AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition is one of the most popular products on CNET Download.com, with 61 million downloads. On Thursday, publisher AVG Technologies, formerly known as Grisoft, plans to introduce the full version of AVG Anti-Virus 8.0. This upgrade will feature significant changes to the program, integrating the previously stand-alone tools of AVG Anti-Spyware, AVG Anti-Rootkit, and recent AVG purchase LinkScanner as well as showcasing an entirely new interface.

According to Larry Bridwell, AVG's Global Security Strategist, the guts of the program have been overhauled, too. The code rewrite, he stressed, addresses several deficiencies including system slowdowns caused by real-time shields. The integration of LinkScanner, he said, will help warn users of unsafe links, search results, and downloads before they clicked on them. On-demand definition file updates will be made available to users of the free edition for the first time, as will instant messaging protection for users of MSN and ICQ.

LinkScanner's publisher, Exploit Prevention Labs, was purchased at the end of last year. CNET's Rob Vamosi pointed out that while other safe-surfing applications tend to rely on databases, LinkScanner rated higher for using technology that determines on the fly whether a currently-loading page is tainted with malware. Previous versions have not been able to detect fraudulent pages, though, and it is unclear if that concern will be addressed in the integrated LinkScanner.

Bridwell points out that LinkScanner will be available both in the newly integrated AVG Anti-Virus and as a stand-alone download, at least in the short-term. The publisher will continue to promote an enhanced feature set in the paid edition, including tech support, more robust scheduling capabilities, and support for newer multiprocessor core chips. A trial version will still be available, although at the time of writing AVG had not yet determined how many days that trial will be.