Avast Free Antivirus

Avast Free Antivirus

Download Editors' Rating:
5
Spectacular
Average User Rating:
4.5
out of 26412 votes

Quick Specs

  • Version:
    7.0.1426
  • Total Downloads:
    333,735,609
  • Date Added:
    March 07, 2012
  • File Size:
    4.77MB
  • Downloads Last Week:
    1,155,403
  • Operating Systems:
    Windows XP/Vista/7

Editors' Note: Ask, read, and answer questions about Avast antivirus and security software in the Avast Forum on CNET.

Editors' Review

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Looking to compete with both paid and free security suites, Avast wants to create a unified approach to your computer security. Long gone are the days of the quirky interface. Avast is accessible and robust, with an impressive list of free features and strong, though hardly stellar, performance benchmarks.

Installation
Avast has improved its installation process so it's faster than before. It's not the fastest on the market, not by a long shot, but a standard installation took us about three minutes -- around the same as last year.

Some items of note during the installation that will come up later in the review: To avoid the Windows 7 and Vista desktop gadget, or the WebRep browser add-on, you must choose the Custom install option and uncheck those here. Firefox and Internet Explorer will all block WebRep from installing by default, but it may be easier for some to cut it off here.

Automatic installation of these features is frowned upon, although Avast does provide a clear method for uninstalling them. It's just not as simple as a check box that gets its own installation window, since you have to go through the Customize menu, which makes the auto-install sort of surreptitious.

Also during the install, you are opted into Google's Drive desktop manager. If you're a Google services addict, this is a good reminder to get the client app. If not, well, it's a small piece of bloatware to uninstall later. Such are the installation blues.

Unlike last year, installing Avast once again requires a reboot. Still, the uninstallation process left no detectable traces on the desktop or in the registry.

One installation option, available only from the custom install menu, lets you sideload Avast as a secondary security program to supplement your main one. We're not big fans of this option from a security point-of-view, because it can bog down your system resources without actually making you safer. However, as a way to see if you like Avast, it's not a bad thing as long as you remember to choose one security suite to go with.

Interface
After three years of nearly identical interfaces, Avast 8 brings an entirely new suit of clothes with it -- sort of.

While the underlying submenus and settings screens look and feel similar, there's a new home screen that emulates the Windows 8 blocky tile-and-icon style. A colored status box on the left lets you know in green or red whether you are secured or not, while six tabs to its right give you access to the suite's security features.

These tabs provide quick access to specific features: Scan, Software Updater, SafeZone, Browser Cleanup, AccessAnywhere, and the Market. With two direct links from the home screen, Avast is really pushing the market idea, which is basically a landing page from which you can purchase additional Avast-branded tools such as a password manager, data backup, or download the free Android and Mac suites.

At the top of the home screen are links to Security, Maintenence, Market, Recommend, and Support. Account and Settings access lives to the far right of them. The Security tab is the most important one, and gives you access to Avast's numerous shields, as well as a list of subcategories on the left nav: antivirus, anti-spam, firewall, software updater, and tools.

One smaller but noticeable change is that the free version now decorated with a white background, to separate it from the dark-themed paid upgrades. Yeah, it's a color scheme change, but since most of Avast's customers use the free version, it's a noticeable one.

Overall, the new interface is more user-friendly, and that's a plus. The workflow behind the touch-friendly large icons makes it easier to go directly to key features, such as Avast's popular shields, and much of the jargon has been replaced with more easily understandable terms.

It still runs in Windows 8's desktop mode, so it's not a true Metro-style app, but it has that look.

Features and support
Avast 8, comparable with the 2013 version of competing suites, includes several new features that directly affect your security. Changes to existing Avast features include increasing the number of virus definition file updates per day, from 20 or so in the previous version to more than 70 per day in version 8. When running on battery on laptops, Avast will automatically disable scans until the device is plugged in, and the suite now offers full IPv6 support.

Like both the paid and free competition, Avast has a file reputation system for evaluating downloads. The browser add-on WebRep for on-the-fly site evaluation that also checks for fake site certificates is lighter on your browser than competitors' heavyweight toolbars.

The free version of Avast is arguably the most comprehensive set of freely available security features on the market. There's a reason these guys have more than 170 million active users (at the time this review was written). The antivirus, antispyware, and heuristics engines form a security core that also includes multiple real-time shields. Along with the new features, it's got Sandbox for automatically walling off suspicious programs; a full complement of shields that guard against scripts, P2P networks, instant messaging, and potentially dangerous program behavior; a silent/gaming mode; on-demand boot scanning; and a healthy output of statistics for the data nerds.

Avast's Sandbox, by the way, automatically places programs in a virtualized state when it suspects them of being threats. It walls off suspicious programs, preventing them from potentially damaging your system while allowing them to run. As the program runs, the Sandbox keeps track of which files are opened, created, or renamed, and what it reads and writes from the registry. Permanent changes are virtualized, so when the process terminates itself, the system changes it made will evaporate.

The company hasn't said whether the virtualized state begins after the program already has access to your system, so it's theoretically possible that it could be compromised. There's not a single security feature in any program that hasn't been been compromised at some point, though, so "theoretically hackable" is true of all security features.

But it's the new features that drive interest in the suite, and this year's got some very interesting improvements and one dud. The new Software Updater tells you when your programs are out of date, but it doesn't leave you hanging. It provides links to update them directly from within Avast.

This includes known security vectors such as Java, Flash, QuickTime, and PDF readers. In the free version, the updater will automatically download the software update, which then opens its installer. It still relies on user interaction to complete the install, though. In Pro and Internet Security, you get a one-click update that downloads and silently installs the update. The Premier version removes the requirement for any user interaction whatsoever -- updates happen automatically and silently.

The new Browser Cleanup tool is available as a standalone download that doesn't require you to use Avast, but it also comes baked into all versions of the suite. It checks the internal storage and registry of Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome, searches for plug-in and toolbar references and helps you uninstall them.

Two entirely new features do the most to differentiate Avast Premier from its siblings. The suite includes a Data Shredder to ensure that deleted files and folders are unrecoverable using "conventional" techniques. It offers the industry standard three shredding options: a random overwrite, which overwrites files a user-specified number of times with semirandom bytes; a Department of Defense standard of overwriting; and the Gutmann method, the slowest of the three but the most secure.

You'll also be able to wipe only free disk space of remaining instances of data, or wipe an entire partition including on solid state drives, creating some nuance to its deletion options.

It looks like last year's Remote Assistance feature, for single-instance, friend-to-friend remote tech support, has been overhauled and turned into the new AccessAnywhere feature, the second Premier-only feature. It requires you to have Avast on both ends, which wouldn't be so bad, but the installation process for Avast is not as simple or fast as the installation for programs that focus on remote access, like LogMeIn or TeamViewer. Avast's installer alone runs more than 100MB, and the Avast requirement -- as opposed to gaining access through your browser -- hamstrings its utility.

Data shredding and remote access are interesting, but just not enough to get us to shell out for Premier. And sadly lacking from Avast 8 are any tools to directly address privacy concerns, a security issue which will only continue to grow as advertisers, network providers, and browser makers squabble over personal data collected and collated on people using the Web.

Avast also doesn't offer an on-demand link-scanning feature, as AVG and Norton do, although the company says that the way that Avast's Web shield behaves ought to protect you automatically from any malicious URLs by automatically preventing the URL from resolving in-browser. A page will appear letting you know that Avast has blocked the site because it is suspected to contain a threat.

Avast has plenty more nifty extras to help you out. The Troubleshooting section now comes with a "restore factory settings" option, which makes it easier to wipe settings back to a familiar starting point, and comes with the option to restore only the Shields settings, leaving other changes untouched, like permanently running in silent mode.

While these tools are clearly nonessential, and some of the prices struck us as high -- $10 for a Rescue disc? $50 for an annual backup service? -- we like that Avast gives its fans a chance to stay in its ecosystem. The Avast EasyPass, for example, is an Avast-branded version of RoboForm's premium password manager and is well worth the $9.99 annual fee.

In a day's worth of testing, none of the new features appeared to cause any negative impact on computer or browsing performance. Assuming these technologies work as advertised, your computer ought to be a fair bit safer from malware than it would without them.

Performance
Avast was generally well-received by the independent testing organizations, AV-Test and AV-Comparatives.

AV-Test.org gave the previous version of Avast a passing rating in its most recent test, on a Windows 7 computer from December 2012. Avast 2013, the suite's name for version 7, passed handily with a total score of 14 out of 18. A year before, Avast 6 struggled to pass, hitting the bare minimum of 11. Avast 2013 reached 4.5 out of 6 in Protection, 4.5 out of 6 in Repair, and a 5 out of 6 in Usability, for a total of 14. Usability includes testing for false positives.

AV-Comparatives.org also saw room for improvement in Avast during December 2012. The suite blocked only 95.5 percent of threats tested during that month, but then you could kick those up to a more respectable 98.7 percent with some settings tweaks by the user. This user-dependent margin of around 3 percent to 3.5 percent was consistent throughout the year.

Basically, AV-Comparatives found that Avast will keep you reasonably safe, but significantly safer when you turned detections and blocks up high. The testing organization gave Avast its Advanced certification in both the first half of 2012 and the second half, a marked improvement from the lackluster Standard certification in the second half of 2011.

Security program Boot time Shutdown time Scan time MS Office performance iTunes decoding Media multitasking Cinebench
Unprotected system 47.5 7.8 11.5 n/a 412 124 344 17,116
Average of all tested systems (to date) 59.9 13.7 12 1,008 413 125 345 17,147
Avast Free Antivirus 8 61.6 12.3 18.6 669 401 125 345 17,199
Avast Pro Antivirus 8 67.8 10.7 10.2 671 404 126 344 17,066
Avast Internet Security 8 61.3 12.6 16.6 686 411 125 344 17,067
Avast Premier 8 63.9 18.7 16.8 705 414 124 347 16,959

Note: All tests measured in seconds, except for Cinebench. On the Cinebench test, higher numbers are better.

CNET Labs system performance benchmarks show Avast 8 as being fairly middle-of-the-road. It's weak on startup time, generally adding 10 more seconds than average. Shutdown time impact was a bit faster than average, while virus scans were quite speedy and faster than many paid-suite competitors. Avast 8's footprint during common-use tasks such as MS Office performance, iTunes decoding, and media multitasking was average, as well. We'd like to see a much smaller hit on startup times, but other than that Avast 8 Free offers a reasonable trade-off. Avast 8's paid upgrades, however, could do much better.

As far as Avast's impact on system performance goes, in a real-world test Avast completed its scans in a timely yet not blazingly fast manner. A Quick Scan averaged about 28 minutes, slower than last year. The Full Scan averaged to 73 minutes. RAM usage was surprisingly light, with Avast only eating up about 16MB when running a scan.

Judging from these results, Avast has righted some of its benchmarking wrongs from the previous version, but we may adjust that judgment when CNET Labs' scores come in.

Conclusion
When it comes to your security, Avast 8 gets a lot right. It's got a usable, uncluttered interface, solid although not stellar benchmarks, and a set of features that keeps it at the forefront of Windows security.

We'd like to see the innovators at Avast HQ in Prague tackle the real privacy concerns of the modern Web, and the unimpressive AccessAnywhere keeps us from giving the Premier suite stronger marks.

Avast Antivirus 8 Free, on the other hand, continues to be a stellar choice for free Windows security, and we enthusiastically recommend it. Few people want security that turns a good machine into the malware equivalent of Swiss cheese, and on that count, Avast has your back.

 
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Publisher's Description

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User Reviews
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  • Current Version

    4.4

    out of 435 votes

    • 5 star 334
    • 4 star 37
    • 3 star 16
    • 2 star 14
    • 1 star 34
  • All Versions

    4.5

    out of 26412 votes

    • 5 star 19261
    • 4 star 4781
    • 3 star 825
    • 2 star 480
    • 1 star 1065
  • My rating

    0 stars

    Write review

Results 1–10 of 435

5 stars

"Even better than a lot of paid AV software"

June 29, 2012  |  By MikeJV425

 |  Version: Avast Free Antivirus 7.0.1426

Pros

-Does NOT slow down the computer
-Fast scanning
-Very useful Boot-time scan
-Using it for 2 years now, NO infections yet!!!

Cons

-a few False-positives

Summary

I can't believe this is free. It's even better than a lot of paid antivirus software (including Norton and McAfee)

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3 stars

"Good free AV but not the BEST"

June 28, 2012  |  By raju_thorat

 |  Version: Avast Free Antivirus 7.0.1426

Pros

Works faster than most paid AV.

Cons

1. You should install it only on clean computer because it failed to remove active malwares on my PC. I switched to MSE for that.
2. Too much options under settings and not all are optimum , and hence novice user may be confused . Why PUP scanning not enabled by default? Company should provide very less setting like in MSE.
3.It is joke that a free product requires registration? Not only that it expires in one year.

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5 stars

"week benchmarks but for me it works great"

June 25, 2012  |  By Anderson69

 |  Version: Avast Free Antivirus 7.0.1426

Pros

effective on malware, viruses, and infected web-sites. strong boot time scan, and works very well for home users.

Cons

effective on malware, viruses, and infected web-sites. strong boot time scan, and works very well for home users.

Summary

effective on malware, viruses, and infected web-sites. strong boot time scan, and works very well for home users.

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4 stars

"Good product for home use"

June 24, 2012  |  By safe_gate2003

 |  Version: Avast Free Antivirus 7.0.1426

Pros

effective on malware, viruses, and infected web-sites. strong boot time scan, and works very well for home users.

Cons

sometimes it is heavy on the PC, and delays the startup.

Summary

good product for the price, the services offered are also decent.

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5 stars

"best free AV all around"

June 24, 2012  |  By woogyboogy1

 |  Version: Avast Free Antivirus 7.0.1426

Pros

I have been using Avast for over a year now and it works perfectly.
There is No Better Free Anti Virus period.

Cons

the updates on start up can get annoying

Summary

I am no computer wiz, but Avast has been easy to use and very good at what it does.

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4 stars

"works great on xp sp3 3gig machine 2 gig ram"

June 23, 2012  |  By ck1nu

 |  Version: Avast Free Antivirus 7.0.1426

Pros

works good

Cons

slow scan even on 80 gig drive with 20 gigs on it

Summary

works great but the mindless add to upgrade is crazy...

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4 stars

"Very good for free but some quirks!"

June 17, 2012  |  By James Bigelow

 |  Version: Avast Free Antivirus 7.0.1426

Pros

Free, easy install, not a whole lot of pop-up warnings about what i might be installing.

Cons

sometimes stops installs on good programs.

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5 stars

"A very complete free antivirus."

June 17, 2012  |  By Moral_Technology

 |  Version: Avast Free Antivirus 7.0.1426

Pros

-Good detection of malicious software.
-Very light on system resources.
-Customizable.
-Blocks many common passageways of attack (IM/P2P/Web Browsing/Network).
-Offers features like the "AutoSandbox" which sometimes prevent a dangerous file from doing harm.
-A browser plugin that helps you understand the reputation of the sights that you go to.. according to community data.
-Boot Time Scanner, which is very good for cleaning up problems that a full scan may have trouble removing.
-Easy to Navigate.
-Good User Interface.
-Vocal announcements of Malware Detection.

Cons

-It comes with "PUP" (Potentially Unwanted Program) detection disabled by default.
-It also by default has it set to where "Attempt to remove packed file, if action fails, do nothing." for the processing of infected archives. A common user may not know what to do if the antivirus fails.
-Scans come without automatic actions setup. Some files that the Anti-Virus attempts to quarantine can sometimes be repaired.
-A commonly misunderstood free registration. It can be easily confused as a 30 day trial rather than a yearly e-mail address registration.
-Attempts to install software (Google Chrome) that the program does not need to function.
-Configuration for new users can be a bit overwhelming.
-Proactive Anti-Malware protection not as good as that of AVG.
-Script Shield only seems to work with Internet Explorer.

Summary

Avast! Free Antivirus can protect the computer it is installed on if you go through the configuration and you set it up for PUP detection and to take more comprehensive action during malware detection. In it's default settings though, it's not that impressive.

I feel that avast! could improve by asking for free e-mail registration DURING the install so that there is no more confusion for the average user.

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1 stars

"NOT FREE. ONLY A FREE TRIAL."

June 15, 2012  |  By Sirjamesalot11

 |  Version: Avast Free Antivirus 7.0.1426

Pros

Did it's job until the free trial expired.

Cons

The product is called Avast Free Antivirus and is found when looking for "Free products only". If it wants to force a subscription after a trial period it should be renamed and listed under "Free to Try". Needs to be relabeled and renamed.

Summary

Don't support this mislabeled product if you believe in open-source and sharing. Any product listed as free can make it's money off donations from a supportive community if its product is good enough.

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5 stars

"This is the best."

June 15, 2012  |  By johnnyxbox

 |  Version: Avast Free Antivirus 7.0.1426

Pros

I've been using Avast ever since my Symantec subscription expired ()4 or 5 years ago)and within a month my computer coincidentally got infected with a nasty virus forcing me to reformat my drive because I could not remove Symantec to install another antivirus. Avast is free just like they say, it's easy, it's hardly noticeable, it's cool, it's fast and it works!

Cons

None whatsoever.

Summary

In the five years that I've used Avast I have not had to worry or recover a drive due to a virus or other malware. I've tried many different antivirus programs, both paid and free. Avast has been the simplest, most effective, most reliable and least expensive option. Admittedly each program has strengths, and sometimes it is useful to use a second antivirus for extra security after an infection has occurred like when you buy used equipment. But for day to day security--Avast!

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Results 1–10 of 435

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Full Specifications

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What's new in version 7.0.1426
  • Improved File system speed
  • Improved AutoSandbox stability
  • Improved AutoSandbox controls
  • Improved gadgets
  • Compatibility with Win 8 Consumer Preview
  • Greater stability of Outlook plugins
  • Other security and stability-related improvements
General
Publisher AVAST Software
Publisher web site http://www.avast.com
Release Date March 07, 2012
Date Added March 07, 2012
Version 7.0.1426
Category
Category Security Software
Subcategory Antivirus Software
Operating Systems
Operating Systems Windows, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7
Additional Requirements None
Download Information
File Size 4.77MB
File Name avast_free_antivirus_setup_online.exe
Popularity
Total Downloads 333,735,609
Downloads Last Week 1,155,403
Pricing
License Model Free
Limitations Not available
Price Free

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