Avast Free Antivirus full review
Avast is one of the three main contenders in the free antivirus world, AVG and Avira being the other two. As with those two, there are paid-for products in Avast’s range with more features, but the free version has several useful features of its own. (See also: Best internet security software 2015 UK.)
Avast makes quite a thing about its free antivirus offering, giving a good breakdown of its feature set and companion programs online, as well as, naturally, offering a range of upgrades to commercial products. It offers two main functions: antivirus protection and potentially unwanted application (PUA) detection, for when bad apps piggy-back themselves on legitimate downloads.
There’s also a network scanner, which looks at your network settings and passwords and suggests improvements to increase their strength. The free package doesn’t include anti-spam or a firewall and you’ll need to upgrade for password protection, too.
Free protection can be extended, though, by adding Avast Browser Safety, also a free download, which prevents ad networks from tracking your movements online, blocks harmful web sites and offers, slightly unexpectedly, a price comparison when shopping. There are free Avast AV apps for Mac, Android and iOS, too, so you could protect all your devices with pretty much the same software.
The main control screen is very clearly laid out and makes wide use of tiles, demarcating all the important information. There’s more info than you often get in free AV products, too, with a good statistics module covering both the work the software has done on the local computer and what it has achieved for its customers globally.
Avast Free Antivirus 2015 review: Performance
Avast took over 1 hour 10 minutes to scan our 50GB basket of test files, but it did look at 879,891 of them, giving a scan rate of 204 files/s, well up with some of the fastest scanners. However, there’s very little difference in scan time on a second pass, just a minute less, so not much file fingerprinting going on.
The scanner doesn’t put a lot of burden on the system, though, with a 1GB copy taking only six seconds longer with a scan running in the background. This represents a 14 percent increase.
This is broadly in line with what the German test house AV-Test found in its tests of the product. The Performance tests, which look at delays produced when carrying out a variety of tasks on a PC running the test AV software, saw an increase of 3 seconds, which was the industry average for this test and dropped the Performance score to 4.5/6.0.
The Protection rating from AV-Test was 5.5/6.0, which seems a little harsh when in the two months of the test it scored a perfect 100 percent on both zero day and widespread malware detection in the first month and dropped just 1 percent, still above the industry average, on the zero day testing in the second month.
The Usability category produced a perfect 6.0/6.0 with only one false detection in the whole set of samples, where the industry average was three. This gives the product an overall score of 16.0/18.0, a very respectable result for a free product, though not the best in this group.
Avast Free Antivirus: Specs
- Windows XP SP2 32-bit/Vista/7/8/10 all 32/64 bit, Pentium 3, 128MB memory, 2GB HD