I’ve recommended Bitdefender Free Anti-Virus countless times. It consistently received the highest scores in AV-Comparatives’ Real-World Protection Tests. Better yet, it just sat in the background doing its job: no needless popups, no scare tactics to ‘persuade’ you to upgrade. But last December it was withdrawn so I switched to Bitdefender’s paid Total Security. While I’ve been reasonably happy, it does have some niggles – nags to pay for yet more features, worsening test results and a £28 price tag – so with subscription renewal around the corner, I’m looking at alternatives. Is it time to move on?
The priority for a virus checker must be efficacy. As I don’t have a computer loaded with viruses where I can test that myself, I went back to AV-Comparatives. Three of the five products currently testing at 100% are free so I decided to assess these, focussing on the end-user experience.
Installation went smoothly, but I soon had serious doubts. Avira’s functionality revolves around its Smart scan. This checks for viruses, but for other ‘issues’ too – outdated apps, unnecessary files and out-of-date registry entries – explaining that ‘Invalid system data can make your device crash’. But the one-click ‘fix’ meant the virus checker, not me, would change Windows settings, update my laptop to Windows 11 and clean my registry – an absolute no-no.
While running a registry cleaner is useless at best, it’s dangerous at worst … the registry is home to lots of important values … If you delete, move, or damage these keys, critical system functions could fail to work.MakeUseOf
Tom’s Guide says
AVG AntiVirus Free is beaten in features by its more glamorous sibling Avast Free Antivirus and beaten in malware protection by everything else
so I skipped this and went straight to Avast.
Avast One Essentials
I had some quibbles with Avast’s installation: it can install a new browser and make this your default, going against good practice. Once installed, like Avira, Avast’s Smart scan checks for issues other than viruses. Unlike Avira, you must upgrade to the paid product to fix them. But the free product already gives great protection – Ransomeware, File and Web Protection, a Firewall and a Network Inspector – so I recommend staying with that. There’s also a free thorough Deep Scan that’s hidden in Explore > Scan Centre > Open Scan Centre.
Like ExpertReviews, I found that
it stayed entirely out of the way … only throwing up alerts when a threat was found … it didn’t bug us with unprompted adverts; its security pop-ups do include an “Upgrade your protection” button, but that’s not too offensive.
It quickly captured threats in phishing emails so I was happy with its performance. Above all, I found its focus on reassurance (‘Don’t worry, we’ll help you find and deal with any threats’) rather than scare tactics a nice touch.
Is it time to move on from Bitdefender?
Since starting my research, I’ve found out that Bitdefender have reinstated Bitdefender Free. However, given their less-than-100% test results, I’m going with Avast One.