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Bitdefender Total Security (2023) review: A user-friendly security suite with a good spread of features

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £20
(per year, inc VAT)

It doesn’t quite take the laurel in the latest tests but Bitdefender is a likeable and effective antivirus solution


  • Blocks almost all malware
  • Faster than Windows Defender
  • Attractive introductory pricing


  • Bundled VPN is very limited
  • Test scores are a whisker behind the competition

Bitdefender has frequently been a top contender in our antivirus roundups, successfully seeing off all types of malware attack with minimal disturbance to the user. The price isn’t at all bad either – although it only includes basic VPN services.

If you want full-time, configurable protection for your internet traffic you may prefer a suite that includes unlimited VPN usage as standard. Similarly, Bitdefender’s recent test scores are perfectly creditable but not quite the best in the business.

Even so, you shouldn’t write Bitdefender Total Security off. It remains a capable security suite, with numerous likeable features and qualities.

Bitdefender Total Security review: What do you get for the money?

As the name implies, Total Security is a broad package. It includes on-device malware protection, using both signatures and behavioural analysis; the software can also scan your system for known vulnerabilities and advise you how to close them off. The Ransomware Remediation module keeps an eye on file access and instantly rolls back any suspicious changes.

There’s a good set of online defences, too. Network attacks are automatically blocked and a custom firewall lets you keep tabs on both incoming and outbound connections. As you browse around the web, Bitdefender will actively warn you away from any sites with poor reputations and block any malicious embedded items. Sensitive sites can be set to always open in Bitdefender’s secure Safepay browser and a nice touch is that you can set Safepay to always use the integrated Bitdefender VPN for maximum privacy.

On that note, it’s disappointing to find that the VPN has a data cap of 200MB per day. That’s fine for a spot of private web browsing but competing packages such as Avast One, McAfee Plus and Norton 360 come with unlimited usage included in the price. What’s more, while the Bitdefender VPN has servers in 53 different countries, Total Security doesn’t let you switch between them, so it’s useless for location spoofing. Fully enabling all the VPN features requires a separate subscription costing £30 – or, you can get it as part of the Premium Security bundle, costing £50/yr for ten devices.

On the plus side, Total Security does include a full set of parental controls, which let you monitor and manage which apps and websites your kids are using, on both desktop and mobile devices. If they’re carrying a smartphone then you can track their location in real-time and keep an eye on who they’re contacting. An anti-theft module lets you locate your own laptop and phone, too, should they be lost or stolen. Other bonus features include a simple password manager, a secure file shredder and a system clean-up tool.

If you buy Bitdefender Total Security from the Bitdefender website you’ll pay £30 for a one-year, five-device licence but skip over to Amazon and you can get it for a tenner less. There’s also a cheaper Bitdefender Internet Security package costing £15 for three devices. This has all the same core protections, lacking only the performance optimisation and anti-theft features. The most basic option is Antivirus Plus, which additionally drops the firewall and the parental controls. However, this is only available direct from Bitdefender, who will charge you £20 – so you might as well go for the Total package.

If you’re pondering which package to pick, there are two points to bear in mind. First, as usual, the prices above apply only for the first year. If you let the subscription roll over into a second year, you’ll be billed £40 for Antivirus Plus, £55 for Internet Security and £75 for Total Security; you’re much better off cancelling after twelve months and buying a fresh licence.

You should also note that the Internet Security and Antivirus Plus suites are for Windows only. If you want to protect Macs, iPhones and Android devices, you need the full Total Security package.

Bitdefender Total Security review: Will it keep you safe?

Bitdefender’s antivirus engine delivers strong protection against malware. That’s confirmed by the experts at German security lab, who included the Bitdefender Internet Security suite in their latest roundup of consumer security suites. The software was exposed to more than 11,000 viruses and other threats across the first two months of the year, including more than 360 never-before-seen “zero-day” attacks, and rose to the occasion admirably, achieving a perfect 100% score across all tests: protection results, Jan/Feb 2023 (%)0-day Jan0-day FebWidespread JanWidespread Feb
Avast One100100100100
AVG Internet Security100100100100
Avira Internet Security100100100100
Bitdefender Internet Security100100100100
Eset Internet Security98.998.3100100
F-Secure SAFE99.5100100100
G Data Total Security100100100100
Kaspersky Premium100100100100
Malwarebytes Premium98.997.8100100
McAfee Total Protection100100100100
Microsoft Windows Defender100100100100
Norton 360 Deluxe100100100100
Trend Micro Internet Security100100100100

Bitdefender also performed well in tests performed by Austria-based AV-Comparatives, which featured the Internet Security suite in its March 2023 malware protection test. Here, the software was tested against more than 10,000 different types of malware, and again it delivered a very respectable protection rate:

AV-Comparatives protection results, March 2023 (%)Offline detectionOnline detectionOnline protectionFalse positives
Avast One96.90%99.50%99.97%2
AVG Internet Security96.90%99.50%99.97%2
Avira Internet Security97.00%99.10%99.96%2
Bitdefender Internet Security98.10%98.10%99.94%6
ESET Internet Security97.40%97.40%99.94%0
F-Secure SAFE96.90%98.70%99.96%14
G Data Total Security98.80%98.80%99.95%2
Kaspersky Premium90.00%97.90%99.96%2
McAfee Total Protection89.60%99.70%99.99%9
Microsoft Windows Defender83.10%99.30%99.98%32
Norton 360 Deluxe91.10%99.70%99.99%3
Panda Dome72.20%95.50%99.97%102
Trend Micro Internet Security60.90%91.80%97.19%10

Bitdefender did particularly well in the detection tests, both online and offline, and I certainly can’t complain about an overall protection rate of more than 99.9%. Even so, you’ll notice that ten of the 13 suites in our comparison above did even better, and most of them registered fewer false positives. The margins are very slim, but if you’re undecided which suite to choose, these results aren’t an unequivocal recommendation for Bitdefender.

Bitdefender Total Security review: Will it slow your computer down?

Bitdefender used to be notable for its “autopilot” mode, which silently dealt with any detected threats without disturbing you at all. That’s no longer available. Presumably modern threats require an interactive response. Even so, the latest version of Bitdefender didn’t get in our way at all during testing; it hid in the system tray and scanned and updated itself silently. To keep it as quiet as possible, you can turn off “Recommendation notifications” in the settings to stop it from popping up with security suggestions and you’ll surely want to disable the toggle for “Special offers” too.

The software didn’t slow down our online activity either, despite its active web scanning. It wasn’t quite as speedy as Norton 360 or McAfee Total Protection, but I found that downloading a set of ten executable files with the suite installed took 5 seconds in total, compared to 6 seconds with the default Windows Security scanner enabled. Indeed, Bitdefender provided a speed boost for almost every file type, the sole exception being ZIP files: here, it took 20.2 seconds for our test files to come down the line, while Windows delivered them in 17.7 seconds.

These findings were echoed by AV-Test, who measured an average performance impact of 20% across January and February with Bitdefender installed, versus Windows Defender’s 28%.

It wasn’t all wholly positive, though. Again, AV-Test found McAfee and Norton were even faster than Bitdefender; the German testers also gave Bitdefender a middling score for launching applications, with an average impact of 13% compared to 9% for Windows Defender. AV-Comparatives reported much the same in its October 2022 performance tests, rating Bitdefender as “very fast” for most desktop operations but merely “fast” when launching applications for the first and subsequent times.

Bitdefender Total Security review: Should you buy it?

Bitdefender Total Security provides strong malware protection and slick performance for a fair price. But in the fiercely competitive internet security market, that isn’t necessarily enough to make it a winner. Although it blocked the vast majority of threats in recent tests, rivals blocked even more, and did so with even less of an impact on system resources. What’s more, while I could hardly call Bitdefender expensive, unlocking the VPN more than doubles the price when other security suites come with unlimited access at no extra cost.

This isn’t a criticism of Total Security, as such. On its own terms, Bitdefender Total Security does a great job, and if you like the cut of its jib, there’s no reason not to trust it. If you’re a floating voter however, I recommend you weigh it against the best antivirus suites – there are alternatives out there that are even stronger, faster and cheaper.

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