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AVG Anti-Virus Free 9.0 review

AVG's simple interface invites you to upgrade, but doesn't nag

Verdict

Not quite an infallible malware detector, but it’s free and very lightweight

Review Date: 9 Feb 2010

Reviewed By: Darien Graham-Smith

Price when reviewed: Free

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

AVG is perhaps the best established free antivirus package, with a service record more than a decade long. With longevity like that, it must be doing something right.

Indeed, in our malware tests it detected a credible 93% of threats - rubbing shoulders with commercial packages from Eset and Kaspersky.

AVG also has one feature that its free rivals can’t match: the LinkScanner module, which integrates with Internet Explorer and Firefox to add "look before you leap" malware warnings to Google, Bing and Yahoo! search results. In our tests it seemed perhaps a little too eager to warn us of "potential" dangers that never materialised; but if you want to stay on the straight and narrow the green ticks it places next to known safe sites are a welcome guide.

Typically for a free package, there’s no interactive web protection. AVG didn’t try to stop us visiting dodgy sites, and kept silent on several pages which other suites identified as hosting malware.

There’s no firewall, so AVG did nothing to protect or warn us against network attacks. The program doesn’t visibly integrate itself into your email client either, although it does keep an eye on POP traffic and successfully removed infected attachments from our test messages.

But it's partly thanks to this lean feature set that AVG Anti-Virus Free is one of the lightest packages around. We found installing it added just 25 seconds to boot time - including post-boot CPU activity - and a tiny 49MB to the overall RAM footprint of our Vista test system.

It’s unobtrusive too. It puts a toolbar in your browser, but that can be easily disabled, and although the interface does invite you to upgrade to the paid-for version, it doesn’t shove the message down your throat. Our biggest irritation was the program asking us twice whether it could change our default web search provider to Yahoo.

There’s no escaping the fact that commercial packages do more, and some – such as the A-Listed Norton Internet Security 2010 – achieve higher malware detection rates than AVG. The free version of Avira's suite also detected 4% more malware than AVG when pitted against the same sample set.

Yet Avira's free product is a terrible nag, bugging you every day to upgrade to the full version, while AVG comes with a minimal footprint and a pleasingly low profile. If you're looking for simple antivirus protection, that makes it a more attractive proposition — especially with the added bonus of LinkScanner thrown in.

Author: Darien Graham-Smith

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User comments

stokegabriel

Well I have been using it on 6 to 8 computers for about the last 5 years and AVG is an excellent program. It does help to read the guides etc so you can get it set up how you want it. Probably not fair to compare it to an internet security suite, but then some of us stay exclusively behind our own wireless router, don't hook up to the net via shared public wifi connections in coffee shops, and appreciate it's light footprint and speed of start up. If you couple this AV program with a decent antimalware program like superantispyware or malwarebytes and back up your data with synctoy, you can have a pretty secure PC for no cost at all. Free is a magic number!!

By stokegabriel on 10 Feb 2010

how does it compare to MS Security Essentials?

By baldric on 10 Feb 2010

@baldric: buy this month's mag and you will find out! ;-)

Actually I've used AVG since version 7 and I've got version 9 on my main XP box. But when I first installed it, it kept accessing the disk (ala Vista) which I found mildly irritating. The only solution I found was to rename the offending AVG module so the process couldn't run. Not ideal I know but I haven't had chance to look for a better solution since. I'm tempted to jump ship though to MS Security Essentials on the basis that its good enough and has low impact on performance.

By rjp2000 on 10 Feb 2010

Windows has its own firewall

Windows has its own firewall built in for hiding the machine from the internet.
Granted it won't stop nasties already on their connecting out though.

By jbarnett on 10 Feb 2010

How safe?

What worries me is that neither the free AVG version or MS Security Essentials detects rootkits, keyloggers, or drive-by downloads. So use AVG as long as you don't mind being a target for rootkits! The free version of Avast protects against all malware, so it would be interesting to see if AVG tries to keep up with Avast.

By KlingonBatleth on 18 Feb 2010

Moving away from AVG

I have been using AVG for around 5 years now and it's been great. However over the last 6 months I have noticed an increase in malware on both my pc and laptop and my browsing habits haven't changed. I have decided to move to Avast to see if that makes any difference. Both AVG and spybot didn't pick the trojan that was on my laptop, it was only after using hijackthis software that I noticed a dodgy file. Download.com gives AVAST good reviews so worth a try. Would love to know of a safe site that gives expert opinions on malware that can be trusted with examples of how to solve the problem. I wouldn't even mind paying for expert advice by suitably qualified IT staff (not reading from a script). Maybe someone out there should consider starting an internet buisness since Malware is most definitely on increase.

By Armageddon on 20 Feb 2010

Avg best interface but weak detection.

I used AVG for half a year. It noticably slowed my 1.8 GHz 512MB computer down a little. But it has a great interface and I liked it. But after checking out other freeware AV's, I switched to Avira which does not slow me down.

On independent test sites like av-comparatives.org, Avira got 99-97% detection rates and AVG got 93-94% rates for known viruses. For new, unknown viruses that have to be detected by tell-tale actions (heuristics] Avira detected 74% (far and away the best of any AV free or pay) and AVG detected 49%.

That means AVG is about twice as likely to miss a virus as Avira is.

Avira free does NOT check email, but your ISP must have a virus checker and your incoming mail will be checked by Avira when you try to open or use any attachments.

By The_Mick on 20 May 2010

i use avg and i do a
computer checkup every day and i didn't have any problem and i hope i can maintain my computer clean and health

By mautzu on 29 Sep 2010

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