Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition review

Antivirus doesn't get much simpler than this

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Image Credit: Bitdefender

Our Verdict

Bitdefender gives you solid protection and it’s easy-to-use, but there’s absolutely no control over how the app works.

For

  • User-friendly
  • Clean and simple interface
  • Accurate malware detection
  • Reliable URL blocking

Against

  • No options or settings

As the company behind one of the most effective antivirus engines around, you might expect Bitdefender to charge a premium price for all its products. But you'd be wrong: Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition gives you all the core functions you need, completely unrestricted, for no charge at all.

Your Windows, Mac or Android device gets real-time protection to find and block known threats as they appear, while behavior monitoring technologies can identify even brand-new and undiscovered threats.

Web filtering isn't forgotten, or (as with Avira) mostly left to browser extensions. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition monitors your browsing and blocks access to malicious, phishing and fraudulent websites.

Web filtering isn't forgotten, or (as with Avira) mostly left to browser extensions. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition monitors your browsing and blocks access to malicious, phishing and fraudulent websites.

Understanding what you don't get with a free product is also important, and the key omission here is probably support. You can browse Bitdefender's website for help with issues, but otherwise you're on your own.

You're also missing out on extra layers of ransomware protection which enable controlling access to your key documents. This isn't a critical problem – Bitdefender Free should still detect and block ransomware, either by its signature or general behavior, and Windows 10's Controlled Folder Access can step in to help – but it may leave you a little more exposed to new threats.

If this is a problem then Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2019 restores tech support, adds the anti-ransomware tools and throws in online banking protection, wireless network scanning, a password manager, file shredder, a limited VPN (200MB per day data allowance and no choice of location) and more. A one-year, one computer license costs $19.99 for year one, $39.99 on renewal.

Setup

Bitdefender Antivirus Free is designed to be as simple as possible to use, and that's clear from the moment the installer launches. Click Install, the package runs a quick scan and sets everything up in under a minute.

There's just one small hassle: Bitdefender asks you to create an account to activate the program. This is easy and free – just hand over your name and email address – but Avast and Avira's free antivirus make it clear that signing up is entirely optional.

Considering it's trimmed down, Bitdefender Free still manages to grab a fair chunk of your system resources, taking more than 1.2GB of hard drive space and adding four new background processes.

The total lack of settings and configuration options ensures the program is very easy to set up, though, and even a total PC and antivirus novice will have it up and running in no time at all.

Features

Scanning your system is easy with Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition (Image Credit: Bitdefender)

Features

Just about every antivirus company around claims their software is simple and straightforward, but Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition pushes this to the extreme with an interface which has barely any options at all.

The main console, for instance, has a button to launch a full system scan, an area to drop a file or folder to be scanned, and a Settings button, and that's it. No Quick scans, no other scan types at all, and no extras of any kind.

Could there be any complexity to the settings, we wondered? Nope. An Events tab acts as a program log. A Quarantine section lists quarantined files. An Exclusions tab allows excluding falsely flagged files or websites from detection. Finally, a Protection tab enables antivirus protection to be temporarily turned off. You'll understand what's on offer in under a minute, and many users may never check the Settings area at all.

Even Bitdefender's system tray icon keeps options to a minimum. Right-click some antivirus icons and you'll get nested menus of handy shortcuts – Bitdefender's menu has a single item: 'Show'.

While this seems feeble at first glance, it's certainly easy to use, and other aspects of the program make a lot of sense.

Below the main console, for instance, is a scrolling window which displays one-line status indicators of whatever's been going on recently. Run a scan, the status line gives you a basic progress indicator; when it's finished, a line tells you how many items were scanned and how many threats were detected; and you'll also get information on events like product updates and recently blocked web threats.

This is useful just as a log, to quickly see when something bad has been blocked, but there's more to it on that. You can also click on any of these items to display a window with more information, for example showing you the progress of the current scan, a simple report when it's finished, details on exactly when a web scan was blocked. This is a neat way of allowing experienced users to get at least some information on the system, without requiring any extra buttons, tabs or other interface complexities.

This really is a very basic interface, then, but it's well thought out, and does the minimalist job it's designed to do.

Website blocking

A suspicious webpage blocked by Bitdefender (Image Credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender's web filtering also worked well in our testing. Visit a malicious URL from any browser, and you're warned of the danger then given an option to continue. It's simple, but enough to keep you safe, and Bitdefender doesn't weigh your browser down with extra add-ons to make this happen.

While we appreciate Bitdefender Free's simplicity, the total lack of configuration options could still be an issue. You can't define custom scan types, schedule scans to run automatically, or change how the detection engine works other than turning it off and on again. Novices may appreciate the lack of on-screen clutter, but more experienced users are likely to be frustrated by the lack of fine-tuning available.

Protection

Scan results (Image Credit: Bitdefender)

Protection

Bitdefender products are generally loved by the independent testing labs, where they almost always appear at or near the top of the rankings.

AV-Comparatives' Real-World Protection Test is a tough benchmark for assessing how top antivirus products will perform in real life. Bitdefender beat 20 other contenders to make first place in the July - November 2018 summary report, with a protection rate of 99.9% and just two false positives. (To put that in perspective, F-Secure and Trend Micro were the only other packages to manage 99.9% protection, but they had 35 and 47 false positives.)

AV-Test's December 2018 Home User test also gave Bitdefender a glowing report, with a 100% protection rate for both test months.

These results need to be interpreted with a little care as they're based on Bitdefender Internet Security rather than Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition. The core protection engine is the same in both packages, though, and overall the free product should do a great job of keeping you safe.

Final verdict

An accurate and reliable 'set and forget' antivirus, perfect for anyone who doesn't want to spend time and effort managing security themselves.