Bitdefender 2018 Review: Superior Protection, Low Performance Impact

With one of the deepest arrays of protective features, Bitdefender's 2018 Windows antivirus lineup sets the standard with ultrafast quick scans, minimal system performance overhead, and the ability to customize most aspects of your protection or let the program do it.

Bitdefender's malware scanner takes a long time to complete its first system scan, and even the priciest package lacks a VPN client or backup software, but overall Bitdefender offers excellent malware protection at a reasonable price.

Costs and What's Covered

If you want more protection than Bitdefender's bare-bones Antivirus Free Edition can provide, look to Bitdefender Antivirus Plus. It starts at $40 a year for three devices and includes a password manager, local network security advisor and file shredder.

The next step up is the Bitdefender Internet Security package, starting at $60 per year, which adds file encryption, webcam protection and a two-way firewall. (The Windows firewall screens only inbound traffic; a two-way firewall can catch outbound connections from hidden malware.)

Bitdefender Total Security protects up to five computers for $90 a year (or 10 for $100) and includes licenses for Bitdefender's iOS, Android and Mac software, as well as a system optimizer and a tracker for a lost or stolen laptop.

If you have lots of computers at home, the Bitdefender Family Pack could be useful, providing an unlimited Total Security license for $120 per year.

The company's $130 Bitdefender Box network-security appliance also includes a year's subscription to Total Security for an unlimited number of devices; the Box's second generation is due to hit the market in the fall of 2017.

Bitdefender's 2018 Windows lineup can work with Windows 7 (with Service Pack 1) all the way through Windows 10. (For users of older PCs, there's the $80 Bitdefender Security for XP and Vista.)

Bitdefender's antivirus software for Macs supports OS X Mavericks 10.9.5 through macOS Sierra 10.12; the Bitdefender Android antivirus and security apps run on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and later. Bitdefender's upcoming iOS app, which will have a device tracker and parental controls but no antivirus features, will run on iPhones and iPads with iOS 9.0 or later.

Antivirus Protection

Bitdefender uses the same underlying protection on all its Windows consumer products. This protection starts with a file-scanning engine that looks for matches to known exploits. There's also heuristic monitoring that watches for signs that an attack is underway. Anything suspicious is uploaded to the company's Cloud Center lab for immediate analysis and a quick fix.

Bitdefender updates its malware definitions and sends them out to its 500 million users several times a day. If giving Bitdefender information about your PC's configuration and activity goes against your wishes, you can opt out of the data collection as the software is installed.

Bitdefender's Autopilot feature automatically adjusts the software's defensive posture based on current computer’s conditions, such as how many system resources other processes are using. You can also white-list applications and set the program to Movie or Game mode to reduce interruptions.

Files that you absolutely can't live without can be cordoned off and theoretically immunized from ransomware attack with Bitdefender's Safe File feature. By default, protected folders will include the Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Music and Videos folders, as well as folders linked to Dropbox, OneDrive, Box and Google Drive accounts. It's easy to add others. Unfortunately, Safe Files blocked our access to a key spreadsheet needed for our benchmark tests; removing the spreadsheet from the Safe File list fixed the problem.

For anxious users, there's a Quick Scan link on the main window, although a full System Scan is two clicks away. To schedule nightly, weekly or monthly scans, access the Manage Scans section.

Antivirus Performance

Bitdefender's Windows antivirus products provide some of the best protection against hackers and ransomware. In two rounds of evaluations conducted in 2017 by German independent lab AV-TEST on Windows 7, one in January and February and the second in July and August, Bitdefender Internet Security snagged nearly every piece of rogue software, whether new "zero-day" threats or well-known malware.

The sole exception to the 100 percent streak on Windows 7 came in February, when Bitdefender missed about 0.1 percent of the 11,524 samples of widespread malware tested. That's equivalent to scores posted by Avast, F-Secure and Trend Micro; Kaspersky and Norton got perfect scores across both months.

Bitdefender made up for this setback in March and April, scoring perfectly across the board on Windows 10, as did AVG, F-Secure, Kaspersky and Norton. Bitdefender's scanner returned five false positives, or safe files erroneously flagged as harmful, across both months. That's one less than Norton but three more than Kaspersky. In a second round of Windows 10 evaluations conducted in May and June 2017, Bitdefender again stopped all malware, but notched up four false positives.

Bitdefender did similarly well in tests conducted by Austrian lab AV-Comparatives in the first half of 2017. In five rounds of tests from February through June, in which Bitdefender running on Windows 7 was exposed to hundreds of malicious websites, the software stopped an average of 99.9 percent of online malware. Trend Micro stopped 100 percent but registered 53 false positives over the five months, as opposed to Bitdefender's five.

The same trend continued after AV-Comparatives switched to testing on Windows 10 halfway through the year. In the July tests, Bitdefender stopped 99.7 percent of internet-borne malware; in August, it stopped 100 percent. The program registered zero false positives in either month.

Security and Privacy Features

Bitdefender's 2018 lineup adds a new privacy and security option to its defenses. Internet Security and Total Security catch up to their Kaspersky counterparts with webcam protection that limits which programs — internally and externally — can use the camera. You'll need to manually add approved apps.

Still, Total Security lacks the virtual private network client and service subscription that comes with Avira's Total Security Suite, and the backup software and online storage that come with Panda Gold Protection and Norton Security Premium.

There's also a powerful Password Manager, available on Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and up, that encrypts your login protocols online and doles them out as needed. It pops up for online-payment screens and also works with the Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer web browsers; Bitdefender is working on adding support for Microsoft's Edge browser.

MORE: What to Do After a Data Breach

The Wi-Fi Security Advisor, available on Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and up, looks for cracks in your home network's defenses. The firewall, on Bitdefender Internet Security and up, can help keep your system secure. It allows for lots of adjustments, so its action is not overbearing, unless you want it to be. The firewall's Paranoid Mode notifies you of all traffic, but I prefer the Stealth Mode, which lets you fly under the radar by making the system invisible to the local network and wider internet.

The Safepay browser, designed for online shopping and banking, is on Antivirus Plus and up. It blocks browser extensions and demands an encrypted HTTPS server link. To guard against keyloggers, SafePay forces you to enter your passwords with a virtual, on-screen keyboard.

If you're unsure that your system is safe from data leaks, run a vulnerability scan, renamed Quick Risk Checker and available on Antivirus Plus and up. It took 47.8 seconds for the scan to go through our system looking for old software, unsafe system settings and open Wi-Fi links. It found two minor vulnerabilities.

Bitdefender has several utilities to make your system run more smoothly, including the OneClick Optimizer, available on Total Security and Family Pack. This utility took less than 5 seconds to find more than a thousand Windows and application problems and offered to fix them.

The Startup Optimizer, which is included with Total Security, streamlines the boot sequence and tells you how long startup took the previous time. Meanwhile, the Disk Cleanup tool, also part of Total Security, visually shows how much of your disk space goes to major categories like Windows, Programs, Data and others.

If you have impressionable little ones, you might appreciate the Parental Advisor, available on Internet Security and up, which can block a variety of objectionable material. You can limit a child's web time, but can't block specific apps from running.

MORE: Your Router's Security Stinks: Here's How to Fix It

Lost your laptop? Bitdefender Total Security might be able to locate it on a map and will let you remotely wipe the drive, but only if it's turned on. Finally, Antivirus Plus and up can help you keep your secrets by using the program's three-pass file shredder, and Internet Security can do so with its 256-bit AES file-encryption tool. Neither feature is adjustable, though.

For Windows 10, Bitdefender has revamped its former Rescue Mode as a Rescue Environment that uses the Windows 10 Recovery Environment to bring back a system inundated with rootkits or other hard-to-delete malware. All you do is install this mode and reboot the system. The Rescue Environment can't be put on a USB flash drive or an optical disc, but you can download separate Rescue CD software from the Bitdefender website and use it that way.

On systems running Windows 7 through 8.1, Bitdefender will install the hidden Rescue Mode partition as before. This partition boots into Linux and then runs Bitdefender antivirus software to clean the Windows installation. Users of severely infected computers can access Rescue Mode from the Bitdefender user interface, or press the spacebar when rebooting the machine.

Performance and System Impact

We installed Bitdefender Total Security on an Asus X555LA notebook running the Windows 10 Creators Update with an Intel Core i3 processor, 6GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive containing 36GB of assorted files.

To test the software's impact on system performance, we used our custom OpenOffice benchmark, which matches 20,000 names with 20,000 addresses on a spreadsheet, and measured the task's completion time.

Bitdefender Total Security had a small system impact in our performance tests.

With no third-party antivirus software installed (but with Microsoft's obligatory Windows Defender running), the OpenOffice test completed in 6 minutes and 59 seconds, establishing a baseline for comparison.

After Total Security was installed, the same test took 7:11, a passive system impact of less than 3 percent. That's practically imperceptible, and smaller than the 5.3 percent impact Bitdefender Total Security 2017 had on the same test machine.

During a full-system scan, our OpenOffice benchmark test finished in an average of 8:05,which is 16 percent longer than the baseline. During a quick scan, the OpenOffice test finished in 7:42, indicating a system hit of about 10 percent. 

MORE: 12 Computer Security Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Those are both quite small system slowdowns, and you probably wouldn't notice them. We haven't yet been able to test other vendors' 2018 antivirus software, but these scores would beat or tie all of the 2017 performance results.

You'll need to go get a cup of coffee and maybe a book for Bitdefender's first full scan, because the software took 1 hour and 22 minutes to examine 1,655,376 files. After three passes, the full scan learned what to concentrate on and what to ignore, and looked at roughly 500,000 files in an average of 35 minutes and 5 seconds. By contrast, Bitdefender quick scans are ultrafast, at an average of 13.7 seconds.


As Bitdefender's interface did in the previous year, the 2018 edition takes up half the desktop. It can't be resized or run full screen, but it can be moved around. The main screen is dark with white type, but many of the subsidiary screens are brighter.

The home screen has an on/off switch for the program's Autopilot and buttons to start a quick scan or a vulnerability scan; full-system scans are a level below. Displays show recent activity regarding on apps, files and websites.

The main window's left navigation column lists arbitrarily named categories, each with a different set of main items and a link to the details. They include Protection (scanning, firewall and the Safe Files ransomware protection), Privacy (the Safepay secure browser, parental advisor, password manager and encryption tool) and Tools (the startup and system optimizers, antitheft feature, and disk-cleanup tool).

MORE: Best Antivirus Protection for PC, Mac and Android

You can also get to pages containing activity reports, notifications, account details and support. The most useful is the Settings section, which is divided into General, Advanced, Update and Profiles categories.

Along the bottom is a listing of how many computers your license allows and how many are protected. Next to that, is a link to add another computer to the account, which leads to the Bitdefender Central online portal.

Installation and Support

The first step to installing Bitdefender antivirus software is creating a Bitdefender Central account or accessing an existing one. You'll be given the option of installing the 380MB program in a custom location. Once you hit download, the first-stage installer does a quick system scan, then loads the rest of the installer while displaying a progress bar.

There's a 30-day free trial, after which you'll have to pay or enter a license number. During installation, you can opt out of Bitdefender's data-collection program. All told, it took us a long 11 minutes and 26 seconds to fully install Bitdefender Total Security. Most antivirus programs take half that long.

Bitdefender has support technicians on call 24/7, whom you can contact via the interface. You can call or email the technicians, chat with them, or just read through the support forums.

Bottom Line

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2018, Internet Security 2018 and Total Security 2018 take the lead in computer protection with everything from advanced ransomware defenses and a firewall to file shredding and encryption. Despite having some of the best overall defenses against malware, these programs don't put a lot of strain on your PC.

The low-end Antivirus Plus is the best option for a single person or couple with only a few PCs to protect. With its parental controls, Bitdefender Internet Security is best for parents of young children. But for families with teenagers, or even smaller households with many devices on many platforms, Total Security and its Family Pack unlimited option are the ways to go for maximum peace of mind with minimal hassle.

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  • xehpa25
    Firstly I want to say I want to say I loved the software when I first installed it in 2015. This year I wanted to upgrade to "Total Security 2017" from the 2016 version, my subscription was almost up and there was a really good deal that came my way it was $30.00 (cad not usd) for the 2017 platfrom, this was Oct 16th. I contacted customer support and was told the support team had to manipulate my subscription and someone would get back to me in 48hrs. They did get back to me over a week later and they told me they were still working on it, after several emails back and fourth explaining I was having issues with the link that was sent finally on Nov 1 I had Bitdefender up and running. I loved the new layout, and even look past the fact they charged my $40cad and not the $30 that was attached to the promotional email i received. Then I started to get "mshta.exe error", I couldn't do anything without this error popping up. However I didn't relate this error to Bitdefender. I spent 72hrs, clean install after clean install, system restore, etc.....and then I started to pay attention to when the error started to happen. Every time it started to happen after I reinstalled Bitdefender from central. I stopped using it, gave up on the software and gave up on the support team. I did try to reinstall a couple more times hoping my computer was just having a bad day and since I was trying out trial periods from other software companies I felt I didn't have much to loose and every time the same error after the install. So i decided to purchase another piece of software from a competitor, it was half the price and offered more (Norton). All I have asked from Bitdefender is to be refunded the $40 that I spent on a piece of Software I cannot use, it is now Dec 3rd. I have sent 3 emails asking for the name and contact for the manager of the support team and I still have not received a reply and the last email i sent was on Nov 29th and the last email I have received from them was Nov 24th. The last email i received from them, they asked me to create a support tag, there is no way I am going to reinstall Bitdefender just to generate a support tag. I don't think I was asking for very much when i asked to be refunded $40.00. I have never had such a terrible experience when dealing with a company, I am sure there are more amazing stories about the company then bad, unfortunately I am one of the bad and I have all the emails to this situation saved. Open ticket 2016110316410002
  • SR-71 Blackbird
    I use too love Bitdefender , but since version 2015 , I've had to jump to F-Secure , it became very unstable and unresponsive on a few of my systems.
  • N5413K
    Since Bitdefender Total Security got such glowing reviews I decided to give it a try. Sophos Home has my Sierra OS Mac severely broken every morning.

    I went to the BitFinder site and put the Total Security package in my shopping cart. As I started to check out I see there is a "Recommended" $99 virus removal add on. I spent a little time and found out that even though they offer to let me pay for it, they don't actually have that service for Mac's. Seemed kind of slimy of them not to mention that. I continued on to payment via PayPal. Once logged into my PayPal account I see a PopUp that informs me that BitDefender will, in future complete any purchases I make and debit my PayPal account without my further authentication "for my convenience".

    That was it for me. Although I trust that the software must be pretty good to the ratings it gets, doing business with them is just too big a risk. I canceled the transaction.

    I know these guys are a sponsor of this web site and I'm happy to support businesses that support the things I like but this is a little too far for me to go.
  • Glen_12
    terrible company. they deducted 89 from my account. i notified them immediately and they've done nothing to refund it. the product is also terrible. i had fewer problems with the free version of avast. i also had to ask them for a removal tool to get the program off my computer, as it isn't removed in the control panel the way that most programs are.
  • ashadylady
    BEWARE: Bitdefender "automatically renewed" my subscription for $30 more than the available price on their website. According to their customer support, automatic renewals are processed at the highest list price. IF YOU HAVE AUTOMATIC RENEWAL, CANCEL IT NOW! I don't authorized automatic renewals to my PayPal account, but they processed it anyway! When I complained, they cancelled my (unauthorized) renewal, but have not refunded my (unauthorized) payment. The product is ok, but there are other products, just as good, that don't price gouge you.
  • ajhendrick
    CREATES SCREEN -LOCKER POP-UPS ON YOUR MACHINE: In early February, 2017, they sent out a customer satisfaction survey that just popped up on the screen. The survey was mandatory - the only way to get rid of it was to take it. There was no decline option, and no close button on the screen pop-up or within the survey. I thought they were going to protect me from unwanted intrusions on my system, but instead they are inflicting them on me. Aside from taking the survey (which was them just fishing for compliments), the only way to get rid of it was to close everything in progress, save all work, and restart the machine. Ugh!
  • redschuhart
    Bitdefender use underhand tactics to scam money from you. I purchased their AV 2017, after payment I was taken to site labelled "Download & Install". The ONLY link on that page was a green button titled "Get It Now". I clicked on this assuming it was a download link. It wasn't, it was a slimy way of getting me to buy their 'install and configure' service for another £19.99!!
    What a low dirty trick, what you'd expect from the people Bitdefender is supposed to protect us from!
    I have sent requests for a refund and had NO RESPONSE at all.
    What a low despicable company.
  • Theresa_21
    DO NOT BUY BITDEFENDER! 1) they trick you into a second charge when you hit 'Get it Now'. They charged the guy above 20 pounds. They charged me an extra $32. They wouldn't give you an activation code until you made this second purchase. I have also sent refund requests and logged a support ticket and filed a complaint with paypal. Now it's time for the nasty reviews. 2) they automatically register you for a subscription. Their purchase tactics are awful. 3) the version I did download locked down my internet so I couldn't access the internet. I had to uninstall it. DO NOT BUY. DO NOT BUY. TOTAL RIPOFF.
  • Andulvar
    This is a paid review. If you go through the internet you will see how much this program sucks. You cannot uninstall it and the company doesn't seem to know how to uninstall it. I would avoid this PoS at all costs and any company shilling it should be avoided as well.
  • JoshRoss
    Regardless of the fact, I do think that Bitdefender is one of the better software out there when it comes to freeware security. Yeah, it might have some issues with the way they do pop-ups and marketing, but the software itself still stands well. But more and more people seem to find that annoying, I do understand that.
  • Nei1
    I've been known to get pretty annoyed at avast!'s pop-up advertising, too.
  • Ron_101
    A little precaution, common sense, and Windows Defender is all I need.
  • JJR2
    Horrible, HORRIBLE PRODUCT! BD Totoal Security 2018 "Threat Defense" blocked Steam updater without comment--eventually had to turn it off to get the update installed. "Safe Files" prevented a critical application from saving files to the standard application folder on another computer--had to turn that off. Today it demands that it has never been updated, although notifications show update 15 minutes ago. Update will not complete.
    Support is among the worst I've seen in 37 years working with computers. The "support team" actually cut and pasted the wrong page from their solution key to me in response to a support request. Support request about the other two problems have gone unanswered for days.
    Actually makes me look back fondly on the Norton product I got this to replace.
  • JJR2
    Oh, and BD 2018 turned WINDOWS FIREWALL on without asking. I'm afraid they might actually be using it as part of the included firewall.
  • JoshRoss
    While it might seem what they are doing are intrusive, if you think about it, they are trying to do their job. Turned off the firewall is a massive security hole. Also, if you are not buying BD, you have a FREE anti-virus solution, while it might have some issues, it does the job. I do see a lot of great benefits coming out from it, but I am certainly not denying, that it has plenty of issue on its own.
  • JJR2
    Tom's Hardware should be mortified by it's glowing review of this nightmare of a product. Will never trust your reviews again.
  • JJR2
    Finally got them to admit on their Twitter account that Bitdefender's "firewall" IS Windows Firewall---with a thin UI and some minimal features pasted over it.
  • JoshRoss
    Most of them are like that. Firewalls are quite hard and expensive to develop on their own, so usually, it is just a matter of adaptability.

    Reviews or not, it is common knowledge to read multiple perspectives on a product, no matter how trusted the reviewer is. Multiple perspectives give you a firmer view on the topic.
  • pjcamp

    I use Fsekrit to store passwords in an encrypted file. Bitdefender decided it was a malicious program and deleted it on its own authority. Completely. Not in the recycle bin, not in the quarantine, nowhere. Hundreds of passwords down the drain. All I did was use a piece of software I've used for years.

    That is complete <mod edit>

    <Watch your language in these forums>
  • JoshRoss
    I have a hard time believing that. As far as I am aware, no matter the problem it will quarantine it before everything else. You usually have options and actions to do something about a specific software or a file. Since I am unaware if such option exists, might have had an option selected to delete everything in quarantine or just miss clicked it.