Bitdefender and Avast are two of the most popular antivirus products on the market, which can make it difficult to choose between them. In this article, we’re going to compare their individual product offerings, overall security reliability, and other factors that can help consumers make a more informed decision.
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Being founded in 2001, this Romanian cybersecurity company was long considered the best antivirus product available, hands down. In 2019, however, there are numerous competitors that perform equally to Bitdefender in threat detection, though many still swear by Bitdefender for its reliability, competitive pricing, and low system impact.
Is Bitdefender still the king of the mountain? Well, that’s what we’re here to figure out. Let’s begin by examining Bitdefender’s individual product offerings in detail.
As a free offering, Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition offers great protection, but very few extra features. And of course, that could be perfectly fine for you. If all you need is is antivirus protection, and some additional protection against phishing and malicious websites, it’s a great product. There’s no doubt about that. The downside is that it’s literally almost devoid of extra features, when compared to Avast’s free offering.
The next stage up brings you additional features, on top of Bitdefender’s powerful antivirus. You’ll have access to premium customer support, a secure browser mode, password vault, file shredder, and a battery saving mode. For the online side of things, it offers social network monitoring, and ransomware protection was added in the 2018 version.
It also features a vulnerability scanner, which will scan your Windows system for things like missing critical updates, security holes, outdated software, and recommended security settings. Finally, a rescue disk option allows you to create a bootable disk for eliminating deep threats.
At this tier, Bitdefender gives customers numerous additional features which you may find useful. You’ll get parental controls for keeping your children safe online, a two-way firewall, anti-spam protection for your email, a Safe File switch which will protect your most important files from ransomware attacks, and everybody’s favourite, webcam protection.
Actually, we’ve joked in previous articles that the best webcam protection is a piece of black tape, but the unfortunate truth is that many webcams, especially in laptops, also have built-in microphones. So webcam protection is actually useful, particularly for laptop owners who cannot simply unplug a USB webcam.
This tier contains everything mentioned so far in the previous products, and sweetens the deal with performance optimizations for your computer. You’ll get a OneClick Optimizer which claims to improve system performance, by scanning and deleting unnecessary junk files. Is this particularly useful for a person who already keeps their PC clean? Not really, though you could go ahead and uninstall CCleaner if you’ve been relying on that.
Other additional tools include a Disk Cleanup utility, a Startup Optimizer (for disabling programs at system boot), and anti-theft features. Honestly, most of this is stuff you can already do in Windows, so at this point you’re paying for a convenient GUI. We’ll rant more about system cleanup utilities in the Avast section.
This isn’t actually a product, per se. It allows you to protect an unlimited number of family devices under a Total Security license.
This is the Mac version of the free antivirus for Windows. Just like the Windows version, it offers only the most basic security features, and two Mac utility tools. You’ll get an adware removal tool, and TrafficLight, which is a web filter that will block malicious content on the web.
This a premium product, which offers additional tools and features over the free Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac. Basically, you’ll get top-level malware protection, adware blocking, ransomware protection, and safeguarding for your backups.
For Android users, Bitdefender offers this security app. It has a 14-day trial, after which you must purchase a license. Android viruses aren’t really a thing, per se, so mostly you’re paying for security tools related to online privacy and protecting your personal data. It has a VPN, app locker, anti-theft phone tracking, web browser protection, and a malware scanner.
Now, let’s move onto Avast’s products.
Avast has been operating since 1988, after it was co-founded by two individuals in the computer security industry. Avast was in fact the very first antivirus product available for Windows 95 OS, and as of today, has over 435 active subscribers. The company itself is worth upwards of $2 billion USD.
Avast offers many products for Windows, Mac, and Android operating systems. Their most basic protection comes in Avast Free Antivirus, which as the product name suggests, is entirely free. Users can upgrade to optional tiered subscription plans, with each tier offering additional features.
Let’s take a look at each product available from Avast, and an overview of them.
If Avast beats Bitdefender at anything, it could be the amount of features found in Avast Free Antivirus, compared to Bitdefender’s free product. Avast gives you nearly all of the security features you would expect in an antivirus software, while also giving you numerous useful tools to protect your data. In fact, a handful of the free tools found in Avast Free Antivirus are things that are offered in premium security suites from other companies, so you really can’t beat the generosity here.
The tools you’ll find are a WiFi network scanner, password manager, a Rescue Disk utility, and email client protection. Just to compare, already some of these tools are things you’d find in Bitdefender’s premium products. So on the free side of things, you might be better off with Avast Free Antivirus, simply for all the features it packs, unless you don’t really need all of these features. In that case, you’d be perfectly fine with Bitdefender’s free scanner.
Within Avast Pro Antivirus, which starts at $40 per year for a single-machine license, you’ll find Avast Safezone. It’s pretty much the only upgrade from Avast Free Antivirus, but it’s a good one.
Avast Safezone is an isolated sandbox environment, which means it creates a new desktop, runs any apps you launch in this sandbox, and leaves no traces once it has been closed. While apps are open in the sandbox, they’ll have limited access to computer files. So even if you open a malicious virus in the SafeZone, it won’t be able to make any permanent changes to your system. You’ll also find a Real Site verifier, which will protect your browser from phishing scams and malicious redirects.
Overall, it’s a useful upgrade from Avast Free Antivirus, particularly if you do a lot of online shopping, or opening risky applications.
If you need to license more than one computer, Avast offers package-based discounts. So 3 licenses will cost $55, $85 for 5 licenses, and if you purchase 10 licenses at a time, you’ll only pay $14 per license. Useful for an office environment.
For $59.99 per year, you’ll get all of the features found in previous products, but with the addition of an advanced firewall, anti-spam filter, and additional ransomware protection. Now considering Avast Pro Antivirus is $40 per year, is an extra $20 per year worth these features?
Well yes, that really only works out to an extra $1.66 per month when you do the math. An extra $1.66 per month isn’t bad at all for an advanced firewall and extra ransomware protection.
And now we reach Avast’s top-tier products for Windows.
Avast Premier costs $69.99 per year for a single license (with scaling discount for bulk license purchase, as their other products). In Avast Premier, you’ll find a data shredder, a Webcam Shield (insert obligatory joke about black tape), and automatic software updates.
At the penultimate offering, Avast Ultimate offers everything found in the other products, while giving you a system cleanup utility (efficacy debated, as with all cleanup utilities), a VPN, and a premium password storage vault.
We can’t help but mention that system cleanup utilities are generally just things you can already do in Windows, just wrapped into convenient GUIs. There’s really nothing you can do in a system cleanup utility, whether it’s from Bitdefender or Avast, that you can’t do in Windows (with a few extra clicks). So just be aware you’re paying for convenience. In fact, there’s enough research evidence that you should stay away from registry cleaners altogether.
If you’re already in the habit of keeping your PC clean, the system cleanup utility will likely be useless for you. Another thing worth mentioning is that CCleaner, the popular free computer cleaning software, has been owned by Avast since 2017.
We’re ranting a lot about the system cleanup utility, so let’s pretend it doesn’t exist for a moment. Are the VPN and premium password storage vault found in Avast Ultimate worth the upgrade cost? Maaaaaybe. If you feel like spending the money, sure why not.
There are only two products offered by Avast for macOS users. These are Avast Security, and Security Pro.
As with Windows, Avast Security is a free product which provides a basic level of malware protection, a WiFi scanner for finding vulnerabilities in your network, and web / email shields. Upgrading to Avast Security Pro gives you ransomware protection, and a WiFi intruder alert.
Avast also offers individual tools for Mac users, which can be downloaded separately. These tools are individual versions of the tools you’d find in Avast’s products for Windows, such as Avast Passwords, Cleanup Pro, and SecureLine VPN. Each of these products have an individual price, but you can take them for a trial run.
We’ve mentioned it in nearly all of our comparison articles, and we’ll mention it here again. ‘Antivirus’ apps for Android aren’t really intended to protect you from viruses. Androids don’t get infected with viruses in the same way as computers. Thus, antivirus apps for Android may have a basic malware scanner, but the focus is really on privacy and data security features. And perhaps the “ease of mind” factor for customers. If your phone never gets a virus, that means the product is working, right?
So in Avast’s mobile security app, you’ll find an app locker, call blocker, a VPN, junk file cleaner (actually useful, as opposed to junk file cleaners for Windows), a web shield, Wi-Fi security scanner, a private photo gallery, and if your Android phone is rooted, you can use Avast firewall.
Some additional features revolve around anti-theft measures. For example, if your phone is stolen, Avast mobile security will attempt to capture photo and audio recording of the thief, when they attempt to open your phone. You’ll also get a GPS-based last known device location, and it will automatically register your device as “lost” if the SIM card is changed.
The free version includes all of these tools, and is supported by video ads. If you don’t want video ads, you can upgrade to the Pro version to remove them.
All of the other Avast products for Android are just individual versions of the features found in the main product. So you could download Avast’s VPN, or password vault, if you don’t want the entire suite on your phone.
So now we’ll compare probably the most important part of antivirus products – how good they are at actually stopping viruses.
To make a long story short (though we’ll give you the long story in just a bit), both products are nearly tied, though Bitdefender just slightly edges out Avast in this category.
You see, as like most modern antivirus software, both Bitdefender and Avast utilize signature-match detection, and Heuristic analysis, to catch threats. Signature-match detection is basically checking a file against the huge libraries of known malware definitions (always update your malware libraries), while Heuristic analysis checks the behaviour of a file after it launches. So even if the file passes the “known malware” test, if it tries to do something fishy to your system files, the antivirus software will stop it, and evaluate if its a new, previously unknown threat.
So to see the efficacy of antivirus scanners, people generally turn to independent testing labs, who rate antivirus products based on how many threats the products are able to detect in controlled environments.
We’ll look at results from two such independent labs, AV-Test and AV-Comparatives.
In the AV-Test, conducted on Windows 10 platform, both products were tested against 185 zero-day (unknown) malware samples, and 10,684 samples of known malware.
Bitdefender scored a perfect 100% detection rate, for both sample types. AV-Test awarded them a perfect 6/6 stars.
Avast performed slightly lower with an average 99% detection rate of both sample types.
With AV-Comparatives, the products were tested against real malware threats. Bitdefender scored a 99.9% detection rate, while Avast scored 99.6%. Bitdefender gave 3 false positives, while Avast gave 11.
In another AV-Comparatives test, this time judging how the products were able to protect the system against malware before, after, or during execution, Bitdefender scores a 99.95%, and Avast scored a 99.99% protection rates. Avast threw up 9 false flags, while Bitdefender gave 5.
So basically, as far as threat detection goes, they are both quite literally tied. Avast may give more false positives from time to time (perhaps due to tighter security restrictions), but generally, both products detect threats at an equal rate.
Since both products score the same in threat detection, let’s see which product can impact your computer performance more. Antivirus programs run in the background, generally using a low amount of system resources, but they can use a lot of CPU cycles during actual virus scans.
So once again we’ll turn to AV-Test and AV-Comparatives for independent testing results.
AV-Test looks at how the computer operates during routine tasks, such as surfing the web and copying files, while the antivirus product is running.
From the above charts, you can see that each product can perform better than the other, depending on the task. For example, Bitdefender slowed down web surfing more than Avast, but much better in copying of local files.
In either case, we’re really talking about a few hundred milliseconds to a couple seconds worth of “performance impact”, so this is really negligible stuff. Both products aren’t going to significantly impact a high-end computer in any meaningful way.
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