(Last updated on January 11th, 2021)
Bitdefender or McAfee, which antivirus software should you get in 2021?
Read this comprehensive, fact-based comparison before making your mind.
In this ultimate guide, you’ll see what’s included in different antivirus suites both Bitdefender and McAfee offer, as well as how both software compare in terms of malware detection, impact on system performance, user interface, cost, and more.
It goes without saying that a reliable antivirus suite has become more of a commodity in the modern, digital world – regardless of whether you’re a PC user or a Mac enthusiast.
A study conducted by a reputable media outlet found that the average American spends more than 10 hours a day staring at a screen; computers and mobile phones were among the two most-used devices.
The digital freedom that we enjoy comes at a cost.
Do you know AV-Test registers over 350,000 new malware samples every single day? The bad guys (a.k.a. ‘hackers’) are continually releasing new malware that can corrupt your system, breach your privacy, steal your banking details, hold your sensitive files until you pay a ransom, and so on.
I think you’ll agree with me when I say it’s better to be safe than sorry.
In other words, it’s imperative that you take proactive measures to make sure your data and privacy are protected at all times. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of time before you’ll become yet another victim of some widespread malware attack.
Best Antivirus Suite for 2021
Overall Score: 9.9/10
60-day money-back guarantee
Right now, we think that Norton is the best antivirus software your money can buy. It regularly earns perfect or near-perfect scores from independent labs and has the least impact on system performance compared to rival products. Its products combine top-notch security with an array of excellent security features and, best of all, offer exceptional value for money.
Overall, Norton 360 Deluxe (currently at 70% off) is our pick for the best antivirus suite in 2021. It is competitively priced and comes with almost everything you could possibly ask for, such as a firewall, a fully integrated VPN, dark web monitoring, cloud backup storage (50GB), a password manager, and parental controls. You can cover up to 5 PCs, Macs, smartphones or tablets with this suite.
If you want full-on identity protection and don’t mind paying more, Norton 360 with LifeLock Select (currently at 35% off) gives those in the US a full range of identity protection features, more backup space (100GB), as well as all the above.
Let’s go into the details…
But if you don’t have time to go through the whole comparison and want the answer straight away, take a look at the graphic below and also read our short verdict below to make a wise decision.
Bitdefender is the overall winner as it offers more security-enhancing features and utilities in its security products than McAfee. Also, independent tests show that Bitdefender is better than McAfee in terms of both malware detection and system performance.
Best Antivirus for 2021
- Robust feature-set
- Excellent anti-malware security
- Minimal system impact
- Easy-to-use interface
- Automatic updates
- Trusted by 50 million users
- 100% virus protection promise
- 60-day money-back guarantee
#2 (Very Good)
- Exceptional malware protection
- Little impact on performance
- Trusted by millions of users
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- User-friendly interface
#3 (Very Good)
- Good malware protection
- Trusted by big corporations
- Minimal impact on performance
- Good value for money
- 30-day risk-free guarantee
Let’s start off the detailed comparison…
What’s Included in Bitdefender’s Antivirus Suites?
Bitdefender offers a separate range of products for Windows and Mac, but some of the products are compatible with both platforms.
Bitdefender Antivirus Free is the company’s bare-bones antivirus product. It boasts limited protection against malware threats and doesn’t include advanced securing-enhancing features and extra utilities that have become more of a requirement in the modern world. However, the freeware does offer protection against malicious and fraudulent websites.
Next level up is Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2021, which is only compatible with the Windows platform. Along with great malware and ransomware protection, it offers a number of premium features, including a hardened browser (for safe banking/shopping), a password manager (securely stores all your passwords and logins at one place), and a file shredding utility (lets you safely delete your sensitive files so no one can bring them back).
A vulnerability scanner (checks for missing outdated software and missing security patches in your operating system) and a network security advisor (protects your WiFi network) are also part of the “Plus” suite.
Another level up is Bitdefender Internet Security 2021. In that, you’ll get everything that comes as part of the “Plus” suite, along with a two-way firewall (monitors incoming/outgoing network traffic and thwarts malware attacks), a file encryption tool (locks your sensitive from ransomware), and protection against webcam spying.
You’ll also find an anti-spam module (blocks junk and phishing emails) and a limited version of Parental Controls in the “Internet Security” suite.
A single license of Bitdefender Internet Security 2019 provides a year of protection for up to three devices.
Next up is Bitdefender Total Security 2021 – the company’s full-blown (and most popular) antivirus offering. It offers everything that’s jammed into the “Internet Security” suite, plus a useful anti-theft module (helps find stolen/lost devices) and several performance optimization features, such as Disk Cleanup, Startup Optimizer, and OneClick Optimizer.
Also, a single “Total Security” license will protect up to 5 Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices.
If you have more than 5 devices in your household, there is no better option in the market than Bitdefender Family Pack 2021. It will protect every device in your household (be it Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS) with the “Total Security” license.
Now, let’s see what Bitdefender offers for MacOS.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is the company’s offering for Mac users. Along with providing excellent protection against all sorts of Mac-related malware threats, It secures your online experience, blocks annoying adware, and also protects your backups. As a paying customer, you’ll also be eligible for premium customer support.
Note: Both Bitdefender Total Security 2021 and Bitdefender Family Pack 2021 are also compatible with the Mac platform, too.
What’s Included in McAfee’s Antivirus Suites?
Previously, McAfee used to offer a variety of antivirus suites but now, it offers McAfee Total Protection and McAfee LiveSafe on its official website.
It offers two premium antivirus suites: McAfee Total Protection and McAfee LiveSafe.
McAfee Total Protection is the company’s most popular antivirus offering. It provides top-notch malware protection and has almost all the features that should be there in a complete antivirus package, including an advanced firewall, a file encryption tool, a password manager, and a file shredder.
A Network Manager (defends your WiFi network against malware attacks), an anti-spam email filter, and parental control features (helps you efficiently manage your kids’ digital life) are also part of the “Total Protection” suite.
Also, if you opt for auto-renewal service, McAfee offers a 100% virus protection guarantee: in case of virus infection, a McAfee expert will either remove the virus or give 100% of your money back.
McAfee delivers web browsing protection via a browser extension, called Web Advisor. It warns you about dangerous websites, checks downloads for malware, and also blocks phishing attacks.
McAfee Total Protection suite comes at different price points depending on the number of devices you want to protect. If you opt for more than 1 device, you’ll have access to McAfee’s Security Management Console, from where you can easily manage protection for multiple devices from one place.
McAfee LiveSafe offers 1 GB of online cloud storage, along with all the protection-related features and extra utilities that are jammed into the “Total Security” suite.
Note: Both McAfee Total Protection and McAfee LiveSafe are compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.
Bitdefender vs McAfee: Which Software Boasts Better Malware Protection?
A security product should provide excellent protection against all sorts of malware threats, such as ransomware, Trojan horses, viruses, worms.
Generally, all malware can be classified into two types: known malware (also called widespread malware) and unknown malware (or zero-day malware).
The latter type of malware is more dangerous than the former as no previous signature is available for it, which means security programs have to rely on advanced behavioral detection techniques (checking for how a particular piece of file behaves) to identify and eliminate them. Known malware is detected using signature-matching methodology (comparing a suspicious file against a huge database of known malware samples).
To find out whether Bitdefender or McAfee is better in terms of malware protection, I’ll look at the verdict of AV-Test and AV-Comparatives – two well-known and hugely respected independent security labs that thoroughly evaluate various top antivirus products.
AV-Test’s most recent evaluations were conducted in May and June 2018. All participating products were tested against 225 samples of zero-day malware samples and 5,685 samples of widespread malware.
Bitdefender came out with perfect results in these evaluations; it blocked 100% of both types of malware samples during both months, getting an excellent 6 out of 6 star rating from the AV-Test experts in the ‘Protection’ category.
Other than a slightly lower protection rate of 98.9% against zero-day malware in April, McAfee’s also registered perfect results. It also received a full 6 out of 6 star rating from the experts.
To examine the protection level of antivirus programs, the experts at AV-Comparatives firm do two major tests: Real-World Protection Test and Malware Protection Test. The former test exposes a security product against real-world malware conditions with all of its protection components enabled, while the latter test thoroughly assesses a security product’s ability to protect a system against malicious file injection.
The most recent Real-World Protection Test report includes combined results of the tests conducted over the period of five months, from February to June 2018.
Bitdefender and McAfee both received the highest ADVANCED+ award from AV-Comparatives, due to their near-perfect protection rates of 99.8% and 99.6%, respectively.
Bitdefender only returned 2 false positives (the lower, the better) in total, while McAfee returned 9 of them.
***False positive is an error in which a test result falsely identifies a clean file as malicious.
AV-Comparatives’ most recent Malware Protection Test was held in March 2018. Bitdefender once again received the highest ADVANCED+ award because of its near-perfect protection rate of 99.99%. I
McAfee, on the other hand, had to settle for the second-best ADVANCED award in this test, due to its 99.95% protection rate and a slightly higher false positive score of 10.
Overall, Bitdefender seems to be slightly ahead of McAfee regarding malware protection, but it’s clear that both Bitdefender and McAfee boast a powerful malware detection engine.
Bitdefender vs McAfee: Which Software Puts Less Impact on System?
Another important consideration is the impact of a security product on system performance.
Once again, I will look at the Independent tests to see which software exerts less impact on system performance.
AV-Test’s performance study looked at the influence of a product on computer performance (or computer speed) by executed few common computer operations, such browsing websites, installing and downloading common applications, launching software, copying of files. The impact of a product was measured in terms of system slowdown on standard PC as well as on a high-end PC.
Bitdefender received an excellent 6/6 star rating from the experts in the ‘Performance’ category.
McAfee, on the other hand, exerted more impact on system performance and could only manage 5.5 stars out of 6.
AV-Comparatives’ Performance Test – which was most recently held in April 2018 — is similar to AV-Test’s study in a lot of ways. It measures the influence of each participating product on computer speed while carrying out a few common computer tasks. Each product is assigned an impact score (the lower, the better) based on the impact it exerted on system performance during the test.
Interestingly, contrary to what we saw in the AV-Test’s study, both Bitdefender and McAfee registered the same impact score of 6.9 and were given the highest ADVANCED+ award in the AV-Comparatives’ study. (See this link if interested in detailed results.)
Overall, both antivirus software are extraordinarily lightweight, and neither of them will cause a significant system slowdown. But Bitdefender is our pick in this category as it received better results than McAfee in the AV-Test’s performance study.
Bitdefender vs McAfee: Which Software Provides Better User Experience?
No one likes a clunky, old-fashioned user interface.
First, let’s go through the interface of McAfee.
Back in the day, McAfee’s interface used to be slightly complicated and outdated, but the veteran antivirus maker has caught up with the rest of the pack with its new and simplified look.
At the top, you’ll find a horizontal menu with five items: Home, PC Security, Identity, Privacy, and Account. Links to settings, alerts, and tips are also there in the top-right corner of the menu.
Home window– which is the default view – shows your computer’s protection status in the left rail, with either a green check mark or a red warning sign. Buttons to run a Full Scan or a Quick Scan are also available on this window, along with titles at the bottom that help you set up True Key password manager and remove browser cookies/trackers.
PC Security, Identity, and Privacy tabs contain relevant features (and their settings), while Account view has information about your subscription plan.
Now, let’s delve into Bitdefender’s user interface.
Bitdefender’s interface, too, has recently seen a major facelift. The new, modern-styled interface is intuitive and highly customizable. In the left rail, you have four main modules: Dashboard, Protection, Privacy, and Utilities.
Dashboard – which is the default screen – shows your protection status, along with several titles to access different modules. You can tweak the position of a specific tile or even add new titles that you like.
Protection, Privacy and Utility tabs contain relevant features and their settings.
You can switch between different menu items while viewing details in the main window.
The name of the suite you are on is shown in the title bar, while at the bottom left are quick links for settings, support, account, and notifications.
Overall, it’s a tie in this category as both software offer an intuitive and user-friendly interface.
Winner: It’s a tie
Bitdefender vs McAfee: Which Software is Less Expensive?
|Bitdefender Products||Regular Price||Discounted Price|
|Bitdefender Antivirus Plus||$59.99/year||Check here|
|Bitdefender Internet Security||$79.99/year||Check here|
|Bitdefender Total Security||$89.99/year||Check here|
|Bitdefender Family Pack||$119.99/year||Check here|
|Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac||$59.99/year||Check here|
|Bitdefender Small Office Security||Varies||Check here|
|Bitdefender GravityZone Business AV||Varies||Check here|
|McAfee Products||Regular Price||Discounted Price|
|McAfee Total Protection (1 Device)||$79.99/year||Check here|
|McAfee Total Protection (5 Device)||$99.99/year||Check here|
|McAfee Total Protection (10 Device)||$119.99/year||Check here|
Overall, McAfee’s products are slightly less expensive than Bitdefender’s.
Bitdefender vs McAfee: Which Software is More Popular Among Users?
Both Bitdefender and McAfee are famous names in the antivirus realm, but who leads in terms of popularity? Let’s find out!
Statista publishes regular reports on the market share held by leading Windows anti-malware software. According to their most recent report — which was made public in February 2018 –Avast is currently leading with 19% market share. ESET and Malwarebytes are second and third on the list, with market shares of 14.03% and 12.79% respectively.
McAfee is fourth on the list with 8.41% market share, while Bitdefender (6.1%) comes seventh in the race.
Another independent company that releases monthly reports on the market share captured by leading anti-malware products is OPSWAT. Their recent report is more or less the same as Statista’s, with Avast placed first on the table with a 19.3% market share.
McAfee stands fourth with 8.46% share, while Bitdefender (6.43%) is fifth on the table.
Overall, McAfee captures a bigger market share than Bitdefender.
Bitdefender is the winner as it offers more security-enhancing features and extra utilities in its security suites than McAfee. Also, independent tests prove that Bitdefender is better than McAfee in terms of both malware detection and the impact on system performance.
Our recommendations: If you want to get the highest level of security and performance, there's no better choice than Norton, which protects over 50 million users worldwide.
After reviewing dozens of antivirus products from some of the biggest names in the cybersecurity realm, we believe that Norton 360 Deluxe is the best antivirus suite available on the market. It provides flawless anti-malware protection without slowing you down. Plus, you get almost all the advanced features you could ever want.
If you're willing to pay more for advanced identity protection features, we recommend Norton 360 with LifeLock select (only available in the US). It's a bit pricey but worth the price.
Anas Baig is a consumer privacy advocate and cybersecurity journalist by profession. Has has more than 7 years of professional experience under his belt. Anas has been featured on numerous media publications including The Guardian, Lifehacker, The Next Web, Infosecurity Magazine, Security Boulevard, Hacker Noon, CMS Wire, IAPP, SC Magazine, and many others. His interest includes Digital Privacy Rights, Information Security, Networking, Privacy, and Data Protection.