Beating long-standing industry names like Mcafee and Norton, Bitdefender has emerged as the top third-party antivirus software. But how does it stand up against the default Windows Defender? Let’s find out.
This is an especially pertinent question in the age of the improved Windows Defender, where most basic antivirus capabilities like updating virus definitions and a firewall are already covered by it. So is it still worth getting a premium antivirus option like the Bitdefender?
Bitdefender vs Windows Defender
Bitdefender is an excellent antivirus utility with many advanced features and capabilities not possessed by the default Windows Defender. But that does not necessarily mean that Bitdefender is the better option – unless you really need those additional benefits, Windows Defender might be all that you need.
The differences between the two boil down to the fact that Bitdefender offers an entire suite of cybersecurity protections, not just an antivirus program. This includes things like a VPN or a password manager, which you would otherwise have to pay separately.
On the flip side, you may not require these tools, or you may already have your own preferred applications for them. And it’s not like Bitdefender is giving these out for free; most advanced tools and security measures only come with the most expensive subscription plans.
Windows Defender, on the other hand, comes enabled on your Windows computer by default and does a damn good job of protecting it from virus threats. It offers real-time virus scanning, phishing protection, and an integrated firewall, which is really all that you need to protect your computer. For enterprise systems dealing with more targeted threats, Windows Defender offers enterprise plans as well with even comprehensive security.
Bitdefender: The Complete Cybersecurity Package
People tend to fixate on the need for an antivirus, when in fact that is just one of the threats that you face in the digital space. Things like phishing attempts or leaked passwords are bigger issues but are generally not caused by viruses or malware.
Bitdefender addresses this oversight by offering a complete package of security features in one app, aimed to defend your PC from any and all threats in cyberspace.
And this list of features is rather comprehensive. You get parental controls, a file shredder, a VPN, a password manager, and an optimization tool to remove bloatware from your PC and speed up its performance.
That’s not to say the security side of things is lacking either. Apart from the usual antivirus scanner constantly checking your system for threats, you get other advanced security measures to deal with all potential vulnerabilities.
There are dedicated measures against ransomware, fraud, phishing, and other sophisticated attacks. A vulnerability scanner identifies security risks on your system and another component prevents unauthorized access to your PC’s microphone or camera.
Perhaps the most interesting is a browser with built-in Banking and payment protection, giving you a secure environment to carry out online transactions without worrying about keylogging or similar risks. There is social network protection as well, designed to detect dangerous links or scams being distributed through these platforms.
Of course, with all these bells and whistles, Bitdefender is not going to be a free app. And the pricing can be a bit steep.
There are multiple pricing schemes varying by the features offered and the number of devices covered by the plan.
Bitdefender Antivirus Free for Windows
Technically Bitdefender has a free version as well, though it locks down almost all features and only gives you basic virus protection and scanning, which you already have with Windows Defender. Not worth installing.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
This is the most affordable premium plan of Bitdefender and provides the ideal coverage for most home users. You get coverage for three systems and all the core security features (anti-phishing ransomware protection, password manager, secure browser, etc), including a limited VPN with a 200MB daily limit.
Price: $59.99 annually ($29.99 for the first year)
Bitdefender Internet Security
As the name suggests, the next tier of Bitdefender’s premium offering is focused on complete internet security. To this end, you get a two-way firewall, parental controls, microphone and webcam monitoring. Of course, all the features (alongside the 3-device limit) are the same as the Antivirus Plus plan.
Price: $79.99 annually ($34.99 for the first year)
Bitdefender Total Security
So far the plans have all been for Windows. Bitdefender Total Security is the first platform-agnostic plan – you get coverage for 5 devices, including both Windows and macOS PCs, as well as mobile apps for your iOS or Android smartphones. On top of that, you get access to Bitdefender’s system tune-up tools and anti-theft measures, optimizing performance and safeguarding your devices from theft.
The VPN daily limits still stay, however.
Price: $89.99 annually ($39.98 for the first year)
Bitdefender Premium Security
This is the most comprehensive plan offered by Bitdefender, and it includes all the aforementioned security features along with complete access to its VPN without any data limits. It also bumps up the maximum number of devices to 10, which can cover an entire family’s needs.
Of course, this is also the most expensive plan, so unless you need an extra number of licenses or want VPN support, you might want to go for a cheaper plan and get a VPN separately.
Price: $149.99 annually ($74.99 for the first year)
Bitdefender Pros and Cons
- Comprehensive cybersecurity package
- Included additional features like VPN and password manager
- Parental controls and usage limits
- Secure browser for online payments
- It is a paid tool
- The VPN is limited to 200 MB a day with most plans
- Advanced security features are not available on the cheaper plans
Windows Defender: Free Yet Robust Antivirus
After listing the laundry list of features possessed by Bitdefender, we finally come to the unassuming Windows Defender. How well does this free offering rack up to the expensive cybersecurity suite of Bitdefender?
Surprisingly well, actually.
Windows Defender may not come with a VPN or a fancy system autotune utility, but that’s not its job. Its one and only task is to protect your computer from threats, and that’s a function it performs admirably.
From real-time scanning to a SmarScreen filter for spotting and blocking phishing or exploit attempts, Windows Defender is armed with all the tools required to fend off cybersecurity attacks.
Microsoft Defender’s antivirus scanner is comprehensive. Apart from the manual antivirus scan you can trigger at any time (or schedule in advance), a smart scanner also operates actively in the background, verifying running processes and applications for malicious activity.
Better yet, these scanners operate even when you are offline, though of course the virus definitions only update automatically once your PC connects to the internet again. Applications aside, the SmartScreen filter also tracks the websites you visit and the files downloaded to flag suspicious content before it can harm your data.
A powerful firewall is another crucial component of your cybersecurity setup. Windows Defender has you covered in this regard, coming with a fully-featured Firewall that can be customized to your needs.
And while Windows Defender lacks a system auto-tune-up tool, it does monitor the health and performance of your computer and suggests the removal of adware or unwanted apps. It also features exploit protection, including restricted folder access, preventing phishing or ransomware attacks from gaining access to your data.
Windows Defender is a component of your standard Windows installation, and as such it costs you nothing extra to activate. It is essentially a free antivirus, though technically you can say its price is included in your Windows purchase.
As with all Windows products, the pricing varies for enterprise offerings, offering additional features and security at a subscription-based model. But for most home users (and even simple office computers), the default security provided by Windows Defender is enough.
Windows Defender Pros and Cons
- Natively integrated into Windows, giving better performance
- Active smart scanner for detecting phishing attempts or malicious downloads
- Customizable Firewall
- Can work offline as well
- No VPN
- Lacks any password manager or anti-theft measures
Bitdefender vs Windows Defender: Which is Better?
Comparing Bitdefender with Windows Defender is not really a fair comparison since they are designed to fulfill very different niches.
Sure, the ultimate goal is device security, but there are many aspects of security to consider. Bitdefender, for example, aims to serve as a holistic cybersecurity framework for your entire family’s devices, even safeguarding your privacy. To this end, it includes features like a password manager and even a limited VPN, which aren’t really the domain of an antivirus tool.
Windows Defender, on the other hand, is designed purely to defend your PC against digital threats like malware or hacking attempts. Instead of venturing into complementary tools and applications that you can get elsewhere, it focuses on making sure that no malicious code can infect your PC through any means or damage your data.
Of course, the price is a major difference as well, since Windows Defender is a free built-in tool that comes on all Windows computers, and Bitdefender is a premium application you must purchase on a monthly subscription model that can cost you quite a bit. The features are tiered too, so you will not get all the vaunted capabilities of Bitdefender with just the basic plan.