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Avast Free Antivirus 2014 review

Verdict

The cream of the free security suites, Avast's likeable offering brings effective virus protection in a lightweight yet well-equipped package

Review Date: 21 Feb 2014

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
6 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

Avast makes a good impression from the word go, with a clean, pane-based interface that neatly exposes all available features. Naturally, these include real-time and on-demand malware scanning, plus a web-protection module that runs as a local proxy (so it should work with whichever browser you use). See also: best free antivirus 2014.

The settings interface lets you change how and when pop-up notifications appear, set up and schedule scans, enter and exit the silent "gaming mode", and even configure email alerts, which will notify you from afar if anything untoward is discovered.

There's a decent selection of secondary features, too. The Browser Cleanup module removes nuisance browser add-ons and fixes configuration tweaks installed by spyware. The Software Updater tool keeps components such as Adobe Air, Flash and Java up to date, closing off vulnerabilities in the process. There's also a rescue-media builder that can create a bootable USB flash drive or CD in two clicks.

Avast Free Antivirus 2014

As is the norm with free security software, you'll find plenty of references to features that aren't included. Click on the firewall, sandbox or password-manager icons and you'll be invited to buy Avast's commercial security suite.

The Store pane offers further downloads, both free and paid-for. These optional extras are all clearly signposted, except for the SecureLine VPN service, which is billed at £6 inc VAT per month. In fairness, you're offered a three-day trial when you activate the feature.

All of this good stuff would be moot if Avast lacked a competent virus engine. However, in our tests, it proved highly capable, intercepting 94% of our real-world malware. The best paid-for suites do better, but if you don't want to dig out your wallet, Avast comes fairly close to those levels of protection.

Avast Free Antivirus 2014

Avast also impressed us with its ability to stay out of the way of legitimate software. With default settings, it all but matched Microsoft Windows Defender in our false-positives test, gaining a 99% rating. If you don't trust Avast's judgement, the new Hardened Mode feature in this release takes the opposite approach, allowing only known, whitelisted executables to run. It isn't a bad idea for less technical users.

The last piece of the puzzle is system responsiveness, and Avast did well here, too. It felt smooth and slick, even on a low-powered Atom system. Not surprisingly, it wasn't able to match Microsoft's Windows Defender, and we weren't overjoyed about having to wait more than 15 minutes for a "quick" system scan to complete. But with an overall performance score of 90% in our tests, Avast is lighter on its feet than other free rivals and – perhaps assisted by its leaner feature set – even beats most commercial options. The 343MB disk overhead is easy to live with, too.

With so many boxes ticked, Avast is the obvious choice for anyone who doesn't want to invest in an annual subscription. There's even a free, complementary Android app; if you register at Avast's website, you can centrally manage both subscriptions, and access anti-theft features for mobile devices and PCs.

Author: Darien Graham-Smith

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User comments

Registration required

I tried this out as an alternative to AVG. It does the job pretty well but after 30 days will stop working unless you register the product.

It may be free, but if AVG and Avira can offer free antivirus protection that's close in performance without wanting to do a personal data grab, Avast definitely won't be on my computer long term.

By thewelshbrummie on 27 Feb 2014

@thewelshbrummie
It's been installed on my PC's for a number of months now (AVG was getting far too needy..) I haven't paid for it on any of my machines and it hasn't stopped working. I would suggest that you may have installed the trial version rather than the free version?

By pinero50 on 27 Feb 2014

@pinero50

There is no trial version. The Free version requires registration within 30days. The details requested are name and email address. I have installed it on lots of machines and it always asks for registration withing 30 days. The protection lasts for a year. So it's free for a year.

By drummerbod on 28 Feb 2014

@everyone - registration requires your e-mail address, nothing more. All the upgrade ads are in the pop-ups you don't get spammed. You can re-register it after the year is up, it's free as long as they provide it, not just a year. Anyone who thinks the other AVs don't skim your browser data, wake up! At least Avast! are upfront about it.

By steviejay on 16 May 2014

@@everyone - I'm staring at a big grey "Automatically switches back after trial period" option right now while I'm trying to do my year-end re-register that says you might be wrong. The reason I'm here is because there is just physically no button I can press to renew my "free" avast service at this point. I've been using this program for years so I know it to, but guess what? I think they got tired of not making money.

By CaolAnim on 17 May 2014

Don't bother!

I had used the Avast free antivirus for a couple of years but this year wanting additional protection I decided to pay for the 1yr license.

I downloaded the programme and thats where my problems really began; 3 virus' were downloaded with the avast software and the software prevented me from getting online. I had absolutely no problems before this.

I contacted customer support from a different computer and received an acknowledgement, 7 days later still no contact from them. I tried the phone support but found this to be rubbish.

The man I spoke wouldn't listen to what I was saying, when I did get my point over he told me I was wrong and that the way to get my PC fixed was to pay £129.99 for a windows engineer. I argued that since Avast was responsible for messing up my PC I didn't see why I should have to pay.

After a long and very unsatisfactory conversation he told me "you either pay the fee or the computer will not be fixed", sounds like blackmail to me. I am not going to pay the fee and I am determined to get my PC fixed. So, if you value your computer just stay well away from Avast and their appalling support service.

By isiswalnut on 6 Jun 2014

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