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Avast Free Antivirus review

Verdict

The cream of the crop of free antivirus tools, with great protection, plenty of features and an exceedingly light touch

Review Date: 6 Feb 2013

Reviewed By: Darien Graham-Smith

Price when reviewed: Free

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
5 stars out of 6

In our view, the Avast Free Antivirus front-end is one of the most attractive around. It’s easy to navigate, too, with a tabbed interface offering direct access to primary settings and information panes, and it’s illustrated with surprisingly tasteful graphics.

Since it’s free, some advertising is inevitable. The front page of the interface displays a big advert for Avast’s paid-for Internet Security suite, and an ever-present “upgrade” button sits in the top-right corner of the window. A section of the interface is dedicated to promoting other Avast products and services, both paid-for and free, including data backup and protection for Android devices.

In everyday use, however, this isn’t too intrusive. Turn off the grating voice notifications and Avast is attractively inconspicuous. You’ll mostly only notice it via the WebRep browser extension, which adds safety ratings to search results and shows trustworthiness ratings for sites you visit. It installs by default in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera – but it doesn’t meddle with homepage or search settings.

Avast Free Antivirus

This softly-softly approach is matched with an unobtrusive RAM footprint of 82MB, and a 13-second impact on the startup time of our test laptop. That may sound steep, but remember that this is a low-end system. A desktop with a faster hard disk or a laptop with an SSD will see a much less noticeable impact on boot time.

In fact, our only speed-related complaint is with the Quick Scan feature: on our test system this took more than 15 minutes to complete. You can create a custom scan, however, specifying which file types to inspect, which drives to include and so forth.

In addition to real-time and scheduled scanning features, Avast Free Antivirus also includes an AutoSandbox feature that runs suspicious software in a virtualised environment. It’s configurable, so you can decide for yourself how paranoid you want the software to be. Peer-to-peer downloads and IM attachments can be monitored, too, as well as scripts in browsers and PDF readers.

Avast Free Antivirus

A distinctive feature is the Remote Assistance tool, which can be used to access someone else’s desktop (with their permission, of course). This partly duplicates Windows’ Remote Desktop capabilities, but no configuration is required, making it an appealing option if you’re one of those lucky souls who provides technical support to friends and family.

All this would be moot if Avast Free Antivirus weren’t competent at the basic business of detecting malware, but here too it’s a strong performer. Across two months of tests, Avast successfully protected against 98% of recent malware, including so-called zero-day malware attacks that hadn’t previously been seen. That’s a better performance than any other free antivirus tool – and outshines several paid-for suites.

In the past we’ve picked AVG as the best free security package; this time Avast has showed itself to be a lighter, friendlier and more capable option. It isn’t as powerful or as feature-filled as Bitdefender’s commercial suite, but if you want a free tool to keep you safe, this is the one to choose.

Author: Darien Graham-Smith

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User comments

Avast! Free for Mac OSX

I have been using Avast! free at home on my PC for years, and recently on my Apple iMac. I recommend it to all my friends. In the Specs the article says that it is not available for Mac OSX. See http://www.avast.com/free-antivirus-mac to get it for the Mac

By Grimbald on 8 Feb 2013

Yesh ok

I've cleaned a few computers that had Avast installed over the years and NOTHING beats running a standard account. Run as full admin? You're asking for it.

By rhythm on 11 Feb 2013

False positives

Testing Avast, we found that if you have entries blocking advert sites in your hosts file, Avast can give you false-positive reports that you've been hit by a trojan.

By kpdirection on 12 Feb 2013

Biased

How come you play down the 13 seconds this adds to the boot time on your laptop but your review of Microsoft Security Essentials implies you're not happy about that doing the same thing? A bit biased???

By lolalou_xxx on 18 Feb 2013

13 seconds bad for some good for others?

its does seem pcpro apply different standards to one product as compared to another, ie they are being biased. and are seemingly promoting avast over MSE.

>>13-second impact on the startup time of our test laptop. That may sound steep, but remember that this is a low-end system

Read more: Avast Free Antivirus review | PC Pro http://www.pcpro.co.uk/reviews/software/379729/ava
st-free-antivirus#ixzz2LWIfCcIc

By msharratt on 21 Feb 2013

Avoid with Windows 8 !

This causes a complete internet block on the preinstalled Microsoft Apps such as Games, Store, Music, Bing My Lockscreen etc. even when the shields are disabled. I went back to Avast instead of MSE when I read your reviews, but this is a major bug. Uninstalling now ...

By Getafix on 2 Mar 2013

@Getafix

No issues at all with Avast Free and Windows 8 here.

Coincidentally, right after reading this article and the comparisons, my MSE decided the service would just keep stopping for no apparent reason. I couldn't do a quick scan with the service stopping 3/4 of the way through. I've done multiple checks for malware and nothing has come up.

Therefore, I installed Avast to try it and I really like it, so far. It hasn't caused any of the issues you mention in your post. Interestingly, it added nothing to my boot times on my SSD. Still firing up in a tad over 8 seconds :-)

By cooloox on 12 Mar 2013

@cooloox

You must be one of the lucky ones. It looks to be completely random. Can somebody from PC Pro have a look into this ? Search for "Metro Apps no internet" gives over 34 million results !

By Getafix_Druid on 15 Mar 2013

@cooloox

You must be one of the lucky ones. It looks to be completely random. Can somebody from PC Pro have a look into this ? Search for "Metro Apps no internet" gives over 34 million results !

By Getafix_Druid on 15 Mar 2013

@cooloox

You must be one of the lucky ones. It looks to be completely random. Can somebody from PC Pro have a look into this ? Search for "Metro Apps no internet" gives over 34 million results !

By Getafix_Druid on 15 Mar 2013

@cooloox

You must be one of the lucky ones. It looks to be completely random. Can somebody from PC Pro have a look into this ? Search for "Metro Apps no internet" gives over 34 million results !

By Getafix_Druid on 15 Mar 2013

Might be an XP thing but....

Put this on yesterday as MSE decided it wouldn't update defs. any more and it ran for about nine hours! Even then suggested a boot scan, jeez.

By steve_matthews1 on 29 Apr 2013

Bad start

Avast got off on entirely the wrong foot with me by wanting to install Google Chrome and Google Toolbar. Why do so many software installations want to do this by default? I find it completely unacceptable. If I'd wanted it I'd have installed it, OK? If it isn't there assume I don't want it.

By jgwilliams on 27 Jun 2013

At least its free

Giving this a go after Bitdefender TS 2013 wrecked my Win7 PC with multiple issues, looks fine so far

By rhobstein3 on 21 Aug 2013

Annoying but great security

I've installed Avast! on many customer PCs/laptops. Recently been REALLY annoying and cost me time (therefore money!) as it started blocking MS Silverlight. Only happended or 2 days It cost me those 2 days with complaints from customers over the phone!
Also blocks Dream Scene from Windows 7 if you have anyone who likes the moving desktop backgrounds.

Village Computers

By Rider on 5 Nov 2013

It may be a good product but ...

It installed Chrome and Google toolbar without even asking me and I cannot overstress how much this behaviour angers me. It also has those effing stupid voice prompts which drive me round the bend and it keeps popping up unwanted prompts in the corner of the screen. I'd settle for marginally poorer protection in exchange for none of the above.

By jgwilliams on 31 Dec 2013

Oops!

I see I've already commented about Avast installing Chrome without asking me. That's because I've just installed it on a second PC and it annoyed me all over again only, this time, I was watching carefully and definitely never got asked if I wanted those products or not. That is decidedly bad.

By jgwilliams on 31 Dec 2013

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