Avira AntiVir started making waves a few years ago, scoring high on well-respected third-party antivirus detection and removal tests. Released today exclusively on Download.com, AntiVir 9 doesn't appear to have changed much--but that's only because the interface sports the slightest of what's new.
A refreshed banner logo tops the list of UI changes, but it's the long-awaited features in the free version of AntiVir that should pique most users' interest. Anti-spyware detection and removal is now available for the free version of AntiVir as well as the paid upgrades. There's new scanning tech that can crack open "locked" files and verify that they're not malicious, along with improved internal security to prevent AntiVir's files from being maliciously altered. AntiVir 9 also offers a rebuilt heuristic detection engine, and according to Tony Anscombe, director of consumer products for Avira, Download.com reader comments have been the impetus for the new one-click threat removal option--no more baby-sitting the scans.
The one-click threat removal is a nifty quarantining feature that logs and sets aside all detected threats so you can deal with them individually or as a group at the end of the scan. It's simple, but means that you can run a scan at night and not worry about the scan pausing and waiting for user input before it continues.
Click on the Configuration button on the right-side of the central pane, and check off Expert Mode on the upper left-side of the box that opens. In the options tree below it, go to Scanner, then Scan, then Action for Concerning Files. From there, you can choose an Automatic or Interactive reaction. Under Automatic, you can choose a primary and secondary action, as well as copying the file to the quarantine before taking any other action. Interactive offers you a round-up at the end of a scan, and Combined or Individual notification mode for users who want to deal with infections all at once or one at a time.
The other new features, from the anti-spyware to the rebuilt heuristic engine, are not as easy to demonstrate since we don't maintain a virus or spyware zoo at CNET for security reasons. However, it's worth mentioning that Avira has expanded the AntiVir free version to include their anti-spyware and anti-adware detections. In previous years, the premium version of AntiVir earned very high marks from both independent testers Andreas Marx (results) and Andreas Clemente.
As program upgrades go, AntiVir is worth some of the hoops that users must jump through to get on board. The upgrade is a time-intensive process, requiring some minor user input and rebooting your computer. Also, users will have to go to the Download.com product page and actively download the new installer. Version 9 won't be pushed to existing users for another month.
Savvy users will notice the removal of the on-demand e-mail scan, and AntiVir is still challenging--and by challenging, I mean a massive headache of pain--to fully uninstall. Despite these hang-ups and the nag screen that follows the multiple definition file updates that occur daily, AntiVir offers such effective protection and a well-rounded set of features that as long as the updates keep coming, it should remain on the top of any free antivirus users' list.