AVG Anti-Virus Free 2012 review
A heavyweight suite, plastered with adverts – but great malware detection and web protection make it the best free option
Review Date: 13 Apr 2012
Reviewed By: Darien Graham-Smith
Price when reviewed: Free
Features & Design
Value for Money
Ease of Use
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.
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.
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.
Author: Darien Graham-Smith
The interface with its warnings and pop ups make this software a danger to anybody not skilled in computing. Confusion and anti-virus do not go together. AVG annual updates do not remove the past suites - it is like software treacle. If you are not willing to use 'regedit', if you want your computer to stay reasonably fast, if you have any users who are unskilled - AVOID. Better to pay. Lastly, any software test should end with an evaluation of the uninstallation process - can it be done? For an unskilled user, the answer is a resounding NO. So, professionals, you won't help an unskilled neighbour by installing this for them, and you will be called back.
By RichardKeys on 13 Apr 2012
MS Security Essentials
I swapped AVG 2010 for the MS offering when it exploded in size.
MSSE may be a lot "simpler", but it appears to do the job well and it appears to consume far less resources than AVG. Oh and no irritating adverts either. I'm sticking with that one.
Also on older machines it appears to give them a break and not slow them down appallingly like AVG now does.
By mrmmm on 13 Apr 2012
For me, free anti-virus has to be unobtrusive. I recently removed Avira Anti-virus from my girlfriend's laptop because she got sick of it nagging at every single boot about the paid version.
I appreciate that AVG's money comes from the paid version, and I've no problems with them withholding certain features etc. from the free one. But popups and nagging are a huge no-no IMO. The lousy memory footprint also isn't great.
So, I'll be sticking with MSE for now. It does the job well enough, and it sits quietly out of the way like anti-virus software is supposed to do.
By Trippynet on 13 Apr 2012
Annoying Interface - really?
I have been running AVG free for years. The interface has never been annoying, principally because I never, ever use it (other than a quick look after installing). Why would I want to? It just runs in the background, updates itself, automatically scans. If I have a mind to I can review the scan reports but I don't need to run the interface to do this. I don't recall ever seeing a pop-up advert either. I suppose if you really get a kick out of playing with options then it might, conceivably, be annoying. But if you are one of those that does like to play with knobs and buttons then I guess you'd probably pay for something that lets you tinker to your hearts content.
RichardKeys - Never, ever had a problem with AVG installs. Never, ever been called back by an "unskilled" neighbour after they've installed AVG. I'm guessing you are a sales exec for Symantec or similar? Now there is a lesson in dodgy, uninstallable bloatware...
By ianreid99 on 13 Apr 2012
Different installations, somehow?
I use this and have installed it on the machines of several friends and relatives and no one has had any problems with it.
I don't understand why people would 'keep seeing' adverts or get nagged at boot. Neither I nor anyone else on whose machine I've installed AVG suffers in this way.
By qpw3141 on 13 Apr 2012
I have uninstalled AVG from a few machines - which could only be done with extreme difficulty - after they picked up infections that AVG did not stop. The 'pop-ups' are AVG's own adverts for PC analizer, telling people that they need to ... XXX. Last time, I had to edit the registry, and re-boot several times in order to remove files that would not go away. After a mere uninstall, it still ran, and the 'PC Analizer' message was still coming up. I don't sell anything, but I do advise people to avoid software that performs unnecessary actions on their computer without asking them first. Telling people that their computer is at risk and they need to pay for a program to make it safe - PC analizer - is not acceptable. Ever.
By RichardKeys on 13 Apr 2012
AVG - good but feels free
I run AVG, but it always feels free to me - the interface is badly designed
By Luke_EPU on 13 Apr 2012
RichardKeys - I can't imagine what kind of infections AVG didn't pick up that required it to be uninstalled and I'm guessing you probably didn't try the AVG Removal tool. Also, I guess you have never tried uninstalling Norton or Macafee - I have never acheived this successfully, both always leave a footprint in the form of redundant registry items, unremovable files and directories. BTW, PC Analyzer has nothing to do with protection, it is a system performance app - are you sure it is AVG you are referring to? Finally, you make the point that making people pay for a program to keep their computer safe is not acceptable, so presumably you never recommend Norton, Macafee or any other subscription base, pay-to-keep-using software?
By ianreid99 on 13 Apr 2012
Identity Protection ???
After installing the latest AVG Free 2012 version, I find that the ID Protection component has been 'DISABLED', no 'Enabling' after several of their 'FIX' recommendations. Any answers ?
Or, do I switch to a competitor ?
By JetMorgan on 17 May 2012
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