PROS / Bitdefender Antivirus consistently seeks out and destroys malware with superior performance at independent test labs.
CONS / You would need to upgrade to Bitdefender Internet Security suite for Bitdefender’s proprietary firewall.
VERDICT / Bitdefender is the best antimalware because of high performance, security enhancing features, usability and 24/7 technical support.
Editor's note: A newer version of this product is available. The developer lists the new version as offering the following features: anti-ransomware defense and an improved password manager. We will evaluate, rank and review the new version of this product when we next update the Best Antivirus Software reviews. When AV-Test releases its next round of test results, we will evaluate that information as well.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2015 protects against professional hackers and identity thieves. Full of safety features and easy to use, Bitdefender wins our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for best antivirus software. As in previous years, the 2015 version of this software received the highest marks in independent tests that measure protection, performance and ease of use. It also offers fine level of customer service, including the ability to reach a customer care technician 24/7.
Our judgments are based on testing by AV-Test, a respected independent software testing lab, which evaluated the 2015 versions of Bitdefender and two dozen other PC antivirus programs in controlled lab conditions and protocols. The company installed the virus protection onto PCs running Windows 7 (which remains more widely used than its successor, Windows 8) and allowed each product to run, and to automatically update its protection by communicating with the database of threats its company maintains in the cloud.
Bitdefender beat or met the highest scores in three sets of tests: Protection, Performance and Usability.
The Protection test section checked effectiveness against known viruses, worms and Trojan horses (malware). AV-Test used 17,794 samples of malware, the majority of which were “harvested” by AV-Test during the four weeks previous to the test. Bitdefender detected 100 percent of these widespread malevolent programs, compared with the industry average of 94 percent.
More important than the ability to detect existing viruses and other threats is the ability to detect so-called zero-day malware – that which has never been seen before, but has attributes that suggest malicious intent. The difference in detection methods between known and brand-new malware is that if the malware is known, Bitdefender has a signature in its file to that effect. In order to detect zero-day malware, Bitdefender inspects anything that looks suspiciously similar to a class of files known to be malicious. Bitdefender further checks for zero-day malware by examining files to see if they behave in potentially malicious ways.
AV-Test’s Performance section measures the effect of antivirus software on computer speed while visiting websites, downloading application programs, installing and running applications, and copying data files. Bitdefender slowed its host computer by an average of just one second for each of these activities – performing three times faster than the average test results.
The AV-Test Usability section checked how accurately each antivirus program distinguished between safe and unsafe files. An antivirus program plagued by false positives – benign content that is wrongly flagged as malicious – can eventually encourage a user to turn it off or start ignoring its warnings. Bitdefender performed flawlessly, giving no false warnings for websites, no false detections of safe files as malware during system scans, and no other false positives in any additional context.
When AV-Test repeated the antivirus tests in March and April of 2014 on Windows 8.1 platforms, Bitdefender repeated the excellent results that it had achieved on Windows 7 platforms.
Even though Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2015 performed superbly, no program is guaranteed to stop every potential threat. Therefore, Bitdefender is among the applications that provide a rescue mode so that if, for example, a rootkit attaches itself to the registry of the Windows operating system (resulting in a threat that hides itself while taking advantage of privileged access to the system), Bitdefender automatically reboots into a mode that exposes the problem and allows you to remove it with a removal tool from Bitdefender’s support site.
Bitdefender also cooperates with Windows by monitoring system settings that could be unsafe, and by warning if there are required Windows security patches. Simply maintaining current operating system patches greatly reduces the likelihood that zero-day attacks can prevail. In addition to monitoring potential operating system vulnerabilities, Bitdefender’s vulnerability scanner also alerts you in the case of missing or outdated applications software. No other antivirus suite we reviewed does this.
A few other security features make safety convenient. For example, a USB immunizer blocks potential dangers from flash drives, and a desktop security widget lets you drag and drop files for quick scan checks. Furthermore, to increase the safety of online transactions, there is a dedicated browser that protects against fraud.
Bitdefender also supplements its antivirus capabilities with some of the best privacy protections of any antivirus product. It warns you of dangerous results in Google and Bing searches and blocks you from accessing infected links. It maintains knowledge of websites that have a reputation for scamming and credit card phishing, and blocks your access to them. Bitdefender also protects you on social networks. For example, it monitors your privacy settings and scans any links from Facebook friends. Further privacy features include a file shredder and a personal data filter that prevents data such as your Social Security number from escaping your PC.
Bitdefender Antivirus' online dashboard allows you to remotely manage the application. A weekly security report lists the issues that Bitdefender has addressed, the apps that have been optimized, along with how much space it has freed up in the process and how much usable storage remains. The software further enhances the user experience in unobtrusive ways. For example, an optimizer utility speeds the system and frees up storage space, a utility not found in most antivirus software. And whenever you are working, playing or watching video, Bitdefender temporarily suspends any applications that might pop up and interfere or slow you down. Another feature that helps the application to be unobtrusive is Bitdefender’s Autopilot ™, which makes expert security decisions without alerts and pop-ups that would require human intervention.
Help & Support
There’s a nicely executed online product help and information wiki on the Bitdefender support center site, with useful topics and clear explanations. The support site also hosts malware and rootkit removal utilities. Bitdefender responds to customer support inquiries by online chat, phone and email 24/7. Very few antivirus companies offer this level of customer service.
With its high performance, array of useful features, solid support and superb user experience, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2015 is a fine antivirus application. In performance, it beats competitors with more recognizable brands. Bitdefender’s antivirus software contains features usually reserved for comprehensive internet security suites that cost slightly more. In case you suffer a malware attack that you can’t recover from, the Bitdefender support staff is standing by at all hours to get you back up and running.