Effective security for power users

AVG Free provides the bare necessities when it comes to security, but that should be enough for savvy Windows users.

AVG Free provides the bare necessities when it comes to security, but that should be enough for savvy Windows users. You'll get a combined antivirus and antimalware engine, LinkScanner, and e-mail scanning. AVG Free 9 introduces a few new features, with improvements focused on performance, including claims of faster scan and boot times. One new feature is the Identity Theft Recovery Unit. Only for users in the United States, ITRU is a business partnership with Identity Guard which provides "consumer identity theft solutions," accessible only from the AVG toolbar in Firefox and Internet Explorer.

The interface is nearly unchanged from the last version, and generally it's easy to use. From the main window, though, you must double-click to get further information on any feature, whether virus scanning, LinkScanner settings, or updating. Streamlining this to one click would be helpful. A scheduling utility automates both scans and updates, while the upgrade ad at the screen's bottom can be easily hidden using the Hide Notification button. When starting a scan, a slider makes it easy to jump between Slow, Automatic, and Fast scans: the faster the scan, the less comprehensive it is, so users should take advantage of the scan optimization that is recommended during installation to speed up that first scan. A progress meter for regular scans would've been useful, though. Should a virus create serious problems, AVG creates a rescue disk to scan your computer in MS-DOS mode.

The LinkScanner feature protects you from third-party code exploits before they load in your browser and for ranking search results. Annoyingly, when you install its optional toolbar, it commandeers your new-tab page, decidedly inappropriate behavior. The program doesn't obviously tax your system when scanning or when running in the background, although CNET Labs determined that it will significantly slow down your system's boot time, and slightly delay shutting down. AVG also detected some image files as threats, when two other scans decided they weren't--we decided these were false positives. AVG might not be the fastest or the most effective free security option, but it still gets the job done and you're better off with it.

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