We've recently looked at free anti-malware products such as Avast! 7 Free Antivirus, AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2012 and Microsoft Security Essentials 4, so to complete the set of the main freebee contenders, here's Avira Free Antivirus  2012. See also: Group test: what's the best security software?

Avira is a 500-strong German company, which has specialised in system security for 25 years. Free Antivirus 2012 is a cut-down version of its commercial product and there are plenty of suggestions as you use it that you should upgrade to the pay-for version. Visit: Security Advisor.

The main control panel is functional enough, though with few frills. It consists of a main adjustment pane, with a menu of options down the left-hand side. Some are greyed out and available only in the full version, but you do get System Scanner, Realtime Protection, Web Protection and all the admin options.

The System Scanner is unusual, as it offers a number of preset scans, as well the option to target individual drives or folders. Presets include local drives – hard drives or removables – Windows system directory and My Documents. Realtime Protection lists the last malware file detected and Web Protection does the same for contaminated Web pages.

Under Administration, you can check what's quarantined, look at listed ‘events' and scan reports, and set a schedule for automated scans. The Configuration button brings up individual settings for various aspects of the application, such as picking threat categories. Using this, it appears to be able to protect yourself against jokes and games, among other things. No more Tetris Battle, then.

Avira Free Antivirus 2012: performance

Running a scan on our 50GB test set took just over 54 minutes and Avira Free Antivirus 2012 looked at 413,992 files. Although the file scan rate is a very healthy 127 files/s, a second scan of the same files took just as long as the first, indicating there's no attempt to fingerprint files as scanned and safe.

Against that, the program has very low system impact. Copying a 1GB file while running a scan only increased the copy time by 23 percent, the lowest we've seen by quite a way.

AV-Test (www.av-test.org) scores Avira Free Antivirus 2012 at 12.5/18.0, which is enough to certify it, but not to put it among the leaders. The three categories the overall score breaks down into are well balanced, though, with 4.5 for Protection, 4.0 for Repair and 4.0 for Usability.

Like Microsoft Security Essentials, Avira falls down on detecting 0-day malware, where it's too early to have virus signatures available. It scored 80 percent in the first of two months of testing, pulling its average down below the Industry Average AV-Test measures.

It did well at detection of more widespread infections and removal of all components of them, but dropped a little on repairing malicious system changes, though it still scored 80 percent, against an average of 63 percent.

Under usability, it did well on system slowdown, better than average, in line with our own tests. It gave no false positives, but it did block seven times as many installation and use actions of legitimate software than the average. You need to bear this in mind, if newly installed software starts throwing up surprising objections.

Avira Free Antivirus 2012: Specs

  • Versions for Windows XP SP2 64-bit, SP3 32-bit, Vista SP1 32/64-bit, 7, 512MB XP, 1GB Vista/7, 150MB HD
  • Versions for Windows XP SP2 64-bit, SP3 32-bit, Vista SP1 32/64-bit, 7, 512MB XP, 1GB Vista/7, 150MB HD


Avira Free Antivirus 2012 is a very respectable, free antivirus app, which does what it claims, but doesn't offer much extra. The scan presets are useful and it's generally light touch on system resources is welcome, but AV-Test scored AVG Free quite a bit higher and we'd go along with that conclusion.