7 / 5
The Bitdefender app includes an integrated support panel, which provides digital bookmarks to a 400-page user handbook (PDF) that explains features in easy-to-understand terms. For those who prefer more interactive support, answers can be found in the support center, FAQs, articles, and even video guides.
You can also directly contact the support team by email or phone (Monday-Friday, 9 AM to 7 PM), and in the Web dashboard, even through a 24/7 live chat. There is also a forum frequented by the developer's tech support personnel.
A live chat is available 24/7
Whether in the live chat or on the phone, we were immediately connected to a helpful support team member. Our email to the team was answered comprehensively and professionally in around one hour.
Bitdefender sets new standards when it comes to customer support for antivirus solutions: Along with an excellent user handbook, the help center offers a great deal of information for DIY types, while the hotline, live chat, and email contact options, to say nothing of the well-frequented forum, provide users with a number of possibilities for soliciting help from the support team. The responses we received were timely, informative, and courteous.
Score: 5 / 5
Choosing the right subscription is a bit more of a chore with Bitdefender than some of the other programs from our sample. This is because the developer has unnecessarily complicated its pricing structure, overwhelming prospective users with options. The company does provide comparison tables highlighting the differences between its subscriptions, but, oddly enough, this list is incomplete, meaning that you can't actually assess all of the developer's products side-by-side. Making matters worse, the introductory level subscriptions for Windows and macOS offer different features.
In a nutshell, the developer offers a free version, and for Windows, Antivirus Plus, Internet Security, Total Security, and Premium Security, each of which provides access to ever-greater numbers of features at increasing prices. macOS users can select from Antivirus for Mac andTotal Security, in addition to the Family Pack, and business rates.
For each subscription, you can select how many devices you'd like to use the program on (1, 3, 5, or 10) and the length of the contract (1, 2, or 3 years), with the savings increasing as you add more devices or agree to additional years. The aforementioned Family Pack, which serves up all features offered with the Total Security subscription, can be installed on up to 15 devices.
For business clients, a number of different subscription options are available, the price of which depends largely on the size of the organization.
|Antivirus Plus||Internet Security||Total Security|
|Price per year||$59.98||$69.98||$79.96|
|Contract period (months)||12||12||12|
|Max. Number of devices||3||3||5|
|Special Protection Features|
Bitdefender is far from the only antivirus solution we examined with a complicated pricing structure. Since subscription packages for each program vary, the table below compares each provider's offering on the basis of a sample, with similar conditions:
You can try Bitdefender for 30 days for free. All subscriptions come with a 30-day, money-back guarantee.
Bitdefender's goal to become the worldwide leader in cybersecurity appears, upon closer inspection, less ambitious than at the outset, considering how close the Romanian developer already is. The antivirus software is user-friendly, packed with features, and easily customized, also getting a stamp of approval from the test labs.
Its more extravagant bonus features, such as the integrated VPN and password manager, can't really compete with stand-alone software, and the company's pricing structure could be streamlined and made more straightforward. Nevertheless, where it matters, Bitdefender doesn't really do that much wrong. As such, we're proud to announce that Bitdefender was the best-performing antivirus solution in our comprehensive comparison!
Among the customer ratings we evaluated, Bitdefender received very good reviews. A number of users commended its ease of use, variety of features, and the efficacy of the protection it offered. However, on Trustpilot, we also noticed critical voices warning against subscription traps and billing irregularities. Problems of this kind are, unfortunately, common among antivirus software, so we recommend closely monitoring your monthly statements after your free trial subscription expires.
Alternatives to Bitdefender
Kaspersky Internet Security and McAfee Total Security both offer a comparable number of features to Bitdefender, but didn't perform so well with the testing labs. Compounding this, McAfee also had several usage issues. For a solid free antivirus, we recommend Avast, however, you'll have to make do with a different calibre of support than that provided by Bitdefender. A selection of popular alternatives to our overall winner can be found here:
- Trend Micro
- G Data
- 360 Total Security
- Internet Security
- Virus Protection
- Free Antivirus
- Android Antivirus
- Avast vs. Avira