A powerhouse security suite with premium features for all your devices

TechRadar Verdict

A strong all-round security suite, especially powerful on Windows, but with capable protection for Mac, Android and iOS, too. The extensive feature set and great value make it our pick of the Bitdefender range.

Pros

  • +

    Accurate and reliable antivirus

  • +

    Effective anti-phishing

  • +

    Lengthy feature list includes firewall, parental controls, VPN

  • +

    Protects Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices

Cons

  • Parental controls don’t work well on some platforms

  • VPN limited to 200MB/ day

  • Windows-only password manager

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Investing in a quality antivirus (opens in new tab) does a lot to keep you safe online, but it can’t protect you from all the threats out there. Bitdefender Total Security is a comprehensive security suite which takes the company’s reliable antivirus engine, adds an array of essential extras, and extends its protection to cover Mac, Android and iOS devices, as well as Windows.

There’s a huge amount to explore. Web filtering blocks phishing and malicious websites, for instance. A firewall keeps network attacks at bay. There’s a spam filter, password manager, secure browser, anti-theft, a file shredder, a limited (200MB a day) VPN, full-featured parental controls, and more.

Bitdefender Total Security is decent value, too, at $34.99 in year one ($94.99 on renewal) to cover up to five devices. But if the restricted VPN is a problem for you, there are some other suites worth considering. 

Norton 360 Standard offers excellent security, includes a full VPN and covers up to 3 PCs, Macs, tablets or phones for $39.99 in the first year, $89.99 on renewal. And Avast One Individual is a quality suite with an unlimited VPN, and covers up to 5 devices for $39.96 in the first year, then $99.99.

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(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender Total Security: Getting started

Hand over your cash, create a Bitdefender account and you’re directed to Bitdefender Central, the company’s web dashboard. This is where you can view your subscriptions, download the apps you need, and monitor all your devices once they’re properly set up. It’s all very straightforward, and we had Total Security up and running within minutes.

The app interface is straightforward, clearly presenting its various features using large icons, with text captions, and simple descriptions to help you understand what to expect from each function. Even security newcomers should quickly find whatever they need.

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(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender Total Security: Antivirus

Bitdefender Total Security’s Windows app is absolutely stuffed with antivirus and other features, but as they’re identical to Bitdefender Security – and there’s much, much more to talk about – we’ll only summarize them here. Read our Bitdefender Internet Security review (opens in new tab) for a more detailed look.

Bitdefender’s antivirus protection begins with automatic scanning of downloads and apps for malware (opens in new tab). If that’s not enough, you’re also able to configure and schedule scans, or check files, folders or drives on demand. 

Scans can be slow, at least initially. But Bitdefender only checks new and changed files, which ensures they become much faster from the second run.

Bitdefender products are regularly assessed by all the big independent antivirus testing labs. Some recent results show Bitdefender’s rankings dropping just a little, but it’s a mixed picture, and the company still performs well above average overall.

Bitdefender ranks equal 6th out of 17 in AV-Comparatives’ Real-World Protection test, but the positions are based on tiny differences. It actually blocked 624 out of 626 test threats, a pretty decent result, but this time Avast and G Data happened to block 626, earning them first place.

Other results have better news, with AV-Test’s Windows Home User, SE Labs Home User Endpoint Security, and MRG Effitas last 360° Assessment report all detailing 100% protection in at least one of their antivirus tests.

There’s one notable exception, with AV-Comparatives and PassMark finding that Bitdefender had more impact on system speed than average. We didn’t see this on our test PC, but it could be an issue if you’ll be running the app on underpowered hardware.

To make sense of all these results, we created a system which combined them into a single overall score between zero and ten. Bitdefender achieved 9.94 in our own rankings, a decent 6th place out of 15. That’s fractionally behind G Data (9.98), Kaspersky (9.98), McAfee (9.96), Norton (9.96) and Avast (9.95), though ahead of names like Avira (9.93), ESET (9.90) and Trend Micro (9.68).

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(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender Total Security: Limited VPN

All Bitdefender security tools from Antivirus Plus up include the company’s VPN (opens in new tab), and the website is keen to spell out the advantages: ‘With Bitdefender VPN, you can stop worrying about privacy on the web. It protects your online presence by encrypting all Internet traffic.’

This is sort-of true, but there’s a very big catch: you only get the limited version of the VPN, which doesn’t allow you to choose a location (it automatically connects to the faster server only), and protects only 200MB of traffic a day. 

We turned on the VPN and browsed eBay, Amazon and a few news sites to get a feel for how long this might last. The results will vary hugely depending on the sites you visit and how you use them, but our meter ran out after around 30 minutes. This could still be enough to cover the bare essentials, maybe checking your email or accessing work resources a few times a day over public Wi-Fi, but not much else.

Still, if you can live within the tight data limits, Bitdefender VPN isn’t a bad service. It’s easy to use, with a decent set of features on Windows (ad and tracker blocking, split tunneling, more). 

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(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender Total Security: Web protection

Bitdefender’s Web Protection blocks access to phishing and other malicious sites, reducing the chance that you’ll be caught out by dangerous links in your inbox or social feeds.

It’s a very effective system. We put together a list of 1,033 brand-new phishing links, and Web Protection blocked 88% of them. Avast also has quality anti-phishing, but it couldn’t quite match Bitdefender, only blocking 83%.

AV-Comparatives’ 2022 Anti-Phishing tests found broadly similar results: Bitdefender came equal first with Avira, each blocking 96% of threats, while Avast followed just a little behind with 93%.

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(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender Total Security: Safepay

Bitdefender Safepay is a secure browser which aims to protect your online banking, shopping and other activities from snoopers. We’re not just talking about external attacks: it also tries to prevent malicious apps running on your own system from monitoring your web usage.

Safepay doesn’t support third-party extensions as they’d be a security risk, but it integrates with Bitdefender’s password manager, handy for avoiding the need to remember your banking and e-store credentials. A built-in pop-up blocker keeps some browsing dangers at bay. There’s also a simple virtual keyboard where you can enter text using your mouse rather than typing, helping to protect you from even hardware keyloggers.

Our tests showed Safepay works very well. Screen capture tools couldn’t ‘see’ Safepay’s screen. Our custom keylogger wasn’t able to record Safekey keypresses via the device or virtual keyboard. It even prevents leaks via the clipboard: whatever you paste into the clipboard from Safepay, it can’t be viewed from any other process.

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(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender Total Security: Password Manager

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Internet Security and Total Security all include Wallets, the same password manager (opens in new tab) they’ve had for years. This has a fair number of features, including capture and autofill for logins, credit card details, identity information and more, but it can’t match the best of the competition. It’s only available as a browser extension, for instance, and you can’t use it to sync your passwords with Macs or mobile devices.

The new Bitdefender Password Manager is more powerful, with stand-alone Android and iOS apps along with browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge. But unfortunately, it’s not included in Bitdefender Total Security. After an initial three months free, it costs $1.67 a month in year one, $2.50 on renewal.

Your other option is to upgrade to Bitdefender Premium Security. This includes everything you get in Total Security, and adds the password manager, the unlimited VPN, parental controls and more. It also protects any mix of up to 10 Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices.

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(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender Total Security: Firewall

Bitdefender’s intelligent firewall (opens in new tab) automatically protects you from port scans and incoming network attacks, and makes smart decisions about which apps are safe to allow online, and which really, really aren’t. 

To test its app assessments, we dug out three obscure Windows tools which most likely hadn’t been used anywhere else in more than ten years, and allowed them to try to connect to the internet. Windows 10 alone allowed all three to get online; Bitdefender blocked two by default, not perfect but closer to what we hoped to see. 

Experts will also appreciate the way the firewall allows them to take full low-level control over the system. In just a few clicks they can create custom firewall rules with their preferred settings for protocols, ports, IP addresses and more.

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(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender Total Security: Webcam and microphone hijacking

A Webcam Protection module gives you control over which applications can access your webcam. A host of useful options include options to block access to all but your chosen applications, block browsers only, or disable the webcam for everything. We tested this with a 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 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. 

This clearly isn’t as useful as it could be, but it’s vastly better than most competitors, who typically have no microphone-related features at all.

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(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender Total Security: Spam filter

Bitdefender Total Security includes a simple spam filter to keep your inbox junk-free.

It’s a very basic system which only works with the stand-alone Outlook (opens in new tab) and Thunderbird (opens in new tab) clients (there’s no support for web-based email services such as Gmail or Outlook.com.) And even then, it only supports POP3 connections: if you’ve set up an Outlook account to use IMAP, say, you’ll be out of luck.

We checked how the filter protected a single email account over 24 hours. The account received 43 emails, seven of which were spam; Bitdefender detected and blocked all seven, but incorrectly flagged four of our legitimate emails (all mailing list content) as spam.

Overall, as spam filters go, this isn’t bad, and if you’ve an old POP3 account to protect then maybe it’ll help a little. But it won’t do anything at all for most users or email accounts, and it doesn’t add much value to the suite.

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(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender Total Security: Parental Controls

Bitdefender’s Parental Controls offer a handful of simple tools to help you monitor and control your child’s digital activities. You can block web content by category or URL; set daily screen time limits; see the apps they’re using, and block anything unsuitable; check any new phone contacts, or view their location on a map.

(Not all features are available on every platform. In particular, you can’t monitor app use, block website types or set screen time limits on iOS devices: you can see your child’s iPhone location and contacts list only).

Once you’ve installed Bitdefender’s parental controls app on the child’s device, you can view the device status and configure its various features from Bitdefender’s web dashboard, central.bitdefender.com.

Screen time

Screen time controls allow you to define an overall limit for device usage, with multiple time ranges when devices can’t be used at all (bedtime, mealtimes, whenever you like.) This is reasonably flexible, allowing you to set different time limits for every day of the week in ten minute blocks.

These rules are very absolute, though. There’s no in-app option to ask parents for an extra 30 minutes to finish homework, for instance, as we see with some competitors.

We were able to launch Task Manager on our Windows device, too, which gave us some opportunities to close parental control components and escape the time limits. But it’s not easy, and if your child is technical and determined enough to make that happen, you’d face similar issues with most parental controls apps.

App controls

Bitdefender’s app management is a little weak. We weren’t able to view the full list of apps on our test Android device, for instance: Parental Controls can only list apps your child has used recently.

Even that won’t necessarily work. We installed Proton VPN on our test device, played around with other apps, but our parent’s view only ever reported that we’d run Google Play. 

Kaspersky’s Safe Kids allows you to block access to apps by category (violence, gambling etc), for instance, limit app use by time (‘these games can only be used for an hour before bedtime’), or only allow them to be run with your permission, a far more flexible system than anything Bitdefender can offer.

Location tools

The Bitdefender Central dashboard includes a Locate feature which displays your child’s phone location on a Google map. 

Geofencing support enables defining safe areas (school, family and friend’s homes) and restricted areas where your child really shouldn’t be. This isn’t as flexible as we’d like – the areas can only be a circle, the minimum radius is 100 meters – but you can at least use a ‘Safe Check-in’ feature to get an alert when children enter or leave one of these areas.

At least, that’s the idea. We set up a home and restricted area, then walked from one to the other, and back, using our device along the way, but the parent’s view didn’t display any location alerts at all. 

Web content filtering

Bitdefender’s Parental Controls supports filtering web content by a larger-than-many 43 categories. The default settings for our test eight-year-old’s profile were a little strange, with the app blocking travel and sports sites along with the more obvious porn, drugs and violence, but you can customize these as you like with just a few clicks.

That’s the theory, anyway: as with the app controls, web content filtering didn’t always work for us. Our Windows system was blocked whatever we did (and we tried multiple browsers, even connecting via a VPN), but on Android, Bitdefender’s web dashboard only ever told us ‘no website activity recorded’ for our test device. 

Our test was relatively quick, so it could be that we would have had more success with other devices. But a glance at the app stores suggests there are real problems here. The ratings are absolutely terrible (1.7/5 on the App Store, 2.2/5 on Google Play), and although we’re cautious about taking reviews at face value, many repeat that ‘it doesn’t work.’

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(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender Total Security: OneClick Optimizer

Bitdefender’s OneClick Optimizer is a simple cleanup tool which aims to speed up your device by locating and wiping assorted system junk.

We ran OneClick Optimizer on a test Windows laptop, and it found 1.77GB of leftover temporary files, browser histories and assorted Registry entries.

That beat Windows’ own Disk Clean-up tool, which could only free up 1.2GB of space. But it couldn’t match the best of the competition. The free version of CCleaner, for instance, found 1.92GB of unwanted files.

The tool is still a worthwhile inclusion in the suite, especially for non-technical types. But experienced users will probably be better off using their favorite free cleanup apps.

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(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender Total Security: Anti-theft

Whether you’ve mislaid your phone, lost your laptop, or just had a thief take an unfortunate liking to your hardware, Bitdefender’s anti-theft service offers a variety of tools to help.

Log into Bitdefender Central’s web dashboard and you’re able to view device locations on a map, for instance. If it’s still in the vicinity, send a remote Alert command and your device plays a loud alarm. Or if it’s been ‘borrowed’ by a family member, you can skip the ear-splitting noise and just send a ‘what are you doing, bring it back now!!’ message in a tap or two.

If the device looks like it might be gone forever, you can send remote commands to protect the device with a custom code, or even wipe it entirely (data and apps.)

There’s nothing surprising about any of this, and most platforms already offer simple anti-theft technology for free. Windows’ Find My Device feature can display your device on a map and remotely lock it, for instance. But Bitdefender’s technology goes beyond the basics, and the ability to manage all your devices from one web dashboard is far more convenient.

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(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Bitdefender Total Security: Bonus Windows features

If you’re thinking we’ve discussed plenty of Bitdefender Total Security features so far, you’d be right- but browse the menus and there’s even more to be discovered.

Anti-tracking support aims to reduce your online tracking when using Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Internet Explorer. It’s a decent idea, but the feature isn’t enabled by default, and we suspect many users will never realize it’s available.

A File Shredder securely wipes confidential files to ensure they can’t be undeleted. This works, but it’s missing some useful features from more advanced shredders (choose the shredding algorithm, shred unused disk space.)

Windows security apps have a reputation for slowing down your system, but 

Bitdefender’s Profile system aims to help. This automatically monitors what you’re doing and changes system and Bitdefender settings to deliver better results, for example applying energy-saving tricks when you’re running on battery. It’s hard to measure the effectiveness of these tweaks, but there are some useful options here, and we’re glad to see them included in the suite.

Bitdefender Total Security: Final verdict

Bitdefender Total Security is a comprehensive suite which comes stuffed with protective features and functionality. If you’ve all kinds of devices and platforms to cover, it’s a must-see. 

Mike Williams

Lead security reviewer

Mike is a lead security reviewer at Future, where he stress-tests VPNs, antivirus and more to find out which services are sure to keep you safe, and which are best avoided. Mike began his career as a lead software developer in the engineering world, where his creations were used by big-name companies from Rolls Royce to British Nuclear Fuels and British Aerospace. The early PC viruses caught Mike’s attention, and he developed an interest in analyzing malware, and learning the low-level technical details of how Windows and network security work under the hood.

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