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The fundamental tasks of an antivirus utility are straightforward. It must protect your computer and data in real time from attack by all types of malware, and it also should run a full system scan whenever you tell it to, or on a schedule. Most also attempt to drive you away from malicious or deceptive websites. The 2018 edition of BullGuard Antivirus sticks to those basics, typically. It no longer includes the spam filter present in previous editions, nevertheless the BullGuard vulnerability scan now has the standalone antivirus, as does a whole new Game Booster component. It earned good scores in a number of independent lab tests, but some of its scores in our hands-on tests weren’t so great, plus it completely missed a nasty ransomware attack in testing.

At $29.95, an annual BullGuard subscription is cheaper than many competing products. Bitdefender, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Norton, and Webroot all cost 10 dollars more. McAfee seems more costly, at $59.99 annually, but a McAfee subscription lets you install protection on every device you possess, so it’s not truly comparable.

As noted, with this edition you lose the spam filter, but you do gain a new malware engine. BullGuard’s website touts the 2018 edition’s next generation anti-malware. It promises that “any malware it detects is locked down in quarantine and after that neutralized before infection may take place,” and describes the engine as “a sentry who never sleeps, constantly on the alert for intruders.” As I’ll explain, I did not see proof of this sentry’s tirelessness. Some malware samples was able to place executable files on the test system, then one ransomware sample completely took over.

A contemporary, attractive installer displays information about this program while it’s doing its job. Once it finishes, you create or sign in for your online BullGuard account. I enjoy the reality that it automatically downloads the latest antivirus definitions, rather than setting that as being a job for the consumer.

BullGuard’s main window contains seven square panels, but only the Bulldog Antivirus, Vulnerabilities, and Game Booster panels are enabled. Another four (Firewall, Backup, PC Tune-up, and Parental Control) require an upgrade to BullGuard’s full security suite. In a nice design touch, BullGuard does as far as possible without leaving this main window. For instance, when you operate a full scan, the progress bar appears inside the Antivirus panel. In testing, a full scan took 55 minutes, slightly lower than the existing average. In my testing in the previous edition, a repeat scan finished in five minutes. Now, the repeat scan wasn’t significantly faster.

I turn to four independent antivirus testing labs around the world for evidence the antivirus I’m testing is (or isn’t) effective. BullGuard participates with two of these, with a mix of is a result of decent to excellent.

Researchers at AV-Comparatives regularly report on a multitude of security product tests. I closely follow four of those. A product or service that does sufficiently to pass through a test receives Standard certification, while those that go beyond the necessary minimum can reach Advanced or Advanced certification. In the latest of those tests, BullGuard got two Advanced and 2 Advanced certifications.

Accurate detection of malware is very important, but an antivirus also must avoid quarantining valid programs, and must not put a drag on system performance. Experts at AV-Test Institute assign antivirus programs approximately six points each for protection, performance, and usability (meaning leaving valid programs alone). BullGuard earned 5.5 points each for protection and performance, but some false positive detections brought its usability score as a result of five, for a total of 16 points.

The major testing labs have resources far beyond my own, personal, but I like to obtain a hands-on experience of each product’s malware blocking abilities. I use a selection of several dozen malware samples that I’ve dguvfr analyzed, so I can confirm that the antivirus really has blocked the malware’s installation.

After I opened my folder packed with samples, BullGuard’s on-access scanner started checking them, displaying a tiny pop-up alert if it detected something amiss. If additional alerts occurred, each of them shared the same pop-up, with a note indicating how many more were pending. You can click through to view and close them one at a time, or check a box to seal them at one time. BullGuard detected about three quarters in the samples at this point.