Bitdefender Free Antivirus

Please also see my updated post "Bitdefender Free Antivirus - Some Good News"

Bitdefender is a familiar name among antivirus makers, and the Romanian company has just released a new, free antivirus product - Bitdefender Free Antivirus. The "selling point" of this one seems to be simplicity and low use of system resources (that is, it does not slow down the computer noticeably). Here are my first impressions after a couple of day's use, but hopefully they will be helpful to you.


The software was installed and tested on a 64-bit Windows 7 system. The program download is quite small, but it will download additional components as needed during the installation - so you do need an Internet connection during the installation. That said, this does not appear to be a "cloud based" product,  like the somewhat similar Panda Cloud Antivirus.

A couple of the aspects of the installation were odd: first, the Bitdefender installer insisted I uninstall Malwarebytes Antimalware before it would proceed. I assume it would do the same for any other antivirus program - not unusual in itself. The odd thing is that Malwarebytes is not the kind of AV program that runs all the time, only "on demand", so it's hard to understand how there would be a potential conflict there.

The other thing (perhaps because of the Malwarebytes removal process) was that the installer really did not give much feedback, and I ended up running the installer again as it was unclear if it had stopped, stalled, or what. After a reboot and another launch of the installer - success!

There is very little you can do in terms of configuration, which may be appealing to some users - and the product is touted as "zero configuration". If you right click the system tray icon, you get a very minimalist information screen (below). The options are to turn the "auto shield" or "auto scan" on or off - and that's about it.

bitdefender free

There is also a prompt to "Login" (the sign-up is free), which gives you access to a "My Bitdefender" web page, which mostly shows stats for your installation. There is a countdown of 30 days for you to sign up, so the implication at least is that the product will stop working or stop updating if you don't comply. You will need to use a valid email account, as you do need to confirm the login via a link that is emails to you. There are no other "nag" screens or advertisements.

As to performance, the antivirus does seem to be low on resources, as marketed. HOWEVER, my initial simple detection tests did not fill me with encouragement. This could be an early bug in the product, but it concerned me.

I downloaded a zipped version of the EICAR test file - this is a benign file that will trigger a detection from antivirus software (it's NOT a virus, but it should be treated like one by any antivirus software).

  • I downloaded the zipped file - and no detection occurred. Hmm.

  • I unzipped the EICAR test file - and no detection occurred. Yikes.

  • I specifically scanned the EICAR file and it was detected. Yay!

  • I specifically scanned the zipped file - no detection occurred. Wtf?

That is a big problem for me. Based upon this (early and quick) testing, I could not recommend this product. I am going to wait a couple of weeks and reinstall and try this again to see if this was a bug, or some configuration glitch on my test system.

The concept of Bitdefender Free Antivirus is appealing for those who don't like fiddling with things, but it really has to work much better than it did in this test scenario. The detection rates of the Bitdefender paid products are usually reported as very good. I love free stuff, and I'd like to see this be another good free AV option.

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