CNET 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.
Avast 8 fixes browsers, out-of-date apps
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.
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.
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|
|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.
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.
From AVAST Software:
Avast Pro Antivirus is for individuals or companies that want customizable computer security that will integrate easily with an existing firewall. It has all the features of Avast Free Antivirus, plus a command-line scanner, full-scale virtualization, and the new Avast SafeZone (a clean, isolated desktop, so that other applications--even keyloggers--cannot see what's happening), designed specifically for secure online shopping or banking. Leaner and meaner version 6.0 provides even faster protection than its predecessor and offers a web-reputation browser extension as well, all combining for real-time security against known and unknown forms of malware. Accurate threat updates via Avast CommunityIQ technology ensure worry-free downloading, surfing, social networking, and gaming.
What's new in this version:
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All versions:4.4 stars
out of 905 votes
Current version:0 stars Be the first to review this product
My rating:Write review
"IF YOU BUY, IT WILL AUTO RENEW FOREVER at HIGHER PRICE"
Version: Avast Pro Antivirus 2014.9.0.2013
Good Anti-Virus software but the FREE version is better in the "response to threats" test according to Consumer Reports.
The FREE version is rated better in Consumer Reports in the "response to threats" category and you will NEVER and I mean NEVER get Avast to cancel the auto-renew function. I had to cancel my debit card and have a new one issued just to get this company to not renew my subscription.
Use the FREE version. It is rated slightly better than this version in Consumer Reports in the "response to threats" category and if you pay for this version, you will NEVER get Avast to cancel the Auto Renew feature.
"Should be no stars. It was like loading malware."
Version: Avast Pro Antivirus 2014.9.0.2011
loved free version for years.
decided to add firewall and Password add-on, which only left my program functionality not working. I called them up and their tech support said they would fix only to begin to tell me that there were problems with my pretty new dell computer and that I should buy their tech support service. when I told them I wasn't going to spend any money, I just wanted them to remove the new programs and wanted a refund, they closed down all the windows they opened and hung up the phone. I then realized that my antivirus was totally not working, so I uninstalled it and called my credit card company and told them not to honor the charge. I hat being scammed. Tech support guy told me that they operate out of Czech Republic. So, if you buy or download their programs and need to call them to fix it, they will deny that it could be them and then try to upsell----If I didn't know what to do I would have been up the creek without a paddle for my business computer.
Avoid this software at all (or no)costs. I felt like I was dealing with crooks.
Version: Avast Pro Antivirus 2014.9.0.2011
Under the hood improvements such as re-writing web shiled make it very responsive on low resource systems.
I wish I could stay with / choose version 7 interface. It is very difficult to find functions, the layout is not intuitive, it's a very retrograde step, that's why it gets such a low score from me; I want my Windows 7 computer to have apps in Win 7 style, not "Fisher-Price" kiddy blocks of Windows 8, like version 8 and 9 of Avast, they are awful, although v9 is slightly better than v8.
Good detection and performance but awful interface for anyone not using Windows 8.
"No Manual & No Help. Poor."
Version: Avast Pro Antivirus 2014.9.0.2007
Regular up-dates and good protection.
No User Manual for the 2014 avast pro antivirus. Last one on-line was for ver. 8.0 Revised procedure to get support is awful. you jump thru hoops to state your problem. No way offered to let you upload screen shots of your problem. About 1/2 the time the reply you get when you describe a problem in detail is a boilerplate "one size fits all" response. No way to exclude certain files from the scan. What they tell you doesn't work and there is no manual.
I wish they had not up-dated to the 2014 version. The previous one was a lot easier to use.
"bad install ,good program before going to ver 2014"
Version: Avast Pro Antivirus 2014.9.0.2007
excellent program before upgrade to 2014 version
hosed my IE 10, had to reset, hosed ZA fire wall, had to uninstall both Avast and ZA firewall, reset IE10, and then install ZA Firewall with AV Scanner as well to get working again.
Avast doesn,t play well with other programs. Lost my future support.
"Initially very good"
Version: Avast Pro Antivirus 7.0.1473
When it works it works good
Just doing a free virus update caused massive problems. Steer well clear of Avast Pro Antivirus. Get something you can count on.
When I updated the virus data bank and restarted the computer I find loads of problems. Computer running slowly, programs not opening, but most disturbingly internet would not open! I phoned customer support and they said "Oh yes that has happened a lot, Avast Pro Antivirus upgrade has a conflict with the internet. I'll get someone to phone you back to sort" I'm still waiting! Luckily I had backed up with Acronis True Image before updating the virus data base and after restoring that image everything works good again. Should I try updating the virus data base a second time or buy a reputable anti virus? Yes you're right - buy a reputable anti virus! (in the first place)
"excellent antivirus. strongly recommend."
Version: Avast Pro Antivirus 2014.9.0.2006
a simple product.reasonable price ... also i have had this anti virus for 18 months now ... no problems and no viruses.
some times they rise the prices up too much.
excellent product. recommend it.
"An old Antivirus that has matured and became the best"
Version: Avast Pro Antivirus 2014.9.0.2006
- Very light on the computer, it doesn't hurt performance at all, it's even lighter than NOD32 Antivirus v7 that I have recently tried. Try copying a 2 GB File from your HDD to an external USB HDD while having avast! and then try it with NOD32 and you'll see the difference. Startup and Shutdown times are considerably faster than other AVs as well
- Very good cloud protection prevents even 0 day exploits
- Software Updater to ensure all your other apps installed are up to date to minimize any security breaches
- Ability to run any application in Sandboxed mode to prevent any harm to the OS if you are not sure from the file you are about to run
- Better DoNotTrack feature built in that is better than the simple DoNotTrack add-Ons for Firefox or Chrome
- The web protection module is not yet compatible with IE 11 even though this version is supposed to be compatible with Windows 8.1. Well hello? Windows 8.1 ships with IE 11
- The Free version has endless popups and nags to upgrade to the full version which could be a nuisance! If you don't mind closing them once or twice a day to have an excellent free protection, then all good, me personally, I decided to buy the Pro version as I cannot stand popups or ads
I have licenses for all major AVs including Kaspersky, Bitdefender, and Eset's Smart Security but I switched to avast for the following reasons:
1- Was one of the first AVs to release a FINAL (non-Beta) updated installer that supports Windows 8.1
2- It is lighter on system resources than the others mentioned above
3- It sports some of the best protection technologies giving you an awesome layered protection
"Overall nice product but completely shutdown IE"
Version: Avast Pro Antivirus 8.0.1497
Easy to use
From everything that I can determine this software completely shuts down internet explorer. Windows attempts to find the problem but every time it comes back with no issues then the internet starts working again. I disabled Avast for a couple of hours with no internet issues and as soon as it was enabled again it started crapping out.
Not sure what the issue was but I wasn't too thrilled with it
"Praise to Avast!"
Version: Avast Pro Antivirus 8.0.1489
NO other anti-virus/malware program uses a boot scan. Several years ago, I left Norton because it simply couldn't take care of my issues because not all viruses are "on the surface". A friend recommended Avast Free and it did the trick. Even after the viruses were already rooted, I installed Avast and got them resolved. Since then, I've upgraded to Pro and, while I've had my issues here and there, Avast has always come through. If my system acts up, I simply run a boot scan and it finds the problem, quarantines or repairs it and all is good.
The only draw back I've seen is related to its best feature, the boot scan. Avast could compete so much better if it would boost it's overall / initial prevention, which would eliminate the need for a boot scan. On average, a boot scan takes 30 minutes, time that I would much rather be gaming or browsing.
I've read review after review from the "experts" and even more from consumers, and the top rated by critics seem to be the worst rated by the consumer. While I've got a decent grasp on working a computer, I could care less about "bench tests" and what the experts might find. When the rubber meets the road, this program does its job, and at a very reasonable price.
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