Bitdefender Total Security 2020 review

Is this the ultimate security suite?

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

Our Verdict

This security suite is accurate, reliable, and stuffed with valuable features. Give it a try.

For

  • Accurate malware blocking
  • Intelligent firewall
  • Reliable spam filter
  • Effective multi-layered anti-ransomware

Against

  • Some bonus tools are a little basic
  • Minor ransomware clean-up issues
  • Few significant additions in the 2020 update

Bitdefender Total Security 2019 is a top-of-the-range security suite which includes just about everything you need to protect Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices.

Installing the Windows build, for instance, gets you antivirus, a firewall, spam filter, malicious website blocking, online banking protection, parental controls, a limited VPN, a password manager, file encryption, secure file deletion, PC clean-up and optimization, and more.

The versions for other platforms aren't as powerful, but still deliver all the functionality you might expect. For example, the Android app filters dangerous websites, locks apps, includes privacy tools and anti-theft features, and usage can be monitored and secured remotely via Bitdefender's parental controls.

Total Security 2020 also comes with the Hotspot Shield-powered 'Bitdefender VPN'. The free edition doesn't allow you to choose your location and only gives you 200MB of data per device per day (around 6GB a month), making it suitable only for email and very light browsing. For comparison, Windscribe's excellent free VPN plan gives you 10GB of data a month, so no annoying daily limits, and gives you more than 10 locations to choose from.

Upgrading is good value, though, with the unlimited Premium VPN costing from $39.99 ($3.33 a month) to cover up to five devices. Buying a one-year license direct from Hotspot Shield is currently much more expensive, at $71.88 ($5.99 a month).

New features in Total Security 2020 include a Windows and Mac Anti-tracker browsing extension to detect and block a wide range of web trackers, maintaining your privacy and possibly improving page load times. (Skeptical? No problem, the extension clearly shows you the trackers blocked, their type and load times, making it much easier to see what it's doing).

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Total Security's Windows build now has a Microphone Monitor, displaying alerts whenever apps access your microphone (you can't block access to the mic, though – this is strictly for information only).

Bitdefender 2020 iOS now has a capable web shield which detects and blocks access to phishing, malware and other dangerous sites. Unlike some competitors, this protects all network activities, not just browsing. Whether you're clicking a dangerous link in a document, or an app is accessing a URL which it really shouldn't, Bitdefender 2020 is working to keep you safe.

Elsewhere, there are tweaks and enhancements to the suite's behavior monitoring, parental controls, Safepay banking protection, Wi-Fi security advisor, and more.

Bitdefender Total Security 2020 is available with a one-year, five device license for $44.99 in year one, $89.99 on renewal.

Adding further devices and years improves the value factor even further, so for example a three-year, 10 device license costs $160.99 for the first term, $229 or $7.67 per device-year, on renewal.

This looks like reasonable pricing to us, and is in the area we would expect for this level of power. Kaspersky's Total Security product is a very similar $49.99 for a one-year, five-device license, for instance, and $167.98 for the three-year, 10 device option.

If you're feeling tempted, there's an easy way to find out more: just install the Bitdefender Total Security 2020 30-day no-strings free trial build.

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Setup

Bitdefender asks you to sign up for a free account before you can download the trial of Total Security 2020. This only requires handing over your email address, though, and the account does provide some additional benefits, in the ability to view your device security status from Bitdefender's web console.

We created an account in moments, downloaded Total Security and kicked off the installation process. Our review system already had Avast Antivirus installed as an extra test, but Total Security spotted this and demanded we uninstall it. There's no flexibility here, no 'compatibility mode' or anything else that might allow you to run two packages side-by-side. But that's definitely the safest approach, and for most people it won't be a problem.

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Avast safely removed, Total Security carried on with its installation, completing all tasks smoothly and with no further hassles.

Launching the suite for the first time fires up a simple tour highlighting key areas of the interface and explaining what they do. Experienced users will probably figure this out on their own, but it's good to have this guidance available for those who need it.

Total Security's nicely designed dashboard gives you speedy access to the functions you'll need most often, with Quick Scans and the VPN just one click away.

A left-hand sidebar organizes Total Security's other tools into Protection, Privacy and Utilities areas, and tapping any of these lists the various functions they contain. Most of these are sensibly named, and if you've ever used another antivirus you'll quickly find your way around, but tooltips are on hand if you need a hint.

If the standard dashboard layout doesn't quite suit your needs, you can customize it to remove default features or add new ones. Not interested in the VPN, maybe? In a click or two you could replace it with links to the full system scan, the password manager, disk clean-up module or a host of other tools.

Overall, Total Security offers a polished and professional interface which delivers in just about every area. It's easy and comfortable to use for beginners, but also offers the configurability and control that experts need.

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Antivirus

Bitdefender Total Security 2020 supports several scan modes. Quick Scan checks the most commonly infected areas, and System Scan examines everything. Furthermore, File Explorer integration enables scanning objects from Explorer's right-click menu, and there's a bootable rescue environment to assist in cleaning the most stubborn threats.

A Manage Scans tool enables creating new scan types to check specific files and folders, as well as configuring how the scan works, and setting it up to run on a schedule, or on-demand only. This works well enough, although it doesn't begin to provide the expert-level options that we've seen from providers like Avast and Avira.

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Scanning speeds are decent, with Quick Scans taking around 15-30 seconds on our test computer. Regular scans started a little slowly at 23 minutes to check 50GB of files, but by the third run this had dropped to only 1 minute 20 seconds.

The scanning engine is smart enough to handle simultaneous scans without difficulty. If you're running a lengthy full system scan, for instance, you can still run an on-demand scan of a recent download, or anything else you like. A window pops up to display the results of your second scan, while the first scan continues to run in the background.

It's not all smooth running, though, and we noticed occasional glitches, for example with the handling of password-protected items.

If you don't want the scan engine to prompt you for every password-protected file, for instance, you could try the 'skip' option in the Scan window – but it only works for the current scan, so you'll be prompted again next time.

We went looking for a global setting which defined what to do with password-protected files, but came up empty.

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Surely we could manually exclude specific files from future scans? Well, yes, but Bitdefender doesn't help there, either, as the scan log doesn't list the names of the password-protected files you've ignored. You would have to manually note and exclude them as the scan proceeded.

While this isn't a big deal in itself, it's a reminder that although Bitdefender Total Security 2020 covers the scanning basics very well, it doesn't have the low-level configurability of some of the competition.

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

More features

Total Security's capable web protection module monitors your internet access and blocks malicious and phishing links. AV-Comparatives' 2019 Anti-Phishing Certification Test showed Bitdefender blocking 98% of dangerous links, putting it top in a field of six. This is a difficult feature to test, and so we wouldn't take that first place as a guarantee, but it does show the company is doing a decent job of keeping you safe.

When you reach a legitimate site, the new Anti-Tracker feature should detect and block the most intrusive web trackers. Its Chrome extension wasn't enabled by default on our test system, but we successfully enabled it in a couple of clicks from Total Security's Settings.

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Pointing our browser at the newspaper site dailymail.co.uk, the extension reported a chunky 25 trackers in three categories: Advertising (20), Site Analytics (4) and Social Media (1). You can browse these, allow blockers in some categories if you like, or whitelist particular sites, but we suspect most users will just leave the extension to do its work.

Total Security comes with a simple spam filter, which in theory should have automatically added a tab to our Outlook setup. This didn't happen for us, and digging deeper, we found an Outlook alert reporting that 'Bitdefender Antispam... caused Outlook to crash. As a result, it was disabled.'

Enabling it manually, we found the filter has only a bare minimum of features, little more than Outlook's own junk filter (blacklists and whitelists, Is Spam and Not Spam options to mark misidentified emails, simple blocking of messages with Asian or Cyrillic characters).

This lack of control doesn't seem to affect functionality, though, with our brief tests suggesting the filter blocks more than 90% of junk mails, while falsely flagging less than 1% of legitimate emails as spam. This was only a very quick check, but it suggests that Bitdefender's filter matches the best of the specialist antispam competition.

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender's firewall works exactly as you would hope, intelligently deciding which apps are safe to allow online, and which really, really aren't. Most people can leave the firewall to do its work, never seeing any prompts, or having to tweak a single setting.

But if you're more experienced in the ways of networks, you can take plenty of low-level control, drilling down to the rule level and tweaking settings for protocols, ports, IP addresses and more.

Wallet is Bitdefender's password manager. Along with regular website logins, it's able to store credit card details, wireless network passwords, application logins and license keys, email server credentials and details, and assorted personal information (name, date of birth, address, email, phone number(s), and more). Wallet is able to create multiple password databases and sync them across all your Bitdefender-equipped devices.

Total Security automatically installed the Wallet extension on Internet Explorer, gave us the option to install it on Firefox and Chrome, and paid no attention at all to our Opera setup.

We found Wallet wasn't as easy to use as top competitors like Dashlane (it didn't add icons to text fields, didn't always capture username and password fields as we entered them, sometimes failed to fill in forms correctly, and couldn't automatically submit forms), but it just about handled the basics, and is a worthwhile addition to the package.

Safepay is a secure and isolated browser which protects online banking and other transactions from snoopers – or maybe even malware which has somehow installed itself on your system. This is a highlight of the suite and worked exactly as advertised for us, preventing screen grabbers and keyloggers from capturing what we were doing, and once it was closed, not leaving any trace of our activities.

A Vulnerability Scan checks your system for application updates and critical Windows patches, as well as weak Windows account passwords and simple Wi-Fi network issues. This is a basic tool and couldn't pick anything up on our system beyond a minor Firefox update and a 'weak Wi-Fi security password', but it may be worth running occasionally.

The Vulnerability section also includes a Wi-Fi Security Advisor, which listed our wireless networks, told us more about them (encryption type, authentication type, password strength) and gave a security verdict on each (secure, or unsafe).

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

A Webcam Protection module gives you control over which applications can access your webcam. This has more options than usual, with settings to block access to all but your chosen applications, block browsers only, or disable the webcam for everything. We tested this with our custom command line capture tool, and Total Security correctly notified us that it was trying to access the webcam, and blocked it when requested.

The new Microphone Monitor takes a more basic approach, raising alerts for apps which access the microphone, but not allowing you to block them, or set up rules to block all future microphone access.

Bitdefender's Parental Controls feature does a reasonable job of monitoring and controlling your child's digital activities. You're able to block websites by content, restrict application use, block device usage for specified periods (like bedtime) or set a daily limit of screen time which includes both mobile and desktop devices. Android apps enable monitoring who your child contacts by calls and messages, and you can optionally block calls without caller ID.

Overall, the parental controls are capable enough, and a step above the usual security suite offering. Bitdefender has saved its most significant features for its Bitdefender Parental Control Premium, including the intelligent detection of cyber-bullying, aggressiveness and grooming, as well as requests for addresses, phone numbers and other information.

If you're interested, it's now possible to upgrade to Parental Control Premium from within Total Security 2020 for $49.99. Alternatively, buy both at the same time and you'll save $5.

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Elsewhere, a Utilities section includes a familiar set of PC maintenance tools, including modules to highlight large files, remove disk-hogging junk and optimize the boot process.

Total Security's clean-up options are basic, with CCleaner finding 50% more junk files on our test PC. It's a similar story with the Startup Optimizer, where Bitdefender gives you options to enable, disable or delay when individual apps boot, but CCleaner also offers expert-level control over services, scheduled tasks and more.

Total Security's Settings box is similarly short on power, with only a fraction of the low-level options and settings you'll get with some of the competition.

The highlight is probably Bitdefender's Profile system, which enables customizing Total Security's behavior to match what you're doing, perhaps limiting background activity when you're running on battery power, or boosting protection settings when you connect to an unsafe public Wi-Fi network. That works well out of the box, but you can also customize each profile. The power-saving Battery Mode normally kicks in when battery life is lower than 30%, for instance, but you could increase this to 50% or more to further battery longevity.

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Protection

Bitdefender has a great name for protection, with its products regularly topping the charts with most of the big testing labs.

AV-Comparatives' February to May 2019 Real-World Protection report again showed Bitdefender performing very well. The engine blocked 99.9% of threats (that's 751 out of 752, to put it in perspective), placing it fourth out of 16 for overall protection rate, just behind Kaspersky, Avast and F-Secure. The engine raised only two false positives.

AV-Test's Windows 10 tests for April 2019 gave even better detection results, with Bitdefender blocking 100% of test threats.

We completed our review by examining how Total Security would handle a couple of ransomware threats.

The first, a real-world ransomware specimen, was eliminated almost immediately, with Bitdefender Total Security killing the process before it could cause any harm.

The second was a custom ransomware simulator of our own. It's about as simple a malware example as you could get, but it's also something Bitdefender would never have seen before, allowing us to evaluate how Total Security performs when presented with brand new threats.

We ran our test software, and in just a fraction of a second, Bitdefender's engine cut in and displayed an alert. Not only had it detected and killed our test process, but it successfully restored the handful of files our software had managed to encrypt (just five).

There were some odd issues. Our simulator executable was blocked, but not deleted, and when we scanned it later, Total Security told us it was clean. There's also a small clean-up problem, as the encrypted versions of our files were left alongside the restored originals. That's a minor hassle, but not difficult to fix, and on balance we think Total Security 2020 provides capable and effective all-round ransomware protection.

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Final verdict

Bitdefender Total Security 2020 doesn't add much to last year's product, but it's still a powerhouse security suite with multiple layers of protection that should keep you safe from just about anything. Check out the 30-day trial build and see for yourself.