Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac Review: Accurate, Elegant Protection

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac offers high-caliber protection with little system impact and a great design, making it our top Mac antivirus pick.

Our Verdict

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac offers top-shelf malware detection and protects files from ransomware.

For

  • Perfect malware detection
  • Ransomware protection
  • Elegant modern design
  • Parental controls

Against

  • Highest passive system impact

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac combines excellent malware protection with a new ransomware-protection tool that's easy to use. The software's sole downside is the largest system impact in passive mode among the eight products we tested.

Still, the system impact is small compared with Windows antivirus software. While Bitdefender Antivirus is not the best antivirus for Mac (that's Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac), its sleek design makes it one of our favorites.

MORE: Best Mac Antivirus Software

Costs and What's Covered

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac costs $39.99 per year to protect one Mac, and  $59.99 per year to protect three.

It supports macOS 10.12 Sierra, OS X 10.11 El Capitan, 10.10 Yosemite and 10.9 Mavericks, and requires 1GB of RAM, 400MB of available disk space and an Intel CPU.

Antivirus Protection

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac uses signature-based malware detection, behavioral-pattern recognition and cloud-based data collection to detect Mac viruses and adware.

The company has added a new ransomware-defense feature called Safe Files, which lets you designate folders to be constantly monitored to prevent hijacking. Bitdefender also protects Time Machine backups, as ransomware often locks down your backup drives.

This software scored 100 percent on both the AV-Test and AV-Comparatives malware benchmarks

To stop the network-based spreading of viruses and other dangers, Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac also stops malware made for Windows machines. Some rivals, including Sophos Home, Avira Free Antivirus for Mac and Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac, also do this.

Bitdefender's free TrafficLight browser extension (which downloads upon installation of Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac) adds advanced phishing detection to Chrome, Firefox and Safari. It also warns you if a search result points to a dangerous page, and acts as an additional, browser-based malware filter.

Antivirus Performance

Independent third-party security labs tested seven of the eight Mac antivirus suites we evaluated, and Bitdefender earned the best scores possible, though it's not the only one to have done so.

According to AV-Test, Bitdefender turned in a score of 100 percent in the lab's May 2017 Mac-malware detection tests. AV-Comparatives, located in Austria, also recorded 100percent from Bitdefender during tests performed in July 2017. No false positives -- benign files mistakenly tagged as malicious -- were found during AV Comparatives' testing for Bitdefender or any other Mac antivirus solutions.

Both Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac and Norton Security Deluxe also turned in results of 100 percent during the AV-Test survey. Kaspersky is the only Mac AV software other than Bitdefender to net a 100 in AV-Comparatives' testing. (AV-Comparatives didn't look at Norton Security.)

Bitdefender has added a new ransomware-defense feature called Safe Files, which lets you designate folders to be constantly monitored to prevent hijacking.

Avast Free Mac Security and AVG AntiVirus for Mac (which now share ownership) each scored 99.9 percent and Avira Free Antivirus for Mac netted 99.1 percent. Sophos Home scored  lower in AV-Test's detection tests, with 98.4 percent.

Security and Privacy Features

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac recently added dedicated ransomware protection. Not only will this new function keep Time Machine backups safe and sound, but its Safe Files feature allows you to protect specific folders and files from being accessed by unauthorized programs.

Performance and System Impact

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac created a moderate impact on system performance. We assessed this by running our custom OpenOffice benchmark test, which matches 20,000 names and addresses on a spreadsheet. Our test machine was a Late 2013 MacBook Pro with Retina Display and a 2.6 GHz Core i7 CPU, 8GB RAM and 70GB 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 26.6 seconds, 4 seconds longer than it took the same system before the installation. That's a passive system hit of 2.8 percent, the highest we found among the eight Mac antivirus products we tried.

By contrast, AVG AntiVirus for Mac rated 2.6 percent, whereas McAfee AntiVirus Plus’ impact was 1.9 percent. Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac registered an unbeatable zero percent.

During a Bitdefender full-system scan, the OpenOffice test finished in 2 minutes and 33 seconds, signifying a performance dip of 7.9 percent. That's in the middle of the pack, between Avira Free Antivirus for Mac's 12.7 percent (the highest we recorded) and Kaspersky's 4.4 percent (the lowest).

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During Bitdefender's quick scans, the OpenOffice test finished in an average of 2 minutes and 31.75 seconds, for an impact of 6.4 percent. That's on the lower end, below Norton Security Deluxe's 11.2 percent (the highest we found) and just shy of Kaspersky's 6.2 percent (the lowest we found). All of these performance-impact scores are much less than what you'd see on Windows.

Bitdefender's full scans completed in an average of 1 minute and 24.6 seconds, by far the shortest time among the products we evaluated. The next shortest full-scan time was 5:04 (Norton) and the longest was 72:45 (Kaspersky). The average for all eight products was 36:30.

Interface

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac's sleek, modern interface still owns the title of most attractive option among Mac antivirus products. Its main screen presents your system's status ("Your Mac is safe," hopefully) in a clear, large font, and big scan buttons (quick, system and custom) sit underneath that. Unlike competitors such as Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac, which require two or more steps to start a scan, Bitdefender requires only a single click for each scan.

The main Bitdefender window also tells you which web browsers its Web Protection extension is installed on, along with a link if any don't have it. (Chrome, Firefox and Safari are supported.) A switch to disable its autopilot scanning, in case you need to, sits in the right.

To use Bitdefender's new anti-ransomware tool, click Command +  to open the preferences menu. Under Safe Files, you'll find the option to protect files, folders and disks from being accessed by unwanted applications. Click the Manage Applications button to grant permissions to programs (such as Safari or iTunes) that will need to access your important files.

The preferences window also houses the directory of quarantined files and settings for excluding directories from scanning. You can also learn about your account status and scan history from this screen.

Bitdefender's full scans completed in an average of 1 minute and 24.6 seconds, by far the shortest time among the products we evaluated.

Further settings can be accessed by clicking on the "Go to your account" link in the bottom right corner. There, you'll be able to check the status of your license, as well as adjust parental-control preferences. While specific websites can be blocked, Bitdefender Central also offers category blocking to keep kids away from web content related to gambling, drugs and the big bad Mature Content.

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. All steps included, it took approximately 8 minutes, about average among the eight products we reviewed.

To get technical support, navigate to https://www.bitdefender.com/consumer/support/, scroll down to Contact Bitdefender Support and click the email, phone call, live chat or forum options. Bitdefender provides free technical support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for paying customers in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Bottom Line

Bitdefender's malware detection is perfect, and we really like the clean and sleek interface. We also appreciate the new ransomware protection and built-in parental controls. However, it’s not quite our top pick.

Bitdefender’s small but measurable impact on system performance in passive mode -- which is how you'll use it for the most part -- trails Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac, which created zero slowdown when no scans were running. For that reason, we give the edge to Kaspersky.

However, Bitdefender's slick design, one-click scanning and strong performance make it a very strong contender.