Reliable and lightweight antivirus protection does not have to cost a fortune with a number of AV firms offering free options. But how does Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition compare to the likes of Avast or AVG or even Microsoft’s own Windows Defender? And is paying for a premium security suite worth the cost?
If you run a Windows PC then chances are that you are well aware of the need for antivirus software to keep your computer secure and free from malware. PC manufacturers often bundle a three or six month trial of McAfee or Norton antivirus with new computer purchases, but if you look at the various independent tests then you’ll find that neither competes with the best-in-class. You would generally be better off uninstalling these and then choosing an antivirus solution that best your needs in both function and price.
How safe and reliable is “free” antivirus?
Back in the days of Windows XP, to be assured of good reliable protection then your only choice was paying £30+ per year. However, that is no longer the case. Microsoft offers a basic antivirus solution built into Windows called “Windows Defender” which will protect your PC from most threats, but there are a number of other free options from the likes of Avast, AVG, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and Sophos that all offer slightly different options and levels of protection.
If you want the most complete all-round protection, then the paid options will also include extras like multi-level ransomware protection, battery-saving modes, and VPNs. However, most of the leading free antivirus packages use the same AV protection engines as their paid counterparts, so if AV is all you need then free antivirus can be a good choice.
How does Bitdefender Free Edition compare?
Bitdefender Free Edition uses the same protection engine as its premium counterpart, but it comes without a variety of bells and whistles.
It offers real-time advanced threat protection, behavioural and heuristic protection, as well as web attack, phishing and fraud protection. Updates are regular and automatic, so you are always up-to-date with the latest protection and Bitdefender Photon means that much of the heavy lifting of AV scanning is done in the cloud, so doesn’t impact your computer’s performance. Essentially, if you need a simple real-time antivirus solution then it ticks all the boxes.
Compared to its premium cousins, however, the Free Edition is missing more advanced network threat and ransomware detection. It is also only on-or-off, there are no battery-saving modes or background settings to silence it when running a game or playing a movie. You also miss out on an extra secure browser designed for internet banking security, a secure file shredder, a password manager, a VPN and anti-theft protection.
Bitdefender Free Edition is very much just antivirus – it’s very good antivirus according to every independent test and comparison, but it is not a security suite that covers every situation.
How easy is Bitdefender Free Edition to use?
The upside of a reduced feature set is simplicity. Bitdefender Free Edition is simply on or off – there are few settings to tweak or services to toggle on or off. It just offers always-on strong and reliable antivirus.
What about privacy?
Bitdefender’s free edition does not come with any privacy-related strings attached. It is free because Bitdefender sees it as a useful tool to introduce users to their line of premium products from its security suite to identity protection services if and when they might need more advanced security.
This contrasts with AVG and Avast, both of which have a history of selling your data to make a profit out of their free antivirus products, and Russia-based Kaspersky, which faced its own unique set of issues. If privacy is important to you (and it should be!) then you should be very aware of how your security products may use your data for monetisation.
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is a simple and lightweight free solution for those that want reliable antivirus protection, but do not need a complete security suite with tools like a password manager, VPN, and file shredder. It is a step up from Microsoft’s in-built Windows Defender in terms of AV protection, so if you want enhanced protection without paying a dime then Bitdefender Free Edition is a good choice.