Bitdefender may not be as much of a household name as Norton or McAfee, but its performance means it absolutely should be.
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McAfee and Norton are the two biggest names in the antivirus space. But there are other lesser-known names like Bitdefender, which are still well worth considering. Bitdefender is easy to use and has excellent threat protection, with some great extended features, too.
Bitdefender has a confusing number of services available (nine by my count), separated either by platform with some crossover between plans, or available as multiplatform services (Android, iOS, Windows, and MacOS). The cheapest price for a single iOS or Android device is $19.98 for the first year or $39.97 for three PCs or Macs.
Focusing in on the multiplatform security options, which offer the most versatility—and are the fairest plan comparisons with other antivirus providers—Bitdefender Total Security is the cheapest at $64.98 for the first year ($119.99 thereafter) to protect five devices. Alternatively, protect 10 devices for a year with Bitdefender Premium Security for $84.99 (typically $199.99) or Bitdefender Small Office Security for $99.98 ($199.99 normally).
For homes with lots of devices, consider Bitdefender Family Pack, which protects 15 devices and costs $79.98 for the first year ($159.99 thereafter). You can pay for Bitdefender with PayPal, Poli, or Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover credit cards.
Features vary between the platform-specific versions of Bitdefender, but the multiplatform versions are easier to track. All personal-use multiplatform versions of Bitdefender have the following features:
- Privacy firewall
- Microphone and webcam protection
- OneClick Optimizer file decluttering
- Anti-phishing email protection
Bitdefender Premium Security includes an unlimited-data VPN and a password manager. The Bitdefender Family Pack restricts the VPN to 200MB per day and device, which isn’t great, but adds parental controls and screen-time management. Bitdefender Small Office Security has more business-focused inclusions, such as preventing data breaches and cloud-based management.
Bitdefender sign-up and setup process
Like a lot of the best antivirus services, Bitdefender has an initially small PC download and then it downloads more data as part of its installer (around 600MB). After the installer download completes, it starts to configure itself. For me, Bitdefender didn’t like that I had Spybot – Search & Destroy installed (a free tool for malware and tracker purging) and wouldn’t let me proceed until I uninstalled it.
On Windows, Bitdefender will also add a Bitdefender Wallet extension (it’s a password manager) that you can optionally enable. Thankfully, the Bitdefender Android installation is a lot more straightforward. That said, I did have issues creating a Bitdefender account on Android, as it kept bouncing me back to the Bitdefender login screen.
There’s a skippable device assessment at the end of installation. It scans for threats and recommends specific actions if anything is found. While Bitdefender does track the number of items scanned and elapsed time, it doesn’t give any indication of how long it will take. Thankfully, you can tell it to run scans in the background if you want to focus on other tasks.
It only took a couple of minutes to complete in my test before prompting me to create a Bitdefender account. From here, you can choose between the free version, which has real-time data protection, or a 30-day Total Security trial, which adds ransomware protection, safe online banking, VPN, device optimiser, and multiplatform protection options.
Bitdefender user experience
After completing the steps above, Bitdefender automatically configures itself for Windows, while the Android version needs some basic back-end permissions to be fully functional. There’s a straightforward skippable tour, but it’s worth doing for the punchy hints on where to find the main features.
The main Bitdefender dashboard highlights the key functions, including quick and system-wide scanning tools. I like that you can also personalise this page by pinning your favourite quick-action features here for fast access. As is the trend, the free version of Bitdefender constantly reiterates the deeper protection of its premium plans, so it’s really worth just sticking with the tools on the dashboard page with Bitdefender Antivirus Free.
Frustratingly, the quick and system scan options don’t offer a percentage or ETA on how long they’ll take to complete, but their impact is such that you can happily run the scans in the background while you continue to use your computer for other tasks.
If you give in to Bitdefender’s not-so-subtle nudges towards upgrading to a premium plan, you can try it for free for 30 days, refreshingly, without having to enter payment details. There’s a short reconfiguration process that unnecessarily gives you another tour, but the reward for your patience is a wealth of additional features, most of which are activated by default for extra protection.
Bitdefender virus and malware protection
Instead of creating a virtual machine or riddling a test device with viruses to test the protection of Bitdefender, we instead rely on the expertise of respected antivirus authorities. AV-Test and AV-Comparatives are the two that we lean on most to determine how well antivirus software protects a range of devices.
For the recent real-world protection tests from AV-Comparatives, Bitdefender had the best results. According to the AV-Comparatives results, Bitdefender blocked 100% of threats and only delivered six false positives in doing so. These results are equal with Norton’s 100% threat protection, albeit Norton delivered 35 false positives. Those results put Bitdefender at the top of the list of the antivirus services we’ve reviewed.
Additionally, AV-Test’s recent results from antivirus testing had very respectable results for Bitdefender.
|Bitdefender Mobile Security 3.3 (Android)||6||6||6|
|Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac 9.0||6||6||6|
|Bitdefender Internet Security 26.0 (Windows)||6||6||5.5|
|Norton 360 5.29 (Android)||6||6||6|
|Norton 360 8.7 (MacOS)||6||6||6|
|Norton 360 22.1 (Windows)||6||6||6|
|McAfee Mobile Security 6.6 (Android)||5.5||6||6|
|McAfee Total Protection 25.4 (Windows)||6||6||6|
|AVG AntiVirus Free 6.46 (Android)||6||6||6|
|AVG AntiVirus 20.1 (MacOS)||6||6||6|
|AVG Internet Security 21.11||6||6||6|
|Kaspersky Internet Security 11.82 (Android)||6||6||6|
|Kaspersky Internet Security 21.1 (MacOS)||6||6||6|
|Kaspersky Internet Security 21.3 (Windows)||6||6||6|
|Avast Mobile Security 6.46 (Android)||6||6||6|
|Avast Security 15.1 (MacOS)||6||6||6|
|Avast Free AntiVirus 21.11 (Windows)||6||6||6|
AV-Test grades from 0 to 6 in terms of protection, performance, and usability across Android, MacOS and, Windows versions of antivirus software. Bitdefender scored perfect sixes for everything except for a lone 5.5 for its usability on Windows. While the standard for the antivirus services we track is universally 6/6 scores for the most part, this 5.5 rating isn’t anything too serious to worry about, particularly when it’s not lost points for the all-important protection metric.
Bitdefender vs other antivirus services
Check out the table below for the key differences between Bitdefender and its most popular antivirus peers.
Initial annual price
Number of devices
|Best antivirus software overall||$79.99||10||99.9%||View on Bitdefender||Read review|
|Best cheap antivirus software||From $41.95||1, 3, 5, or 10||99.6%||View on Kaspersky||Read review|
|Best antivirus for families||From $41.99||5 or 30||99.6%||View on Avast||Read review|
|Best antivirus for enhanced security||$89.99||3||100%||View on Norton||Read review|
|Best antivirus for first-timers||From $59.99||1 or 10||99.6%||View on AVG||Read review|
|Best runner-up||From $84.95||1 or 5||97.4%||View on McAfee||Read review|
|Best for infected devices||From $44.99||1 to 10||99.9%||View on Malwarebytes||Read review|
|Best for device diversity||From $69||2, 4, or 6||100%||View on Trend Micro||Read review|
|Best for fewest false positives||From $79.95||1 to 10||98.4%||View on ESET||Read review|
Prices are accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.
Bitdefender is a great alternative to Norton for those comfortable going with a lesser-known brand. Admittedly, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Norton’s more expensive plans, and it is expensive compared to other antivirus services. Still, Bitdefender offers dependable security, great advanced features, a solid free version, and a premium trial that doesn’t require payment details.
How we review antivirus software
Our antivirus testing starts with basic feature comparisons, including pricing and whether there’s a free version or easily accessible free trial. Letting people try before they buy scores well with us. Then we check to ensure antivirus software includes critical features like real-time protection and speedy scanning tools, ideally without a massive performance impact on compatible devices.
The ease of installation is then evaluated as well as how well an antivirus service guides the user and encourages them to explore additional security settings (where available). Antivirus software that also includes extended features—like a VPN, password manager, digital file shredder or other bolt-ons—scores points for versatility.
Ultimately, though, we always go back to how well an antivirus service performs on key metrics: namely, threat protection and performance impact. For these factors, we defer to the extensive ongoing testing data that’s readily available from antivirus authorities AV-Comparatives and AV-Test. If antivirus software scores well in those external tests, it has a great chance of scoring well with us, too.
Below are the answers to some of the most pressing Bitdefender questions.