avast! Free Antivirus is light on the system, remarkably easy to use, and fairly effective in malware protection.
Quick setup, comprehensive controls, commendable speediness, decent feature set, and zero cost – these are but a few of the characteristics avast! Free Antivirus has got under the hood. Results of independent third-party tests which are closely comparable with those of commercial counterparts make this product one of the most reliable free antiviruses out there.
Although the vendor’s product comparison chart looks a little discouraging with regard to this particular piece of software, with only 2 out of 11 fields checked, this free AV turns out to deliver more than just the declared virus and spyware protection and remote assistance tools. In fact, you get additional guard as well, embodied in AutoSandbox, Browser Protection, Site Blocking, and a multitude of real-time Protection Shields for the file system, web, behavior, mail, scripts, network, P2P applications, and instant messaging.
From where we stand, avast! Free Antivirus completely ruins the stereotype of free being short of features and not effective enough. It’s not by chance therefore that this utility is generally known to be the world’s most popular antivirus. Intrigued? There are some more details to come: you can learn down-to-earth facts about this software in the context of most relevant evaluation criteria below.
Downloading 93 MB of data is all it takes to kick off using avast! Free Antivirus. This is a direct download process, so there is no stub installer involved. You get a choice of Express Install with default settings, or Compatible Install as the 2nd line of defense. Overall, the setup takes as little as the amazing 1-2 minutes, and is followed by a 20-second quick initial scan – quick indeed. Right away you get a notice about registration specificity, stating that your subscription will expire in 30 days and you then need to either prolong it, or upgrade to a commercial product with more features and better protection. No worry though – in case you cannot afford the latter, just fill out some personal details (name and email) or tie it up to your Facebook account to get a whole year of free virus protection with avast!. The upsell offers are not overly obtrusive, always providing a zero-cost alternative.
The interface is a pretty well-balanced blend of dark-grey, yellow and green, with eye-catching components and reasonably saturated graphics. One thing that draws attention from the start is the size of the GUI – it seems huge compared with the predominant majority of applications we’ve tested. Is this sort of cyber gigantism good or bad? Depends on the user perhaps. We didn’t really fall for it, to be frank. What is more, there seems to be plenty of GUI space left blank.
Anyway, the informative aspect here is addressed remarkably as the main pane reflects basically all you as a customer might want to know: current protection status, as well as statuses of real-time shields and definitions auto updates, virus definitions version, program version, and expiration date. The entire functional arsenal is represented in the left-hand pane encompassing scan options, Real-Time Shields, Additional Protection, Maintenance, and the Market item. These principal components are complemented by Support, Settings, Upgrade, and Recommend extras lined up on the top. Overall, structure of the user interface is shaped up in conformance with conventional tenets to be intuitive and easy to navigate, with nothing out of the ordinary or high-end in terms of the graphics. Another thing to point out is the voice you hear accompanying certain events, such as threat, suspicious item or potentially unwanted program (PUP) detection, scan completion, and virus database update. It’s kind of fun to be able to pick and download different themed audio from www.avast.com – in case you get annoyed by the default stuff.
avast! Free Antivirus should by no means go tough on your operating system’s performance. It was amazingly light on the system throughout our test, and never really slowed it down to a notable degree, so this benchmark is definitely not something to be concerned with – unlike the scan. Whereas Quick Scan that we launched manually took about 7 minutes to complete, things are tangibly worse with Full Scan, where you can start it and go take a walk or visit some friends, because it seems to take forever. Just to be precise, 10% progress was a matter of 30 minutes in our case. So, running Full Scan of your system is not what we recommend doing a lot; maybe once a month would be fine, for your nerves’ sake. It’s more judicious to schedule Quick Scan once or a twice a week, with the additional ‘Scan PUP’ option activated; or get the program to run Boot-Time Scan on OS start.
Surprisingly, avast! Free Antivirus is not restricted to basic virus protection. It covers some additional niches to assure more than the regular security freeware typically does. A total of 8 real-time Protection Shields, AutoSandbox, Browser Protection and Site Blocking are the features that add value to computer guard in its entire complexity.
Third-party tests show avast! Free Antivirus mainly to advantage. Not only does it rank well in comparison with other free security suites, it can well compete even with reputable commercial products. In AV-TEST’s protection and repair evaluation, avast! got above-the-average results by all sub-criteria for both Windows XP and 7. Furthermore, the software is an unfailing ‘resident’ of Virus Bulletin’s VB100 ratings, and the winner of AV-Comparatives’ Advanced+ award in the latest File Detection Test. With regard to malware cleanup, according to AV-Comparatives, avast! Free Antivirus shows mediocre results, getting 59 points out of 100. The latter drawback does not appear critical considering the smart AutoSandbox and Virus Chest features that isolate suspicious items, which to a certain extent compensates for the not-so-high virus removal capability. In any case, you as a user can rest assured that serious harm will not be done to your system as long as it’s protected by avast!. Looking at the results in general – they’re fairly good for an antivirus solution, and simply great for free AV software.
This is the rare case where you can access pretty much all support resources directly from the user interface (Maintenance – Support). Self-help options include FAQs, User Manual, and searchable Program Help. Reaching avast! tech support team is doable through submitting a ticket with the details of your issue; in this case, it’s a great idea to use the Support Package feature which automatically gathers all relevant technical information for the tech reps to get a better idea of what might be causing the problem. By the way, we ran into an issue with sites being blocked when Web Shield was on, so we submitted a ticket and got a response within minutes, with recommendations on fixing the bug. Community Forum and Remote Assistance feature can be of help as well when things go wrong. It’s also nice to know that there is a toll-free telephone number for customers from the US to get assistance. The only thing missing here which some vendors provide is online chat, but given all the versatile help channels, this shouldn’t be a problem.