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An unavoidable part of buying into the Windows ecosystem is that you have to deal with malware. The proliferation in Windows nasties can be explained by the hundreds of millions of Windows users, collectively presenting an enticing target.

So, how do you protect yourself? You have a rigorous security regime, with your system’s security settings hardened against any potential intruders, whilst actively scanning for threats with an antivirus program.

The antivirus marketplace is a relatively crowded one, with a huge number of antivirus programs each competing against each other. You’re probably familiar with Norton and McAfee. These two command a huge swathe of the market, although it should be said that they’re not without their criticism. This is usually for being incredibly resource intensive, or for lacking the definitions that allow them to detect virus infections.

And then you’ve got rogue antivirus packages. These pretend to be the real deal, but are just out to get your money by pretending your computer is infected, when it probably isn’t. They might also impair the functionality of your computer, or lock some of your files, much like Cryptolocker does CryptoLocker Is The Nastiest Malware Ever & Here's What You Can Do CryptoLocker Is The Nastiest Malware Ever & Here's What You Can Do CryptoLocker is a type of malicious software that renders your computer entirely unusable by encrypting all of your files. It then demands monetary payment before access to your computer is returned. Read More .

It’s hard to work out who you should trust with your computer’s security. But then we’ve got Bitdefender Total Security 2015. This is the latest refresh to the Bitdefender antivirus package, which also comes packing some other features that make using your computer significantly more secure, without killing your performance. It’s also really, really good. Here’s why.

We’re giving away 10 Bitdefender Total Security 2015 licenses, plus a chance to win a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (64GB, Intel i3) valued at $799. Read through our review, then submit your entries below.

Building From Firm Foundations.

For a while now, Bitdefender has been an exceptionally good antivirus package. The previous iteration of the Bitdefender family – Bitdefender 2014 – has independently been shown to consume less resources than any other AV package, whilst simultaneously identifying more infections than its competitors. It shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that Microsoft’s antivirus offerings – which was previously disavowed by Redmond in 2013 – comes dead last.

The latest offering runs on everything from Windows 8.1, to the moribund Windows XP. Minimum requirements are a 1.6 GHz CPU, and 1GB RAM, although it would be ideal to have a machine with weightier specifications. A Core 2 Duo CPU is regarded as the ideal, accompanied with 2GB of RAM.

It also comes in 32- and 64-bit variants. You should choose the one that is appropriate for your system. I’m using the 32-bit version.

It’s also worth adding that Bitdefender also requires a modern(ish) version of Internet Explorer – IE 8 Minimum – and version 3.5 of the .Net framework. If either of these are missing, Bitdefender will automatically install them for you.

Hunting For Nasties

Installing Bitdefender Total Security 2015 isn’t difficult. Unlike most free antivirus packages, you’re not prompted to install any other software, such as the Ask toolbar. Just press ‘Install’ and it’ll get to work. Although, it’s worth noting that they won’t hesitate to laud the praises of Bitdefender through each step of the process.

bitdefender-install

It also runs a scan of your system whilst installing. This didn’t perceptibly cause my machine to groan uncomfortably, although your mileage may vary depending upon the specifications of your computer.

bitdefender-scan

Once installed, Bitdefender will activate Photon, which silently and passively looks for threats. When you open your Web browser – be it Chrome, IE or Firefox – it will also ask you to approve a plugin called Bitdefender Wallet.

A little bit more about that. One of the best way to get empty someone’s bank account, or max out their credit cards, is with what is known as keylogger software Don't Fall Victim to Keyloggers: Use These Important Anti-Keylogger Tools Don't Fall Victim to Keyloggers: Use These Important Anti-Keylogger Tools In cases of online identity theft, keyloggers play one of the most important roles in the actual act of stealing. If you’ve ever had an online account stolen from you - whether it was for... Read More . This records all keypresses – including usernames, passwords and credit card numbers – before forwarding them on to a remote server.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim to this kind of attack is to reduce the amount of times one actually keys in their payment information. Bitdefender Wallet securely stores this information, allowing you to input it with just a click, thus mitigating the risk of becoming a victim to a key logger attack.

bitdefender-wallet

Another feature of Bitdefender Total Security 2015 is Profiles. This allows you to adjust the intensity to which Bitdefender monitors threats, without it impeding performance. This is especially handy for gamers, who often need to eke out as much performance as possible.

bitdefender-profiles

Much like the previously reviewed Ashampoo WinOptimizer 11 Speed Up Your Computer & Fix Errors With WinOptimizer 11 Speed Up Your Computer & Fix Errors With WinOptimizer 11 Is your computer slow? Every Windows machine eventually shows signs of degrading performance. Ashampoo's WinOptimizer 11 promises to be "the tuning specialist for your PC" and it's free with our rewards program. Read More , Bitdefender Total Security 2015 also allows you to optimize your system for maximum performance. This includes cleaning out your registry, getting rid of space-hogging junk files, and most interestingly, dealing with potential privacy issues.

bitdefender-clean

You can also optimize startup. Nothing much to talk about here. Unsurprisingly, it gets rid of unwanted applications at boot time.

Aesthetics have traditionally been a sore-spot for AV packages. But what about Bitdefender Total Security 2015? Admittedly, they’ve borrowed a lot from the look-and-feel of Windows 8’s Metro aesthetics. This is a program that’s more blocky than Minecraft. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s really hard to lose your way here. This is an AV program that your grandparents could use without incurring too much difficulty.

bitdefender-protected

But what of the antivirus itself? Admittedly, I’m reticent to talk about its accuracy in any detail. That’s a task best left in the hands of the independent laboratories who get paid to throw countless malware and digital nasties at AV in a controlled environment. With that said, it’s worthwhile emphasizing that previous studies of Bitdefender have shown it to be quite adept at finding all sorts of nasties.

But is it fast? Absolutely. It blazed through a scan on my computer without breaking a sweat, which wasn’t a speed demon, by any stretch of the imagination. This was a single-core machine, with 3GB of RAM. Above the required specifications, certainly. Massively so? Certainly not.

Should You Get Bitdefender Total Security 2015?

Bitdefender Total Security 2015 is a speed-conscious antivirus. Given that some AV packages have the propensity to make your machine run like a dog, this is incredibly welcome. It also feels incredibly user-focussed, and has a number of additional utilities that will make using your computer faster, and more secure.

You can buy it right now: a single license covers 3 computers for up to 1 year, all for just $89.95 per license, while coverage for 5 and 10 PCs cost 139.95 and $229.95 respectively. A single computer license costs just $69.95 per year.

How do I win a copy?

You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so. You must also download the trial version of Bitdefender Total Security 2015 – this step is mandatory for participation.

After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.

The Winners

  • Wippy Zulkarnain
  • Kim McHughes
  • Dennis Gleeson
  • Andrew Lee
  • James Semaj
  • Nicole Vosburgh
  • Alan Tong
  • Naceron Dzigner
  • Ariel Abella
  • Muhammad Idrees
  • Surface Pro 3 Winner: Gwenni Balmer

Congratulations! If you were selected as a winner, you would have received your license via email from jackson@makeuseof.com. If you require any assistance, please get in touch with Jackson Chung before August 9. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, July 25. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.

Submit your apps and software to be reviewed. Contact Jackson Chung for further details.

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