Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac full review
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac secures second place in our overall round-up of the best Mac antivirus thanks to its excellent clean-up rate, useful features and low price. There's one major caveat, though - adware. Here we bring you our full Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac review.
Before we start, a reminder that Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is sold on a subscription basis. At time of writing, it can be had for £29.99/USD$34.99 for the first year, but the standard cost is £39.99/$59.99 for subsequent years. (There are lower per-year costs if you commit to a two- or three-year subscription.)
This is among the least expensive of the antimalware apps we've reviewed, and is very good value for what you're getting.
Installation of Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac was easy, with a step-by-step guide to authorising the all-important kernel module that enables the always-on malware protection, as well as full disk access.
Once installation was complete the Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac program window declared "You are safe" - yet directly beneath pointed out that we hadn’t yet undertaken a full scan to "make sure it’s threat-free". So, are we really safe?
When we started the full system scan on our real-world test Mac we initially found it on the slower side compared to other antimalware apps we’ve seen, completing in at around two and a half hours (remember that your scans might take less or more time).
When we tried another full system scan later on it whizzed through, taking just five minutes or so. This is clearly because Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac knows which files haven’t changed. These therefore don’t need to be scanned afresh. So, it’s only that inaugural scan following installation that you’re likely to be waiting around.
CPU usage seemed modest during scanning that initial scan, evidently pegged at around 80% of just one of the eight virtual CPU cores in our i7 2.8GHz test setup, with around 10-20% of three other cores used. This left plenty of system resources for other apps.
The next step was to unleash our 26 malware samples on our virtualised Mac testbed, representing most malware from the start of 2018 until the end of the first quarter of 2019.
The result was 100% clear-up. Nice work! A nice feature within Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is that, when we mounted some infected app installers, the app not only spotted the malware but also instantly unmounted the DMG file.
Other security features
Outside of direct malware scanning and detection, Bitdefender includes a Safe Files feature. Turned off by default, this protects your Desktop, Documents, Downloads and Pictures folders so that no unauthorised app can delete or change files there. You can add any additional folder of your choice to the list.
Safe Files is designed to avoid ransomware locking your files. Already on the whitelist are apps like Microsoft Word, or Google Chrome, and indeed all apps from most reputable vendors. However, if any non-whitelisted app tries to write to the folders, you’ll see a pop-up warning you asking if you want to authorise it.
You also get a VPN tool included in the subscription. This is a cutdown version of Bitdefender Premium VPN, which costs £2.55/$3.33 per month. The main limitations are that you can’t choose which country you connect to (that is, UK users will always use a UK end point), and you’re limited to a measly 200MB of data per day, per device. Still, this might be useful for a little light browsing if you’re connecting to untrusted Wi-Fi in a café or hotel.
Curiously, the VPN tool uses macOS’ own VPN tools, so by opening System Preferences and clicking the Network icon, you can connect or disconnect from the VPN without the need to run the Bitdefender VPN app. You might as well because Bitdefender’s VPN app doesn’t offer any other features typically found in VPN apps, such as a kill switch that quits certain apps if the connection is lost.
Honourable mention features
Other notable features worth mentioning are a browser plugin that that indicates which sites are safe, and which aren’t. It also shows which trackers are in use but, weirdly, appears not to actually block them.
We also noted a switch hidden away within the app’s preferences dialog, turned on by default, that lets Bitdefender pop-up notifications about "special offers" from Bitdefender. People use an app like Bitdefender to get rid of adware, yet it comes with its own built-in…? We quizzed Bitdefender about this and were told that the notifications are closely connected with the type of subscription that the user has, and can offer details about discounts near the time of renewal and means you can get a better price than the one advertised on the website. You can, of course, turn off these offers if you don't want to see them.
A neat feature is the Bitdefender Central web interface by which you can see at a glance which devices/computers are protected, and see the results of malware scans or warnings of infected files being cleaned. It's also used to see how many devices are being protected if you have a Bitdefender Box 2. Alas, you can’t initiate scans remotely, but there is a powerful parental control feature which is outside the scope of this review. You can learn more at Bitdefender’s website.