AVG Anti-Virus Free 2012 review

13 Apr 2012

A heavyweight suite, plastered with adverts – but great malware detection and web protection make it the best free option

5

In our malware tests, AVG Anti-Virus Free 2012 protected us against a very creditable 98% of threats – giving a better degree of protection than many commercial packages. True, it isn’t quite up there with the best of the paid-for products, but with online dangers evolving constantly, even the most assiduous security developer can’t expect a clean sheet every time.

Similarly, although AVG fell a mite short of perfection in our false-positive test, it flagged up only 4% of our tricky applications. It raises the question of whether there’s still any sense in paying for security software at all.

AVG Anti-Virus Free 2012

This being free, however, extras are limited. There’s no dedicated firewall, no bootable recovery disc, no parental controls, no encryption and no file shredder. AVG does actively scan incoming and outgoing email (unlike Microsoft Security Essentials), so you can’t unwittingly pass on infected messages. And AVG’s LinkScanner automatically adds red, yellow or green icons to search results in your browser, showing which sites can be trusted and which are best avoided. A Game Mode suspends scans and updates whenever an application is running in full-screen mode. Note, however, that this also means scans will pause whenever a screensaver kicks in.

There are a few flies in the ointment. For a start, despite what looks like a stripped-down feature set, AVG Anti-Virus Free added a weighty 259MB to the memory footprint of our test system. That won’t be a big problem on a modern PC with 4GB of RAM, but for older systems it’s a drag. We also didn’t enjoy waiting a ponderous 1min 10secs for a quick system scan to complete.

The real annoyance, though, is the interface. At first glance the icon-based view looks accessible, but start exploring and you’ll find three of the eight main icons lead you to external features that cost extra (the PC Analyzer, the Family Safety Module and LiveKive Online Backup). Meanwhile, a large banner advert for AVG’s commercial internet security suite hangs off the bottom of the main window, and an “Upgrade your protection” button in the main icon area whisks you away to a purchase form for the paid-for suite. Worst of all, even if you never open the main interface, you’ll see the occasional pop-up advert while using Windows.

AVG Anti-Virus Free 2012

Frankly, this brazen marketeering leaves a bad taste in the mouth. But if you want a more pleasant, less obtrusive interface, there’s an inescapable trade-off. The free alternatives may offer friendlier interfaces, but they can’t match AVG when it comes to the fundamental job of stopping malware. If you want both usability and effectiveness, you’ll have to pay for a commercial suite, such as Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security.

Where does this leave AVG? Since the whole purpose of security software is to keep you safe from malware, we reckon AVG Anti-Virus, despite its lumbering footprint and sometimes punchy interface, is the most worthy of the free bunch. But it also serves to illustrate exactly why, for now at least, there are still reasons to pay for a commercial security suite.

Details

Price ex VAT £0
Price inc VAT £0
Overall rating 5
Ease of Use rating 4
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 6
Software subcategory Internet security