Bitdefender Review: How Well Does This Antivirus Program Perform in Tests?

Bitdefender Review Featured Image

Bitdefender is one of the most widely used antivirus programs in the world. Since 2007, Bitdefender antivirus software is produced and developed by the Romanian company of the same name. However, the software already existed under a different name (i.e. Antivirus Expert) since 1996. Bitdefender claims to have around 500 million users worldwide, making it one of the largest players in the antivirus software world comparable to Avast or Kaspersky, and clearly larger than, for example, AVG or Avira.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you might want to know about Bitdefender. We’ll discuss the security options this antivirus program offers, the speed at which the software performs its scans, the load the software places on your system, the many extra features the software offers, and more. If you want to know something specific about this antivirus program, please refer to the table of contents on the right to quickly navigate to the correct part of the text.

Unless specifically stated, the information in this review is about the paid version of Bitdefender (i.e. Total Security). This is because it is the most comprehensive version of Bitdefender and offers the most security options. However, we understand that many people use free antivirus programs. That is why we have also extensively tested the free version of Bitdefender, as you’ll read later on in this review.

Bitdefender Packages and Prices

Like most antivirus programs, Bitdefender offers various packages with different options. The table below lists them all:

Features Bitdefender Total Security Bitdefender
Internet Security
Bitdefender
Antivirus Plus
Protection for all operating systems: i.e. Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS Yes Windows Only Windows Only
Device optimizer Yes X X
Privacy Firewall Yes Yes X
Parental Control Yes Yes X
Protection against malware, spyware and adware Yes Yes Yes
Multi-layered protection against ransomware Yes Yes Yes

The screenshot below shows the various options offered as part of each package and their prices, as well as the number of devices that can be protected with each package.

Bitdefender prices and features

Would you like to purchase one of the Bitdefender packages right away? Then click the button below.

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The Features of Bitdefender Total Security

We have conducted our own tests on the most complete version of Bitdefender, namely Bitdefender Total Security. Below, we’ll explain the options of this antivirus package in more detail.

Bitdefender offers a huge range of security and even privacy options. Bitdefender’s options are conveniently divided into two “main categories” and presented in separate windows, one for security and the other for privacy.

Security options

The most important and standard options can be found under the tab “Antivirus”. Here you’ll see, among other things, the options to run and schedule scans, to turn Bitdefender’s active antivirus detection on or off – leave this on! –, and you’ll also have the ability to adjust it.

In addition, like any decent modern virus scanner, Bitdefender also offers a solid firewall. There are quite a few configuration options you can use here. However, to make optimal use of these options, you’ll require quite a bit of tech knowledge. That is why we recommend that beginners simply leave the firewall on its default settings. The default settings already offer excellent protection.

Bitdefender also offers additional options to detect vulnerabilities in your system and on your network, options to fight spam, restore files that have been “taken hostage” by ransomware, detect advanced threats, and much more.

Privacy options

The options don’t end here. Bitdefender also offers special privacy options. This includes an integrated password manager, a VPN connection, and an anti-tracker, which ensures that cookies, among other things, don’t track you. Moreover, Bitdefender offers parental controls and a secure digital safe for sensitive files.

Finally, Bitdefender offers some “utilities” that aren’t strictly necessary but might prove especially useful when improving the performance of your system, for example.

In conclusion, Bitdefender offers tons of essential and useful options for any serious antivirus user. Bitdefender’s beautiful and uncluttered interface makes it easy to use the options that are relevant to you and ignore the ones that aren’t. In the end, it’s your choice. Compare it to your front door. Some find it enough to just lock the door, while others prefer to also put the security door chain on and pull down a protective shutter. Everything’s possible with Bitdefender.

Options of Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

Bitdefender also offers a minimalist, but decent free version called Antivirus Free Edition. This free version is available for Windows, Mac and Android.

An advantage of this free virus scanner is that both manual scans and real-time danger detection are supported. It’s clear, however, that the free version offers far fewer configuration options for both these security techniques. For example, you can’t schedule scans, as is possible with Bitdefender Total Security. There is also no “quick scan” option. Instead, the free version offers a handy option to drag and drop files, or whole folders, to a small field in the application where they’ll be scanned.

In addition, when it comes to real-time detection, with Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition there are far fewer options than with the paid versions. You can only turn real-time detection on or off in the free edition. There are no additional configuration options. However, it is possible to add exceptions in the free program. This allows you to name certain files, folders, and websites that you want skipped during scans and real-time danger detection. This way, you can make little adjustments in both scans and real-time hazard detection to suit your own preferences. However, we recommend you only use this option if you know what you’re doing and are sure that the exceptions you’re adding are completely malware free.

Furthermore, the Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition interface has a window called “Quarantine”, where suspicious files and “events” end up. You can also find things like performed scans here. Unfortunately, the free version is only available in English.

In general, we found that Bitdefender Free is much more limited and offers fewer options than Bitdefender Total Security. On the other hand, the free version feels a lot more manageable and simpler to use. This can be especially useful for novice antivirus users who aren’t that knowledgeable about computers and networks. However, for the most complete and effective Bitdefender antivirus solution, we still recommend Bitdefender Total Security.

Security: How Well Does Bitdefender Protect Your PC?

The security offered by an antivirus program is by far its most important aspect. Bitdefender offers users various types of security. For example, the software uses active malware threat detection. The user can also do quick or extensive system scans. These can even be planned in advance and scheduled for a specific time. In addition, Bitdefender offers many more security features that have already been listed above.

However, the most important thing about a virus scanner is, of course, that it detects and blocks viruses and other malware. In the coming sections, we’ll be taking a look at how well Bitdefender does this.

Virus and malware detection

According to tests run by AV-Comparatives (AVC), a world-renowned agency that conducts large-scale tests of security solutions with real malware samples, Bitdefender has consistently performed as one of the best when it comes to malware protection. However, Bitdefender has unfortunately slipped slightly in the 2020 rankings. If you look at the top 17 players in the antivirus world, according to AVC’s tests, Bitdefender is performing just below average this year. Below are Bitdefender’s 2020 test results:

  • System compromised by malware: 0.70%
  • User dependent: 0%
  • Blocked: 93.30%
  • False Positives: 2

Although Bitdefender is performing slightly less well in 2020 than in previous years, the test results still show that Bitdefender provides a high level of security. A percentage of 0.70% for “systems compromised” means that AVC’s tests showed that malware was able to damage the system in only 0.7 out of 100 cases.

In terms of user dependence, Bitdefender scores well with 0%. This means Bitdefender didn’t give the user (i.e. the tester) the option to run the detected malware on his or her system. In other words, blocked malware is properly rendered harmless by Bitdefender. The amount of malware blocked during this year’s tests – although slightly lower than the year before (99.70%) – was quite high at 99.30%. It’s true, however, that, compared to the top products, Bitdefender performs just below the average of 99.52%.

In terms of false positives, Bitdefender performs very well: about four times better than this year’s average. We should note that this average has more to do with ease of use than security, but it also shows the accuracy of Bitdefender’s scanning system.

Bitdefender’s Previous Years’ Security Score

AVC test results can vary greatly from year to year. It’s therefore important to note that, for the last seven years, Bitdefender has consistently been at the absolute top of its class when it comes to detecting malware and rendering it harmless. In other words, the fact that Bitdefender now seems to perform slightly below average isn’t necessarily a reason not to consider this antivirus program. Even so, this development might be interesting for real security gurus.

Bitdefender’s Additional Security Options

Detecting and rendering malware harmless by means of periodic and real-time scans is the most important function of a virus scanner. However, it isn’t the only way in which a good virus scanner can make your device more secure. It’s precisely because the very best virus scanners today are so close to each other in terms of security scores, that they use the extra security options they offer as ways to really differentiate themselves from each other. It can be argued that Bitdefender has certainly seized this opportunity.

Bitdefender Total Security offers a wide variety of additional security options. For example, the software offers a firewall with a large number of configuration options. It also offers so-called “vulnerability scans”, which tell you whether there are network, application or security vulnerabilities in your system.

Bitdefender Security Score

  • This year, Bitdefender performed slightly less well in AV Comparatives’ security tests compared to previous years, but it still has a good security score.
  • The software blocks over 99% of all malware, according to AV Comparatives’ tests.
  • Bitdefender has consistently been one the best providers in terms of security.
  • Bitdefender offers a huge range of useful additional security options, on top of the “standard” scan and real-time security features.

Based on all these factors, we reward Bitdefender with an 8 for security.

Privacy: How Does Bitdefender Handle Your Data?

As you will read later on in this article, Bitdefender offers a lot of useful privacy features in addition to its antivirus functions. However, even more important in terms of privacy is something that many users don’t even think about: their privacy policy. This document tells you how an antivirus program handles your data. Bitdefender seems to do its best to be as complete and transparent as possible in its privacy policy. For example, Bitdefender openly communicates how customer data is collected, used, and protected.

Bitdefender also clearly states who has access to your data, which includes Bitdefender employees and external data processors. As we understand it, these external third-party data processors are IT companies who undertake (part of) the data processing for Bitdefender on a contractual basis. Bitdefender has said that these external data processors are required to maintain the same level of customer data security as the company itself, and that they aren’t allowed to share data with other third parties.

Bitdefender even shows the countries that host the servers that may be holding your data. The only exception to this otherwise perfectly fine privacy policy appears to be the following: in exceptional cases, Bitdefender may disclose customer data to “competent authorities”, if permitted and required by law. Bitdefender puts it this way: “In exceptional cases, Bitdefender may disclose personal information to competent authorities, at their legal request in accordance with applicable law or when necessary to protect the rights and interests of our customers and Bitdefender.”

For most users the above exception won’t be a problem at all, especially if you aren’t doing crazy things online. It also makes a difference that Bitdefender obviously doesn’t have access to your entire network traffic, as a VPN has, for example. You’re only in contact with Bitdefender’s servers when you visit their own or a related website.

Based on all this, we conclude that Bitdefender takes a serious approach to maintaining the privacy of its users. That’s why we give Bitdefender an 8.5 for privacy.

Ease of Use: How User-Friendly is Bitdefender?

Bitdefender has a huge number of security features. These are useful, but when you have so many features, users may get lost if the features aren’t presented in an orderly fashion. How does Bitdefender solve this? You can read all about this in the following sections of our review. We also look at the user-friendliness of Bitdefender’s website, supported operating systems and languages, and the installation process.

The Bitdefender website

In our opinion, the Bitdefender website looks a bit messy. If you move your mouse over the main menu, there’s just too much small text in the submenus to be able to easily navigate the platform. Additionally, there’s no clear guidance on the main page regarding the most suitable package for the various types of customers. This could definitely be a lot more user-friendly.

We also found the FAQ page quite messy and not especially helpful. To start with, we couldn’t navigate to the FAQs via the homepage. We could only get there via a Google search. Furthermore, it looks a bit untidy and not very clear. In general, this reflects the general feel of the website.

A definite plus, however, is the fact that the website is available in multiple languages.

How do I install Bitdefender?

Once again, in our opinion, the Bitdefender installation process could have been slightly simpler and more streamlined. With both the paid and the free version, we had to restart our PC several times to complete the installation process. In addition, when installing the paid version, we had a strange compatibility issue and needed an activation code that wasn’t provided in the installation email. Below, we’ll describe the installation procedure for both the free and the paid Bitdefender version that we tested.

Installing the free version of Bitdefender

  1. Go to the free version’s download page and click the button that says “Free download”.
  2. Open the installation file and go through the installation procedure.
  3. Create a Bitdefender account by entering your name, email address, and a password.
  4. Restart your PC to complete the installation.
  5. Wait for the program to download and log in with your email address and password.

Installing Bitdefender Total Security (the paid version)

  1. Subscribe to Bitdefender Total Security via the Bitdefender website.
  2. Once you’ve taken out a subscription, add email addresses to send installation emails to the correct users.
  3. Open the Bitdefender installation email on the device where you wish to download the software (note: maximum 5 users).
  4. Click on “download & install”.
  5. Open the installation file and run it.
  6. Create a Bitdefender account.
  7. Remove any incompatible applications.
  8. Restart your PC.
  9. Accept the subscription agreement and wait while the Bitdefender Total Security software is downloaded.
  10. You may be asked for an activation code. If you aren’t the person who took out the subscription, you’ll have to contact the person who purchased the software for this code.

Sometimes a problem arises when installing the free version. It took us quite some time and several attempts to get past step 3. We kept receiving a message that our PC had to be restarted, even though we had already done so twice. In the end, we solved this issue as follows: we went to “This PC” – “Windows (C :)” – “Program files” – “Bitdefender Agent” – “Installer”. In this folder, there’s a file called “Installer”. We ran this file and the problem was solved.

We couldn’t tell for sure whether this is what eventually made it work, or if we just had to wait a while after restarting our PC. Either way, if a problem like this arises, you could always try this solution.

Is Bitdefender’s software easy to use?

After our extensive testing, we found that Bitdefender’s software scores well in terms of ease of use. The software offers a wide variety of options. The great thing about Bitdefender’s software is that these options are displayed within the interface in such a way that it doesn’t feel too crowded or overwhelming. The many features are neatly grouped by main function. In other words, suppose you only want to work with the scan and firewall functions of Bitdefender and ignore all other options, then you can. Each option has its own “box” with accompanying options.

Bitdefender protection features

What’s also very nice about Bitdefender, is that the program doesn’t feel “intrusive” or busy when you’re working with other programs. For example, you hardly notice a scan being performed (except for the CPU load). This is because you can simply click away from the “scan screen” (with the minimize button) and the screen will only reappear when the scan is finished or if you want to check the progress. This may seem like a small thing, but it makes the user experience that little bit nicer, neater and slicker.

Bitdefender could possibly improve by making the antivirus terms it uses more understandable to novice users. However, we understand this can be tricky, especially for an antivirus program that offers so many options. Still, this is important. We expect that many users won’t immediately know the difference between the “system scan” and the “vulnerability scan” that Bitdefender offers, to name just one example.

If you click on the various options, you frequently do get an explanation, but this is often too complicated and contains a lot of jargon. An idea to solve this might be to add extensive tutorial videos on the Bitdefender website, or something along these lines.

Finally, foreign language users will appreciate that Bitdefender is available in many different languages. Since some of the terms and options in the Bitdefender interface are quite complex, this is certainly a plus.

Customer service

Bitdefender’s customer service has pros and cons. Firstly, an advantage is that you can reach customer service in various ways. You might send an email, call customer service (9 am-6pm, Mon-Fri), use live chat, or ask your question in one of Bitdefender’s forums. Unfortunately, not all of these options are available in all languages. In languages other than English, you can only email or call. The live chat and forums are only available in English.

Bitdefender’s live chat response time is very fast – much faster than sending an email. We received clear answers to all our questions within two minutes. If your question is a bit more complicated, this may take a little longer. Nevertheless, we were very pleased with Bitdefender’s live chat feature.

Note: The Bitdefender live chat function isn’t available from foreign language websites. You need to access this function via the English site. Simply follow this link to get there quickly.

Calling is another good option to contact Bitdefender. The call doesn’t have long and complicated selection menus and you’ll be helped quickly. Our question was answered within five minutes and the customer service representative also sent us a useful tutorial video.

The forums can be very helpful as well. They’re actively monitored and any responses can come from the Bitdefender “expert community”.

In conclusion, it would be better if all contact options were also available in all languages, but in general, Bitdefender still has good customer service. The email option is the only option that we don’t recommend, as it often takes a long time (from one to several hours) for a response. As a result, we reward Bitdefender’s customer service with an 8.0.

Ease of use score

  • The Bitdefender interface is user-friendly and clear.
  • Many terms and functions used in the interface are quite complex. Some good tutorial videos might be able to provide better explanations.
  • The website looks a bit messy and isn’t very easy to navigate.
  • We didn’t find the Bitdefender installation process very user-friendly and streamlined. There’s still room for improvement.
  • Customer service is very good. Although some contact methods aren’t suitable for foreign language speakers, Bitdefender offers multiple quick and easy ways to get answers to questions in both English and other languages. The only thing that could be improved, is if they also offered their live chat in languages other than English.

Based on the above, we reward Bitdefender with a 7.0 for ease of use.

Speed and System Load

Bitdefender is a quick virus scanner. The program starts up quickly: you’ll hardly notice it during daily use. For the most part, the software does its job in the background through real-time scans. If you need to do something in the software itself, this can be done quickly on a well-maintained system, without any lag.

Performing periodic scans goes in a nice and fast way as well. Bitdefender offers both a quick scan, that checks the most important files on your device, and a more comprehensive scan, that goes through your entire system. We ran both types of scans multiple times on our system, and on average, the quick scan took just a little over 3 minutes. (Take note, the quick scan can take longer, depending on the size of your system, as you can see in the screenshot below.)

Bitdefender Quick Scan results

The full system scans are also relatively fast. During our tests, we arrived at an average of about 25 minutes for a full scan. Bitdefender scanned over a million items in this time, so this is certainly an excellent achievement.

For most people, Bitdefender’s scan times won’t be an issue. To begin with, the software performs its scans in the background and in a very unobtrusive way. You don’t even have to leave a separate window or tab open while it runs.

In short, for most people, both the short scan and the “long scan” will be acceptable in terms of duration. Keep in mind, however, that scan times depend on your system. If you have many files on your computer, the scan times will likely increase accordingly.

Bitdefender’s processor usage

It’s of course important that the virus scanner you use doesn’t demand too much from your system. An antivirus program that handles your CPU as efficiently as possible is therefore preferred. This means your system won’t slow down, or only barely so. Bitdefender scores pretty well in this area, but it isn’t perfect.

When Bitdefender runs real-time scans in the background, you’ll barely notice the impact on your CPU. We ran the scanner in the background while visiting a website without a security certificate that resulted in many “suspicious connection blocked” notifications. Nonetheless, we noticed only a very limited impact on CPU usage, namely an average of only about 2 percent.

However, if you run a scan, it’s a completely different story. During a quick scan, we noticed that Bitdefender’s CPU usage approached 50%.

Bitdefender usage quick scan

High percentages of this kind occasionally also occurred in full system scans, although this mainly happened at the start of the scan and a few times in between. In general, the CPU impact appears to be lower with the long scan, with average percentages between 10 and 20 percent.

Bitdefender’s “CPU Glitch”

Bitdefender seems to have some sort of defect, which causes the processor usage to increase drastically, sometimes even up to 100%. However, this is easily resolved by rebooting your system. Even so, this can be a bit annoying. We experienced this issue ourselves, both during a scan and while running the program in the background. We also noticed that this issue has been reported online several times, including on Reddit and the Bitdefender help forums.

A closer inspection of the task manager revealed that Bitdefender’s task called “Bitdefender virus shield” is the cause of the sudden increase in CPU usage. This is the part of the software that’s responsible for real-time protection of your device, so turning this off isn’t really an option. Only do this if you’re doing something with a minimal chance of malware infection. This includes, for example, working on documents or gaming without being connected to the internet. The fact that this problem does happen from time to time, and that there doesn’t seem to be a good solution for it except to reboot your system, is of course a big drawback.

Keep in mind that our tests were conducted on our system and that your system may differ greatly from ours. In most cases, these differences will be positive, as our tests were conducted on an Intel NUC. This is a kind of small mobile “computer box” that isn’t much bigger than a cigarette box. As a result, components such as our CPU are very light. For example, our NUC has an i3 processor with only two cores. It’s therefore logical that, with such a light processor, we’d notice a much greater impact on our system.

Bitdefender’s Speed and System Load Score

  • The software has a nice and smooth feel, and scans don’t take too long.
  • The CPU load during a fast scan increases considerably, in our case sometimes up to 50%.
  • The software sometimes shows a “CPU glitch”, which can drastically increase the system load. The only solution for this seems to be rebooting your PC.
  • The increase on the system load depends a lot on your device. Keep in mind that we used a very light PC for our tests.

Based on these findings, we give Bitdefender a 7.5 for speed and system usage.

Final Verdict

Time for our final review of Bitdefender. First, we’ve detailed Bitdefender’s advantages and disadvantages in the table below.

Advantages Disadvantages
Wide range of additional security and privacy options. The safety score has deteriorated somewhat compared to recent years.
The free version offers both a scanning function and real-time protection. The installation process could have been more streamlined and easier to complete.
A good and transparent privacy policy. Occasionally, a “glitch” can occur that causes Bitdefender to consume considerably more CPU resources than usual.
User-friendly software.
Good customer service with many ways to contact Bitdefender.
Fast scan times.

Bitdefender is a virus scanner with a lot to offer. Its most complete version (i.e. Bitdefender Total Security) includes a huge range of security and privacy options. You can easily navigate through these options, despite the fact that there are so many of them, thanks to the software’s clear design. If you do have a problem, Bitdefender’s excellent customer service can help.

The main downsides to Bitdefender are the fact that its AV Comparatives safety rating has dropped slightly this year and the somewhat tricky installation process. Yet the software consistently blocks most viruses and malware.

Below is our final score. We arrived at the final score using the following values and the weighting factors provided in brackets:

  • Security Score: 8 (x 0.5)
  • Speed and system load score: 7.5 (x 0.2)
  • Privacy Score: 8.5 (x 0.1)
  • Ease of Use Score: 7.0 (x 0.1)
  • Customer Service: 8.0 (x 0.1)

Based on these numbers, our final score for Bitdefender is a solid 7.9. In other words, we can certainly recommend this provider for most users. Would you like more information on Bitdefender or take out a Bitdefender subscription right away? Then click on the button below.

Visit Bitdefender
Bitdefender: FAQs

Do you have a question about Bitdefender? Have a quick look at our FAQ below to see whether your question is answered here.

Bitdefender offers three different paid packages as well as a free package. The paid versions are currently priced between $35 to $55 for a one-year subscription. If you want to know exactly what each package costs and what options the packages offer, read our in-depth Bitdefender review.

To remove Bitdefender, type Bitdefender in the search menu of your PC, right-click on the Bitdefender program you want to remove and choose “Uninstall”. You’ll see a list of programs from which you can uninstall Bitdefender.

However, removing Bitdefender isn’t always that easy. Sometimes you get a message stating that you can’t uninstall a certain Bitdefender program because you first need to uninstall another Bitdefender program. This usually resolves itself if you restart your PC once or twice.

Yes, Bitdefender does have a free version, namely Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition. Read our in-depth Bitdefender review to find out what this free virus scanner has to offer.

IT communication specialist
Sandra has many years of experience in the IT and tech sector as a communication specialist. She's also been co-director of a company specializing in IT, editorial services and communications project management. For VPNoverview.com she follows relevant cybercrime and online privacy developments.
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  1. This review seems to line up pretty closely with what I’ve experienced regarding BD Free and BD TS. However, one real shortcoming in BD TS is the lack of configuration options with scans. Virtually any competitor allows greater control over the behavior of scans. BD not only has fewer options but doesn’t even allow you to set different options by type of scan.

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