AVG Anti-Virus Free 9.0 review

9 Feb 2010

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

AVG's simple interface invites you to upgrade, but doesn't nag
5

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £0
Price inc VAT £0
Overall rating 5
Ease of Use rating 6
Value for Money 6
Software subcategory Internet security

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? no