June 17, 2006

BitDefender Antivirus: Review of Problems

[Updates have been inserted in brackets where appropriate.]

I have been evaluating BitDefender 9 Standard on my home computer for about two weeks. I like BitDefender's effectiveness, price, and features, but it has several problems. In this post I will describe the problems I have encountered so far.

1. Disruptive Email-Scanning Notification Windows
Whenever BitDefender is scanning a mail message, it adds a little window on the lower right of the screen. When multiple messages are being scanned, multiple windows are created. Sometimes the entire right side of my screen is covered with these windows. As each scan completes, the window associated with that scan disappears. Here's a photograph I took of my screen while BitDefender was scanning incoming mail.

Picture of screen while BitDefender scans incoming mail. Note the little windows along the right side.
In the picture above I was editing an HTML file in Win32pad when Eudora downloaded my mail in the background and BitDefender scanned the incoming mail. I use POPFile to filter spam. BitDefender adds separate windows for Eudora and POPFile for each incoming message.

Not only are these windows an intrusive distraction, but they take the Windows focus from the application. That means if I am typing in an application when mail arrives, my keystrokes stop working because BitDefender windows have taken the focus. The newest mail-scanning window becomes the active window. If I quickly click in the application to make the application the active window, the next BitDefender window just takes the focus again. The net effect is that I can't continue working while BitDefender is scanning incoming mail. I have to stop whatever I'm doing and wait for the mail scans to finish.

This mail-scanning behavior is outrageously bad. I don't understand why the ninth version of an antivirus program would be designed to behave this way. An antivirus program should work inconspicuously in the background. It should not distract the user with pop-up informational windows. It should not create multiple pop-up windows. It should not take the focus away from the current application. BitDefender describes the program as, "an 'install and forget' product" (here, as of 6/17/06). There's no way to forget an antivirus program that forces you to stop what you're doing every time mail arrives.

The mail-scanning windows have a negative impact on the user's work and provide little or no benefit. The windows should be removed from the program or at the least made optional so the user can turn them off. If BitDefender is determined to show the user when mail is being scanned, it should do so subtly without taking the focus away from the current application. For example, the color of the BitDefender icon in the system tray could be changed while mail scanning is in progress.

[UPDATE 8/10/06: The e-mail scanning notifications are optional (as they should be). The notification windows can be turned off as follows. In BitDefender select the "General" tab on the left. Select "Settings" in the top menu bar. Uncheck the box that says "Show on-screen notes". Click the "Apply" button at the bottom. Close the BitDefender window by clicking the "X" in the upper right corner. This setting option is poorly named. "On-screen notes" implies some sort of help feature to me. The option should be named more descriptively, like "Show e-mail scanning notices" for example.]

2. Incoming Mail Timeouts
Each time I receive an email with an attachment that's more than a few hundred kilobytes, BitDefender causes the mail download to fail with a timeout error. When a download times out I have to notice that the download has failed, disable BitDefender's virus shield, download the mail manually, and turn BitDefender's virus shield back on. Until two weeks ago I used Norton AntiVirus and I never had this problem. Norton AntiVirus sometimes added "X-Symantec-TimeoutProtection" lines to a mail's header. POPFile sometimes adds "X-POPFile-TimeoutPrevention" to a mail's header. Apparently timeouts are a common problem that other mail-handling programs like Norton AntiVirus and POPFile handle, but BitDefender does not.

[UPDATE 6/23/06: Some large incoming mails time out and some don't. Some headers of large mails contain BitDefender timeout lines and some don't. As a test I mailed myself a large file (over 4 MB). The outgoing message timed out. I disabled BitDefender, sent the mail again, and the message was sent properly. I enabled BitDefender and downloaded the large email. The incoming mail did not time out and 13 lines beginning with "X-BitDefender-TimeOut" had been inserted in the mail's header. I was wrong when I said BitDefender does not handle mail timeouts. It would be more accurate to say that BitDefender's timeout protection is unreliable. I never had mail timeouts when I used Norton AntiVirus and I have experienced several mail timeouts while using BitDefender.]

3. Eudora Mailbox Files Quarantined
During my first full-system scan BitDefender detected a suspected bad java script in at least one message in each of three Eudora mailbox files. Rather than cleaning, quarantining, or deleting the specific messages, BitDefender moved the entire mailbox files to quarantine. I turned off BitDefender and reloaded the three mailbox files from a backup. (I later discovered that quarantined files can be restored from BitDefender's quarantine screen.) I wanted to find and delete each problem message manually so that the mailbox files would not be quarantined again during the next scan. BitDefender's report only identified each message by its position in the mailbox file -- like "message 367". I would have to manually count the messages to find and delete the messages containing the bad java scripts. I found and deleted one message manually.

Rather than attempt to find and delete the other two messages manually, I turned BitDefender's virus shield back on, listed Eudora mailbox files in Windows Explorer, and right clicked on one of the mailbox files I had restored. I selected "BitDefender Antivirus v9" from the right-click menu and BitDefender scanned the file. This time BitDefender found and cleaned the bad message without moving the file to quarantine. The mailbox contained the same number of messages before and after the cleaning. I then requested a scan of the other restored mailbox file and BitDefender reported that it successfully cleaned that file too. I do not know why BitDefender handled the same files differently on a manual scan and a full-system scan.

[UPDATE 6/18/06: I scanned C: and BitDefender reported finding and deleting the two viruses in mailbox files that it had previously found and claimed to have deleted. It did not move the mailbox files to quarantine. I immediately scanned the same two files again and BitDefender again reported finding and deleting the same two viruses. I scanned the two files a third time and again BitDefender said it found and deleted the same two viruses. BitDefender claims to delete the viruses on each scan, but then finds the same viruses in the same mail messages on subsequent scans. These scans reveal a disturbing bug in BitDefender. Sometimes BitDefender falsely reports the deletion of a virus. I suggest repeating the scan of any file from which BitDefender reports deleting a virus. I used a text editor on the two mailbox files to find and delete the two java scripts BitDefender was reporting.]

I am apprehensive of how BitDefender will handle good incoming messages if there's something bad in a message arriving at the same time. I ran a test by turning off BitDefender and mailing myself several messages, one of which contained the EICAR test virus. I then turned BitDefender back on, waited a few minutes, and downloaded my mail. My test was foiled because my ISP, BellSouth, has an arrangement whereby Symantec checks all mail for viruses. The message in which I included the EICAR test virus had a line inserted saying Symantec had removed the virus.

4. Incoming Mail Scan Wakes Up Monitor
I have my 21-inch monitor set to power-off after fifteen minutes of inactivity. When BitDefender scans incoming mail it activates my monitor as if I had moved the mouse or pressed a key.

5. Less-Important Problems
The quarantine screen does not show a quarantined file's original location, nor does it show the date and time a file was quarantined. If I want to restore a file that was quarantined from multiple locations, there's no way to know which instance of the file to restore.

BitDefender creates folders and files in my C:\Windows\Temp directory. These files are not automatically removed. An example folder name is "tmp000031c1". Each folder contains one file of zero bytes. An example file name is "tmp00000000". The folders and files accumulate until they are deleted manually or through a programmed clean-up process.

BitDefender may prevent the game Unreal from running. I realized I had not tried to play a game since installing BitDefender, so I tried Unreal and the game aborted with an error that said something like "Flip Failed Surface Busy". I rebooted and disabled BitDefender. Then Unreal ran fine.

[UPDATE 10/12/06: I have played Unreal several times now while BitDefender was running, without crashing.]

My computer is more unstable and requires rebooting more frequently since I installed BitDefender. The most recent time I was forced to reboot, my computer was frozen with two mail-scanning windows on the lower right of the screen.

-----

My system info:
Windows 98 SE
POPFile 0.22.2
Eudora 4.3.2
ZoneAlarm 5.5.094.000
BitDefender 9 Standard (build 9.5)

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really just curious. Did you provide feedback to BitDefender about the problems (http://www.bitdefender.com/ca/Main/feedback/Send-Feedback.html)? I program software myself and I know how easy it is to release a new version that accidently contains code that should have been removed (the windows open on email scans almost sounds like it could be leftover debug code that someone failed to remove).
If you did provide feedback, was there any reasonable response?

June 30, 2006 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger Jon Maloney said...

Anonymous, Thanks for your comment!

I reported the problems to BitDefender in the feedback form on their site. I received a response from support a few hours later. For the problem of creating little windows whenever mail is being scanned, the support person told me that the scan activity bar can be hidden by right clicking it and selecting hide. The scan activity bar is a little graphic that shows you when files are being scanned. It has nothing to do with the mail-scanning windows. I had already hidden the scanning graphic.

I replied to the email and described the problem again more clearly. Once again I received a response a few hours later, from a different person. The mail suggested I lower the scanning priority and told me how to do that. That suggestion reveals a lack of understanding of the problem. If I lower the scanning priority then the little scanning windows will simply steal the focus for longer periods, because scanning will be done more slowly.

You may be right Anonymous, in that both answers seem to indicate the support folks have no idea what little windows I'm talking about. Since I had tried to alert BitDefender to the problem twice and failed, I decided to write this blog entry. Perhaps someone from BitDefender will see it and fix the problem in a future release (or contact me and tell me I've got a test version).

After testing BitDefender 9 Standard for 25 days I bought it today. I like the price, the features, and the effectiveness. I'm hoping the mail-scanning problem will be fixed in a future update. Until then I'll live with the problem.

June 30, 2006 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger Dadu said...

yeah you can discuss this also on http://BDforum.at.tt for more details!

July 16, 2006 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Mozzilla said...

I have been searching the Internet for solutions for my Bitdefender problems...although I do not even have AV protection at this point, due to some enormous mess up in Bitdefender. A while ago I had my home network host computer completely crash after having issues with Bitdefender. I replaced it with a fairly new desktop computer (had run only 10-15 times). My laptop and the new host computer now show identical problems. Bitdefender disables itself after the initial loading. No way to enable it. Some of my Windows files are affected: Windows installer doesn't work anymore, so I cannot even install a backup av program until Bitdefender works again. Error 1053 messages are wrecking my nerves. I cannot repair any of these through the admin panel, by changing disabled or stopped services (that should be running). IT all seems to have started with some virus files that Bitdefender found but wasn't able to delete - or like the other blogger wrote - were "deleted" and then reappeared. After many scans with Bitdefender and online scanners I was finally able to remove some viruses/spyware (according to Bitdefender) when the Windows problems started. I could not do a system restore to any restore point previous to the problems, only now could I restore to an already messed up point. Communication with Bitdefender shows in my case as well that they do not pay attention to details in the complaint messages. I have to readdress issues and do not get satisfactory replies. I was told that the files Bitdefender could not delete (in mail archives or other programs ???) I had to manually delete, because Bitdefender was not allowed to delete anything within a mail program, etc. Huh? If I have to do most of the work myself, I could stick to some online scan or software that only finds the problems but doesn't repair them.
I am very upset about having 2 computers running amok after one went down already. The 4th computer on our network (not running Bitdefender) has non of these problems! Any advise what to do? I run WIN XP home edition, ZoneAlarm Pro, System Mechanic 6(which I disabled for now). I update all programs whenever needed and run scans on a regular basis. Well, right now I can't really do that because I am hesitant to go online period. When I first started using Bitdefender everything went fine, or so it seemed, and then all hell broke loose. I am desperate and would like to avoid reformatting both computers or loosing them like the other one. I emailed to Bitdefender again and hope to get a response with better suggestions on how to fix this.

August 6, 2006 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger Jon Maloney said...

It sounds like you've got a mess on your hands Mozzilla. From your description it sounds like essential Windows or BitDefender files are corrupted or missing, but you don't know if the files are messed up due to BitDefender's cleaning efforts, your own cleaning efforts, or due to a virus or trojan. It's also possible that ZoneAlarm Pro is conflicitng with BitDefender. You should never run two programs at the same time that try to do the same thing -- two firewalls, two spyware detectors, two antivirus programs, etc. It's possible ZonaAlarm Pro's anti-spyware scanning conflicts with BitDefender's anti-spyware scanning.

Here's a Microsoft article about Error 1053: Error 1053.

Here are the steps I would take if I were in your situation.

First, I would uninstall BitDefender. It's not working anyway and you don't know which of its files are missing or corrupted.

Next, I would scan my computer for viruses or trojans using other products or online scans. If the problems are from a virus or trojan you need to find out which one and remove it. Some viruses and trojans are written to disable antivirus programs or Windows services that would help you recover. If you discover a specific virus or trojan that is responsible for your problems, research it on the Internet and perform clean-up steps recommended for that specific virus or trojan. Those steps could solve your system problems.

At each successful step in fixing my problems I would create a restore point so I'd be able to get back to that spot.

Once I knew my computer was free of viruses and trojans, if my Windows system files were still messed up, I would do Internet searches on each messed up file or service to see how to fix it.

If those efforts failed I would consider a repair install of Windows XP. This a major and tricky process though and should not be undertaken lightly. It's a way to reinstall XP on top of itself without having to reinstall all your applications. It will revert you to your original XP installation. Updates and service packs will have to be reinstalled. Here's a site with detailed instructions: How to Repair Install. Here's another site with detailed instructions: How to Perform a Windows XP Repair Install.

Perhaps other readers can recommend a better approach.

Good luck!

Jon

August 6, 2006 at 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Sim said...

Hi Jon,

For the issue about the e-mail it seems that there was a misunderstanding in the communication with the support team. In order to disable those alerts I guess you should go to General - Settings.

This should remove these alerts you get when you receive e-mails.

August 10, 2006 at 5:19 AM  
Blogger Jon Maloney said...

THANK YOU SIM!

You just solved something that has irritated me every few minutes for several weeks.

Here's how to turn off the e-mail scanning notifications everyone. In BitDefender select the General tab on the left. Select Settings on the top menu bar. Uncheck the box that says "Show on-screen notes".

I had experimented with that setting to see what notes it controlled. I assumed it controlled the help notes on the right of each BitDefender window or pop-up notes that might appear when the mouse is hovered over certain areas. I did not determine what notes were affected. Since I didn't know what it was for I thought it best to leave it set to the default as recommended by BitDefender. The option is poorly named. It should be called something clearer, like "Show email scanning alerts".

I will add an update to this problem above in the main blog post.

Jon

August 10, 2006 at 11:57 AM  
Anonymous Altaf said...

I wish I had read your blog before i [purchased this damm stupid software, this is the third in the row, which failed. |First Norton, Second Kaspersky third Bit deffender, I dont know what to use next.

November 26, 2008 at 4:44 PM  
Blogger Jon Maloney said...

Hi Altaf,

I've used McAfee, Norton, and Bit Defender. Now I'm using Avast! Antivirus Professional. Like all software it has problems, but so far I'm satisfied. I have a post about it elsewhere in this blog, here:
http://indexme.blogspot.com/2008/05/avast-antivirus-version-48-problems.html

November 29, 2008 at 7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have used BitDefender for some time, on July 28th 2007 I purchased a two year subscription to BitDefender Antivirus Plus V10. Some two months ago I was forced to carry out a ''Clean Install''of Vista and as a result lost my antivirus program. During the last two months I have tried five or six times, unsuccessfully, to contact BitDefender for help in recovering the software. Although I have been using their official support forms, all have been ignored, it now looks like the remaining seven months of my subscription is not to be honoured. Two weeks ago I tried phoning them but got some foreign lady who I could not understand but who promised to e-mail me with instructions on what to do...I am still waiting. At the moment I am running a trial version of ESET NOD32 antivirus which seems very good. Needless to say I shall steer well clear of Bitdefender from now on.

January 5, 2009 at 12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have bitdefender 2009 thats the newest one but every time i try to scan a device or just do a complete scan for viruses and malware and things like those, a message pops up that there was an error. Can some one help me in solving this because that is the only problem that i have otherwise its the best antivirus that i hav ever used, please for some help!

February 9, 2009 at 7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have Bitdefender Total security 2009 on my computer.

I installed it the first time and putted in the registry key and on the next step I have to register on their server. I putted in all my info and when I clicked on finish it says that it could not connect to the server.

I went on for about a week, everything updating and working, but just one day it won't let me enable the real time file protection. This I didn't really care about because its a small problem, but next I know it doesn't update (Now that is very bad)

I tried to contact support through the internet but their webpage won't open. I used windows internet explorer, opera and firefox, but it still doesn't open. It's like their blocking me from entering their site to complain that their product doesn't work. When I open the home page on my phone then it works but not on the computer.

Then I called support and they e-mailed me repair steps. I did the repair steps and after I did the repair steps it shows a dark bitdefender icon on the system tray. When I double clicked on it, it just says that it could not connect to the server and that I should contact support.

I contacted support and they said they would send me a uninstall tool to uninstall the program. I got the e-mail with their home page on it(That helped much, because their webpage doesn't work.)

I got the uninstall tool with much effort and uninstalled it and now it doesn't install at all.

We have another Bitdefender total security 2009 packet at my fathers attorneys office in an other part of the country but that also started to give the same problems than mine.

Their saying that it also slows down their computer extremely much. The product also blocks the programs their working on with the bank to work smooth. That computer started to gave problems the day they installed Bitdefender total security 2009.

I installed their bitdefender free edition and that also doesn't want to update.

I always recommended this free edition product to people because it had more security that AVG, but with all the problems that bitdefender is giving a would not recommend this product.

In all mu years with computers (10) I never had a program that works this bad. I thought that Norton was bad last year, but this product is far worse.

I will never, ever recommend this product to anyone or anything. You can't buy a worse product than this.

June 3, 2009 at 8:16 AM  

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