BullGuard Antivirus review

An easy-to-use and commendably speedy antivirus

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Our Verdict

BullGuard is a likeable and fast antivirus app with a quality spam filter, but it’s worrying to see disappointing detection results from the independent testing labs.

For

  • User-friendly
  • Accurate URL filtering
  • Reliable antispam
  • Speedy scanning

Against

  • Below-par results in independent lab testing
  • Conflicted with another security app

BullGuard is a London-based company which has been developing popular consumer antivirus and security tools since 2002.

BullGuard Antivirus is a simple and straightforward product with real-time virus protection, malicious URL blocking, and, surprisingly, a customisable spam filter. 24/7 customer support is on hand if you run into difficulties.

The price is a mid-range £25 ($31) for a one-year, one computer licence. BullGuard is unusually flexible on licence terms, but the discounts aren't outstanding. A six-month licence is £17 ($21), for instance, and a three-year, one-device licence is £50 ($63): not bad, but not enough to have us rushing to our digital wallets.

If you have multiple devices to protect, you might prefer BullGuard Premium Protection. Not only is it a full-strength internet security suite, it also covers up to 10 PCs, Macs or Android devices for an annual £70 ($88).

You can check out a 15-day trial of BullGuard Antivirus, and there's a 30-day build of BullGuard Premium Protection. You're protected by a further 30-day money-back guarantee, and this doesn't appear to have any sneaky exclusions or conditions. If you're not satisfied, ask within the first 30 days and you'll get your money back.

Setup

Kicking off the BullGuard setup process only takes a moment, thanks to some very small starter files. The installer is under 350KB in size – this downloads the real application, but it's still barely a 21MB file, and the program is up and scanning your system before you know it.

BullGuard needs you to create an account before it starts, which means handing over your email address. This isn't ideal, but it's also very common, and the program doesn't need any other personal information.

We install antivirus products on a test system with other pre-installed security applications, looking for possible conflicts. Usually nothing happens at all, but in this case BullGuard triggered an alert from AppCheck Anti-Ransomware which displayed an alert and blocked the program immediately. 

BullGuard wasn't doing anything even slightly harmful, of course – this was a false alarm, more a problem with AppCheck than anything else. Still, it does highlight some interesting points. BullGuard failed to detect an incompatible program. Also, it’s the only antivirus tool we've ever seen raise an AppCheck alarm. And AppCheck was able to stop BullGuard from working, which suggests a pre-existing malware infection might be able to do the same thing.

We disabled AppCheck, restarted our system and BullGuard carried on as expected, downloading signature updates and completing its installation.

The final setup grabbed more than 1GB of disk space, but that's not unusual, and most of this was taken up by signatures for the bundled Bitdefender engine. 

Checking BullGuard's executables showed almost all were digitally signed, and they were properly protected from malware attack. Attempts to kill BullGuard's processes, delete or rename its files all failed.

Features

BullGuard Antivirus opens with the same interface as BullGuard's internet security products, even displaying buttons for the features you don't have: Firewall, Backup, Vulnerabilities, PC Tune-up and Parental Control. They're just greyed out, with an ‘upgrade now’ button to try and persuade you to move up. This doesn't seem reasonable to us. BullGuard Antivirus isn't freeware, it's a full commercial product, and if someone decides they want to buy a simple antivirus tool they shouldn't have to live with constant ads for something else.

Once you learn to ignore the extra buttons, everything else is quick and easy. You can launch a Quick Scan with a click, choose a Full or Custom Scan from a menu, and the process is very fast. A Quick Scan took 60-75 seconds, comparable to high performance competitors like Webroot. A packed Program Files folder was checked in 1 minute and 44 seconds, two to four times faster than most products.

This speed didn't seem to come at the cost of accuracy, either, at least in our quick tests. BullGuard Antivirus detected every one of our sample threats, however we presented them, without raising any false alarms.

BullGuard's report system is another highlight. You can scroll back through previous scans, check their results, see what was scanned, view basic system and BullGuard information, even see the key settings used at the time. If you think BullGuard should have detected a threat in a ZIP file you checked yesterday, for instance, you can browse the fine detail and see if the ‘Open archives’ setting was enabled for the scan.

BullGuard Antivirus blocks a few more malicious and phishing URLs than most of the competition, and as it works at the network level, there are no intrusive browser extensions to install. Whether we used Chrome, Firefox, IE, Edge or Safari, BullGuard typically detected the threat and redirected the link to safebrowsing.bullguard.com. A message displayed an alert, and there's an option to bypass it and visit the site anyway, if you're sure it's safe.

The surprise extra here is BullGuard's spam filter. This isn't some feeble extension thrown in to make up the numbers: it's a very capable product which automatically integrates with Outlook, Thunderbird, Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail.

We used the filter to protect an Outlook 2016 installation and found it generally did a good job, immediately blocking 86% of junk emails without touching a single legitimate message. Keep in mind that this was just with its default settings. We could improve accuracy further by training the filter and highlighting any spam messages it missed.

Protection

BullGuard proved accurate in our simple tests, but to properly understand its abilities we also check the much more in-depth reports of the major independent testing labs.

AV Comparatives' Real-World Protection Test regularly assesses 21 products to see how they handle the latest malware. The February to June 2017 report sees BullGuard in 15th place with a protection figure of 98.7%. That's not a disaster – it's better than ESET, Adaware and McAfee, very close to Avira and eScan – but it's also far behind leaders like Trend Micro (100% protection), Bitdefender (99.9%) and Kaspersky (99.8%).

AV-Test's April 2017 Windows Home User test reported similar results, with the program achieving below-average protection rates overall.

VirusBulletin's RAP averages quadrant is a simple visualisation of the results from its VB100 tests. Changes to the tests mean it's not been updated for a while, but the August 2016 to February 2017 quadrant generally matches with the other reports, rating BullGuard as low mid-range for its protective abilities.

Final verdict

BullGuard looks good, plus it’s lightweight, and proved speedy during our tests, offering a valuable extra in the accurate spam filter. But although it detected our sample threats without difficulty, BullGuard's below-average lab test results are a concern.