Pros: Friendly, customizable user interface; Autopilot feature reduces pop-ups; Excellent ID theft prevention; Improved our boot time; Social networking scanning
Cons: Overzealous web filter; Software crashed when backing up more than 2GB; Limited instant messaging support
Verdict: Bitdefender's Total Security 2012 offers a friendly interface, comprehensive protection, and social networking scanning, making it our top pick among security suites.
Last year, Bitdefender's Total Security, a perennial high performer, seemed to lose its touch. Fortunately, the company has made some significant improvements to its 2012 edition, including an entirely new user interface and improved scanning tools, helping to return this security suite to its former glory.
When we reviewed Bitdefender's Total Security 2011, we noted that the software's installation took longer than most other security suites. This time around, Bitdefender claims installation times have been cut in half. Once we downloaded the software, we were up and running in less than four minutes. Before it even boots for the first time, the software runs a quick system scan to determine the overall health of your computer. After the scan and installation are complete, you are ready to go.
For its 2012 edition, Bitdefender completely revamped Total Security's user interface, and we like what the company has done. The new interface looks much cleaner and slicker than previous versions and puts everything that's important to the average user right up front. Like Kaspersky's Internet Security 2012, Bitdefender Total Security 2012 provides users with an intuitive color-coded threat indicator located at the top of the home screen. Below that are four main control "modules" (panels) for the suite's anti-virus, firewall, anti-spam, and update features.
A small bar located below the controls lets users scroll through Total Security's other modules, which include parental controls, privacy settings, safebox, tune-up, network map, and safego options. We particularly liked that the modules could be dragged and dropped into new positions, so you can put them in the order that you think is most important.
The modules make using Total Security easy. Each module has either a drop-down menu or single button to access its features. For instance, the anti-virus module's drop-down menu allows you to choose between a full scan, quick scan, custom scan, etc. We especially appreciated how the software provided a quick explanation of each scan when you moused over it. In fact, Bitdefender includes simple explanations for most of the options available to users, making the software exceedingly accessible.
Just because Total Security is user-friendly doesn't mean it will leave more advanced users wanting for options. The software also has a plethora of advanced settings--including custom settings for your proxy servers and the ability to exclude certain file extensions from scans--so you'll be able to customize this security suite to your liking.
Features and System Impact
This year marks the debut of Total Security's Autopilot feature. When activated, Autopilot takes the major bulk of decision-making for detected threats out of your hands. This is a great addition, as it got rid of those annoying pop-ups telling us that the software detected a threat. It's a nice feature to have and one that users will really appreciate.
The software's new Scan Dispatcher adds to Total Security's non-interference approach, activating system scans only when your system's resource usage falls below a set level. That bodes particularly well for gamers, who usually have to deal with constant interruptions while playing games.
We were very impressed with Total Security 2012's ability to scan for viruses without impacting our laptop's performance. During an initial 35-minute full system scan, we didn't notice any system slowdown, even while surfing the web and working in Microsoft Office. Overall CPU usage during the scan stayed relatively low, hovering between 10 to 30 percent.
Bitdefender offers several more traditional options for improving your PC's performance, including a registry cleaner, disk defragmenter, registry recovery, duplicate finder, and the ubiquitous PC cleaner, which deletes temporary files, cookies, and the recently used documents list (no documents are actually deleted).
After running the PC Cleaner, registry cleaner, duplicate finder, and disk defragmenter, we noticed a marked improvement in our Dell 14z's startup time, from 1 minute and 45 seconds to 1 minute and 21 seconds. That's much better than the one-second improvement that Norton Internet Security offered through its optimization tool.
In third-party tests conducted by AV-Test, Total Security 2012 performed extremely well. In AV-Test's malware detection test, Total Security detected 99.53 percent of 105,634 pieces of malware. That's better than both Kaspersky Internet Security 2012's 99.4-percent rate and Norton Internet Security 2012's 98.94 percent.
According to AV-Test, Total Security also managed to detect 100 percent of the common malware threats thrown at it, and successfully removed 93.6 percent of them. Kaspersky, on the other hand, was only able to detect 94.4 percent of malware tossed its way. Norton's offering caught 93.3 percent of malware introduced to it, but could only remove 83.3 percent.
Total Security also has you covered when it comes to new threats from the web. The software was able to detect and block 28 of 28 attacks. That's way better than the average blocking rate of 85.7 percent. Norton Internet Security 2012 was also able to detect 100 percent of new threats, while Kaspersky stopped 94.6 percent.
Other features include Active Virus Control, which continuously monitors any application running on your PC to determine if it's malware. A new virtualized browser launches your web browser in a Bitdefender-controlled environment, so that your computer is protected from web-based threats that can exploit vulnerabilities in your operating system.
Backup and Privacy
Total Security 2012 offers the standard 2GB of online file backup that most security suites offer. Unlike other suites, though, it's free for the life of the product. You can set Total Security to either automatically back up your data to the cloud, or you can back up your files manually. Total Security's new Safebox feature also detects any changes made to your backed up files and updates them accordingly. Users can also access their backed-up files on any computer that has Bitdefender 2012 installed on it. While we had no problems backing up less than 2GB of data, trying to back up more than that amount caused the software to crash.
Like McAfee's Total Protection 2012, Total Security 2012 includes a data shredder that both deletes and writes over data you want permanently erased. Users can either shred a folder or file from Total Security's main interface or by right-clicking on the item they want deleted in Windows Explorer and selecting Shredder. Users can also digitally encrypt data with Total Security's encryption feature.
ID theft protection, provided by ID Watchdog, looks for and identifies changes in your public and private records, including Social Security records, medical collections, driving records, national security watch lists, and criminal records. To access this feature, users must log into their MyBitdefender account through either BitDefender's website or through Total Security's privacy module. Overall, this was a nice addition to the software and something not offered by any of the other suites we reviewed.
Total Security's Safego Facebook app protects your Facebook account from scams and scans your news feed for spam and malicious links. Safego also automatically warns your friends when potentially harmful links are posted in their news links. The software also scans for and detects fake profiles and even filters out tweets that may contain malicious links.
Bitdefender Total Security 2012 provides parents with a plethora of control options, from setting a web access time limit to specifying what words can be displayed in your child's instant messages. Currently the software only supports monitoring for Yahoo! Messenger. You can either choose from a predetermined configuration based on your child's age or manually set the controls to tailor them to your child's needs.
In addition to the basic website-blocking feature, users can block specific applications and keywords and disable instant messaging. Users can also select what types of web sites they want to block from a list of categories that includes everything from violent cartoons to cults.
Parental Control logs provide information regarding your child's activities, including what websites they visit, what applications they use most often, and if your child attempted to access something you've already blocked.
Last year we knocked Bitdefender for falling behind its competition, and it looks like the company got the message loud and clear. We really like the software's sleek new interface, and its ease of use was above reproach. The addition of the innovative auto-pilot feature, ID anti-theft protection, and Facebook and Twitter scanning make Bitdefender the one to beat. Bitdefender Total Security 2012 is our top pick among security suites.
|Required Processor||800 MHz processor, Intel CORE Duo (1.66 GHz) or equivalent processor recommended|
|Software Required OS:||Microsoft Windows XP SP3 (32 bit), Vista (SP2), Microsoft Windows 7 (SP1)|
|Required RAM||1 GB (Microsoft Windows XP) 1.5 GB (Microsoft Windows Vista and Microsoft Windows 7)|
|Disk Space||2.8 GB free space (at least 800 MB on system drive)|