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Bitdefender Total Security review.




Every security suite has antivirus protection at its core, but they differ wildly when they go beyond that simple protection. Some barely add enough features to merit being called a suite, while others boast an incredible bonanza of features. Some only protect PCs, while others extend protection to all popular platforms. Bitdefender Total Security enhances the protection offered by the excellent Bitdefender Internet Security and offers cross-platform security, making it our Editors' Choice winner for feature-rich mega-suites.

How Much Does Bitdefender Total Security Cost?

For $99.99 per year, you can install Bitdefender on five devices. Upping that to $109.99 raises the limit to 10 devices. Bitdefender also offers a 15-license family pack at a list price of $119.99 per year. A five-device license for Norton 360 Deluxe costs the same as Bitdefender’s family pack. That sounds pricey, but to be fair, Norton also includes five no-limits VPN licenses and 50GB of hosted storage for online backups.

Looking at 10-license subscriptions, Bitdefender’s pricing is right in the middle. ESET, F-Secure, and ZoneAlarm all run close to $140 for 10 licenses. But you can get a 10-license subscription to Avast, AVG, or Total Defense for just under $100.

For those who manage a ton of devices, McAfee+ is a good deal, as it costs $149.99 per year for unlimited installations on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and ChromeOS. However, depending on the number of devices in your household, Bitdefender’s 15-license family pack may be just as suitable as McAfee’s unlimited subscription.

Shared Antivirus Features

This suite looks almost exactly like Bitdefender Internet Security, which looks almost exactly like Bitdefender Antivirus Plus. Each app features a left-rail menu with icons for Dashboard, Protection, Privacy, and Utilities. The top of the main window reflects security status and offers recommendations from the AutoPilot component. And six user-configurable button panels offer quick access to your most-used features. Naturally, this top-of-the-heap suite includes everything found in the feature-rich standalone antivirus.

Bitdefender currently holds perfect scores from three of the four independent antivirus testing labs that I follow. It scored a perfect 18 points with AV-Test Institute, for starters. In the three tests I track from AV-Comparatives, Bitdefender earned three scores of Advanced+, the maximum possible rating. It passed the tough banking defense test by MRG-Effitas and earned Level 1 certification in that lab’s 360 assessment, a rare feat. In numerous past reports, it received the top-level AAA certification from SE Labs, though this lab’s latest report didn’t include Bitdefender.My algorithm that pulls together these disparate scores into a single aggregate rating naturally puts Bitdefender at a perfect 10 of 10 possible points. McAfee and Kaspersky also earned a perfect 10, based on scores from three labs. Norton, Avast One, and Microsoft appear in the latest reports from all four labs, with aggregate scores of 9.7, 9.6, and 9.0, respectively.

Shared Suite Features

When you upgrade from Antivirus Plus to Bitdefender Internet Security, all the new features turn up on the Protection and Privacy pages. Specifically, Firewall and Antispam appear on the Protection page, and the Privacy page gains Parental Control and Video & Audio Protection.

Bitdefender’s firewall stays in the background, blocking outside attacks and monitoring for programs that misuse their network connection. You can force it to display firewall pop-up queries when it detects new processes attempting to use the network, but you should just leave it alone. I torture-tested it, trying to disable protection in ways a malicious program could manage. I couldn’t breach its self-protection in any significant way.

Most people don’t require a local spam filter these days, but for those who have the need, Bitdefender integrates with Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird. Those using some other email client won’t get the same level of interaction, but they can still define rules to kick spam into its own folder. Settings for this component are pleasantly minimal.

It’s possible for a nasty program or website to turn on your PC’s camera and peek at you without turning on the telltale light. The Video & Audio Protection system makes sure this kind of spying doesn’t happen. If an untrusted program tries to activate the webcam or mic, Bitdefender asks what to do. It’s easy enough to enable a new video chat program and just as easy to block a suspicious peeper.

Like spam filtering, parental control is a feature not everyone wants or needs. Bitdefender’s parental control system offers all the expected features. It blocks access to websites in inappropriate categories, lets parents schedule screen time and separately apply a daily cap, and locates your kids (by locating their devices). Other features include geofencing, application control, and blocking unwanted contacts. In testing, the content filter’s performance was uneven, even under Windows, where it caved when tested with HTTPS porn sites and a totally off-brand browser.

You might imagine that Bitdefender’s vast collection of features would make it a giant resource hog. Nothing could be further from the truth. I ran some simple hands-on tests to measure the impact of installing the suite. It slowed the boot process by just a couple of seconds and had only a minor impact on two file-based tests.
As always, you can read my full review of the entry-level suite for details about its features.

New Features for Windows

As noted, upgrading from the standalone antivirus to the entry-level suite adds new features to the main window’s Protection and Privacy pages. Taking the next step, to Total Protection, the new features show up on the Utilities page.The Profiles feature lets Bitdefender adjust its behavior to your current computer usage, and the File Shredder deletes sensitive files beyond forensic recovery. These two components carry over from the entry-level suite. New in this top-tier suite, OneClick Optimizer does its best to speed up your system’s performance, and Anti-Theft, as the name suggests, helps you deal with loss or theft of your device.

Optimization for Windows

On Bitdefender’s Utilities page, you'll find a handy tune-up tool called OneClick Optimizer, something not found in Bitdefender Internet Security. Just click Optimize to get things started. On my test system, the scan quickly found hundreds of items in the categories Disk Cleanup, Registry Cleanup, and Privacy Cleanup. As recommended, I clicked to view details in each category.

Disk Cleanup issues can include junk, temporary, and cache files. On my test system, the software found such files occupying almost a third of a gigabyte of disk space. In the Registry Cleanup category, Bitdefender reported useless or erroneous entries of several types, including help files and shared DLLs. Privacy Cleanup refers to browser cache, cookies, and history. Specifically, it reported on Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera—but not Edge. That’s an odd oversight, given Microsoft put the final nail in the Internet Explorer coffin earlier this year.

After reviewing what the scan found, I clicked the big blue Optimize button to remediate all the issues. On completion, the suite offered a detailed report in the form of a lengthy HTML document listing every single file and Registry change. Similar components in some suites let you preview the changes and exempt specific ones, while others let you roll back some or all of the changes afterward. Most users would have no idea what to look for among the hundreds of items, so Bitdefender doesn't bother with either preview or rollback, except insofar as it lets you exempt a whole category, such as Windows Junk Files or Chrome Cookies.

Anti-Theft for Windows

A desktop computer typically sits in your home or a locked office, tethered by various cables and power cords. Theft isn’t the biggest worry in that situation. However, modern laptops are so powerful that many individuals (and companies) skip the desktop altogether. It’s convenient to take your computer wherever you want, but for a thief, it’s convenient to take it, period.

You don't have to do anything special to enable anti-theft on a Windows laptop. To manage this feature, you log into Bitdefender Central and dig into the device you want to protect. Buttons on the Anti-Theft page let you locate, lock, or wipe the device. The option to sound a loud alarm only appears for Android devices.

When the device connects via Wi-Fi, Bitdefender gets its location using Wi-Fi triangulation, which can be quite accurate. However, on an Ethernet connection, it falls back on IP address geolocation with much coarser accuracy. You'll be lucky if it gives you the right city. It located my test virtual machine in a river, about 12 miles away, as the crow flies. Fortunately, a stolen laptop will almost always connect via Wi-Fi.

If the thief stole your laptop while it was logged in to your account and managed to run off without letting it go into sleep mode, you could have a problem. No worries. Bitdefender can send a command to lock your user account remotely. Without your Administrator password, the thief can't touch your data. Be sure to use a strong password to protect your account. Carrying around a laptop computer without password protection is foolish, but if you do, Bitdefender can still help. You get a chance to add a password during the lock process, and this will continue to be your login password.

In testing, the virtual machine responded to the lock command instantly. Selecting the wipe command triggered a warning that all data and apps on the lost computer would be erased. When I confirmed my intention, the test virtual machine immediately rebooted and started the data-wipe process. I had to recover from a saved snapshot to continue testing.

That's it for anti-theft, but this is everything you need for a laptop. Yes, the option to sound an alarm is absent, but you're much more likely to lose an Android phone around the house than a laptop. You can locate and lock a lost or stolen laptop to prevent misuse. If it's hopelessly unrecoverable, you can send a remote command to wipe the device, keeping your data out of unfriendly hands.

Protection for macOS

Installing this cross-platform product on a Mac, you get a full installation of Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac and the free, feature-limited version of the VPN product. The password manager found in Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and the parental control system from Bitdefender’s entry-level suite also support Macs, but they’re not integrated.

The independent antivirus labs that extend their testing to macOS love this product, and it earned an excellent score in our hands-on phishing protection test. It protects your files and your backups against ransomware. The TrafficLight browser extension warns of dangerous links in search results.

Malware Scan and Browser Protection

The malware scan at startup is quick, and you can relaunch it whenever you feel uneasy. Bitdefender also scans new apps as you install them. It doesn't go as far as Android apps from Norton and Trend Micro, which rate apps as you look at them in the Play Store, but it won't let you install anything malicious. In an unusual touch, the malware scanner page offers an extensive list of malware types it detects, including CoinMiner, Banker, and Obfuscated. You can tap any item for an explanation.

Bitdefender also applies its powerful web protection to protect you from malicious and fraudulent sites, just as it does on Windows. By observation, it protects Chrome, Firefox, and Brave automatically. You can extend protection to an unusually broad selection of other browsers, including Dolphin, DuckDuckGo, and Yandex.

Perfect Android Lab Scores

I’m not equipped to test Android antivirus utilities by attacking them with real-world malware. Fortunately, two of the four antivirus labs I follow for Windows antivirus also perform tests on Android-centric protection. Like its Windows counterpart, the Android antivirus received top marks from all three.

Scam Alert and Account Privacy

The Scam Alert feature watches the links in incoming text messages and flags any suspicious ones. It also checks messaging apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and Discord) for signs of shady links. When it detects trouble, it advises you to refrain from clicking the link, delete the message, and (if it’s not someone you recognize) block the sender.

Account Privacy is a mobile-specific feature that checks the email address associated with your Bitdefender account against known breaches and reports any hits. On my test device, it found a handful of breaches dating back a few years. The app advises you to change the account password and mark the warnings as solved. You can add other email accounts to check, but you can’t go snooping other people’s email for breaches. Bitdefender won’t scan until you enter a confirmation code emailed to the selected address.

Anti-Theft Features

From the Bitdefender Central online console, you can locate, lock, or wipe the device, as with Windows. You can also make it play a loud alert, which is handy if you've misplaced your phone.

Within the app itself, additional anti-theft features become evident. You can disable remote-control features here—but don’t do that. There’s an option to snap a photo of someone trying to guess your lock screen PIN. And you can test the “scream” feature, which causes a misplaced device to emit a very loud sound.

Unusually Flexible App Lock

Nobody can access your phone when it's locked with a PIN or, even better, a biometric lock. However, someone who picks it up unlocked while you're not looking could dig into your private email or other data. App Lock lets you put additional security on Mail, Messages, Settings, or any other apps you wish. Just tap to choose the protected apps. Avast, ESET, and Trend Micro also offer a similar App Lock feature for Android.

With most security apps, App Lock is a simple toggle. Bitdefender gives you some unusual choices. By default, every time you open or switch to a locked app, it requires unlocking via PIN or fingerprint. You can set it to keep unlocked apps open until the screen goes off, but that defeats the purpose of this feature. More usefully, you can set it so apps stay unlocked for 30 seconds after exit, making it easy to come right back. Don’t want to mess with all that when you’re at home? You can configure it to stay unlocked when you’re on a Wi-Fi network that you’ve identified as trusted.

VPN Dual Personality

When you tap the More icon, you’ll see a VPN menu item. Unsurprisingly, tapping it opens the integrated VPN. However, you’ll also find a banner suggesting you try the dedicated VPN app. Indeed, the dedicated app is a big improvement over the simple on/off VPN integrated into the mobile security app.

The separate VPN app includes useful features like a Kill Switch to avoid accidentally sending unprotected data if the VPN connection drops and split tunneling to identify apps and websites that connect without going through the VPN. Split tunneling is especially important, given that you’re limited to 200MB of bandwidth per day unless you pay for a separate VPN subscription. Other features include the option to choose your VPN protocol, engage ad and tracker blocking, and automatically connect through the VPN on public Wi-Fi.

Upgrading to the full-power VPN removes the bandwidth cap and lets you choose your VPN server from a list of global choices. You also get access to the double-hop feature, which thoroughly obscures your IP address by running your traffic through two VPN servers. If you do opt to pay for the full-blown VPN service, you’ll want to use the dedicated app, not the built-in.

Bitdefender Central App

You can install the mobile security app from the Bitdefender Central app or vice versa. The latter gives you all the abilities of the online console in a handy phone-sized app. You can monitor your other devices, use anti-theft features, manage parental control, and even trigger remote actions such as launching a malware scan, an update, or an optimization pass. Your Bitdefender notifications have their own orderly page as well.

Buried in the app’s menu is a feature that I didn’t expect—a network scan. However, this isn’t the full scan for devices and security holes you get with the free Bitdefender Home Scanner. It just lists found devices and encourages you to extend protection to all the devices on the network. When last tested, the scanner found only four devices (including the router) on my home network, vastly fewer than the full complement. This time, it found nothing other than the test Android. I don’t see a lot of benefit from this feature.

A Comprehensive Android Suite

While it’s not the security extravaganza that Bitdefender offers on Windows, Bitdefender Total Security on Android is a comprehensive suite of security components. It includes antivirus, anti-theft, web protection, locking of your sensitive apps, account privacy reporting, and more.

Minimal Protection for iOS


Bitdefender's iOS app is a free product and is not technically part of Total Security. When you install protection on an iPhone or iPad, it doesn't use up one of your licenses unless you enable the Web Protection feature. That's understandable because other than Web Protection, the iOS product just doesn't do a lot.

You can install protection on an iOS device by sending an email link from Bitdefender Central or by first installing the Bitdefender Central app. As on Android, installing the Bitdefender Central app is brilliant because it gives you access to the same information and actions you get by logging in to the online console. Also, as on Android, there’s a semi-hidden network scanner in the app’s menus.

The Power of Bitdefender Central

I’ve mentioned several times that Bitdefender Central is the location for extending protection to new devices. As you've seen, it's also the go-to for locating lost devices and activating anti-theft features. But there's more to this console. Just how much more depends on the device.

Select a Windows device in the console, and you’ll see four buttons that let you trigger security actions remotely: Malware Scan, Optimize, Anti-Theft, and Vulnerability Scan. The first lets you remotely launch a quick or full scan, while the second offers remote access to the OneClick Optimizer. I’ve discussed Anti-Theft above. That last button launches a vulnerability scan, though you’ll have to sit down in front of the affected PC to deal with any found issues. Scroll down to see which Bitdefender apps are installed on the device. If any of them are missing, you can trigger installation remotely.

Truly Total Security

Bitdefender Total Security builds on the impressive security protection found in the company's other security products. Among its many security-focused features are an award-winning antivirus, a firewall, a spam filter, and an unusual laptop anti-theft system. It also extends protection to your Android and macOS devices and, to a lesser extent, your iOS devices. With its massive collection of security features, all of them top-notch, Bitdefender Total Security is our Editors' Choice winner for security mega-suites. If your main aim is full protection for many devices on different platforms, also consider Norton 360 Deluxe, our top pick for cross-platform, multi-device security.

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