BullGuard Detailed Expert Review
I recently purchased a refurbished gaming PC so my son and I could play online multiplayer games like Destiny 2 on Steam. I had heard about BullGuard through the online gaming community — BullGuard is said to be the best antivirus for gamers. But I was also curious if it was good for non-gamers, too.
I put BullGuard through a series of tests on my home PC, and I was really impressed by the high malware detection rates and the identity theft protection features. I tested and analyzed the parental controls, the firewall, as well as the VPN (annoyingly bought separately), and they were all top-notch.
And true to BullGuard’s reputation, I really love the Game Booster. It’s the only antivirus I’ve used which actually improves gameplay. It’s simply a phenomenal way to stay protected while deeply involved in high-powered PC gaming.
However, I did find some features I don’t really like, and I think there are other premium antiviruses that provide more features for the same price. That said, BullGuard is a fully functional and capable antivirus — it handled all the threats I threw at it. And considering BullGuard’s latest discount, it’s definitely one of the top antiviruses of 2021. You can try it out for 30 days risk-free and see if it will be good for you.
I’ve been testing BullGuard on my PC for a few weeks, and the results have been really interesting. Here’s what I’ve found out.
|Overall Rank||#7 out of 58 antiviruses|
|VPN||Yes (separate purchase)|
|Pricing||Starting at /year|
|Money-Back Guarantee||30 days|
|Operating Systems||Windows, Android, Mac|
BullGuard Security Features
BullGuard has almost as many security features as top internet security packages from well-known brands like Norton and Kaspersky — there’s a powerful malware engine and a firewall, plus lots of extra features to keep data secure.
These are BullGuard’s main security features:
- Malware detection
- Firewall/network scanner
- Game Booster/ PC tune-up
- Parental controls
- Secure browser
- ID protection
BullGuard’s malware scanner is one of its strongest features. During my testing it caught 100% of the spyware, ransomware, malware, and rootkits that I installed on my computer. The real-time scanning engine caught every piece of malware I tried to download.
There are several scan options, including:
- Quick scan. Scans the parts of the system where viruses are typically found, like temporary files, running processes, and the registry.
- Full scan. Scans the entire disk.
- Custom scan. Scans a single folder, file, or any specific disk location.
BullGuard’s Quick Scan took about 45 minutes on my computer, which is slower than other antiviruses like Avira, but it detected all of the malware test files I had hidden in my registry. The Full Scan took about 2 hours, and it detected all of the zipped malware files and ransomware test files on my disk.
Firewall + Network Scanner
BullGuard comes with a powerful firewall. From the main BullGuard dashboard, there’s a simple drop-down menu with 4 security options:
- Manage Rules. Tells BullGuard which programs can access the internet.
- Logs. Logs all traffic coming in and out of your network.
- Network Activity. Shares local and remote IP addresses in your network.
- Settings. Provides options to block specific hosts, choose which notifications to receive, and more.
Advanced users will appreciate the Logs and Network Activity functions, which record a searchable list of all the activity happening on your network, while less tech-savvy users can just turn the firewall on and let it run.
Users looking for an extra level of network protection will like the Network Scanner. It’s a separate feature from the firewall, but they have very similar functions.
The Network Scanner showed me all the devices which were connected to my Wi-Fi network and analyzed them for security issues. It also sent me a notification each time a new device logged into my network. This is a useful feature, especially if you live in a city or crowded apartment building where people may try and hijack your Wi-Fi.
The Network Scanner is a really useful tool, so it’s a little disappointing that it’s only included in the Premium Protection plan. Other antiviruses like McAfee offer this feature on their lowest-priced plans, so it would be nice if BullGuard offered a similar level of protection for a similar price.
Game Booster + PC Tune Up
Most antivirus programs now include gaming modes which suspend scans and notifications while full-screen programs are running. But BullGuard’s Game Booster is different — it actually optimizes your machine during gameplay so your games have more processing power to work with. It does this by moving memory and background processes off of the processing cores where games are running.
Since Game Booster supposedly only works on CPUs with at least 4 logical processors, I was worried that it wouldn’t work on my dual-core PC.
Fortunately, my Intel i5 processor uses hyperthreading, which splits each physical core into 2 logical processors. I was relieved to find out that Game Booster works on dual-core machines with hyperthreading.
Note: If you need to figure out how many processors your CPU has, just open your Task Manager and click the “Performance” tab. Cores and logical processors are listed on the right, under the CPU’s maximum speed.
When I booted up Destiny 2, the Game Booster widget popped up, informing me that my gaming was being optimized. There was a noticeable increase in frame-rate with Game Booster turned on. I was pretty impressed with this technology. Now that my son’s games are running faster with BullGuard installed, this is the first time he has ever been excited about antivirus software!
The Game Booster is a big draw for gamers who need to stay safe while they’re playing online and don’t want to sacrifice performance to do it.
BullGuard has a ton of other features under the PC Tune-Up functionality, such as:
- Optimize. Labels and erases unnecessary background processes and PUPs.
- Cleanup helper. Indexes junk files and provides graphic data about what’s on your computer.
- Boot manager. Analyzes startup files so you can optimize your boot sequence.
- Duplicate files. Quickly scans for duplicates on all drives — so you can delete them or organize them.
I had a good experience with BullGuard’s system clean-up tools. The Cleanup Helper helped to get rid of old files on my computer, as well as a ton of cached files from Google Chrome — it cleared out close to 1 GB of bloatware and non-essential data!
BullGuard’s parental controls are surprisingly robust, with 4 categories of parental protection offered:
- Filters. Filters online content by blocking specific types of websites.
- Access. Restricts device use to specific times of the day and week.
- Applications. Blocks certain apps from being used by locking them behind a passcode.
- Privacy. Prevents specific keywords and data from being sent or even entered into your browser.
The filters can block a wide variety of sites, with options ranging from pornography to pirated software. Since my son is in high school, I chose the 13-17 year old setting. The content blocking was a little bit too vigilant, occasionally blocking innocent websites, so we just turned it off.
The Access tab has a really useful schedule feature — I set it to keep my son from using his computer after 11pm and set a 4-hour daily usage limit on the weekends.
I liked being able to block applications, but I’d prefer to be able to set time limits on certain applications, which is a feature provided by Norton 360’s parental control feature.
The privacy filter didn’t work as well as I had hoped. It’s supposed to keep kids from entering data like phone numbers, addresses, and credit card information online. It only worked some of the time on my son’s profile, and other times it permitted him to enter credit card info into Amazon and Gmail.
The Secure Browser feature adds a layer of security for BullGuard users who want to be as safe as possible when entering sensitive information online. It checks for DNS encryption and certificate validity, and it also checks the site’s reputation against BullGuard’s database to ensure that you aren’t navigating to an unsafe site.
It performed well in my tests, blocking known phishing sites and sites which are known to host malicious scripts and files. Because of its strict security protocols, I don’t recommend it for everyday use, but it’s a good tool to use when shopping or entering private information online.
BullGuard’s ID Protection is another feature which is only included in Premium Protection. It’s powered by the international credit conglomerate Experian, whose powerful identity theft tool scans the dark web, credit bureaus, forums, social media, and breach databases for any of your leaked private information.
I tested this with some old email addresses. Within a few hours, I got an email notification letting me know that my emails had been compromised and advising me to change my password immediately.
BullGuard users that upgrade to the Premium Protection plan get the ID Protection feature for a lot cheaper than Experian’s standalone IdentityWorks service. If your financial information is a high priority, I’d suggest upgrading to Premium Protection just for this feature.
BullGuard VPN (Not Included in Antivirus Software)
BullGuard VPN (virtual private network) is a pretty decent VPN, but it’s much too slow, especially if you need it for gaming.
It’s sold separately from the BullGuard antivirus packages, at around the same cost as other standalone competitors. This is disappointing, as many other antiviruses include a VPN in their internet security packages.
Using BullGuard VPN, my son and I were able to log into our Netflix account from a French server and watch several films which are blocked for users in the USA.
Any VPN will slow down your connection, and BullGuard VPN is no different — as you can see from these tests I ran using Ookla’s Speedtest tool. Here’s my ping, download speed, and upload speed without the VPN:
After I logged into BullGuard VPN’s nearest American server — which was less than 100 miles away — my connection speed was cut by more than half:
This is a pretty significant slowdown, worse than the performance of most VPN competitors, which average around 10-30% slowdown for nearby servers.
If you’re looking for a good antivirus program with a VPN, Avira Phantom VPN comes bundled for free with Avira Prime and provides faster connections than BullGuard VPN.
It’s really unfortunate that BullGuard doesn’t bundle the VPN with any of their antivirus packages, and honestly, I don’t think it’s worth buying on its own.
BullGuard Plans and Pricing
BullGuard offers 3 different plans for different budgets and devices.
They all come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can easily give BullGuard a try and decide if it’s right for you.
Cheapest Plan — BullGuard Antivirus
BullGuard Antivirus only includes three features:
- Antivirus. Real-time malware scans and system scans.
- Vulnerabilities. Windows and program scans to check if you need updates.
- PC Tune Up & Game Booster. CPU performance optimizer during resource-intensive gaming and various device optimization functions.
I wasn’t impressed with this package because it offers so little functionality for the money, but it could be appealing to gamers on a budget.
Best Value Plan — BullGuard Internet Security
This is the product I eventually bought to protect our refurbished gaming PC. My son really likes the Game Booster feature, and I appreciate the comprehensive parental controls, firewall, and malware protection tools.
Internet Security covers 3 devices, which includes both computers and mobiles, so I installed it on our laptop and 2 Android phones. It’s significantly cheaper than big-name antivirus suites like Norton 360 Deluxe, and it offers the exact functionality we need to stay protected while ensuring high-powered gameplay.
Advanced Plan — BullGuard Premium Protection
Premium Protection provides all of the same features as BullGuard Internet Security, plus the Network Scanner and ID Protection features — and Premium Protection can cover up to 10 devices.
The ID Protection could be worth the cost for some users, but I prefer to use Norton 360 with LifeLock Select (which is only for US users). For people needing this extra protection, BullGuard is pretty good. And BullGuard Premium Protection offers a 30-day free trial, so you can try it with no risk.
BullGuard Ease of Use and Setup
BullGuard doesn’t have the most attractive user interface — it packs a lot of features into a small space and hides some important settings behind multiple drop-down menus.
For example, I thought that scheduling scans was much harder than it needed to be. First, I had to select the Antivirus tab from the dashboard:
Then, in the antivirus settings, I needed to click this non-descriptive button called “Manage Profiles”:
After I figured out that scheduling scans was contained in the Manage Profiles window, I was taken to yet another window which gave me options to customize and schedule scans:
This is just one of the ways that the user interface isn’t intuitive. Once I figured out where everything was, I was able to navigate the software pretty easily. But when companies like Norton and Kaspersky offer such clean and streamlined interfaces, it’s kind of frustrating to have to deal with BullGuard’s clunky menus, submenus, and pop-up windows.
BullGuard Mobile App
BullGuard Mobile Security Premium is an Android security app which is included in the Internet Security and Premium Protection plans. It’s a really impressive app, and it’s got a lot of useful features like:
- Antivirus scanner. Provides real-time scanning and system scans to protect against mobile malware.
- Theft protection. Allows you to lock, wipe, locate, or even set off an alarm if your phone is stolen or missing.
- Parental control. Location tracking, content blocking, call monitoring, and even photo monitoring helps to keep kids safe.
- Cloud backup. Backs up messages, calendars, and contacts to an encrypted server.
The antivirus scanner did really well, catching almost 100% of the malware I tested against it. The theft protections are really robust, but I wish they provided a remote camera access feature like McAfee’s CaptureCam.
The Mobile Security Manager is a useful online dashboard — it allowed me to keep track of my son’s location safely from my phone.
The photo manager allowed me access to photos in my son’s texts and saved images, but it didn’t provide access to apps like Instagram and Snapchat, which is where most of the mature content gets shared these days.
It feels good knowing that my family has an extra line of security if our phones get lost or stolen, as well as strong malware protection so Android-specific malware can’t corrupt our devices.
Overall, I really like BullGuard’s mobile app.
BullGuard Customer Support
BullGuard’s customer support team is pretty good — I was able to access their 24/7 live chat team at several different times of the day, and when they didn’t have the answer I needed, I got an email reply to my question within 8 hours.
I definitely had issues with live chat staff being unclear about certain features — inquiring about the Privacy Filter in the parental controls, my representative made a couple of fairly hilarious typos:
So now I know I’ll have to keep an eye on WhatsUp!
While the live chat team had some trouble with my technical questions, they were always prompt and helpful with user experience inquiries. I never waited more than 9 hours for a response from the email support team, either. All in all, I was pretty impressed with BullGuard’s customer support team.
Is BullGuard as Good for Security as it is for Performance?
BullGuard is a powerful antivirus with my favorite gaming mode on the market. The Game Booster feature actually increased the framerate when my son and I were playing Destiny 2 on our laptop. I 100% recommend this product for gamers and their families.
While the malware scanner, firewall, and identity theft protections are all really impressive features — BullGuard will clearly keep your computer secure from hackers — I really struggled with the user interface. I also would have liked it if they included extra features that most other internet security suites include — like a VPN, password manager, and cloud backup.
I liked the parental controls, and I thought they were pretty strong, with features like content filtering, app scheduling, and location tracking. However, the privacy filter didn’t work very well for me — my son was able to enter blocked keywords into his browser.
Overall, BullGuard is a great antivirus for gamers, but it might not be right for everyone. Luckily, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it out risk free and see if it will be good for you.
BullGuard — Frequently Asked Questions
Does BullGuard really have the best antivirus for gamers?
BullGuard has my favorite gaming mode of any other antivirus software. If you’re looking to increase gaming performance while your antivirus is running, I completely recommend BullGuard.
Unlike typical antivirus gaming modes, BullGuard does more than just suspend scans and notifications while you’re gaming. The unique Game Booster mode allocates background processes and memory functions off of the processors that are running your games. This allows your processors to dedicate all of their processing power to high-performance gameplay.
Note: Game Booster only works on computers with 4 or more logical processors — this includes dual-core CPUs with hyperthreading.
Is BullGuard’s VPN worth the money?
BullGuard’s VPN is an OK tool for private browsing and unblocking geo-restricted streaming content, but it’s not as fast as other antiviruses with a VPN.
A lot of streaming sites can detect VPNs — especially Netflix, which is known for their strong anti-VPN filters. BullGuard’s VPN got me past Netflix’s filter, allowing me to access content that was blocked for my US Netflix account.
That said, BullGuard’s VPN is not very fast — it cut my connection speed in half on my local servers. There are similarly priced standalone VPNs like NordVPN that unblock streaming sites without compromising data speed as much.
Is BullGuard good for macOS and iOS?
Not really. BullGuard offers a weak macOS antivirus scanner and no iOS security software whatsoever.
Does BullGuard have a free version?
No. However, BullGuard does offer a 30-day money back guarantee on all of their antivirus packages, so you can try out one of their internet security packages risk free.
That said, BullGuard’s Mobile Security is one of the better free Android antiviruses on the market. It offers powerful protections for free, and users that upgrade also get access to Mobile Security Premium’s parental controls, which I found really useful for keeping track of my teenage son.