Bitdefender Antivirus Review [2020 Update]: Free vs. Premium

Sophie Anderson
Sophie Anderson
Published on: October 15, 2020

Detailed Expert Review

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 or not it’s worth your time, money, and effort. Here’s what I think.

Bitdefender Antivirus Review (Don’t use before you watch!)

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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.

Phishing Detection

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.

Bitdefender’s Security Features

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.

Webcam Filter

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.

SafePay

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.

Password Manager

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.

Bitdefender’s Security Features

While this feature won’t replace a dedicated password manager — such as LastPass or Dashlane — it’s really handy if you don’t currently have a password manager.

Safe Files

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.

Anti-Tracking Feature

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

Bitdefender’s free VPN (virtual private network) is included with all packages — even the free version. It’s powered by leading VPN provider Hotspot Shield, and it helps keep all browsing data anonymous and encrypted. However, unlike Bitdefender’s Premium VPN, the free edition only offers 200 MB of daily traffic per device (which is barely enough for a couple of YouTube clips).

The free VPN also doesn’t give you the option to change your location, so it doesn’t help unblock geo-restricted streaming content. Bitdefender’s free VPN is really only good for basic web browsing.

Bitdefender’s Security Features

My one issue is with the price of Bitdefender’s Premium VPN — it offers unlimited browsing data and lots of server locations, but it’s more expensive when compared to other antiviruses with VPNs included.

That said, a one-year plan purchased directly from Hotspot Shield would cost you almost twice as much, so you’re still getting a really good deal. You can add Bitdefender’s premium VPN to your package by clicking the “Premium VPN” option at checkout.

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Other Security and Privacy Features

Other Security and Privacy Features

There is also a huge range of additional features, including:

  • Parental controls. Options to block inappropriate content, track your child’s location using device tracking, and receive alerts when your child leaves or arrives at a certain location.
  • Email spam filter. Compatible with Microsoft and Mozilla Thunderbird email apps.
  • Anti-theft tools. Locate, lock, and wipe a lost or stolen device — compatible with Windows, Mac, and Android devices. Also offers Wear OS smartwatch compatibility to help locate lost devices.
  • Webcam and microphone blocker. Prevents attempts to infiltrate your computer’s webcam and microphone so a hacker can’t see or hear you without you knowing.
  • Game, Movie, and Work modes. Adjusts CPU usage by limiting scans if you’re gaming, watching movies, or working, so your device’s performance isn’t impacted.
  • Integrated firewall. Great range of options, whitelist certain IP addresses and ports, monitor apps passing through the firewall, and block if necessary.

You can try Bitdefender’s antivirus protection and all of the additional security features 100% risk-free using their 30-day free trial.

Try Bitdefender FREE for 30 days

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?

Overall, Bitdefender’s packages are slightly more expensive than those offered by competitors such as Norton and McAfee. However, Bitdefender is known for its generous discounts.

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?

Bitdefender does offer a free version of its app for Windows, macOS, and Android. While it’s lacking important protections like ransomware protection, a password manager, and the Safe Pay feature, the free version does offer:

  • Antivirus scanning.
  • Real-time protection (Windows only).
  • Anti-phishing (Windows only).
  • Anti-fraud (Windows only).
  • Web protection (Windows only).

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition uses the same machine-learning malware scanning engine as the premium version — which earned Bitdefender a spot on our best free Windows antiviruses of 2020. But due mostly to its lack of ransomware protection — the #1 biggest threat of malware today — I would never recommend the free version of Bitdefender on its own. It’s just not worth saving a couple of bucks when your computer gets locked and your private files get taken hostage.

Try Bitdefender Antivirus Free

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.

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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:

Bitdefender Mobile App

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

Installation

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.

Interface

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.

Bitdefender Ease of Use and Setup

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.

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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.

Bitdefender Ease of Use and Setup

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.

Bitdefender’s Customer Support

Bitdefender’s Customer SupportBitdefender’s Customer Support
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.

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🤔 Is there a free version of Bitdefender?

Yes, there is a free version of Bitdefender. As you’d expect, the features are limited when compared with the paid version of Bitdefender — you won’t have access to ransomware protection or the VPN.

However, the free version does an OK job of providing a decent layer of cyber protection for your device — it uses the same advanced scanning engine found in the paid version, which is extremely fast and powerful.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the free version of Bitdefender won’t fully secure your device, leaving you vulnerable to many cybersecurity threats. This is why I recommend upgrading to one of the premium plans. You can also take advantage of the 30-day free trial to see if you like it.

🤔 Will the Bitdefender mobile app slow down my device?

No, the Bitdefender mobile app won’t slow down your device. It’s designed to be lightweight, and it only functions when necessary. The app does not run in the background while you’re using your device.

🤔 Is Bitdefender compatible with my system?

To use Bitdefender in 2020, Windows users will need to have Windows 7 with Service Pack 1, or higher, installed on their PC. Mac users will need to have OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) or higher installed.

For the mobile app, iOS users will need to have iOS 11.2 or higher. Android users will need to have Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) or higher. Note that for the mobile app to work on both iOS and Android devices, your device must be connected to the internet.

🤔 How do I install Bitdefender?

Purchasing a paid plan will give you an activation code. Then, you’ll need to create a Bitdefender Central Account. If you already have an account set up, simply log in using your account email and password. Once logged in, click on the My Subscriptions tab, then click on Activation Code — this is where you’ll input your activation code given to you upon purchasing a paid plan. Once you’ve inputted your activation code, click Activate.

Now your account has been activated, navigate to the My Devices tab, and click the INSTALL PROTECTION button. In the popup window, click Protect this device, then proceed to download the Bitdefender installation file.

Once the download is complete, launch the file and wait for the installation wizard to appear. Select the language you’d like to install Bitdefender with and click on INSTALL. Once the installation is complete, tap START USING BITDEFENDER and then click FINISH. Bitdefender is now installed and ready to use.

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Bitdefender Products & Pricing

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
Free Trial
Bitdefender Internet Security
Free Trial
Bitdefender Total Security
Free Trial
Bottom Line

No matter which of the Bitdefender packages you choose, your devices will be kept safe, clean, and fast. The different features each package offers give you a great blend of protection, privacy, and the flexibility to find the most appropriate security plan for you. If you need high-quality antivirus protection for you and your family, Bitdefender is an excellent choice.

Check out Bitdefender now

About the Author

Sophie Anderson
Sophie Anderson
Cybersecurity researcher and tech journalist

About the Author

Sophie Anderson has spent the last 10 years working as a software engineer for some of the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley. She now works as a cybersecurity consultant and tech journalist, helping everyday netizens understand how to stay safe and protected in an online world.

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Bitdefender User Reviews

62 44
Based on 106 reviews in 28 languages 3.6
Language
You can trust the Community! Companies can't ask us to delete or change user reviews.
Oct. 15, 2020 NEW
Christine
Christine
Greece
0.5
Bitdefender scam
Windows User
Bitdefender scams you after a year. I had purchased bitdefender antivirus and VPN for a year. Their product slowed down my PC and I asked for my money back since I was not gonna use their product but I never got to get my money back although I was entitled to.
On top of that after a year passed they tried to auto-renew my subscription 4 times.
The second time they tried to get money from me I went to their website to disable the auto-renew (which I never checked in the first place) and there was no button to remove it!!! I had to contact customer support to remove it for me.
After I talked with customer support they told me that its the subscription auto-renew is disabled.
After a couple of days they try to get money again this time usi...Show More
Gone Don
Gone Don
United States
0.5
Annoying popups that you can't disable without disabling the feature.
Windows User
Horrible popups that pull focus. So when you're typing the popup makes you select your text field again to continue typing. You can't disable these popups without disabling the feature that causes them. Terrible. Buy if you don't mind your IS package interrupting your workflow.
Marie
Marie
Philippines
2.5
vs Top AV (e.g Kaspersky, Norton, etc)
Mac User
Been user of BD for so many years but I'm seem troubled by their website. Dont see about, privacy, anti-corruption practice, etc laid out in their site. I rated based on *trustworthiness* but in terms of functionality its at the top
Derek R. Freeman
Derek R. Freeman
Canada
5.0
Great AV
iOS User
I run five A-V Anti Malware programs and only BitDefender finds the Trojans. Excellent program.
Derek
Liz
Liz
United States
5.0
Good product
Windows User
I like bitdefender. It was easy to install, user-friendly, and support was prompt and right to the point without asking for a ton of useless info to solve the problem. The startup is very fast compared to Norton and McAfee which I have used in the past. I recommend bitdefender without any hesitation.
Elise Kleve
Elise Kleve
Philippines
1.5
Great Detection But Poor User Interface and UX | Collects Tons of Personal Data
Windows User
Such a hassle to use and install. It also collects unnecessary personal data.

Pros:
+Free
+Effective

Cons:
-huge installation file
-limited features
-tweaks Windows' settings without your consent
-expensive
-poor, lousy support

Verdict:
Uninstalled it right away
Frank
Frank
United States
0.5
Bitdefender Service is TERRIBLE!
Mac User
Service is TERRIBLE.
I paid to protect 5 devices. The Central software said I had 7!
My Android and my iMac keeps loosing protection.

I've made 3 calls to technical support, each lasted over an hour of trying different "Fixes". All attempts fail, in fact things are WORSE!

Each time, they send me an eMail with instructions how to fix it myself. They are the SAME instructions that didn't work in the first place.

I cancelled my subscription, I'm hoping for a refund.
user avatar
elise kleve Frank
I agree. just use Windows Defender with Malwarebytes Anti-ransomware.
United States
1.0
HORRIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Windows User
Hello, WoW this was a mistake for sure. VPN never was working properly. Contacted support and was told to fix it myself. They seem to care less once they have your cash!! Stay away from bitdefender for sure.. Sad that they conduct business in this fashion.. You have been warned!!
Lucian
Lucian
Romania
0.5
Bitdefender on MacOS makes your computer unusable
Mac User
Our IT enforced Bitdefender on our Macs, and whenever it runs a scan (which we can't disable), the CPU usage goes to 100% and computer becomes unusable. There is no way to change when the scan takes place, so it happens during presentations, video conferences etc.
user avatar
steve Lucian
Sep. 17, 2020
Bitdefender seems to spend a lot of money on paying for positive reviews.
But the truth - from ACTUAL users of Bitdefender - is that it is basically malware. Expensive malware.
That is what you are loading onto your PC when you ...Show More
attention
Windows User
1. Have you ever observed curious mouse pointers,extinction of icons and taskbar,freezing or crash on system? If yes,it means that the system has been infected with a virus.
2. It makes no sense to use an antivirus program without making frequent virus updates.
3. The frequency of presentation of new viruses is really terrifying,resulting in an "antibiotic" program that has not been refreshed for over 15 days is outdated and thus the system is vulnerable to all new viruses.
In the 1st case,I suffered all them.
In the 2nd case,the frequency of updates was every 15-23 hours.The antivirus that I have now makes cloud updates every 2-3 hours.
In the 3rd case,the refresh of antivirus was done every 2-3 months, perhaps more.
Of course I am r...Show More

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