Avast! Free Antivirus 8 – Review

excellent
key review info
application features
  • Streaming, real-time virus database updates
  • (5 more, see all...)

While upgrading to Avast! Free Antivirus 8 from the previous stable version, the first thing that stands out is the interface. The redesign features large buttons for quick access to the most used areas of the suite but also for better blending in and usage on the touch-friendly Windows 8.

Installing the package is a very transparent process. It is a lengthy operation if you assume total control by choosing the custom install. Although the screen shows five steps till finish, the number is much greater if you consider the intermediary screens. We counted a total of eight.

Customizing the installation process consists in changing the default install folder and enabling/disabling the real-time shields or protection components available in the suite.

Even if it is free of charge, Avast! Free Antivirus 8 requires registration in order to protect your system for a full year; otherwise, its security lasts only 30 days.

Compared to previous revisions this version is more aggressive in promoting various paid products from Avast. Immediately after registering the freebie, a pop-up appeared on the screen and prompted us to try the Internet Security package.

Another pop-up alerted that avast! Online Security plugin for Chrome was not installed. This component provides information about websites and their rating before visiting them.

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It is reputation-based and despite the company boasting a community of over 160 million users there, some of the search results may still remain unmarked by the plugin.

Cloud Services included in the package also rely on reputation and help identify if a file is safe before it is opened. The decision is made by determining the popularity of the item among the members of avast! community.

This component also ensures that malware signatures are streamed in real-time, thus increasing protection against more recent threats at an earlier stage.

The main application window shows the current status of the system and if attention is required due to a real-time shield being turned off or because a restart is needed to complete the cleaning operation after a scan.

We tested the suite on a rather small number of fresh samples (1414). A regular, on-demand scan eliminated almost 86% of them. Launching them caused the behavioral shield to kick in and mark a good chunk as threats.

Other samples were deemed suspicious based on file prevalence among other users and Avast! Free Antivirus 8 automatically used the auto-sandbox feature to further analyze them. In the end, the detection rate increased to 94.9%.

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By comparison, (Avira Free Antivirus 13) managed to detect slightly less samples during our on demand test and the overall score was lower than avast!’s, reaching 92.7%.

Scan options in the package cover all ranges of thoroughness, from Quick, which checks only the system drive and what’s currently running in the memory to Full, which verifies all drives, startup programs and the modules in the memory.

Moreover, a boot-time scan option is available for detecting malware before it starts its activity because this operation is carried out before Windows becomes active. This option is appealed to after a regular scan finishes and removal of a threat cannot be done.

The boot-time scan can be extended to all volumes available on the system and there is the possibility to adjust the heuristics sensitivity level (low to high) just like in the case of other scan types.

The default action to be taken when detecting a threat is to wait for the user’s decision, but to move things along it can automatically send all items to quarantine.

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During our tests scanning completed pretty fast, and with persistent cache option enabled, the subsequent checking took less to finish.

The verification process can be customized through plenty of controls. Apart from setting the sensitivity for heuristics, there is the possibility to enable code emulation or detection of potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).

Additionally, the engine can take a look inside certain archives (7Zip, ACE, ARC, RAR, ARJ, CAB, RAR, ISO, etc.) if not locked under a password, or exclude user-defined items. Moreover, a default action can be set when uncovering a virus, PUP or any suspicious file. By default, this setting is adjusted so that no action is taken automatically.

Avast! Free Antivirus 8 sports remote assistance features that allow sharing the desktop screens and it comes in handy for technical support. A remote party can connect to the system and help with any sort of trouble. Alternatively the local computer can connect to remote one to the same purpose.

The connection is established via a code provided by the user that allows the remote session on their system. As soon as the link establishes the remote desktop appears.

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Also packaged in avast! Free is Site Blocking component, designed to prevent access to specific URLs; secure (https://) pages are not blocked but wildcards are supported, so there is no need to provide the exact link.

Paid utilities are bundled in as well. Under “Tools,” there is the AccessAnywhere feature that allows controlling the computer from remote locations. Although remoting in is free, the distant system needs to be configured for remote access, which can only be done with avast! Premier.

On the same note, SecureLine, a paid VPN service that secures and anonymizes the Internet connection (useful on public or unsecure WiFi) is also present, as an individual sub-menu.

Compared to the previously reviewed version, we noticed a more aggressive effort for monetization. Though not frequent, we noticed a pop-up suggesting an upgrade to a paid avast! product.

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The Good

The default configuration is exactly what a beginner and average user needs. It provides advanced configuration for more granular control.

It integrates boot-time scan option, which can check for malware and eliminat it before Windows starts. The auto-sandbox component isolates suspicious files until their verification is complete.

The software updater feature ensures that commonly used applications do not pose a security risk because they’re not updated to the latest version.

The Bad

It suggests the user to upgrade or to purchase one of the avast! services or tools more frequent than it used to. Browser Cleanup, a component present in the interface, is not built into the package and is available as a separate download.

The Truth

Avast! Free Antivirus makes for a great blend of defense components against cyberthreats. It comes properly configured for the beginner user, at the same time offering customization options required by more advanced users.

It is not designed as a complete security suite but it manages to provide proper anti-malware protection, free of charge.
user interface 5
features 5
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5


final rating 5
Editor's review
excellent
 
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