Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition 2016 review

With many companies offering free antivirus, which is the best? Here's our BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition 2016 review to help you decide. (See also: Best internet security software 2015 UK.)

You can download the free version from BitDefender's website. Click the green Free Download button, then click the link at the bottom of the advert which pops up.

The free antivirus offered by BitDefender is a rather different beast from most of the others. Rather than offering a slimmed down version of its commercial product, such as BitDefender Internet Security 2015, the Free Edition operates with a smaller, more discreet interface which pops up from the taskbar when you click the BitDefender icon.

This is a small grey panel with sub-panels for the key features of Virus Shield, AutoScan and My BitDefender. They provide only switches to turn them on or off, no parameters to set or stats to display. My BitDefender is the company’s browser-based dashboard which provides little extra information, other than showing the status of your subscription on the various devices you might have it protecting. The company also makes AV products for Android and Mac.

As far as we can see, there’s no way to instigate a full or quick scan; you have to leave it to the automated protection features of the product to scan what it needs when it needs to. You can start a scan of specific files or folders from the BitDefender option in file menus, but again the progress of such a scan is shown only by the slowly changing border colour for the On Demand Scanner sub-panel which pops up.

The flipside of this lack of control over settings is that it’s very easy just to load up and forget the software and trust that it will do its work and protect your PC. There’s a fair degree of justification for this trust, as it scores remarkably well when tested.

BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition 2016: performance

A scan of our 50GB file basket completed in 1 hour 18 minutes and evaluated 286,373 files, giving it a scan rate of 61 files per second, but a second scan took just 11s and scanned 10,183 files, so after the initial checks, Bitdefender looks very efficient at subsequent scans.

The software also puts only a light load on a PC with our 1GB test file taking only 23 percent longer when a scan was running in the background, than without.

Bitdefender is the second free AV to use the same engine as the equivalent commercial product which has scored 18.0/18.0 in AV-Test’s evaluation. Here, though, there are no drop-offs at all. Under Protection, the software scored 100 percent over each of the two months of testing and in both the widespread and zero-day malware categories.

Under Performance, AV-Test saw no degradation of performance whatever in daily use with Bitdefender Free Edition. Finally, under Usability, there was just one false blockage of an action when using legitimate software and this wasn’t enough to drop the product below its perfect 6.0/6.0 score in this category.

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition 2017: Specs

  • Requires Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8/10 32/64 bit, 1GB memory, 1GB HDD
  • Requires Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8/10 32/64 bit, 1GB memory, 1GB HDD

OUR VERDICT

Bitdefender Free Edition will suit a certain kind of user, one who just wants to install the software and let it do its job, without recourse to setup changes or manually scans. Since it has such a high protection score, it's safe to do this, but if you prefer to have more hands-on control, you may find this approach frustrating.