Review: AVG Antivirus and Internet Security 2014

Improvements and additions like Data Safe and File Shredder make AVG 2014 more than just a protective measure.

AVG's Anti-Virus and Internet Security line follows on the heel of last year's highly-ranked security suite by not merely incorporating some minor but key tweaks to both its front-end and back-end, but a stronger push toward personal data management and privacy utilities that help prevent uninvited access to your files. Though many threats still exist, security programs as they stand now start to encompass areas of privacy utilities. Whereas the majority of threats were once external viruses trying to force their way into your machines, nowadays malware focus more on tricking users to inadvertently open doors for hijacking.

Version 2013 was AVG's first push toward adopting and remixing the Modern UI movement. Not just a response to competitors, the Modern UI movement represents an overall push toward creating a more streamlined security experience. For the average consumer, what your anti-virus and anti-malware programs do to protect your computer have followed a set it and forget it mentality.

Balancing along the fine line of being both approachable yet empowering is a key goal of not just AVG but also just about any utility software developer: Modern UI has the visual appeal, but does it evoke control and the sense of security over all the software's power features?

In our last review, we commended AVG's decision to reduce the installation steps. It still contains a toolbar offer, and despite the universal hatred toward being fooled into installing yet another browser helper object, AVG's toolbar actually does include useful security options like Do Not Track. Again it's a tradeoff but if you really wanted DNT's features, then there's a standalone version available for free on Firefox and Chrome in their respective extension stores.

By now, almost every major security software maker has more or less adopted the flat, Modern UI look and AVG has kept its own visuals mostly intact. The main screen is decorated with AVG's primary areas of protection that include your computer, browsing the Web, Identity protection features, e-mail protection, and extras that populate the second row if you opt to purchase the premium or Internet Security suites. It's the same as last year's design, but still a radical departure from the old AVG that's appreciated, yet still may take some getting used to for the more hands-on user. Thankfully, all it's older scan settings are still neatly tucked under the options, though they aren't nearly as touch-friendly.

All visual and organizational improvements aside, AVG 2014 (along with many other security suites we've seen) have more or less been continuing to dress a Windows 7 application without completely assimilating into the actual Modern UI environment, wholeheartedly. I can understand this context under the stance that there are still many who don't face a real urgency to upgrade to Windows 8. But if you're moving toward minimal input and maintenance for running a security program in the background, then perhaps Modern UI might be better suited in the long run.

Once AVG adapts to your machine, scan times are reduced tremendously.

For example, the options menu is still very much geared toward the mouse user, so having a meet-halfway kind of design slightly disrupts the overall experience of maintaining and protecting your machine with the touch of your fingers.

Data Safe is your lockbox to prevent unwanted tampering or snooping if you save files on a public machine.

Two notable additions to AVG Internet Security are File Shredder and Data Safe. File Shredder is a more permanent solution to deleting files and reducing any potential digital trails for recovery. By default, Windows doesn't actually delete files, even after clearing the Recycle Bin, with the exception of overly-large file sizes. For the average user, this might not seem like much but in the era of privacy concerns, it's a welcome feature that will slowly start to become more relevant to the average consumer.

Even Data Safe, AVG's own folder encryption, helps you create what is essentially a secured pseudo-partition in a native location that can only be unlocked with a password. It's a practical precaution for those who share their computers with others and wish to avoid having to create separate profiles.

AV-Test results for 2014 are currently not published, but the 2013 marks for Internet Security showed a slight drop in protection, going down from a 5.5 rating out of 6 to 5.0. Performance remained standard at 3.5 but usability shot up significantly from 4.5 to 5.5 out of 6. AV-Comparatives gave 2013 a 1.1 percent compromise rate in their real-world protection test in their July report. Overall, AVG has maintained a relatively consistent level of security, which is above average, but the gains in usability combined with reduced system load, makes this version one of the most lightweight protection solutions for your PC.

To call this version the best AVG yet is a no-brainer; AVG's security efficacy, though not the best, still remains consistently high scoring among AV evaluations across the board. And though detection rates have improved, the biggest strides for this year's version have been made in the areas of privacy tools that are genuinely useful. As for whether it's the "best" security program around, that may depend on your current needs. AVG's emphasis on privacy tools and reputation ranking attempts to combat malware through educating and empowering users, at least slightly, with tools that remain easy to use yet encourage users to actively manage their PC files. We especially recommend this year's suite for those who actively share their machine with other users.

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