Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac offers not only top-notch malware protection for Macs, but wraps that protection in a great-looking, easy-to-use interface. On top of that, Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac has minimal impact on system performance, so you can forget that it's running in the background. While it may be a little light in the feature list for paid software, Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac gets so much right that you should consider it before any others.
Costs and What’s Covered
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is sold in one year subscriptions and costs $39.95 for one Mac and $59.95 for three Macs. It supports Intel-based Macs running OS X 10.8.5 or later, and it requires 1GB of RAM and 400MB of available disk space.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac uses traditional signature-based malware detection, behavioral-pattern recognition and cloud-based data collection to detect Mac viruses and adware.
Bitdefender's Autopilot feature enables real-time protection by scanning new and modified files without creating a noticeable impact on system resources. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac also allows for on-demand scans, although scheduled scans — a rarity among Mac software products these days, yet virtually mandatory on paid Windows antivirus software — are missing. The utility also scans unopened archive files such as ZIPs. (Update: Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac 2017, released Sept. 20, 2016, adds malware protection for Time Machine backups — handy when dealing with ransomware that targets backup drives.)
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac can also detect and eliminate Windows malware, so it won't spread from your Apple computer to any PCs on the local network. Competitors including Sophos Home for Mac, Avira Free Antivirus for Mac and Kaspersky Internet Security (for Mac) also do this.
Bitdefender's free TrafficLight browser extension (downloaded after installation) adds advanced phishing detection to Chrome, Firefox and Safari, notifies users of risky search results and acts as an additional malware filter.
Of the six Mac antivirus products we evaluated, Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac's on-demand malware-scanning engine did the best job of keeping a Mac infection-free. Bitdefender stopped 100 percent of Mac OS X malware in German independent lab AV-TEST's most recent evaluations, conducted in June 2016.
Norton Security Deluxe, Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac, Avast Free Mac Security and Sophos Home for Mac all came close by flagging 99.17 percent, but Avira Free Antivirus for Mac, our top pick last year, was far behind with a 93.33 percent malware detection rate.
Security and Privacy Features
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac suggests you install the company's TrafficLight browser extension, available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari. TrafficLight blocks users from connecting to web pages it flags as suspicious, and alerts users when websites use behavior-analyzing code called trackers. However, you don't need to buy Bitdefender software to get TrafficLight, as it's a free download.
TrafficLight blocks phishing attacks and malware installation attempts made through the web browser, a popular attack vector.
This is a relatively light offering of selections for a paid service. By contrast, Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac includes parental controls and a virtual keyboard. Bitdefender's Parental Advisor controls are exclusive to its PC editions.
Performance and System Impact
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac had a low impact on system performance, which we assessed by running our custom OpenOffice benchmark test that matches 20,000 names and addresses on a spreadsheet. Our test machine was a Late 2013 MacBook Pro with Retina Display with a 2.6 GHz Core i7 CPU, 8GB RAM and 23GB of data stored on a 512GB SSD.
After we installed Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac on our MacBook, the OpenOffice test finished in an average of 2 minutes and 22 seconds, the same as without any antivirus software installed. That's a passive system hit of zero, which Norton also registered. By contrast, Avira and Sophos both rated 1.41 percent, but even that is not an impact you would likely perceive.
During a full-system scan, the OpenOffice test finished in 2 minutes and 36 seconds, signifying a performance dip of 9.86 percent. That's close to Kaspersky, which recorded the lowest impact (6.34 percent) during a full scan, and far from Norton, which made the highest impact (28.17 percent) we recorded during a full scan.
During Bitdefender's quick scans, the OpenOffice test finished in an average of 2 minutes and 31 seconds, for an impact of 6.34 percent. That's the smallest quick-scan system hit of any Mac antivirus software we tested, and was half the 12.68 percent slowdown created by Avira, the worst in class.
Bitdefender's full-scan completion time was a brisk 31 seconds, by far the shortest of its competitors. By contrast, the longest full scans were recorded by Sophos (2 hours, 25 minutes and 20 seconds). The average for all six products was 12 minutes and 35 seconds.
The short time that Bitdefender took to complete a full scan was due to the software ignoring unchanged files it had previously inspected, a common practice among Windows AV products. Other Mac AV clients we tested always scan every file during full scans.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac has the best-designed interface of any Mac antivirus product we've reviewed this year. Its main screen presents a "Your Mac is safe" message in green above three scan buttons that open quick, full and custom scans. This is a great improvement over most of its competitors, which make you click through menus to perform a scan.
To adjust settings, click on Preferences, or hit the standard Apple keyboard shortcut "Command + ,". The preferences pane allows you to set rules for flagged or infected items, as well as make Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac examine all files during a full scan instead of only new or changed files. You can also change settings for which archives the program scans, but it's set by default to inspect all.
You can manage Bitdefender software on your Mac and other machines by navigating to central.bitdefender.com and logging in. You'll be able to view system status and perform quick and full system scans from remote locations. Bitdefender hides the scan buttons behind a Protection tab, which is unnecessary given the available space.
Bitdefender's TrafficLight extension doesn't automatically install itself into your web browsers, so you'll have to click the Fix Now button in the main interface window first. Then users select the browser of their choice and follow installation instructions, and repeat as necessary if they use multiple browsers (Safari, Firefox and Chrome are supported).
Installation and Support
After you buy Bitdefender, you install it on your Mac by navigating to Bitdefender Central, creating an account, using the activation code given during purchase and downloading a .pkg installer file. That file application downloads the rest of the installation files and finishes the process. Installation took about 3 minutes, as it did with other Mac antivirus programs.
To get technical support, navigate to bitdefender.com, click Support, click Home User support, and click the X to close the overlay menu. Then click the envelope (email), crowd (forum), chat bubble (live chat) or smartphone (call) icons on the right side of the screen. Bitdefender includes free technical support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for customers in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Canada and New Zealand with your purchase.
If you want the best antivirus protection for your Mac, you're going to need to pay for it. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac detects malware better than its competitors, has a smaller system impact than most and makes it super-simple to perform scans with its sleek, well laid-out interface. Other paid options give you additional features, such as firewalls and virtual keyboards, but if you mainly want to protect your Mac, Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is your best bet.
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