Bitdefender Antivirus Review: is this the ultimate antivirus?
Bitdefender may not be as well-known as some of the market veterans, but experts love it – and with good reason.
This Romanian tool is one of the best, most comprehensive pieces of antivirus software on the market today. Why? Well, Bitdefender often gets praised for its performance and efficient malware removal. It offers great real-time protection, includes lots of extra security features like Anti-Phishing and a spam filter, and even includes a built-in VPN. And the cherry on top? Bitdefender has a free version that does its job really well.
Yet with so many choices out there, you might still wonder whether this service is worth your time. In this Bitdefender review, I’ll go through their security features, pricing options, ease of use, apps, and customer support experience to help you decide whether this is the right antivirus for the job.
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|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS|
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Bitdefender pros and cons
- Free version
- Best in class malware detection
- All editions have built-in VPN
- Flexibly adapts to your hardware specifications
- Relies on Global Protection Network
- Automatically installs required system updates
- Solid tracking protection
- Customizable dashboard
- Lots of additional features
- Multi-layered ransomware protection
- 30-day trials for all paid plans
- Customer support available on all editions
- Restrictive VPN capabilities
- macOS support only with paid plans
- The iOS app is a bit lackluster
- Paid options are kind of expensive
Is Bitdefender safe?
Bitdefender is a safe antimalware application. Actually, it's at the top of the world of antivirus software. It even won the AV-Comparatives' Product of the Year award four times in total - more than any other antivirus program.
Awards aside, let’ take a look at the most recent Bitdefender virus detection rates. According to AV-Comparatives, Bitdefender blocked 100% of threats during the testing period of September-October 2020. This included both 0-day and 4-week old malware and viruses. It also scored a maximum of 6 points in terms of speed.
With results like these, you can be sure that Bitdefender will take care of anything that may cause threat to your device.
Bitdefender security features
Whether you're using the free or paid version, Bitdefender uses the same malware database to identify potential threats. So, whichever edition you pick, you'll get the same excellent level of malware removal. However, there are additional subscription benefits to consider. Here are some that are worth a separate mention.
Advanced Threat Defense
Bitdefender is calling their real-time monitoring Advanced Threat Defense. It uses heuristic methods to monitor all processes running on the device. Each function is evaluated according to several criteria. The basis for ranking is made possible with the collaboration of Bitdefender's Global Protective Network - one of the world's largest security delivery infrastructures, monitoring 500 million machines and extracting new malware models.
With the Global Protective Network, every process can be evaluated efficiently and accurately, ensuring that you have protection against very recent or poorly documented threats. Whenever a malicious process is blocked, you'll be asked whether you want to allow it or put it in quarantine.
As you may have heard, ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts your files and asks for a ransom to decrypt them. It's an extremely dangerous threat if it passes your antivirus security undetected. As a solution, Bitdefender created their Ransomware mitigation feature, which was previously called Safe Files.
It creates a backup of your files (like documents, images, music, and videos) so that they wouldn't be affected in case of a ransomware attack. Bitdefender also detects when ransomware is trying to encrypt files, blocking all malicious processes.
Even though it's not always possible to remove the ransomware encryption, the encrypted files can always be replaced with the prepared backup. That way, you don't have to worry about potentially losing important documents or other sensitive data.
Although this feature sounds quite self-explanatory, it's a bit more complicated than it would seem. This feature is designed to work with any mailbox, providing active protection for the whole email channel. To achieve that, it uses a Whitelist, a heuristic filter, and learning modules.
For each received email, Bitdefender performs a heuristic analysis investigating the message contents, the header, and metadata. It's done to find particular telltale spam characteristics. You can even toggle blocks for emails encoded in Cyrillic or Asian characters.
The learning module works in conjunction with this filter, gathering statistical information about the frequency of genuine emails and spam messages. With proper adaptation, this module can detect spam messages faster than any trained cybersecurity expert.
The last of the triad is whitelister. It continually refreshes data about known spammer domains and blocks them before they get to your inbox.
Online shopping is not only a convenient way to get parcels shipped to your door. It's also a window of opportunity for cybercriminals. For this reason, Bitdefender implemented a SafePay feature on its paid editions that aims to protect you when making online purchases.
It's designed to work with banking and online shopping sites in mind, but any website can be opened via this browser. It creates a sandbox that acts separately from your other installed web browsers, making it unaffected by the malware that could be present on your regular browser. It also adds a virtual keyboard so that your keystrokes couldn't be registered by malware, and checks whether your connected wifi network is secure.
SafePay also offers some quality of life features, like integration with Bitdefender's password manager, bookmarks, and tab view. With it, you can be calm that you're visiting genuine websites which won't steal your credit card information.
It's no secret that most websites are tracking every click you make via third-party scripts, cookies, and other adtech marvels. Bitdefender Anti-Tracker is a solution available to premium users who want to stop excessive tracking carried out by web services.
Anti-tracker is an add-on that you can set up on Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome. Once enabled, it will stop malicious scripts from harvesting your data when you're surfing the web. Also, you can manage which tracking categories you would like to allow or disable. For example, you might be OK with website analytics but against ads or social media tracking. You can customize this add-on in a way that works for you, and it quite significantly reduces the load time of all websites.
Microphone and webcam protection
Although the feature is called Webcam Filter, this is only partially accurate. This is because it makes sure that there is no unauthorized access to your camera and microphone. Even though it's pretty easy to stick duct tape on top of your built-in webcam, it's much harder to silence the microphone, which could be just as dangerous.
Webcam Filter will notify you each time a new app tries to access your built-in camera or microphone. There's only a handful of apps for video calls, making every other permission a potential threat. With Webcam Filter enabled, you can be sure that your device won't be spying on you via video or audio. Sadly, the feature is only available only for paying users.
One of the key differences compared to many other antivirus service providers is that Bitdefender offers a VPN as part of the app. This is really generous because some antiviruses charge an additional fee for their VPNs or add them as additional products when buying the most expensive packages.
Bitdefender Premium VPN is quite a good tool. It offers 1,300 servers in more than 45 countries and unblocks Netflix US as well as a few other streaming services. The VPN also has a kill switch, which will disable your Internet traffic if your connection to the VPN servers is disrupted.
You can also set the app to auto-connect when you switch to a public wifi network or when you visit specific websites. Bitdefender Premium VPN also offers split tunneling, which allows you to exclude the websites of your choice from the VPN traffic.
However, the feature itself is quite restrictive. If you purchase the cheaper plans of Bitdefender antivirus, you’ll get only 200 MB of data per day. However, if you buy the VPN separately or get a pricier plan of the antivirus suite, you’ll get unlimited data.
Bitdefender additional features
Aside from all the necessary security features, Bitdefender also offers lots of extra features that you might find incredibly useful. Let's take a look at all of them below.
Sometimes, you simply can't allow any disturbances. Unfortunately, most antiviruses disregard this need entirely. You've probably heard legends about how an annoying pop-up interrupted presentations and got someone killed in a ranked online match. Bitdefender developers understand that sometimes you don't want to entirely disable the antivirus, you may just need some privacy. For that, there are profiles – settings presets that adapt to the conditions you're in.
You can set them up automatically or allow an app to detect what processes are running. According to what you're doing, there are several modes:
Work profile – adjusts your email settings and limits background scans to minimize the impact on the system
Movie profile – postpones notifications and alerts so you can watch a movie without antivirus update jumpscares
Game profile – limits background monitoring so the impact on the system is minimal
Public wifi profile – turns on full network protection to make you safe from insecure public networks
Battery mode profile – disables background monitoring to conserve system resources, saving battery life
If you're using automatic switching, these modes are triggered automatically when you launch a particular app. For example, suppose you launch an executable game file. In that case, Bitdefender will know that it's a game and limit the consumption of system resources. If you get a Windows warning about low battery life, the device will automatically engage the battery mode profile.
While some services still require manual input for each of these modes, it's nice to see that Bitdefender is set to find a balance between your tasks and antivirus protection.
Rather than developing a standalone project, Bitdefender integrates their password manager into the main dashboard. You can use it for credit cards, credentials, and other sensitive data. If you're using Bitdefender on multiple devices, you'll appreciate the ability to sync the password across all of them. It's not as safe, nor is it as secure as a dedicated third-party password manager would be. Still, it's a great addition to the suite.
If you're planning to sell a used device, the File shredder may be useful. Even though you've deleted your files, some can still be recovered. So, if you have some private videos or document copies that you want to make sure are gone for good, you should use Bitdefender's File Shredder.
It doesn't just delete the files from the drive, it overwrites the data using a special algorithm that makes the files impossible to recover. So, you can sell the hard drive to someone else, being sure that no one will use the data against you.
Bitdefender can also protect your device not only from viruses but from unwanted content as well. It works across all supported platforms: Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS. There may be some differences from platform to platform when it concerns how much you can control the devices.
On Windows, macOS, and Android, you'll be able to select website categories that you want to block, check how much screen time your child spends on the specific device and when. However, on mobile, it even allows access to the phone contacts and device's location.
The only caveat was that uninstalling the app on macOS proved to be quite a headscratcher, as it's only possible to do it via BitDefender's Uninstaller app.
Plans and pricing
Bitdefender comes in four editions: Free, Antivirus Plus, Internet Security, and Total Security. Although the premium packages are somewhat pricy, Bitdefender does everything to give you a taste of what you're getting.
Not only does Bitdefender have a free version, but the paid offers also come with a 30-day trial that doesn't require you to enter any financial details. This is quite generous on the antivirus market.
|Bitdefender Free||Real-time protection, Advanced Threat Defense, Web attack prevention, Anti-Phishing, Anti-Fraud, Bitdefender Photon, Global Protective Network||$0.00|
|Antivirus Plus||Network Threat Prevention, Ransomware Protection, Vulnerability Assessment, Rescue Environment, SafePay browser, Password Manager, VPN, File Shredder||$29.99|
|Internet Security||Real-time protection, Privacy Firewall, Parental Control, Webcam and microphone protection, Ransomware protection, VPN||$34.99|
|Total Security||Webcam and microphone protection, Parental Control, Privacy Firewall, Performance optimization tool, Anti-Theft tool||$39.98|
|Family Pack||Everything included in the Tota Security + protection for up to 15 devices||$49.99|
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
With Bitdefender's Free Edition, you will get:
- Real-Time Data Protection
- Advanced Threat Defense (including ransomware safeguards)
- Web attack prevention
- Anti-Phishing and Anti-Fraud
- Bitdefender Photon (ensures the antivirus adapts to the capabilities of your device)
- Global Protective Network
This is quite a comprehensive anti-malware protection suite with nice bonus features. As a matter of fact, the Bitdefender Free Edition is comparable to the paid versions of some others. With that said, they do leave a lot out as well, including network threat protection, usage profiles, a VPN, a password manager, and much more.
Generally, when we're talking about paid versions of Bitdefender, the concept of paywall doesn't apply here. Much of what's available in the free version is also paid with additional subscription benefits. The service isn't hostile with their payment plans, either. You can have Bitdefender Antivirus Plus plan for $19.99 for the first year, and then it's $39.99. So, it's not the cheapest, but it's usable on up to three devices, and has a huge list of features.
Aside from the free features, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus includes:
- Network Threat Prevention
- Multi-Layered Ransomware Protection
- Vulnerability Assessment
- Rescue Environment
- The dedicated SafePay browser
- Password Manager
- File Shredder
This version of Bitdefender will even adjust its notifications and pop-ups if it determines that you're working or gaming. In short, this is great value for money.
Bitdefender Internet Security
Bitdefender Internet Security is the version you need if your main concern is security online. This subscription costs from $24.99/year for one device - however, you can pick multiple subscription options which cover up to ten devices at the time.
So, this version includes:
- Real-time protection from spyware, adware, malware
- Privacy firewall
- Parental controls
- Webcam and microphone protection
- Ransomware protection
- Secure VPN (200 MB/day per device)
Basically, it has everything you need for safe browsing.
For those who want absolutely everything, there's a Bitdefender Total Security edition. It's the most expensive edition, albeit the one with the longest list of subscription benefits, including a 5 device limit.
Feature-wise, you get greatly expanded Bitdefender Antivirus Plus offerings. Here's what Bitdefender Total Protection adds to the package:
- Webcam and microphone protection
- Parental Control
- Privacy Firewall
- Performance optimization tool
- Anti-Theft (and anti-loss) tool
Total Security is also the only option that offers advanced protection for macOS, Android, or iOS devices. For Mac, it adds the Time Machine Protection feature against ransomware, Bitdefender Android protects your connected smartwatch with WearOn, and that's just some of it. iOS is the only Bitdefender version that feels a bit lacking.
Naturally, all of these nice things come at a price. Bitdefender Total Security is $39.98 for the first year, and then it's $89.99/yr. Bitdefender has neither the lowest prices nor the possibility to use the service on the highest number of devices. However, where it hits the home run is the number and quality of features.
Bitdefender's Family Pack is less of a plan and more of their Total Plan that can be shared between 15 users. Each of them will have an individual account with their profiles or settings.
You're getting 15 accounts for $49.99 for the first year. This provides a pretty good value, especially considering that their Internet Security costs $34.99 and only covers three devices. You should keep in mind that this is a special price, and the deal is only valid for the first year. Afterward, the price does increase.
Which Bitdefender plan to choose?
If you don’t need too many extra features, Bitdefender’s free version is more than enough. In fact, it’s so good it could rival some paid-only antivirus providers. It’s available for Windows, macOS, and Android, and the malware scanning capabilities are identical to the paid editions.
However, you might consider getting the Internet Security suite if you want more features targeted toward protecting your life online. This version adds a firewall, the Parental Control feature, ransomware protection, as well as webcam and microphone protection.
Now, if you’re torn between Antivirus Plus and Total Security, here is the main difference. Total Security offers all the features of Bitdefender, while Antivirus Plus lacks a firewall, the device optimizer, and the parental controls feature.
Also, Total Security is the only version that supports all the operating systems. Internet Security and Antivirus Plus work only on Windows.
Ease of use
Bitdefender's setup in one of the longest that I've ever had to endure. First of all, the installation files are 400 MB. That's a considerable amount when other solutions install in a couple of seconds. With Bitdefender, it takes some time.
There is a catch, however. If you've committed to ignoring everything else Bitdefender has to offer, there's a lighter version of their free edition. It only performs malware scans, and that's about it.
Most people, however, will pick up the default suite. It groups features in 3 categories: Protection, Privacy, and Utilities. There's also a Dashboard that provides quick actions and displays your status, Settings, and Notifications tab.
- The Protection tab is almost exclusively dedicated to the things associated with most antivirus tools. There's real-time protection settings, firewall monitoring, ransomware countermeasures, and more.
- Privacy deals with methods to stay anonymous and secure when surfing online, like the SafePay browser, VPN, password manager, and parental controls.
- Utilities are for optimization tools, profile management, and file shredder.
Bitdefender is easy to navigate shortly after completing the installation.
Bitdefender mobile apps
Your operating system can determine your impression of Bitdefender. The discrepancies between Android and iOS versions are pretty big.
The iOS version is fairly lackluster. It offers protection against fraudulent websites, a VPN with a cap of 200 MB a day, and a personal data leak check. So, you're getting haveibeenpwned.com, a VPN that should be enough for a couple of pages, and browser protection in a single app. It's not worth your time.
With that said, Apple keeps a tight grip on the App Store and thus there's little need for antivirus solutions.
The situation is entirely different when we're talking about the Android version. Right of the bat, you're greeted with their Dashboard, Malware scanner, Web Protection, VPN, and a More tab. The interface closely mirrors the desktop version.
Bitdefender for Android has Autopilot recommendations that advise you how to be safer when using your phone. The Autopilot feature also scans all your new apps for potential threats. Additionally, there's a Malware Scanner, a separate Web Protection toggle that you can open on your current browser. On top of that, there are some unexpected features like the App Lock, Anti-Theft, and Share protection. It's one of the best antivirus suites for mobile devices I've seen.
Android's anti-theft is managed through the Bitdefender's website. The system isn't foolproof, and your location might be spoofed if you're using a VPN. However, from there, you can launch remote system scans, lock the device or completely wipe it.
We should keep in mind that Apple does a lot of malware protection for you. Android is a looser system, and potentially opens up more points for attack.
I had some questions about feature availability, so I decided to contact their customer support via live chat. I didn't wait too long before being greeted by a support agent. They quickly answered all my questions. The best thing is that Bitdefender is not treating it as a premium feature because it isn't. You can get help whether you're a free or paying user.
To make their work easier, Bitdefender also has a vast collection of FAQs, guides, and other information on the support website. So, while you're waiting in line, it might not hurt to check there. You might resolve your issue before your turn comes.
If you prefer other methods, you can call them via phone and contact them via email. Whichever way is the most convenient for you, you have options there. Customer support alone makes this service an easy recommendation.
In case reading the whole Bitdefender review seems like too much work (and I don't blame you for that!), you can watch our video review instead. In less than 8 minutes, you'll hear all the information you need to know before getting this security tool.
In case you’re not sure if you want to get Bitdefender and would like to compare it with other products of the same kind, get a glimpse of our quick comparisons below.
When it comes to Bitdefender vs Norton, it’s hard to choose a clear winner because these are both good antivirus programs. They even offer similar features like parental controls, a firewall, and a VPN.
However, you might like Norton better if you need such features as cloud backup or Dark Web monitoring. Just keep in mind that Norton 360 is more expensive than Bitdefender.
You can read our full Norton 360 review here.
Yet another good antimalware tool, Kaspersky is great for those who want the highest possible level of security. During independent tests, it captured 100% of zero-day malware and 100% of widespread malware. In addition, it spots little to no false positives.
Comparing Bitdefender vs Kaspersky, I can see that Kaspersky is much more expensive than Bitdefender. However, you might prefer it if you need such features as Safe Money and Privacy Protection.
You can read our full Kaspersky review here.
McAfee Total protection
McAfee is one of the most well-known names in the antivirus industry. It’s extremely user-friendly, doesn’t use a lot of system resources, and has a couple of extra features like a password manager and a VPN.
Looking at the differences between Bitdefender vs McAfee, you might spot that McAfee offers such features as Vulnerability Scanner and WebAdvisor. However, the two applications are pretty much alike.
You can read our full McAfee review here.
Is Bitdefender good, and should I get it?
Bitdefender is certainly good and worth the investment. This is an antivirus tool that doesn't bombard you with bloatware during installation, nor is it adding non-features to inflate the number of features.
At its core, Bitdefender is a top-notch malware removal tool, and the additional benefits help lift the service above the competition. If you're a Windows user, it's you'll hardly find anything better if you want to stay malware-free.
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Is Bitdefender trustworthy?
Yes. Bitdefender is a Romanian company that's in business since 2001, maintaining a clean reputation. They have not been involved in any large-scale user tracking scandals. To date, there's no reason to doubt Bitdefender's trustworthiness.
Which is better, Norton or Bitdefender?
Both services have different strengths. Although Norton has one of the best malware databases, Bitdefender is lighter and has a free version. Which one is better for you depends entirely on your needs. Also, don't miss a chance to check our Bitdefender vs Norton comparison.
Does Bitdefender have a VPN?
Yes. All the editions of Bitdefender Antivirus include a VPN with 200 MB per day. However, you can also buy the full version of Bitdefender VPN separately.
Is Bitdefender good for mobile devices?
Yes. Bitdefender is a good antivirus solution for mobile. However, its Android version is miles ahead of its iOS application, offering much more features.