Avast Free Antivirus
GREAT PROTECTION, BUT YOU DON’T GET A LOT OF FEATURES AND OTHER FREE SOFTWARE DOES BETTER
Avast Free Antivirus is one of the best-known names in free anti-virus protection. Avast also has paid-for software available, which provides additional tools. Upgrade to Internet Security, Premier or Ultimate and you get fake shopping site detection, a sandbox option to safely test dodgy-looking programs, an advanced
rewall, spam ltering, and ransomware protection. The top two tiers also add webcam blocking to stop people spying on you, and an option to update your other apps.
Given the popularity of the free version, we’ve once again stuck with this for testing. Avast has improved its protection over the years, and a total accuracy rating of 94% puts this software ahead of some paid-for suites.
That score was made up of a protection rating of 82% and a score of 100% in the legitimate software test. For malware protection, four threats were allowed through, with the remainder blocked or neutralised. Impressively, the legitimate software test showed that Avast allowed everything nonharmful through. You may see this as a good thing, given how much other software is loaded up with extra programs, but Avast Free Antivirus doesn’t ship with a lot else.
Instead, the free version often acts as an advert for the paid-for versions. Several options in the interface link to a screen that tries to get you to upgrade. You get a free 60-day trial of Avast’s SecureLine VPN (a free seven-day trial is available if you download the VPN standalone). If you want to give a VPN a go, then two months’ protection could make SecureLine a more interesting choice.
More usefully, you can run quick scans for outdated software, and for browser extensions in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer that have a ‘poor reputation’.
The Passwords feature could be useful, securely storing and synchronising your passwords across your devices. With Avast Free, you can use Passwords to automatically ll in web forms, although you’ll need the Chrome or Firefox extension to use this feature. Usefully, Passwords can import your passwords from your browser and let you know how secure you are, by telling you how strong your passwords are and if you’ve re-used them. Upgrade to the Ultimate version of Avast, and Passwords can also warn you if one of your accounts has been leaked online.
Avast will also offer to scan your PC for junk les and system settings that could be slowing down your computer. It claimed to have found 46.8MB of junk les and four system settings that should be tweaked. Clicking the Resolve button brings up a nag screen for a service that costs $3.33 a month. It’s not worth the upgrade, in our opinion.
The settings menu is well stocked and, for the most part, free of hints trying to get you to pay for things. You can make granular changes to the way Avast scans by, for example, choosing whether it scans programs when you rst start them up or not. You can also choose which elements you want to run: File shield, which scans programs and
les as they’re opened or added to your hard disk; Behaviour shield, which monitors applications for suspicious behaviour; Mail shield, which scans email attachments; and Web shield, which monitors websites and internet traf c. Our advice is to leave all the protection turned on.
A dedicated Hardened mode beefs up the protection even further, making it more dif cult for malware to get on to your computer. This is recommended for inexperienced users only.
The potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) scanner can cut down on the sneaky toolbars and applications that come bundled with some free software.
For gamers, there’s a dedicated Game mode. This disables popup messages, intensive scans and the like, so you can play away without being disturbed. Neatly, you can add games for Avast to watch for, so that Game mode launches automatically.
The Wi-Fi inspector is a new component, scanning your network for any devices that may have security issues. None was found on our test network, which was reassuring at least.