The new, touch-friendly interface for AVG 2013. (Credit: AVG)

Microsoft is forcing everybody to rethink the operating system that everybody loves to hate with Windows 8, and that includes security suite makers. Freeware faves AVG leap into the future today with a touch-friendly interface, a zippy installation, and impressively fast scans.

The upgrades are available at no cost as AVG Anti-Virus Free 2013 (download), or as a paid update to AVG Anti-Virus 2013 (download) and AVG Internet Security 2013 (download), exclusively from today.

Security vendor claims about being faster, or better, or able to protect your computer while doing your dishes, are perennial boasts. At least in the case of AVG 2013, CNET Labs has verified the company's talk about the 2013's performance gains. For our usual battery of tests, we found that AVG Anti-Virus Free 2013 actually bested an unprotected computer during the MS Office test. AVG Free completed the MS Office test in 354 seconds, while the unprotected computer took 395 seconds.

When I asked AVG evangelist Tony Anscombe about that, he explained that it has to do with how AVG 2013 performs its scans. "The new Turbo Scan checks files in the order that they're saved to the disk, as opposed to how they're saved in the file directory," he said during an interview at CNET's San Francisco offices in August.

AVG's internal benchmarks clocked "scan times up to 23.95 percent faster," Anscombe said. Meanwhile, CNET Labs' scan time results found that AVG's scans were overall the fastest of the suites from six vendors tested so far. Its impact on the rest of our test system was good, though it still added 20 to 30 seconds to the boot cycle.

Anscombe said that AVG's own tests showed that the installer has been reduced in size by 12 percent, to 33MB, while startup time is now 7 percent quicker.

Along with notable performance improvements, AVG has completely redone its interface to suit touch screens. Gone is the text-heavy look from years past. The new design uses Windows 8-styled tiles, with big fonts, simple labels, and bold colors, to divide the features into five categories. It's easily the most accessible interface AVG ever has offered, which is important given that AVG has more than 128 million people actively using it.

Anscombe also told CNET that AVG has about 15 million people who have paid for AVG premium suites; 15 million active Android users; and 15 million people have installed AVG's ad-blocking Do-Not-Track add-on since it was introduced earlier this year. The add-on has now been folded into AVG's toolbar.

Other changes are making their debut in AVG's 2013 offerings. AVG has joined many of its competitors in creating a file reputation service to help detect threats. The installation process has been cut down to five screens. It's still not as fast as Norton's or Kaspersky's sub-60 second installs, but it's much faster than it used to be. The mandatory reboot after install has been eliminated in AVG, too.

Telephone tech support has been extended to all AVG users, including those with the free version. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the tech support team will handle any problems related directly to AVG. Non-security services, such as assistance in connecting a printer or running a disk defragmenter, will be available on a fee basis.

It's well known that Windows 8 will include the most aggressive security protections from Microsoft to date, but AVG's chief executive, J.R. Smith, isn't worried about a security lawsuit sequel to the browser wars of a decade ago. "What we're seeing is that they'll pop up an offer screen for antivirus, and eventually you'll see an offer for Essentials. We've basically been a replacement product, whether it's McAfee or Symantec or us," he said.

"At the end of the day, it's a brand effort on their part to clean it up, but at least you're protected. We're not going to raise a red flag over this," Smith said.

CNET's full review will be available later today, but early indicators make AVG 2013 look like a major improvement over previous years.