Make viruses walk the plank

An A-list antivirus, freeware Avast 5 provides the same steadfast protection of well-known and pricier antivirus programs.

Avast Free 5, an A-list freeware antivirus app, provides the same steadfast protection of well-known, pricier antivirus programs. Avast is remarkable for both its effectiveness and arguably providing the most complete free antivirus on the market.

Avast Free 5, formerly known as the Home Edition, protects you with multiple guards. The antivirus, antispyware, and heuristics engines form a security core that also includes multiple real-time shields. The adjustable mail and file system shields join the pre-existing behavior, network, instant messaging, peer-to-peer, and Web shields. The behavioral shield is a common-sense feature, as security software publishers leverage their large user bases to detect threats early and warn others. Other new features include a silent-gaming mode and an "intelligent scanner" that only looks at changed files after establishing a baseline. The biggest change in Avast 5, though, is the interface. Gone is the music player default look, which was skinnable but confusing. In its place is a sleek UI that new users should find far more manageable. It's also Aero-friendly, with Explorer-style navigation buttons in case you can't remember where you tweaked a particular setting.

Avast's recent independent third-party testing has been notably solid, able to hold its own against better-known programs from Symantec and Microsoft. Avast 5 Free lacks features in the paid upgrade including antispam measures, a testing sandbox, a Script shield, and a firewall. Even without those, Avast Free 5 is probably the strongest, free antivirus currently available.

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