Avast Free Antivirus

Avast Free Antivirus

Editors' Rating:
5
Spectacular
Average User Rating:
4.5
out of 26118 votes
See all user reviews

Quick Specs

Version:
8.0.1483.73
File Size:
4.64MB
Date Added:
April 12, 2013
Price:
Free
Operating Systems:
Windows XP/Vista/7/8
Total Downloads:
316,898,962
Downloads Last Week:
869,959
Product ranking:
Additional Requirements:
Not available

Editors' review

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.

Publisher's Description

Screenshots

More Products to Consider

All User Reviews
  • All Versions:

    4.5

    out of 26118 votes

    • 5 star: 19038
    • 4 star: 4735
    • 3 star: 816
    • 2 star: 476
    • 1 star: 1053
  • Current Version:

    4.8

    out of 139 votes

    • 5 star: 122
    • 4 star: 10
    • 3 star: 0
    • 2 star: 4
    • 1 star: 3
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

    Results 1-10 of 99

  • 5 stars

    "Good and simple"

    August 30, 2014   |   By zero298

    Version: Avast Free Antivirus 2014 2014.9.0.2021

    Pros

    Let's me know whenever I'm doing something dumb with respect to malicious connections and files and doesn't PREVENT me from overriding it if I'm absolutely sure I want to do something dumb with respect to suspicious files unlike certain antivirus programs.

    Cons

    Some of the ads, while not cumbersome or intruding, can still be slightly bothersome.

    Summary

    The voice letting you know that your definitions are up to date is sexy.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (0)

  • 5 stars

    "The only antivirus I'll ever use."

    August 29, 2014   |   By OMEGA352

    Version: Avast Free Antivirus 2014 2014.9.0.2021

    Pros

    Automatic updates.
    Free to use on mobile phone.
    Gives you the option to bypass, if you desire.
    Quick scan, full scan or boot scan available.

    Cons

    None that I've found.

    Summary

    I downloaded avast! to my wife's laptop and it found over 100 viruses and corrupted files with one scan. I've been using it for almost 10 years and have no complaints. When I buy a new computer I delete the pre-installed antivirus and replace it with avast!

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (1) (1)

  • 5 stars

    "I have been using the free version for over a year."

    August 29, 2014

    Version: Avast Free Antivirus 2014 2014.9.0.2021

    Pros

    When my old program was no longer available, I picked Avast to replace it based on reviews. It has done a great job at keeping my computer safe. That is what I was seeking!

    Cons

    Does not remove the "shopping tracker" nuisances. My only complaint.

    Summary

    I would recommend this program, and have. I appreciate that Avast offers a free version. It is a great service.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (1)

  • 5 stars

    "effective light-weight free AV"

    August 28, 2014   |   By nft76

    Version: Avast Free Antivirus 2014 2014.9.0.2021

    Pros

    Light-weight on system resources.
    Easy to use (once you turn off some unwanted features); useful "Update (other) Software" tool
    I can't say if it's good at finding viruses, as I'm very pro-active at avoiding their sources; but it's only had one false-positive in a year

    Cons

    the default toolbar is useless (though straight forward to remove)
    the highlight links for spoofing function obscures the page's text (e.g. SlashDot), but is easy to disable.

    Summary

    I dropped AVG when it got heavy and slow, scanned comparative reviews and picked Avast as recommended - been happy since

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (1)

  • 5 stars

    "Wouldn't be without it."

    August 28, 2014   |   By viettrav

    Version: Avast Free Antivirus 2014 2014.9.0.2021

    Pros

    Very easy to download. Updates frequently to keep up to date with new threats.

    Cons

    Can't think of any.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (1)

  • 5 stars

    "There is none better!"

    August 26, 2014   |   By layanaicy

    Version: Avast Free Antivirus 2014 2014.9.0.2021

    Pros

    Runs lite, keeps me safe.

    Cons

    None. Does all I need it to do.

    Summary

    I have been using for 7 years. Whenever I get a new computer, I do try the free trials that come with them for various virus protection programs....can never go all the way till he end of the trial though. I can't wait to get it out and get Avast in! Also, Avast's VPN service is very good!

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (1)

  • 4 stars

    "Good antivirus, but nags for paid version & add-ons"

    August 26, 2014   |   By CatherineMcClarey

    Version: Avast Free Antivirus 2014 2014.9.0.2021

    Pros

    Has worked reliably for all of my family's computers for several years; plays nice with some other utility software (f.ex. Malwarebytes, Advanced System Care); Avast forums a more reliable troubleshooting resource than Googling error messages.

    Cons

    Nags for paid version and for some add-ons (f.ex. GrimeFighter); Software Updater doesn't always detect recently-installed new versions of other utility software (and nags for its paid version); must tweak default settings to avoid having boot-time scan start immediately (and to allow it to automatically delete infected/defective files instead of waiting to ask user's permission)

    Summary

    Still a good, solid free antivirus program -- if you can live with the nags and remember to modify default settings to what's convenient for you. Otherwise, you might be better advised to compare the paid version of this against other paid antivirus/security software programs.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (2)

  • 5 stars

    "Excellent product"

    August 26, 2014   |   By sharat2000

    Version: Avast Free Antivirus 2014 2014.9.0.2021

    Pros

    free, excellent product, it has never let any virus or malaware through.

    Cons

    It has no cons

    Summary

    Excellent Anti-virus.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (2)

  • 5 stars

    "Solid free antivirus product"

    August 26, 2014   |   By slurpje

    Version: Avast Free Antivirus 2014 2014.9.0.2021

    Pros

    -Easy to use interface at first glance
    -Sophisticated interface and lots of information and possible tweaks when you take your time to look more into it.
    -Not a system resource hog like some others
    -Some interesting extras like a browser plugin and update management of attack-prone 3rd party software.

    Cons

    -Make sure you only install the features you want. Some don't like the browser plugin for example and I have seen installers of Avast with adware placement in them.
    -Mandatory registration for continued use

    Summary

    Reasonably good protection (consistently above average, but not the best) against virii and malware. It has a nag every now and then to entice you to buy the 'Pro' version. I reckon I see them about once a month and whenever you have to upgrade to the next version (which is yearly). But I guess that's part of the 'Free' model. They have to actually get money from somewhere to keep developing this product ;)

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (2)

  • 5 stars

    "Best Anti-Virus software!"

    August 25, 2014   |   By Zboarda

    Version: Avast Free Antivirus 2014 2014.9.0.2021

    Pros

    Does a fantastic job, has a rich set of features. Really easy to use.

    Cons

    It does nag you to upgrade to pro and the dialogs can be confusing. Only a few viruses have gone through unnoticed.

    Summary

    Fantastic virus checker! Has been my #1 choice for anti-virus for 7 years! I think I may upgrade to pro at some point.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (2)

  • Results 1-10 of 99

Add Your Review

Quickly sign in with: or Login or create an account to post a review.
You are logged in as . Please submit your review for Avast Free Antivirus
Add Your Review

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited.
Click here to review our site terms of use.

Update your review

Since you've already submitted a review for this product, this submission will be added as an update to your original review.
Submit

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited.
Click here to review our site terms of use.

Previous Versions:

Close[x]

Submit a problem report for Avast Free Antivirus

Please describe the problem you have with this software. This information will be sent to our editors for review.

Problem:

The Download.com Installer isn't working as expected

The download link does not work

The software has a newer version

The product contains malicious software

Other

Description:

Please select a feedback type.

Please enter a description.

Submit Problem Report

Close[x]

Problem Report submitted

Thank you for submitting a problem report! The Download team is committed to providing you with accurate software information.

OK