BullGuard Antivirus (review) may be a London-based company that has been developing popular consumer antivirus software and security tools since 2002.
The homegrown BullGuard Antivirus product includes antivirus, anti-ransomware, malicious URL filtering, a vulnerability scanner, and surprisingly a performance booster for games and other demanding full-screen applications. 24/7 customer support, including live chat, is available if you have any issues.
The big news during this launch is BullGuard’s improved dynamic machine learning technology, which the company says now does a better job of detecting and blocking even the latest threats.
BullGuard Antivirus is impressively lightweight and therefore the Game Booster feature can be a novel and potentially useful extra. It provides sufficiently robust protection that it is easy to determine, even though it almost lives up to the highest antivirus engines.
Pros & Cons
- Decent protection
- Very fast ransomware detection
- Game Booster optimizes system speeds
- Customizable scan types
- Few features
- Unable to recover files encrypted by ransomware
- Underpowered vulnerability scanner
- BullGuard Antivirus license only covers 1 device (their other products allow up to 10)
Pricing & Plans
BullGuard Antivirus is priced at $ 30 for one device, one year license; $ 48 for 2 years, or $ 60 for 3. That’s a decent value, cheaper than Bitdefender Antivirus Plus after excluding the initial discount ($ 20 for year one to hide a device, but $ 40 on renewal). However, you cannot add more devices to an equivalent license to request an even better value; Bitdefender supports up to 10 and most providers support a minimum of five.
BullGuard Internet Security extends the package with a firewall, parental controls, secure browser, integrated cloud backup, and PC optimization tools, along with new support for Android and Mac.
A one-year, three-device license for Internet Security costs $ 60, rising to $ 100 for a two-year license, $ 120 over three. That is also a good price. Kaspersky Internet Security could also cost $ 40 to hide three devices during the primary year, for example, but it goes up to $ 80 on renewal.
High-end BullGuard Premium Protection takes everything in Internet Security, adds a home network scanner, and introduces a major new feature in BullGuard’s Experian-powered identity protection.
The service monitors the dark web for signs of theft of your personal data. Email addresses, phone numbers, credit and debit cards, driver’s license, passport, and more are covered, and BullGuard alerts if your data has been leaked.
That’s a huge improvement on the email-only coverage you’ll get with some suites, and therefore the service is also available in other countries than most: UK, US, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, Denmark, Republic of Eire, Finland, Italy, Holland, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Turkey.
Interestingly, if you want to hide ten devices, BullGuard Premium Protection is significantly cheaper than Internet Security ($ 100 vs $ 141 for a one-year license). Yes, you pay less to request more features. We don’t know either, but we don’t complain. If you’re looking to buy, be sure to look at the costs for all combinations of subscription lengths and device numbers; They will not be what you expect.
Right now, at least, Premium Protection seems like a reasonable value. Norton 360 Deluxe has more security measures and similar dark web monitoring, for example, but even covering five devices for a year costs $ 40 for the primary period, $ 105 afterward. McAfee Total Protection Individuals / Couples is more of a bargain though, giving you antivirus and dark web monitoring for $ 50 to hide five devices for two years, $ 100 on renewal.
Can’t structure your mind? No problem. It will inspect a 15-day trial of BullGuard Antivirus and thus there are 30-day builds of BullGuard Premium Protection and BullGuard Internet Security in between. You’re protected by an additional 30-day money-back guarantee, giving you plenty of time to make sure this is usually the right antivirus for you.
BullGuard test builds are easy to search on the website, and we had our BullGuard Antivirus installer downloaded in seconds.
BullGuard Antivirus added an extended list of components to our test system. After rebooting, we found that it had taken over 800MB of disk space, added 10 new background processes, and various other extras.
While this seems heavier than most, our tests told a special story. We ran PCMark Professional before and after installing BullGuard Antivirus, and our score dropped a small 0.5%. That just surpassed Kaspersky Antivirus, our previous lightweight champion, and maybe a welcome improvement over most of the competition (Avast, Trend Micro, Sophos, et al. They reduced our system speed by 3% and more).
It is important that antivirus is in a position to prevent malware from disabling it. We verify this by trying to remove key files, shut down processes, stop services, and various other tricks. In our last review, we discovered some self-protection issues, but BullGuard has built its defenses since then, and at this point, none of our attacks were able to penetrate its digital armor. Regardless of what we did, nothing compromised the security of BullGuard.
The BullGuard Antivirus interface can be a bit cluttered, especially for a starter pack. Instead of having its main screen focused entirely on antivirus and its security status, the program divides it into eight or nine small panels.
Only one of them relates to antivirus – two more cover vulnerability scanning and thus the performance-optimizing Game Booster, which are useful features, but not the ones you will have to check on a daily basis. The remaining six (BullGuard VPN, Firewall, Backup, PC Tune-up, Parental Control, Secure Browser) are grayed out or not available because they are not included in BullGuard Antivirus.
While this is usually a waste of valuable on-screen real estate, it doesn’t make it difficult to use the package. A drop-down list shows the actions you will take: Quick scan, Full scan, Custom
Hidden within Settings is an option to add more scan types, which BullGuard calls Antivirus Profiles. You will use this to perform custom scans where you get precise control over which areas of the system are checked, Which files are examined, how the scan is performed (manually or on a schedule), and what the application does if any threats are discovered are all factors to consider. Not everyone needs or will even realize this, but it is nice to have the option available.
BullGuard Antivirus also provides real-time protection and, for the most part, it worked as expected. Dangerous downloads were automatically scanned and blocked, for example, and thus the package immediately detected malware that we unpacked from a password-protected archive.
However, we noticed a limitation in email scanning. BullGuard Antivirus does not scan incoming emails at the network level but uses email client plugins (Outlook and Thunderbird are supported). If you are using another client, or the plugin does not work or is disabled, your emails will not be checked.
If you read your emails through a browser, this will not be a problem. And even if affected, BullGuard’s real-time protection should detect and block malicious attachments as soon as they are saved or opened. Still, it could mean that some users will lose a layer of security that they will often get with other providers.
Our tests found that scan times were slightly faster than usual, with 50GB of test executables taking 23 minutes for the main run and 3:16 for the second. The scans didn’t noticeably affect the performance of our system either, and we were ready to continue working without any active scans getting in our way.
BullGuard Antivirus supports an easy vulnerability scan, which checks your Wi-Fi security, mobile device autorun settings, Windows Update status, and if your drivers are digitally signed. This does not seem as extensive as the Kaspersky and Avast vulnerability scans, and even these few checks did not work as expected.
The scan told us that we were missing a Windows Security Update, as an example, and directed us to Windows Update to install it. But Windows Update said we were up to date; there was nothing to put on.
Vulnerability Scan should also report any issues with the digital signatures of installed drivers, but this didn’t work for us either. The console displayed a “Checking…” message with a flashing symbol, indicating that she had been busy doing something, but the procedure was never completed or any results were ever presented.
Still, the scan correctly reported our network status, autorun, and Windows Update settings, and if you don’t have anything similar, that would still give you some really useful information.
The highlight of BullGuard is its Game Booster, an exhilarating tool that recognizes when games or other full-screen applications are running and tries to improve their performance by providing them with a higher proportion of system resources. Although this has nothing to do with antivirus or security, you are fighting the idea that installing antivirus will hamper your PC.
The Game Booster works by changing user processes (and optionally system processes) to use equivalent CPU cores, reducing their demands on your system resources and making more participation available to the sport.
It is a sensible idea and independent tests have shown very positive results. Gaming platform creator ChillBlast compared BullGuard Internet Security’s game-related performance against Kaspersky, AVG, Norton, McAfee, and even Microsoft Defender. Not only did BullGuard deliver the simplest performance, but it was also even faster than a crash system with no antivirus installed.
In other words, installing BullGuard Antivirus didn’t reduce gaming performance, it actually made things better. We wouldn’t go for a compatible antivirus that, on its own, security concerns should come first, in any case, but it is an exhilarating feature and will be very attractive to some users.
BullGuard Antivirus is not evaluated by AV-Comparatives or SE-Labs, but AV-Test includes BullGuard Internet Security in its Windows antivirus reports, and they provide us with some helpful tips that could improve your performance.
BullGuard blocked 100 percent of known malware in both tests conducted in September and October 2020. The package also blocked 100% of zero-day threats in November and 99.4% in December. That’s above-average performance, and it took BullGuard high enough on the results table to win one of AV-Test’s best product awards.
Some companies performed better: Bitdefender blocked 100% of threats in all six reports in the past year, but the difference is marginal and BullGuard performed well overall.
These lab tests are long and thorough, but they don’t always provide the precise information we’d like, so we also evaluate antivirus packages by running our own smaller tests.
Our first test apps use common malware-like tricks to take advantage of standard Windows tools and download malicious files. BullGuard Antivirus handled them well, not only detecting most of the questionable behaviors but also correctly deciding that our test applications were responsible and closing them. (That’s more difficult than it sounds, and very few antiviruses manage to try it properly.)
BullGuard Antivirus blocks malicious URLs at the network level, so there is no need for your browser to have additional extensions (plus, of course, it covers all your applications). Smart behavior monitoring meant we couldn’t use our automated test applications BullGuard closed them when it recognized they were accessing malicious sites. However, when switching to a manual input, we found that it blocked an above-average number of test URLs and clearly displayed the justification in our browser window, ensuring that we always knew what was going on.
Our most advanced test uses a custom ransomware simulator that attempts to encrypt thousands of documents. By creating this threat ourselves, we ensure that an antivirus cannot recognize it from the file signature alone, making the program an exhilarating test of BullGuard’s behavior monitoring.
The engine missed the threat in our last review, but not at this point, acknowledging the danger and killing our simulator process for a fraction of a second. and we mean a fraction; the simulator only had time to encrypt four files, the second-best performance we’ve seen. (Trend Micro stepped on our app after it destroyed three files, Kaspersky took five, Bitdefender ten, Norton waited for 57, and G Data lost 406).
That’s about as good as it sounds, because Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and Trend Micro automatically recovered the encrypted files, ensuring no data was lost. BullGuard was unable to do this and our four files were effectively deleted.
Still, many antiviruses lose our simulator completely, allowing you to encrypt thousands of files. We wish we could see support for file recovery, but in the meantime, if we had a ransomware attack and lost only four documents, most of the time you might want a hit.
BullGuard Antivirus is lightweight, configurable, and has an unusual acceleration bonus on its Game Booster. The protection isn’t entirely cutting edge, but it provided solid clues for our tests, and thus the package did a much better than average job of keeping us safe.
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