Bitdefender Antivirus Plus Review
Bitdefender is a company with an impressive recent pedigree in the Internet security industry. The vendor draws clear attention to recent accolades on its website, including a “5 Time Winner Editor’s Choice” award from PCMAG.COM.
In our tests, Bitdefender’s Antivirus Plus product mostly did justice to the hype. However, it’s fair to say that some users would perhaps prefer a simplified product. This is a review worth reading in detail; Bitdefender Antivirus Plus won’t appeal to everyone, but it may be just right for you.
Bitdefender offer a selection of three different consumer security products, in common with most of the best-known vendors. Individuals can choose from the Antivirus Plus product, and Internet Security or “Total Security” options. Uniquely (at least at the time of writing), Bitdefender also offer a separate product tailored to Windows 8, called “Bitdefender Windows 8 Security.”
As ever, we concentrate on the plain-vanilla consumer antivirus product in our review.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is available for purchase for one, three, five or ten machines at a time, with a licence lasting one, two or three years. This is probably the widest range of subscription options we’ve seen. Costs are at the low end of average, and roughly on a par with Norton’s equivalent product: A one-year licence for three computers costs £29.95 (or $49.95 in the USA).
Bitdefender offer a 30-day free trial for the Antivirus Plus product, which we took advantage of to review the product.
Bitdefender, in common with Norton, like to use impressive wording to describe the technologies they employ. We never allow ourselves to be swayed with such terminology, preferring to let the products speak for themselves when we put them to the test.
However, one thing that did please us from the off was that the comparison chart comparing the Antivirus Plus product with the more expensive Internet Security and Total Security options seemed to suggest that a fair proportion of the key functionality was included in the Antivirus Plus product as well.
Key features of Bitdefender Antivirus Plus include the following:
“Bitdefender Photon” Technology: This claims to increase scanning speed over time by “adapting to your PC.”
Bitdefender Safepay: This feature runs all bank account activity in a separate, secure browsing session.
Bitdefender Autopilot: This provides users with the option of having the software take decisions on their behalf as to what to do when threats are identified.
Privacy Protection: This feature claims to prevent information being “seen or stolen by hackers.” It’s not really clear from the promotional material how exactly this works.
Vulnerability Scanner: This scans for missing software patches and “unsafe” system settings. This is a feature fairly unique to Bitdefender.
USB Immunizer: This is a feature that claims to “immunize” flash drives from viruses when they’re connected to the computer. As plugging in an infected flash drive is a key part of our real-life testing, we were very curious to see how this worked.
Safego Social Networking Protection: A feature that scans links sent to you via Facebook to ensure they don’t lead you to threats.
Antiphising: This prevents you from inadvertently accessing sites that may be trying to harvest your personal information.
The list above contains only some of the wealth of features described on the vendor website. If there was an award for the longest feature list and largest number of trademarked technologies, Bitdefender would be the clear winner! However, we always reserves judgement until after our real-life tests – so we proceeded to install the demo.
Installation and Configuration
We downloaded and ran the 5.5MB installation file on our test machine, which was running a clean install of Windows 7 Pro.
As with many products these days, the installer file immediately began downloading further program data.
The main installation then began, complete with a bold window informing us that we were “now installing the product of the year.”
We didn’t click the box to customize our installation, so proceeded with a default install. While this was in progress, a window highlighted various features of the software, including the “Autopilot” functionality, which claimed we would have “nothing to configure.”
The installation took quite a while, and appeared to complete a security scan while it was in progress. More program data downloaded during the process as well.
Once the installation was complete, we were told that a virus scan had completed without finding anything. We were also told that “full adaption to our PC’s internal structure would be complete shortly.” Bitdefender are certainly fans of high-tech language!
We clicked the “Get started” button so we could begin to explore the software.
We then had to register the product. At this point we could have input a licence key, but we chose the free trial option. We were impressed that we didn’t have to provide any email address or other information at this point, however it wasn’t made clear to us at this stage how long our trial would last.
We were then given three options to control how the software works, including whether we wanted to use the “autopilot” option. Although we were tempted to disable the latter, we figured that novice users would probably accept the defaults, so we left the settings unchanged to more accurately simulate how the software would fare in a real-world situation.
We then reached an activation stage which required us to create a “MyBitdefender” account. However, we were pleased to find that, for the purposes of the demo, we could skip this step by clicking “ask me later.”
We then arrived at the main program interface. From here we learned that our trial was for 30 days. We also saw that an update of definition files had already happened in the background. This is always good to see, as many products require you to kick the first update off manually.
We also had our attention drawn to some vulnerabilities: some missing Windows updates, a weak password, and the fact that autorun was enabled for external media. We really liked this feature, the likes of which we hadn’t seen before. There was also the option to fix each issue.
We spent some more time exploring the features and options. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is certainly very feature-packed, and although it’s quite successful in nesting the advanced settings, there’s still quite a lot for novices to take in. As techies, we didn’t find it unduly intimidating, but it is fair to say that there are other programs that divide the essential and advanced options in a way that’s slightly more friendly to technophobes.
Having explored the basics of the interface, it was time to plug in our infected USB key and put the software to work on some real-life threats.
As usual we used a USB memory stick containing three test viruses. While most products we test deal well with two of them, the final threat, which is an infected fake Google Chrome installer, causes some inferior products to stumble. Given Bitdefender’s well publicised accolades, we had high hopes that it would catch all three.
We weren’t quite sure what to expect upon inserting the key, as we had Bitdefender’s “Autopilot” function engaged. However, as soon as the drivers for the USB key had installed, we noticed Bitdefender’s “widget” jump to life, presumably scanning the contents.
We gave the software a chance to finish what it was doing, and then clicked the “open folder to view files” option. The file EICAR.COM (a test virus from the European Expert Group for IT Security) had disappeared from the key, as had our fake “scareware” antivirus program. As the files were detected, a notification appeared in red on the widget, and we were able to click into it to find out further information.
Once the scan had completed, a summary appeared. The test virus had been quarantined, and the scareware program deleted.
Unfortunately, however, our fake Google Chrome installer remained on the key waiting for us to run it. We did so, and waited to see what happened next…
The program installer began to run, with Bitdefender doing nothing to stop it. However, after initialising, the program terminated saying (in Spanish, for some reason) that the connection had been lost.
We couldn’t be sure that BitDefender was stopping the program running, and there was nothing in the logs. We decided to ask BitDefender to manually scan the file, by right-clicking it from Windows Explorer. Unfortunately, BitDefender reported back that the file was clean.
At this point, we noticed BitDefender alerting us to a new update that required us to restart our PC:
We decided to get this reboot out the way, then have another go at running our final test virus file.
Once again, we were unable to install the fake Google Chrome, seeing the same message as above.
We were left with mixed feelings about all of this. Bitdefender had prevented any infection to our machine, but we didn’t fully understand how! There was nothing in the notifications, and a scan of the malicious EXE file revealed nothing. However, we had never seen the installer fail to run with any other product installed, or, indeed, seen the strange Spanish error message.
So, in a way, Bitdefender had scored 100% in our real-life tests, but at the same time left us with some small doubts. Other solutions we have tested miss the fake Google Chrome threat completely, and allow us to proceed all the way through the install. At the same time, some solutions have identified the file exactly for what it is. Bitdefender fell somewhere between the two.
Before concluding our tests, we kicked off a system scan to look at Bitdefender’s CPU and RAM footprint. The memory footprint settled at a below-average 60MB, and although the CPU use was high, often peaking around the 90% mark, this throttled back as soon as we started running applications at the same time, indicating a very well managed scan process that won’t slow down a PC.
It’s worthy of mention that BitDefender offers plenty more functionality that we didn’t test specifically. While feature-hungry techies will relish this, we did find the software a bit heavy on intrusive pop-ups, with prompts to use the password wallet function, plugin installs when starting our browser, and the option to use “SafePay” when accessing a banking site.
While we’re not going to criticise an excess of functionality, many users like an “install and forget” antivirus solution. We perhaps wouldn’t recommend Bitdefender to those people. Note here that we’ve refrained from using the term “bloatware,” but it’s fair to say we were tempted.
Bitdefender have built access to support right into the program:
“VIP support” is at the top of the list. This is actually a chargeable service, involving help from Microsoft-certified engineers. Furthermore, it’s only available to US customers at the time of writing.
The “Support Center” option leads to self-service documentation. This is, however, nicely integrated with the program interface.
Finally, the “contact support” option forces all issues through a ticket system, which integrates with the software to collect information from your PC prior to opening a new support issue.
We did find a support phone number, available 24-hours, but this required us to search the Bitdefender website. Even so, there’s a wealth of support options available, which was pleasing to see.
- Feature-packed solution
- Good, flexible CPU and RAM utilisation
- Almost perfect results with test viruses
- Loads of support options
- Very flexible purchase options
- Vulnerability scanning feature is a nice touch
We weren’t so sure about
- Some users will view all the extra features as clutter
- Slightly untidy interface
- Uncertainty as to how exactly the software blocked one of our threats
- Pop-ups for extra features border on “bloatware”
Bitdefender lives up to its positive reputation, and is a decent choice for techies who want plenty of features for a good price.
However, it’s probably not the best fit for everyone. While some of the extra features are useful and innovative, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus comes dangerously close to resembling the bloated security products of a few years back.
Those who want an “install and forget” solution should perhaps look elsewhere, but those who want lots for their money will be pleased with this package.