Avira Free Antivirus 2013 13.0.0.3499 - Free download and software reviews - CNET Download.com

Avira Free Antivirus 2013

CNET Editors' review

Review:
Avira returns to the security field with a second major revamp in as many years of its flagship free antivirus and paid upgrades. Whereas last year's overhaul focused on a breezy new installation and modernizing its interface, the 2013 version is all about offering competitive and forward-thinking security features.

All that sounds well and good, and Avira has even killed off its obnoxious, interrupting pop-up in the free version. However, some aggressive components of those features gave us pause when using the suite.

Installation
Last year's improved, zippy install has been changed slightly, and that may cause problems for some people.

Getting into Avira has never been easier, and it still has a two-click install. The company says that it developed the two-click installation as part of its "less is more" strategy, where it offers the same level of protection as before without the hassle. Of course, that's a tacit acknowledgement of prior problems.

Anyway, the install is the simplest of the major free security suites. The two-click process will autodetect competing security components and remove them, so be warned if you think you're going to be more secure by running two overlapping AVs. Avira won't let you.

However, this is so aggressive that sometimes the program won't install properly. A conflict between Avira and a security suite previously installed on our test computer that left half a dozen registry keys behind caused the computer to crash and resulted in a "blue screen of death" on an otherwise stable computer. At the end of the day, whether it's the fault of Avira or the previous security suite is irrelevant. Nobody wants to be faced with a BSOD when installing a program, and most people will blame the new software.

Another click will take you past the Ask.com toolbar and search engine redirect, but at least Avira is polite: it's an opt-in, not opt-out, experience. The toolbar screen itself is a bit unclear: it's actually Avira's WebGuard feature, powered by an Ask.com search engine that's part of the toolbar. There's also an option to have Ask.com become your browser's default engine, although that's not checked by default.

We discuss the toolbar and the changes to it in the 2013 version in the Features section below.

At the end of the installation process, Avira will begin a quick scan. On our test machine, it took about 1 minute, 43 seconds to complete, a completely reasonable wait to endure before the suite is ready to go.

Interface
The interface is virtually unchanged from last year. It has been tweaked to include the new features, but it's the same look and feel as in the 2012 version. This is perfectly acceptable, as the interface is simple and mimics that of many competitors.

A left nav shows you your tools, while the center pane focuses on a deeper dive into your security. On-off buttons make it easy to toggle features, although it's noteworthy that the free version is still quite restricted when compared with the free competition.

A red banner with the program name serves as a wrapper to anchor the suite, with a Windows XP-style menu bar above it. It doesn't look bad in Windows 7, although it is definitely archaic. It looks even older in Windows 8. The only feature that you can't reach from any other part of the interface except the menu bar is the Help menu -- a little tweaking here could've made this more appealing.

The main interface is the Status window, with a green check box letting you know when you're safe. It turns to yellow when there are security tasks to perform or when you've turned off a feature, like real-time protection. It turns red when there's something mission-critical that requires your attention.

Below that, you've got two categories: PC protection, and Internet protection. What this really means is that the former protects you from threats locally, while the latter guards you against new threats from attacking you. Under PC protection, you can toggle your real-time protection, manually run a scan, start an update, or upgrade to a paid version of Avira. Use the gear icon next to each option to open the configuration window, which has its own slider in its upper-left corner to quickly change between the standard view and expert mode.

One hint about the system scanner option from the left nav: this is where you would go to initiate specific types of scans, or scans on specific parts of your computer, such as a rootkit scan in C:/Windows. For a generic scan, use the Scan System option from the Status window.

Under Internet protection, you only get one option in Avira Free: Web protection. If you chose to not install the toolbar, then this entire section will appear grayed out.

It doesn't sound like much, but that's the point. This is the easiest-to-use version of Avira yet.

Features and support
The new features in Avira are the best part of the 2013 update, but they do come at a price. The company has focused on expanding its security features to cover social networking, tracker blocking, and Web site verification, as well as a huge push into crowdsourced tech support. Longtime Avira Free users no doubt will be delighted that the daily upgrade pop-up will go away permanently if you install the Avira toolbar.

The toolbar has become a major focus for Avira, and the company is using it to provide multiple in-browser security features. The company has partnered with Abine to bolt its Do Not Track Plus tracking and ad blocker to the toolbar. Also in the toolbar is the new Web site reputation adviser, also on loan but from CallingID, and social networking protection courtesy SocialShield, a company Avira bought earlier this year.

A new "Experts Market" is also accessible only from the toolbar. It's crowdsourced tech support, where Avira fans can sell their expertise to others and set their own rates. The Experts Market is designed to connect tech experts to people who are looking to solve tech problems. These user-experts can then charge whatever sum they'd like for their services, and Avira will take a 10 percent commission.

The toolbar is a mixed blessing. If you install it, it grants you those security extras. But it also redirects your default search to Avira-branded Ask.com search. This is not insurmountable in Firefox, which has a dedicated search box, but it makes Chrome painful to use since that browser uses a unified location bar/search. Abine's Do Not Track Plus is available for free on its own, so if the search commandeering is intolerable to you, there are still other ways to get the protection it offers.

Avira has changed other parts of the suite, as well. The virus definition file and protection engine now checks for updates every six hours instead of once a day. Premium Avira makes the same check every two hours. There's also an Android app that provides anti-theft and device tracking features, but unlike competitors both free and paid, Avira's Android app lacks a security engine. Basically, it won't protect you against Android malware.

Avira's core security features remain intact. The scanner checks for virus, Trojans, rootkits, and adware. There's a generic threat removal engine, but Avira -- like many security suites -- is much better at preventing threats from infecting you, rather than removing ones you've already got.

The advanced options menu doesn't contain much that's new, either. It's quite easy for a savvy person to drill deep into security settings and either extract the information they want or set a very customized level of security. This includes scanning as Administrator from the main interface, a window showing real-time scan performance, configuring how to scan of archives, and a restart reminder in case you enjoy that kind of automated nagging.

The engine powering the scans protects your Hosts file by default, and resource usage remains low following last year's update. If a problem is discovered, a one-click Fix problems button appears at the top of the Status window. Click it, and even if the fix is something as simple as reactivating a deactivated module, the program will do it for you.

The WebGuard feature, available only if you install the Avira toolbar, takes a more aggressive approach to detecting sites that could be hosting malware before they load on your computer. This is not unlike Avira's competitors. However, for the performance cost to the browser for a toolbar, search result ratings would be a nice compensation. Too bad they're only available if you use the dedicated search box on the Ask toolbar.

Features-wise, the free version provides the kind of security that most people will be comfortable with. For people who want more, Avira Antivirus Premium 2013 ($29.99 for a one-year license) comes with malicious Web site blocking and live telephone support. Avira Internet Security 2013 ($59.99 for a one-year license) rolls in parental controls; an e-mail spam guard; antiphishing measures; Wi-Fi guard; and a firewall that I found to be obnoxiously chatty and intrusive. If you're obsessed with Avira, you can upgrade to Avira Internet Security Plus 2013 for $81.99, which gets you an additional system performance optimizer and file encryption.

Performance
Avira's performance in the past has been hit or miss, with strong detection rates but high false positives. Avira's been doing a lot of work in that area, though, and this is one of the best-performing versions of Avira that we've seen.

Avira Free Antivirus 2013 shares the same detection engine as its premium upgrade siblings, Avira Antivirus Premium 2013 and Avira Internet Security 2013, so all three are discussed here.

In a real-world test, Avira completed its initial scan during installation in 1 minute, 51 seconds, about 30 seconds slower than last year. The Full scan averaged 1 hour, 25 minutes over three installs, which is an appropriate benchmark for such a resource-intensive scan.

CNET Labs' benchmarks found that Avira benchmarked slower than most competitors in most cases, with room for improvement across the board. Boot time was much slower than average, as were scan times, iTunes decoding, and two of the three Cinebench tests. The only test that all three versions of Avira 2013 did well on was shutdown time, where they added only 2 to 3 seconds to the unprotected computer's marks.

1,142 405 125 343 17,390 14.9
Security program Boot time Shutdown time Wake from sleep 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) 59.7 11.2 12.3 1,004 412 125 344 17,140
Avira Free Antivirus 2013 58.7 10.6 13.8 1,085 410 125 342 16,825
Avira Antivirus Premium 201354.3 11.3 14.9 1,142 405 125 343 17,390
Avira Internet Security 2013 60.3 10.2 11 1,081 408 127 343 16,985

*All tests measured in seconds, except for Cinebench. On the Cinebench test, the higher number is better.

Independent testing agency AV-Test.org has marked excellent scores for Avira Internet Security 2012 in a Windows XP test from September 2012. The suite hit 5.5 out of 6 on Protection, 5.5 out of 6 on Repair, and 4 out of 6 on Usability, for a total of 15 out of 18. That's an excellent score, especially on the notoriously Swiss cheese-esque Windows XP.

On a Windows 7 computer during June 2012, Avira Internet Security 2012 didn't fare as well. It scored 4.5 out of 6 on Protection, 4 out of 6 on Repair, and 4 out of 6 on Usability, for an overall score of 12.5 out of 18, just clearing the minimum of 11 for an AV-Test.org certificate.

Note that AV-Test.org defines its categories as follows: "The 'Protection' covers static and dynamic malware detection, including real-world zero-day attack testing. In case of 'Repair,' we check the system disinfection and rootkit removal in detail. The 'Usability' testing includes the system slowdown caused by the tools and the number of false positives."

The most recent AV-Comparatives.org Whole Product test, which looks at on-demand scanning, retroactive tests, and "real-world" guards including cloud-based protections, puts Avira Internet Security 2012 on less stable footing. The September 2012 test found that it blocked 97.3 percent of attacks and threats thrown at it, in the middle of a competitive field of 21 suites. Meanwhile, looking at Whole Product test results cumulatively from January 2012 to September 2012 found that Avira 2012 did a bit better, with its 98.1 percent success rate placing it about the same. The numbers are good, but not great.

It's fair to conclude that according to third-party tests, Avira 2012 tested this year better than average, but with room to get better. This is a far cry from where Avira 2011 had been, which struggled mightily when launched but gradually improving its scores over time. While not the indisputably safest suite around, Avira will in general protect you from most threats. However, be prepared for a not-insignificant system impact.

Conclusions
We really wanted to like Avira 2013. Its new features are innovative and forward-thinking, and innovation in the security suite world is hard to come by. It's extremely important to help educate people about broader security concerns like privacy that are not necessarily related to viruses.

However, it could leave a smaller footprint on your system. Combine that with our finding that its toolbar causes too much browser interference, and we're going to advise that you give Avira a skip this year unless you're a big fan of the product. If you're looking for free security, go for Avast, AVG, or Panda.

Publisher's Description

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All User Reviews
  • All versions:

    4.0 stars

    out of 4,169 votes

    • 5 star: 1972
    • 4 star: 1160
    • 3 star: 387
    • 2 star: 218
    • 1 star: 431
  • Current version:

    3.4 stars

    out of 10 votes

    • 5 star: 4
    • 4 star: 1
    • 3 star: 2
    • 2 star: 1
    • 1 star: 2
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

Results 1-10 of 10

  • 5.0 stars

    "After Avast's crash, this is your best option"

    April 17, 2013  |   By jaytee28

    Version: Avira Free Antivirus 2013 13.0.0.3499

    Pros

    Is light, configurable and there is a huge website of help

    Cons

    Not as good as Avast, before Avast self-destructed

    Summary

    I'm sure many people like me are distraught, disgusted and totally pissed off former Avast converts.... I have used Avast for three years but the version 8 disaster has forced thousands to look for another free solution... AVG is fine if you want your PC paralyzed... Avira is the far better option ... lighter, very good independent results. I can live with a few nag screens after Avast almost killed my PC and betrayed my trust (and that of many tens of thousands of others).

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Love The Umbrella, It Says Protection"

    April 15, 2013  |   By just_air

    Version: Avira Free Antivirus 2013 13.0.0.3499

    Pros

    High detection rates. Avira doesn't have an email scanner, but Avira will still catch any virus when you run a scan.Best free antivirus out there and will not slow down your computer.

    Cons

    Update errors sometimes.

    Summary

    Better detection rates than anyone else. I bet nobody remembers that Avira was number one back in 2009. And even cNet loved Avira now a lot of people do not like Avira but it's still the same, and still nobody is better than Avira.

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  • 2.0 stars

    "Only 1 reason it's on my computer"

    April 11, 2013  |   By saffire045

    Version: Avira Free Antivirus 2013 13.0.0.3499

    Pros

    The good thing about the scheduled scan is it will let you know if there are hidden objects in your system if you set it up to scan rook kits at installation. It doesn't get rid of them but at least you know they are there and can use other AV scanners to wipe them out.

    Cons

    Real time protection is not provided - a 5 second pop up will appear telling you malware just entered your system and asks you if you want it removed. If you don't click fast enough the malware is allowed to stay and the pop up is gone. Misses some that MS Sec Essential and Super Spyware found.

    Summary

    Good as a back up but that's all. I assume the paid for version does offer real time protection but not sure on that. Since they're all in competition with each other they don't share virus info so none of them are perfect.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "The best free antivirus"

    April 7, 2013  |   By akromic

    Version: Avira Free Antivirus 2013 13.0.0.3499

    Pros

    Best detection rate of all free AV's, also confirmed by dedicated AV tests. Extremely low on false detections. Quite lean on resources. Less chatty than its competition regarding the file analysis - actually totally silent if it isn't absolutely sure something presents a risk.

    Cons

    New malware definitions can sometimes get late compared to others, or perhaps this is because its heuristics aren't so trigger-happy as the competition, sometimes it can happen a very new malware slips its radar, doesn't happen often though. Displaying ads for its full version can be annoying, but it's not too often and it's easily dismissed.

    Summary

    This is the only free AV I found works as seriously as a paid products, in fact the only reason I find its ads for the paid version annoying is that I don't feel the need for the upgrade! This one works better than other free solutions and is comparable to the commercial versions. I never feel a need for a "full" AV when using this one.

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  • 3.0 stars

    "Works, But Bloated"

    April 7, 2013  |   By BigBirdPhila

    Version: Avira Free Antivirus 2013 13.0.0.3499

    Pros

    Seems to do what it is supposed to do.

    Cons

    Chrome support seems lacking. Does not identify Chrome tracking cookies.

    But, more importantly, it seems excessively bloated. My XP machine was booting in 550MB. Uninstalled AVG, and it booted in 382MB. AVG was consuming 168MB! 30% of my memory usage @ boot time. Installed Avast & configured it similarly to AVG. My system now boots in 400MB. Saves 150MB over AVG.

    I need to see how well Avast performs going forward, but initially it appears to be a big improvement over AVG.

    Summary

    I've used AVG for years. During the past couple of years, I've noticed that the weekly downloads of Avast have been surpassing AVG. Users are noticing that AVG is not the top dog any more.

    Updated on Apr 7, 2013

    ***Somehow got posted to wrong product. Obviously my review was of AVG, not Avira.

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  • 3.0 stars

    "a once respectable company goes to the dark side"

    April 3, 2013  |   By cnetguy7

    Version: Avira Free Antivirus 2013 13.0.0.3499

    Pros

    -very good signatures, probably THE BEST amongst real time free protection
    -decent web blocking
    -light, doesn't get in the way
    -set it and forget it. No silly yearly registration like Avast requires.

    Cons

    -poor at removing malware
    -not the best performer. Avast!, Panda cloud, MSE are all significantly lighter on the system.
    -limited configuration.
    -Installs ASK bar which upon uninstallation results in minimal web protection.

    Summary

    Very competent, effective anti-virus against widespread and known malware. Good for senior citizens who don't browse the seedier parts of the internet, don't do much P2P, don't want additional complications and don't mind the ASK bar.

    For years AVG got slammed by free AV users for its toolbar. For the last two years at least, AVG has been offering to *not install the toolbar. Having the toolbar or not doesn't affect the suite's security capabilities. In stark contrast, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Avira. Removing the toolbar results in web browsing security holes.
    Why did Avira forge this relationship with ASK? Couldn't they just offer a superb free product and hope that some would actually pay for their premium services? many security suites designate toolbars as PUPs(potentially unwanted program). Avast! actually has PUP detection options in its file guard section.
    rating criteria -
    5/5 in malicious file detection
    4.5/5 in web blocking
    3/5 in malware removal
    3/5 in interface that's barely changed over the years
    2/5 in configurability
    3/5 in features
    0/5 in consumer trust (installing PUP aka toolbar)
    3/5 in performance
    overall rating - 2.9/5 rounded up to 3/5.
    This isn't a personal attack against Avira. I do feel I have been fair and unbiased. The reason in bringing up Avast! all the time is that in every way, they've knocked the ball out of the park.
    I don't work for them nor am I a blind fanboy. please go to my past reviews and you'll see I gave AVG a 5/5 in september, 2012 and wasn't all that impressed with Avast 7! until much later which I gave a 3/5 in Aug, 2012.
    For most of last year, I championed AVG. Now Avast! is number 1.
    If Avira regains my trust and ups its game, I hope to give it a 5/5 and rate it THE BEST. It's still in the top 4 free.
    Peace.

    Updated on Apr 8, 2013

    I also want to mention that shortly after my review, I gave Avira another chance and installed the ASK bar as well. Guess what? The web blocking was off. I searched google and stumbled upon the Avira forums where I learned that I had to run cmd prompt as an admin, enter some commands, restart the computer in safe mode, click on run and make changes to Avira web blocking. Even after diligently following the instructions, the web blocking didn't work. Also, the ASK bar installed itself on IE but not on FF and Avira didn't offer web blocking on either.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Still good in terms of security."

    April 3, 2013  |   By shayne255

    Version: Avira Free Antivirus 2013 13.0.0.3499

    Pros

    I remember when I used this antivirus on my old gateway computer that was 10 years old and never had any bad malware on it. When I install it love the look of it and the feel of it. It updates regularly on a daily basis and the best thing of all it does not need so many processes running like AVG or Avast. It does not have any web plugins unless you choose to install the toolbar that comes in the install which is optional. I always recommend this to anyone who is trying dodge the crap that comes onto computers these days.

    Cons

    I don't have any complaints on this product. I don't know why people complain about this product its free unless you choose to go to the paid versions and yes I know the pop ups are annoying at times but the security is pretty sweet in my opinion. Never had any malware issues on my computers.

    Summary

    I recommend this still to a lot of people yea I know some on here might not like it but I have never had any problems with it and the performance is great on a netbook.

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  • 1.0 stars

    "Don't Use This!!!"

    April 2, 2013  |   By amanandhisbike

    Version: Avira Free Antivirus 2013 13.0.0.3499

    Pros

    free to use, sort of

    Cons

    Everything else

    Summary

    This "free" program constantly searches for updates, annoys you with ads, and slows your computer down while doing so--save up and spend some money on a protection program that doesn't act like spyware and malware. I would have given negative stars if I could. You've been warned.

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  • 1.0 stars

    "Will Not Update, No Matter What I Do!!!"

    March 28, 2013  |   By Gold Dust

    Version: Avira Free Antivirus 2013 13.0.0.3499

    Pros

    High detection rates.

    Cons

    No Update, I tried everything but Avira will not update.

    Summary

    Will not update. I had Avira for years, when I went to the new version of Avira it would not update. I uninstalled Avira using Revo I got everything uninstalled. Then I installed the newest version, but Avira would not update.....so I can not use it, I tried everything for two days nothing worked, so I installed AVG and no problems with anything at all. AVIRA WHAT HAPPENED, LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU FIX IT WOULD LOVE TO HAVE AVIRA,AGAIN!!!

    Updated on Mar 28, 2013

    When I say Avira will not update, I mean just that Avira errors out every time. Avira just will not update on my computer and I worked days trying to get Avira to update. You can not schedule a update if Avira can not update.

    Updated on Mar 28, 2013

    On Avira where you have green boxes with white arrows in them and Avira says Your Computer is Secure, mine say Your computer is not safe, and to Update. And Windows says that my antivirus is out of date.

    I can not get Avira to Update without getting errors!!!

    Updated on Apr 5, 2013

    Thank You So Very Much Glowing_Angel! My proxy setting was set to system settings why would Avira do this, people without a proxy would not be able to use Avira without knowing this. Why would Avira put a proxy in an update is beyond me. Here is the link that will help you like it helped me: http://www.avira.com/en/support-for-home-knowledgebase-detail/kbid/1078

    Glowing_Angel you should write a review about this, there are a lot of people out there that need to know this, but it is up to you.

    Updated on Apr 9, 2013

    I uninstalled Avira and went back to AVG, I only had AVG for a few days than I installed Avira. This time I used the 2MB instill of the 108MB and I kept the AVG LinkScanner and everything is great now even the updates. And if you get a virus in your email Avira will catch it in the scan you run. I agree with akromic "(This is the only free AV I found works as seriously as a paid products.)"

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  • 4.0 stars

    "I always go back to Avira."

    March 26, 2013  |   By TheTD80

    Version: Avira Free Antivirus 2013 13.0.0.3499

    Pros

    Reliable and stable free anti-virus.

    Cons

    The interface hasn't changed for years and it looks a little crappy.

    Summary

    I always try out other av's but I always go back to Avira cause I know I can rely on it.

    Updated on Mar 29, 2013

    The reviewer above me is right. Coulnd't update in 3 days. Re-installed 2 times before this was fixed. Some new update clashing with the old version. Its better if you download from their website to get the latest version. At first time re-install, it didn't restart even though I clicked on it to do so, didn't work, at second time around, finally succeeded.

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