avast! Free Antivirus 7 Stable

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

With 150 million active users and over 200 million registered accounts, the popularity of avast! software is completely undeniable. About a month ago, the company released version 7 of their security suite, integrating innovative features for the free edition.

[admark=1]Cloud-based file reputation service and streamlined updates, together with enhanced configuration for automatically sandboxing a suspicious program, and the remote assistance feature make for the highlights of the latest major release.

Also new to a free antivirus is some incipient form of central management for all avast! installations. At the moment, the service only allows you to view information, and no modifications can be applied. However, this will permit you to check the security status and the activity log of the suite on multiple machines.

The new version of avast! comes with a fresh installer that allows you to integrate it into your system as a second line of defense for an already available security product. The interface went through slight modifications.

You can check on the protection state at a glance in the Current Status panel. It offers details about the status of real-time shields, definition updates or the expiration date of the program.

The same real-time shields protect your system, with the menu showing the status and activity for all of them: file system, mail, web, P2P, IM, network, script and behavioral analysis. For each of them, there are graphs displaying the traffic and amount of items and events analyzed, as well as the number of infections detected.

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Furthermore, protection is also ensured through sandboxing, which is automatic in the free version of the product, browser protection (based on community ratings) or site blocking (lets you specify URLs that should be blocked).

Remote assistance is also present in this menu, allowing desktop sharing between avast! users. This is most useful in situations when you need technical support from a friend. All remote assistance sessions are carried out securely, through the company’s servers. These can be initiated based on an automatically generated code, which has to be provided to the remote party.

Nothing has changed, as far as scan choices are concerned. You can run a quick scan to check the most sensitive areas of the computer (system drive and RAM), a full system scan for a thorough verification, and a custom scan, which lets you choose the areas that should be checked.

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There is also the possibility to examine removable media attached to the computer. Moreover, custom scan profiles can be created, where you get to define locations to be inspected.

Where the efficiency of the protection layers is concerned, avast! proved to be a very reliable choice, as it managed to eliminate 80.4% of our malware database during an on-demand scan. Out of 66,084 samples (all harvested in the past month) we put it up against, 12,976 were left behind after the first sweep.

More threats were uncovered when we tried to launch them and, in some cases, the antivirus flagged them as suspicious and launched them in the sandbox, isolated from the system. Although we did not launch all threats skipped by avast!, the ones picked up by the behavior shield managed to increase its score by almost two points.

Further on-demand scans uncovered more malware, although the number was negligible considering the high amount of samples initially left behind.

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FileRep, the cloud-based reputation system, alerted us of suspicious downloads and recommended interrupting the connection. It is connected with the sandboxing feature, as files are run isolated from the system and analyzed for malicious behavior.

WebRep, on the other hand, is based on information received from the community, as far as website rating is concerned and, in some cases, the rating relies on a small number of votes. As a plus, the plugin has been updated to alert against phishing based on cloud information.

Unlike previous versions we analyzed, this release did not raise the flag for the false positives we were usually accustomed with.

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Boot-time scanning is also among avast!’s features. This comes in handy since it can search for malware before it becomes active.

Although configuring security products may seem pretty daunting for the average user, in this case, everything is simple and straightforward. Both beginner users and more advanced ones can handle the settings quite comfortably.

You won’t be put through hardships even if terminology is not familiar, because of the contextual help; additionally, the explanations are easy to comprehend.

The free version of avast! does not feature a firewall or antispam, and the hints are all over the place, as upgrade recommendations are present in most parts of the interface. However, the messages do not hinder in any way the handling of the application.

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The Good

For a free solution, it integrates a comprehensive suite of security layers. Automatic sandboxing, cloud-based updates and file reputation system, combined with behavioral analysis and traditional definitions make for a reliable antivirus.

Handling the application is easy, and you also get remote assistance possibilities, as well as online monitoring of all avast! installations linked to your account.

The Bad

During our testing, when handling large amounts of data, the interface would become unresponsive. The activity would be carried out in the background, though.

The Truth

avast! 7 Free integrates unique protection features that complement each other, thus leading to increased security. Despite being free of charge, the application delivers more than the snubbed protection you see in other free solutions.

As far as malware detection and elimination is concerned, it is as reliable as a paid product.
user interface 5
features 5
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5


final rating 5
Editor's review
excellent
 

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