Bitdefender is one of the best antiviruses on the market, even rivalling big names like Norton and Kaspersky. Its motto of “continuous testing, continuous excellence, continuous innovating” is what has led it to consistently score top marks in our antivirus testing.
That said, I'm not amazed by Bitdefender's free offering, and I don't like that Bitdefender's 2 introductory plans are only for Windows. But other than that, Bitdefender is hands-down one of the best antiviruses out there.
It’s simple, straightforward to use, and has what you need to both protect your device against malware AND clean it if it happens to already be infected. The software’s scans are fast and thorough, without draining device performance. And if you want to test it out yourself, you can get a free 30-day trial of any premium plan without paying anything upfront.
I've reviewed over 30 antivirus software, comparing and contrasting my thoughts about Bitdefender and whether it's worth your time, money, and effort. Here’s what I think.
Bitdefender Antivirus Review (Don't use before you watch!)
Bitdefender's Security Features
All of Bitdefender’s antivirus products use the same core (highly efficient and protective) technology, meaning that no matter the plan you choose, you benefit from the exact same core protection.
Bitdefender also has a bank of each and every new virus and malware it detects. It logs it and analyzes it, meaning that if it detects it in your device, it can react instantly to remove it.
Check out this article for more details about spyware protection.
Behavior Monitor and Ransomware Remediation
The Behavior Monitor stops ransomware from encrypting any of your files. It runs at the same time as the Ransomware Remediation feature, which backs up any of your targeted files if Bitdefender detects anything it could think was ransomware.
Bitdefender’s phishing detection method is also worth a mention. The software uses a "Web Shield" — a feature that protects against phishing as well as access to malware and other dangerous sites. Most impressively, Web Shield safeguards all network activities. For example, it will detect dangerous links in a document.
I tested Bitdefender with 3 fake phishing viruses: In all of my antivirus reviews, only a handful of brands detected any of them. Bitdefender detected them all.
My favorite feature is the Webcam Filter. To prevent hackers and other prying eyes from hacking your webcam and spying on you while you’re using your device, Bitdefender includes a webcam filter that protects your camera from being taken over.
This also includes privileges given to any software on your computer that wants to use your webcam. You can choose which software you want to have access and block those you don’t want.
Bitdefender also understands that online shopping is a dangerous activity if you’re not careful. That’s why they’ve added a great tool to help you stay protected while shopping online.
The SafePay browser lets you visit your favorite banking and shopping websites with measures that help safeguard against hackers and keyloggers.
SafePay also blocks unwanted browser extensions from working — these pieces of potential malware can install themselves on your computer without you knowing and affect your device’s performance. More importantly, this feature doesn’t let you access unsecured websites (those that don’t start with HTTPS), and will warn you if you try to visit an unsecured website.
I kind of wish SafePay was open for general browsing, but the portal is currently only for shopping and banking.
Bitdefender’s useful Password Manager lets you store all of your login details in a single place. It also safeguards your credit card details and other personal information. You can set up multiple password databases, syncing them across all Bitdefender-protected devices.
Sometimes, I want my most important files to remain hidden from certain software. In these cases, it’s nice to keep them somewhere secure. That’s why I love Bitdefender’s Safe Files function. When you put any file into this folder, it can’t be changed or even read by any software without your permission.
And when you want to make sure your files are fully erased from your machine, you can delete them with the File Shredder — permanently removing any trace of the files from your computer.
Every time you browse online, websites collect information about your behavior (such as when they ask you to “accept cookies”). Some do it in an effort to show you more relevant ads whereas others share your activities with other companies. Either way, more often than not, you have no idea that a page is spying on you.
Bitdefender’s Anti-Tracking extension detects and blocks intrusive web trackers to protect your online activities. This has the added bonus of significantly reducing your overall website load time.
Bitdefender VPN — powered by Hotspot Shield — accompanies every Bitdefender product by default. However, unlike Bitdefender’s Premium VPN, the free edition only offers 200 MB daily traffic per device (which is about one Netflix movie). That, and it doesn’t give you the option to change your location. The free version is really only good for basic web browsing.
You can add Bitdefender VPN to your package by clicking the “Premium VPN” option at checkout.
But beware: Bitdefender’s Premium VPN is rather expensive, even if it does cover up to five devices. That being said, a one-year plan purchased directly from Hotspot Shield would cost you almost 2x that, so you’re still getting a really good deal.
And if a VPN is a must, you should check out other antiviruses that comes with a VPN.
Other Security and Privacy Features
Bitdefender’s plans also include an email Spam Filter, which is compatible with Windows Mail (32-bit), Mozilla Thunderbird, Microsoft Outlook, and Outlook Express (32-bit).
This add-on allows you to whitelist and blacklist certain addresses, mark emails as "Spam" and "Not Spam", and block messages with Cyrillic or Asian characters.
Beyond that, Bitdefender’s new Microphone Monitor feature alerts you whenever an app accesses your microphone. However, unlike Bitdefender’s Webcam Protection, the Microphone Monitor doesn’t allow you to block apps with access to your microphone.
If you are a parent, you'll appreciate the fact that Bitdefender is one of the few antiviruses that offers completely free parental controls. This gives you the option to remove inappropriate content, track device location, and allow kids to check in via “Safe Check-In” mode.
And some of Bitdefender’s plans are accompanied by an anti-theft add-on. If your device ever gets stolen, this helpful feature will allow you to pinpoint your PC’s location and disable it so that no one else can use it.
Bitdefender also comes with Game, Movie, and Work modes. It’s always good to know that the software won’t disturb you with scans or notifications when you’re busy doing something else.
Finally, Bitdefender’s Firewall is highly effective, letting you monitor the apps on your device and allowing the ones you know to be safe to pass through the Firewall. If you want, you can tweak the Firewall’s settings for IP addresses, ports, and more.
Bitdefender’s Plans and Pricing
Bitdefender offers a wide variety of antivirus plans, including a completely free version of its product. Bitdefender also offers many business products which are suitable for small and medium organizations as well as larger enterprises (which I haven't gone into in this review).
Bitdefender’s premium plans are also available as a 30-day free trial.
I always recommend starting with the cheapest plan. You can always upgrade later, so why pay more from the beginning?
One thing to note when purchasing Bitdefender is that auto-renewal is turned on by default. If you’re not sure whether or not you’ll want to stick with the company in the future, click on the grey ‘auto-renewal’ link to turn it off.
Is Bitdefender’s Free Version Any Good?
Here’s where things might get confusing — Bitdefender has a free desktop app and a free trial of any premium plan.
Bitdefender’s Antivirus Free Edition is for Windows only. You’ll get all of the basic features you need, including real-time protection and web attack prevention — but for anything more high-level, such as ransomware protection, anti-tracking, or safe online banking, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid plan.
If you take the effort to protect your computer, there is simply no free antivirus that’s strong enough (Bitdefender or any other) to fully protect you online. After all, you don't want to trust a free antivirus to protect you online only to be infected by ransomware which the free antivirus can't protect you against.
Still, Bitdefender's free version is OK — you can download it and protect your computer from any existing threats — but it wasn't good enough to make it onto the list of best free Windows antiviruses of 2020.
Basic Paid Plan: Bitdefender Antivirus Plus (Windows Only)
A starter antivirus package (and with more protective features than the free version), Bitdefender Antivirus Plus provides quite a few extras too. Most of these extras are not available in similarly-priced rival products.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus features include:
- Multi-layer ransomware protection — with higher coverage than the free version.
- 200 MB of encrypted daily traffic for a VPN — about the length of one Netflix movie.
- 24/7 support.
Antivirus Plus also includes a lot of features that sound great (like Multi-Layer Ransomware Protection) but the important ones are the Anti-Phishing & Anti-Fraud feature and the Safe Online Banking feature — both making sure that hackers aren’t able to steal your sensitive information.
Advanced Paid Plan: Bitdefender Internet Security (Windows Only)
Bitdefender Internet Security comes with all of the features mentioned above but also includes extra security add-ons.
These privacy-focused add-ons include:
- Privacy firewall.
- Anti-spam filter.
- Microphone monitor.
- Webcam protection.
- File encryption with password-protected vaults on your device.
- Parental controls.
Highest Paid Plan: Bitdefender Total Security
With Bitdefender Total Security, you can protect not only Windows OS, but also devices that run on macOS, iOS, and Android.
Much like Bitdefender’s Internet Security package, this plan boasts all of the features mentioned above as well as anti-theft tools with remote access from anywhere in the world via a “Bitdefender Central” account and a “OneClick Optimizer” that improves the performance of your devices.
Bitdefender also has a Family Pack plan, which is identical to the Bitdefender Total Security plan. The only difference is that the Family Pack allows you to protect up to 15 devices per plan.
Bitdefender Mobile App
Bitdefender's mobile app comes included with the Total Security and Family Pack plans, as well as some of the business plans.
For iOS, there is a free Bitdefender app, but it isn't the best. For starters, it doesn't include Web Protection (which is bad because the web is where you'll get most viruses from in the first place). The free iOS app is really just a marketing ploy to get you to upgrade to a paid plan.
The main app, however — Mobile Security for Android and Mobile Security for iOS (paid) — is second to none.
It's really easy to use, and if it happens to detect something dangerous, you’ll receive a push notification alerting you to malicious apps or other hidden dangers.
Another thing I really liked was how the mobile app — like the desktop version — also continues to keep you protected from connecting to malicious sites (i.e. Web Protection), and even has some cool anti-theft settings just for your mobile device:
Obviously, these are mobile-specific, but an exciting added security touch. You can also track your device from the Bitdefender app — just make sure your device’s location is set to ‘on’.
The coolest part of Bitdefender's app are the remote settings — you can start a scan of your device from the desktop app and see the results of it there, too.
The best part? You can trigger the anti-theft features I mentioned above just by sending an SMS to your device.
That’s incredibly useful. After all, if you wanted to activate the remote settings, how could you do so without having your device next to you? It seems like Bitdefender has really thought about everything mobile-wise.
Bitdefender's Mobile Security apps also come with a secure VPN for safe web browsing, so that's a nice added bonus!
Bitdefender Ease of Use and Setup
Before you download Bitdefender, you’ll need to create a Bitdefender Central Account.
The setup process was quick and smooth, and it took about 5 minutes in total. However, it’s worth noting that there’s no "compatibility mode" with Bitdefender. As such, if you have other security software on your device, you’ll have to remove it before Bitdefender’s installation process can begin.
As soon as I launched the antivirus, Bitdefender gave me a quick tour of the software.
Bitdefender’s interface is very straightforward but has a lot of options and settings if you're looking to customize it. Nonetheless, the software is both user-friendly and informative.
The top half of the dashboard is taken over by "Autopilot Recommendations" or your “personal security advisor”. The Autopilot recommends actions you should take to make your device run smoother.
The dashboard also links to the Quick Scan, the Safeway browser, and the VPN. However, you can customize the central console by replacing default options with features that you’re more likely to use.
For example, if you want to replace the VPN, you can edit it by clicking on the pencil icon on the right-hand corner. Then, choose another feature in its place.
The exact same can be achieved by selecting Add a Quick Action at the bottom right-hand side of the software, too.
Some of the features that can be added as “Quick Actions” include:
- System Scan — keep track of anything malicious lurking on your computer, and clean it up.
- Vulnerability Scan — check where your system’s weaknesses lie.
- Wallets — protect your online transactions.
- File Shredder — not so useful, as most of us just put files in the Recycle Bin.
- Startup Optimized — you’ll save maybe 5 seconds each time you start your PC.
- Disc Cleanup — a feature that already exists in Windows, so not so useful if you’re a Windows user.
Note that as soon as you add a new feature to your dashboard via the "Add a Quick Action" button, the button will disappear. That’s because you can only have five “Quick Actions” on your home screen at any one time. But these can always be edited using the pencil icon.
The Protection tab on the left brings you to features such as the Full Scan, Firewall, Anti-Spam, and Safe Files. On the other hand, the Password Manager, Parental Add-Ons, and Anti-Tracker can be found under the Privacy tab. When you want to make your device run faster, go to the Utilities tab and work with the options there.
If you want to access more advanced settings, you’ll find them under the Settings tab at the bottom of the software. For example, it’s in "Settings" that you can turn off Bitdefender’s marketing notifications.
Overall, the interface is simple to navigate. Even a complete novice will be able to make sense of the software. That said, I did find that some screens were a bit cluttered, which wasn’t a major problem, but it was a little annoying.
If you use several Bitdefender tools, you may find your desktop getting a little crowded. Even so, Bitdefender is great at sorting their tools in a convenient way and keeping them out of sight.
Scanning Options — Save Yourself Time
The automatic scans are great. They’ll save you having to manually scan your files using Windows’s existing program. I found that the core of Bitdefender’s antivirus is its powerful engine for scanning files.
When you install it, Bitdefender continuously scans your computer for any suspicious files that the company compares against a list of daily updated security threats. These powerful scans are available on all of Bitdefender’s products, even the free version.
Another feature I really like is the company’s behavior scans, which check your PC’s files to make sure they’re not acting fishy. If they are, Bitdefender blocks them as fast as possible, killing even as of yet undiscovered ransomware.
If you’re constantly connecting external hard drives, USB drives, and other devices to your computer, you’ll also like Bitdefender’s hardware scans. These scans check any new device you connect to, making sure they’re all safe.
If you don’t have time to run a full scan, Bitdefender offers a “Quick Scan”. This great little utility runs a super-fast version of a scan that checks files, internet connections, and other typical things which could cause problems. In my case, this scan started and completed in less than a minute, although it takes longer when you run it for the first time.
There’s also a vulnerability scanner that checks your device for various types of vulnerabilities, whether they’re operating system vulnerabilities or network connection vulnerabilities. The latter two are found by Bitdefender’s Wi-Fi Security Advisor, a feature that gives you a security verdict on all of your wireless networks.
You can schedule scans, too, which is handy if you spend most of your waking hours on your computer. Use the Manage Scans tool to arrange for the antivirus to run at night or when you’re away from home. This tool also gives you the option to create new scan types, making it easy to check specific folders and files.
The really cool thing about Bitdefender is that it allows you to run multiple scans simultaneously. Even if a full system scan is in progress, you can launch an on-demand scan of anything suspicious, such as a recent download.
On the other hand, if you have password-protected files on your PC, Bitdefender is going to disappoint you. While you can press Skip in the scan window whenever the scan engine bothers you about a password-protected folder, this will only work for the current scan.
Excluding specific files from future scans isn’t going to work either. The scan log doesn’t provide names of password-protected files you’ve chosen to ignore. Manually noting the name of the file and excluding it as the scan proceeds is your only option.
Bitdefender’s Customer Support
While I did have some questions and minor issues using Bitdefender, there were only a few answers I needed to get from a support agent. The company’s website has a vast collection of articles, guides, and other information about most of the common issues users have.
But when I did require help, I was happy to see the company’s support team was available by email, phone, and live chat.
I was pleased with how well the company’s support team operated. They answered all my questions quickly and effectively, and they were very professional.
So How Good is Bitdefender?
Advanced features including webcam filtering, real-time phishing detection, and Ransomware Remediation make Bitdefender one of the most effective antivirus programs available.
The free plan is basic but decent. It provides all of the necessary scanning and virus protection essentials, but it doesn’t go much beyond that.
Bitdefender has tailored its user-friendly software to suit everyone with a variety of affordable packages containing lots of advanced features for both home users and businesses, and there's a great 30-day free trial with no money upfront to take advantage of.
Additional tools including the integrated password manager, email spam filter, parental controls, and SafePay — the encrypted online payments browser — make Bitdefender a really solid piece of software.
I would highly recommend Bitdefender to anyone who is looking for a complete solution to protect their devices while guaranteeing that their personal information stays safe and protected online.
What I Like:
- Excellent malware and virus protection.
- Fast and low-impact scans.
- Powerful advanced features like Ransomware Remediation and SafePay browser.
- Amazing parental controls on Total Security and Family plans.
- Great mobile app.
What I Don’t Like:
- Free plan is pretty basic.
- Only Total Security and Family plans will work on macOS.
- Free VPN is limited to 200 MB and one location, and the Premium VPN is pretty expensive.
- SafePay browser only works for online shopping and banking, not general browsing.