Top scores from labs. Cross-platform protection. All expected suite features perform well. Ransomware and spyware protection. System speedup and cleanup tools. Many useful bonus features.
Features limited in iOS app. Mediocre score in one of our hands-on tests.
- Bottom Line
If what you want is every possible security component in one integrated package, Bitdefender Total Security is exactly what you need. It's an Editors' Choice for security mega-suite.
How much security do you want for your devices? Some prefer to maintain just the minimum—enough to be safe. For those who'd rather have the whole shebang, Bitdefender Total Security packs more features than you can count. You can use it to protect Windows, Android, and macOS devices, and the 2018 edition adds protection for iOS devices as well. This is one of the most comprehensive security suites around.
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Pricing and Licenses
Your $89.99 per year subscription lets you install this suite on five Windows, macOS, or Android devices; iOS installations don't count against the total. Its per-device cost is actually lower than that of Bitdefender Internet Security, which runs $79.99 per year for three devices. However, Bitdefender Internet Security licenses are strictly for Windows, and Bitdefender's protection on non-Windows devices isn't as thorough. It all works out. You can get ten licenses for $99.99 or an unlimited-license family pack for $119.99. In addition, all of these prices are often steeply discounted.
At $99.99 per year for five licenses and $149.99 for ten, Kaspersky Total Security's list price is quite a bit higher. McAfee LiveSafe goes for $89.99 per year and covers unlimited devices, like the Bitdefender Family Plan. That same $89.99 per year gets you ten cross-platform licenses for Symantec Norton Security Premium, along with 25GB of online storage for your backups.
This product's main window looks exactly like that of Bitdefender's entry-level suite, with a background of dark grays and a menu of icons down the left side. The only immediately visible difference is the window title at the top. Clicking the Tools icon reveals the other major difference. Instead of a page urging you to upgrade, you actually get the promised tools.
Shared Antivirus Features
The antivirus protection in this suite is exactly what you get with Bitdefender Antivirus Plus. I'll summarize here, but for more details you should read my full review of the standalone antivirus.
The independent testing labs absolutely adore Bitdefender, giving it the highest rating in almost every test. Its aggregate lab score of 9.8 points, drawing on results from all five labs, is matched only by Kaspersky Total Security.
Neither Bitdefender nor Kaspersky scored as well in my hands-on malware protection test, but the overwhelming support from the labs outweighs those scores. Its 91 percent protection rate against malware-hosting URLs is better than most, but Norton holds the record in this test, with 98 percent protection. Bitdefender did earn the best score ever in my antiphishing test, exhibiting a detection rate 12 percentage points better than Norton's.
Bitdefender works in two different ways to protect your files from ransomware. First, its Safe Files component protects your documents against any change by unauthorized processes. Second, there's a layer of protection that very specifically watches for ransomware behavior. I managed to see this one in action by turning off all other layers and releasing real-world ransomware.
Considering it's just billed as an antivirus, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus packs an absolute ton of features. Among the other bonuses are a vulnerability scanner, an alternate operating system bootable scanner, and a scan to check your Wi-Fi security. Bitdefender Home Scanner, a separate installation, checks every device on your network for possible vulnerabilities. A basic (but fully functional) password manager helps you get away from using the same weak password everywhere.
The SafePay secure desktop isolates your financial transactions from all interference by other processes. And if you need to get rid of files thoroughly, so nobody can recover them, just put them through the file shredder. Once again, you get all of these features and more in Bitdefender Total Security.
Shared Suite Features
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is a tough act to follow, but Bitdefender Internet Security manages to pack in even more useful, security-related features. To start, it includes a full two-way personal firewall that both blocks attack from outside and prevents your programs from misusing the network or internet connection. By default it handles program control itself. You never see firewall pop-ups unless you deliberately put it in Paranoid Mode (yes, that's what it's called).
A simple spam filter frees your inbox from those annoying spam messages, as long as your email account uses the standard POP3 protocol. It integrates with Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird, but if you use a different email client you can set up a message rule to divert marked spam. Settings are simple; you may never need to touch them.
Your laptop's webcam is awfully handy when you need to have a video meeting, but it can also be misused to spy on you. Bitdefender prevents webcam spying by putting the webcam off-limits to all unauthorized programs. You can still Skype with your in-laws, but nobody can peek at you through the camera. Kaspersky offers a similar feature.
One way to be sure no data-stealing Trojan (or nosy relative) peeks at your private files is by using encryption. With Bitdefender, you store sensitive files in encrypted vaults that act just like disk drives when unlocked, but offer zero access when locked. For top security, use the file shredder on the originals after copying files into a vault.
Parental control software in security suites ranges from mere content filtering to full-scale control and monitoring. Bitdefender's Parental Advisor is at the top end of this scale, with enhanced screen-time scheduling, social media tracking, application control, and more. And there's no limit on the number of children and devices—Windows, macOS, Android, or iOS—that you associate with each child.
Like Bitdefender's standalone antivirus, Bitdefender Internet Security is an Editors' Choice in its field, that field being entry-level security suite. It comes with a massive collection of useful features, all of them effective.
System Speedup and Cleanup
In Bitdefender's entry-level suite and standalone antivirus, clicking the Tools icon in the left-rail menu just gets you a page explaining that access to these tools requires an upgrade. Well, Bitdefender Total Security is the upgrade, so you get full access to the bonus tools.
A quick scan by the suite's OneClick Optimizer tune-up utility identifies junk files on disk, useless or erroneous Registry data, and privacy issues needing attention. You can click for details on the kinds of issues found, but your preview doesn't extend to the hundreds of individual issues. For example, you can see how many software location errors it found in the Registry, and control whether it cleans up that category, but you can't see the individual errors. In truth, even the level of detail that the scan does display may be more than many users will understand.
When you click the Optimize button, Bitdefender quickly goes to work. When finished, it reports just how much disk space it saved. You can view a detailed report, but be warned, it is very detailed, listing every single cleanup event. On my test system, this scan freed up almost 900MB of disk space.
Disk Cleanup might seem redundant, given that OneClick Optimizer wipes out junk files, but it has a different purpose. You can use it to scan any local or removable drives and get a report on which folders take up the most space. A colorful double pie chart shows the breakdown of the selected drive or folder in its inner ring, and the breakdown of the biggest slice of the inner ring in an outer ring. It sounds confusing, but you'll quickly get the hang of it. If you drill down far enough, you'll find that it displays large individual files as well as folders.
So what can you do with this information? If you're fortunate enough to find a folder or file that's both huge and useless, you can drag it onto a target rectangle to delete it permanently, bypassing the Recycle Bin. If you choose to use this feature, be very, very careful that you don't delete something important. My own impression is that the OneClick Optimizer is both safer and more useful.
It's not uncommon for computers to accumulate programs that launch at startup and sit around in the background, using up system resources. That's fine for tools you use all the time, but you've probably got items launching at startup that are unnecessary, or that put an unreasonable drag on the startup process. Quick Heal and Panda Global Protection offer simple startup management, with the ability to reversibly disable items, but Bitdefender goes quite a bit farther.
The startup manager requires a reboot for full functionality, because it times the programs that launch at startup. You can view the results and choose to disable or delay any resource hogs. Bitdefender also displays a chart showing how other users treated each item—if 97 percent of users disabled a particular process, maybe you should too? BullGuard Premium Protection offers a similar feature, with a full timeline of processes that load at startup. The startup manager in Symantec Norton Security Premium reports resource usage and prevalence among other Norton users.
Along with these cleanup and speedup features you'll find a big button labeled Anti-Theft. Clicking it simply opens the My Devices page in the Bitdefender Central online console. From here you can manage anti-theft features for your mobile devices; I'll discuss mobile protection below.
Award-Winning Mac Antivirus
You can use one of your licenses to install Bitdefender protection on a macOS device, but what you get isn't the comprehensive security suite offered on Windows. Rather, you wind up installing Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac. Please see my review of that product for details; I'll summarize here.
The Mac antivirus gets excellent ratings from the two independent labs that extend their testing into the Mac realm. It also earned the best score in my hands-on antiphishing test. And it wiped out 75 percent of the samples I use for testing Windows antivirus. Windows malware detection on a Mac may seem odd, but almost all Mac antivirus products include this feature, on the basis that the Mac might serve as a conduit for infection of other devices on the network.
As with the Windows edition, Autopilot mode means that it won't hassle you with unnecessary queries and notifications. Safe Files on the Mac not only protects your documents from ransomware, it extends that protection to your Time Machine backups. And the TrafficLight browser extension marks up dangerous links in search results.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is an Editors' Choice for macOS antivirus protection, sharing that honor with Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac.
Powerful Android Protection
To add an Android device to your account, you log in to Bitdefender Central and send an email with a link to the app in the Play store. The Android edition has received a few updates since we last reviewed Bitdefender Mobile Security and Antivirus (for Android), but its core security features remain.
Just after installation, the app prompts you to perform several important actions. The first is to run a quick scan for malware. It also advises activating Anti-Theft and App Lock. In addition to the expected remote, lock, and wipe features, the anti-theft component lets you trigger a loud alarm, perhaps to find a device that you've simply misplaced. You can also configure it to snap a photo of anyone who tries and fails to unlock the device, and send the photo to your Bitdefender account.
App Lock applies a PIN of your choice to selected apps, so even someone who found the device unlocked won't have free access to those apps. Bitdefender recommends locking down your browsers and email apps, but you can apply protection to any app on the device. New in this edition, you can set it so that once you unlock an app, it stays unlocked until the device sleeps, or configure it to let you launch an app without the code if you restart it within 30 seconds. You can also set it to unlock when you're connected to a trusted Wi-Fi network. And if your device supports fingerprint recognition, you can choose to unlock it with a fingerprint.
Account Privacy, new with this edition, checks your email accounts against Bitdefender's security breach database. If one of your email accounts shows up in the data dump from a breach, the app advises changing the password for that account. In my case, it did find a potential breach from four years ago. Fortunately, I had already changed that password.
The Web Security component keeps your browser from accessing dangerous or fraudulent websites. It now supports browsers other than the default Chrome, but since I don't have any of those installed on my test device, I didn't see a difference.
Whenever you install an Android app, you get a confirmation window listing all the permissions it requires. Most of us probably click OK without even reading the list, and that's not necessarily good. Bitdefender's Privacy Advisor looks at all your apps and their permissions, and offers advice for improving your privacy.
The Nexus 9 that I use for testing has no apps other than what came preinstalled, plus whatever app I'm testing at the moment. Bitdefender rated its privacy 58 (Medium) and listed its reasons in great detail. Contacts was the biggest so-called risk, with clues like permission to read SMS messages, permission to launch phone calls, and access towait for it—my contacts list. I'd like to see a way to suppress the display of built-in apps and focus on those from third parties. If a flashlight app or color-matching game were to request the same permissions as Contacts, that would certainly be interesting!
Bitdefender's Android app covers all the bases, with malware scanning, anti-theft, privacy analysis, and more. As a standalone Android security app, it's an Editors' Choice.
New Protection for iOS
New with this release, Bitdefender also protects iOS devices. As with many other cross-platform security suites, there's only limited support for iOS. On the plus side, the iOS app doesn't count against your total number of licenses.
Just as with Android, you add an iOS device by sending an email from Bitdefender Central. I found that on Android, clicking the link and installing the app automatically connected it with my Bitdefender account. For the iOS edition, I had to log in and also enter a validation code sent via email. The app offers two specific security components, Anti-Theft and Account Privacy.
Account Privacy works in exactly the same way as it does on Android. Anti-Theft also works in much the same way as on Android. From Bitdefender Central, you can locate, lock, or wipe the device. You can't sound an alert to help find a misplaced device, but the other features are available. When I toodled around town with the iPhone 7 that I used for testing, Bitdefender had no trouble finding it.
This simple iPhone app isn't going to win any awards, but it does help with the serious problem of loss or theft. And, as noted, installing it doesn't use up a license from your subscription.
Features Galore, and More
Bitdefender's product line starts with an award-winning antivirus, elevates to an award-winning security suite, and tops out at Bitdefender Total Security, which has just about every feature you could imagine in a suite. Naturally it covers the basics, things like firewall, antispam, and parental control, but the list goes on. There's a password manager, hardened browser, encryption utility, system tuneup utility, and more. In addition, you can use it to manage security on all your devices Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices. This product is an Editors' Choice for security mega-suite, along with Kaspersky Total Security.
While Bitdefender does offer cross-platform security, it's not our Editors' Choice in the cross-platform multi-device category. That honor is shared by McAfee LiveSafe and Symantec Norton Security Premium. With McAfee you can protect every single device you own. Nortons give you ten licenses, but overall its protection is better, and it comes with 25GB of hosted online backup. As you can see, there are many excellent choices, depending on just what kind of security suite you need.
Note: These sub-ratings contribute to a product's overall star rating, as do other factors, including ease of use in real-world testing, bonus features, and overall integration of features.
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Neil Rubenking served as vice president and president of the San Francisco PC User Group for three years when the IBM PC was brand new. He was present at the formation of the Association of Shareware Professionals, and served on its board of directors. In 1986, PC Magazine brought Neil on board to handle the torrent of Turbo Pascal tips submitted by readers. By 1990, he had become PC Magazine's technical editor, and a coast-to-coast telecommuter. His "User to User" column supplied readers with tips… More »
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