BullGuard Antivirus 2013 Review
We liked the look of BullGuard as soon as we began to interact with the vendor website. We like to see things like prominent promises of 24/7 support and reports of good results in independent tests.
We weren’t disappointed when we got started the review either, finding plenty to like about the program, especially the fast and slick install. If it weren’t for a minor stumble during our real life tests, BullGuard would be getting an unreserved recommendation.
As is often the case with many Internet security vendors, BullGuard offer three products: an antivirus program, an Internet security package and a premium product, in this case called “Premium Protection.” As always, it’s the antivirus product we concentrate on here.
BullGuard Antivirus 2013 is sold as a one computer licence, which costs €29.95 (equivalent to approximately UK£26 or US$40 at current exchange rates). It’s possible that the exact prices are slightly different in these locations, but the BullGuard website detected our European location and only showed the price in Euros.
It’s possible to extend the subscription term to up to three years, which costs an additional €30. It’s also possible to pay €9 less to subscribe for just six months, not something we’ve seen before.
Overall these prices place Bullguard at the upper end of average for a commercial antivirus product.
BullGuard offer a 15 day trial on their antivirus program. Interestingly, the trial period offered for the more expensive Internet Security product is 60 days, which seems a touch unfair.
BullGuard’s features list is the kind we like: it’s comprehensive enough, but it refrains from using too many buzzwords and inventive names for “revolutionary” technology.
Key features include the following:
Standard options for on-demand, on-access and scheduled scans: The key component of all antivirus packages.
Multi-Layered Defence: This combines traditional definition-based virus scanning with behavioural analysis.
Spamfilter: BullGuard Antivirus includes an email spam filter. This is pleasing to see, as usually spam protection is saved for each vendor’s more expensive “Internet security” package.
Antispyware: BullGuard includes specific anti spyware technology, which usually addresses threats that differ slightly from traditional viruses.
Safe Browsing: This pre-checks all websites in search results to prevent users inadvertently clicking into malicious sites.
“Power Saving” Scans: BullGuard has a “low resource usage” option when performing scans. As always, we wait until we’ve tested the memory and CPU utilisation before taking these claims at face value!
The features list for BullGuard Antivirus 2013 is admittedly quite short, but covers all the major bases without blinding us with science. With positive first impressions, we were keen to get started using the product.
Installation and Configuration
We used a machine running Windows 7 Professional to complete our tests. We decided to make use of the 15-day free trial for our review.
First we downloaded the file from the vendor website. At just 360k, this download was the smallest we had seen at the time of writing. It was clear that the installer was going to download more data as we went along.
As soon as we ran the file, the installer proceed to download some more data, as predicted. However, this was only just under 10MB. We wondered whether we’d encountered a truly lightweight program, but struggled to believe it, especially when the program we’d reviewed the previous day had an initial download of over 360MB!
Next, we had to accept the license agreement. We were also given a customise option for the installation, but we were happy to accept the default settings.
The install then proceeded – and proceeded very quickly, completing in less than a minute. Although there was the brief download of some Microsoft components, we were pleased to see no further large data download, reinforcing our hopes of a truly lightweight program.
We did, however, then have to wait for a few minutes while the software started up.
Next, we had to register and create a “BullGuard account.” This just required an email address and password:
We were then taken to an immediate update process. We like seeing this, as often antivirus software loads for the first time and tells you it is out of date. We like seeing the initial update integrated cleanly like this, and the update itself only took the promised three minutes.
The program GUI then launched, along with a message saying that BullGuard can be as “quiet or informative as you want it to be.” This was a nice touch. We opted for the “let me know what happens” option, in view of the real-life virus tests we planned to perform.
We took a short time to browse around the program interface. It was certainly, on the face of it, as simple and straightforward as any we had seen!
When we started to play around within the interface, we did hit a snag. After hitting the large “scan” icon, the program hung and then crashed. The program restarted and we didn’t encounter this problem any more during our testing, but it was still worthy of a mention.
Despite the super-simple interface, more advanced settings were just a click away. These were comprehensive, yet kept to a minimum, with a pleasing balance between user-friendly and functional.
We did notice while browsing the settings that the option to scan within archives was disabled by default, which we though was a strange choice. We didn’t change this, as it’s not something we’d expect a novice user to know to do.
Leaving the settings on their defaults, we decided to proceed with our real life tests.
As always, we used a USB key containing a selection of viruses and malware to put the software through its paces.
As soon as we inserted the key, BullGuard jumped to life and began an automatic scan of it. We’re always pleased when this happens by default, as it is a good way to protect novice users who may not know to scan such a device on insertion.
The scan took quite a while (just under four minutes) but we were delighted with the result: three issues were found, which we hoped were all three of our test threats.
We clicked the “fix” button and then viewed the log. Although three issues had been found, one of them was in fact a second copy of the test virus from the European Expert Group for IT Security. So, this meant that BullGuard had effectively dealt with both the test virus, and the fake “scareware” antivirus program. However, our fake copy of Google Chrome, which contains various malware threats, was still waiting on the key ready to be run.
With some trepidation, we double-clicked it. Sadly, BullGuard did nothing to stop us running the fake installer. The program did stop three malicious items during the install, but was not able to stop all of the malware getting onto our machine.
BullGuard even managed to detect the browser hijack that forms part of the fake Google Chrome infection:
After such great performance from BullGuard Antivirus 2013 in various other respects, we were a bit disappointed with how it dealt with the compound threats in the fake Chrome installer. The software came very close, but still left a minor malware mess on our PC. We couldn’t help wonder if the software would have done better if the “scan within archives” option was set by default.
We decided to kick off a full scan, both to look at CPU and memory utilisation, and to see if the program was able to clear up any of the malware scraps.
The scanning process used a total of around 100MB, which is fairly average. CPU usage was quite good, keeping around the 12% mark most of the time with only occasional peaks. This usage reduced further when we checked the box for “Low resource mode.”
Unfortunately, the full scan (which took just over 30 minutes to complete) didn’t clear up the remaining bits of malware. Close as the product came, we couldn’t give BullGuard a full 100% in our real life tests.
BullGuard offer a great range of technical support options, and they’re well integrated with the software. A large “support” button gives you the option of live chat, email and knowledge base support.
We made use of the live chat and were pleased to find out that it is available 24/7 (at least in English), and not closed to those using demo versions, something some providers do that we find rather irritating.
We also discovered that BullGuard offer a premium install and configuration service, which is charged at €24.95 for those who prefer not to install the product themselves.
We checked with the online chat team, and BullGuard don’t provide any phone support.
- Fast and slick install and initial update
- Lightweight installation
- Good chat support (also available to demo users)
- Includes spam filter
We weren’t so sure about
- No phone support available
- “Scan within archives” disabled by default
- Real life test results not quite perfect
- One random crash during testing
BullGuard Antivirus 2013 came so close to being one of our top recommendations, but it got into a muddle with the trickiest of our real life tests.
It’s important that we emphasise that this is the only thing we didn’t like about product, so it’s a shame it’s something so important, but the simple fact is that it allowed a small amount of malware in, when there have been other products that has stopped the entire threat in its tracks.
As such, our recommendation can only be a reserved one, which is a real shame as there’s plenty here to like.