Whilst researching an alternative to Microsoft Security Essentials, I was recommended Avast Free Antivirus by a long-time user of the program. As a free antivirus tool, it offers a wide range of security options and real-time protection as standard, even so far as isolating suspicious activity that other anti-virus tools such as Microsoft Security Essentials seem to miss. I have been using Avast Free Antivirus for 3 months, keeping it up to date with the latest virus definitions and so far the program has successfully protected my system from any threats, even isolating potentially harmful files and bringing them to my attention for further action.
During installation, I was presented with 3 options (SS.1):
• "Express" - which installs the program using default settings - the option a typical user would choose (the option I used to install the program).
• "Compatible" which installs the program as the '2nd Line of Defence' - allowing the user to run another antivirus program alongside Avast Free Antivirus
• "Custom" which allows the user to select the installation path and customize which components are installed, including the choice to alter the default language setting. This setting would be recommended for advanced users.
The installation process creates a system restore point and installs with the latest security update. Installation was relatively short - this may differ on other systems and once underway required no interaction from me until it completed. There were a few adverts encouraging me to install other Avast related products, but their installation is not necessary.
Once installed, I was prompted to restart my system, which is recommended, to allow the program to complete it's setup.
Avast will automatically load when the computer boots. An icon will sit in your taskbar, and inform you that your system is secured. When opening the user interface various tabs are visible that will allow you to see what components are functioning. There are 4 types of anti-virus scan options to suit various needs and even a real-time graph that will illustrate interaction between the various antivirus components and the elements /activity that they protect and monitor (SS.4). All the main aspects of the program are clearly marked and laid out for easy navigation.
The 4 scan options provide effective means to properly and thoroughly scan your system. clearly identifying what is being scanned and the speed at which the program scans. There are pre-defined settings and custom setting options. The parameters and sensitivity can also be adjusted, along with the priority of the scanning process. Advanced users can also create a scanning schedule, but this is not absolutely necessary as the "Auto Sandbox" function intervenes if a suspicious program is found.
The "Real Time Shields", which cannot be directly influenced by the user, can be used for monitoring purposes (SS.2). The remaining functions that can be changed reside in the "Settings" tab and provide options for the user to customize their Avast experience - and how the program communicates with the user along with options to further automate component processes. "Cloud Services" enhance the program's automation and self-governing to provide intelligent protection. Whilst surfing the web, users will also have an functionality called "WebRep" which identifies the safety rating of websites according to the Avast database with is collated using a voting system via users.
Any changes that a user makes (whether they are novices or experts) do not affect the efficiency or protection the program provides - additionally, any changes can also be easily reversed.
In comparison to immediate competitors such as AVG Free Antivirus and Microsoft Security Essentials, Avast offers a wider variety of functionality and component options without being intrusive or deliberately limiting functionality in favour of the user upgrading to a paid version. Avast seem to genuinely care about users' security. A small example is seen when the virus definitions are updated, a small pop-up will appear in the bottom right of the screen informing the user of an update and even providing a link to a TED talk to help educate the user on the subject of online security (SS.3).
The only obvious drawback of Avast Free Antivirus is the 12 month trial period, which might put users off in the long-term. A further, but only slight disadvantage is a common trait found in similar programs - on occasion it might inadvertently block a harmless application. For less experienced users this may cause distress, but fortunately unlike the free versions of MacAfee and Norton antivirus, which are notorious for blocking applications and connections mercilessly, which is then troublesome to reverse - Avast Free Antivirus offers quick and simple solutions to these issues should they ever arise.
Simple to install and easily manageable Avast Free Antivirus offers a free security solution with in-depth protection to rival most paid-for internet security programs. The ease of use is only made simpler by the excellent customer support page.
With excellent detection abilities and heuristic components I would highly recommend this program and fully intend to continue using it for the remainder of the trial period.
- Fixed issues related to Win 8 & Win 8.1 (avast! is now fully compatible with these operating systems)
- Fixed issues in virtualization module (including other x64 platform fixes)
- Fixed issues in Script shield
- Outlook plugin fixes