Nowadays, premium suites of internet security/anti-virus are getting cheaper and affordable by most if the computer users. Despite of this, the free anti-virus solutions still, and increasingly available for several reasons: demonstrating the latest technology in the company virus busting; the ability to advertise to advise users to get a more advanced version of the company products; and (finally) protect all computer users from serious virus threats.
While several months ago I have reviewed the Microsoft own Anti-Virus solution – the Microsoft Security Essential, which got a big thumb from me, and also the Norton complete suite, Norton Internet Security, which is also a very complete and impressive product (AV-Comparatives Best Product of 2009), I have decided to try out the new Avast! Free Antivirus as it does have a quite high rating in AV-Comparatives reports. (More information about AV-comparatives – the independent comparatives for all anti-virus software)
Avast! 5, A brand new look
In Avast! 5 Free Antivirus, one of the (very) obvious changes was the completely overhaul of user interface. The new UI is not only looks more clean, but it does looks more professional and easier to navigate. In case you never been using Avast! previous product, the screenshot below might give you an idea or two about the changes.
Of course, what’s more important in an anti-virus software is the ability to protect computer users in daily usage, but interface does plays an important role as well. So the latest changes in Avast! 5 is very good and easily satisfied. Though I do not understand why the font for ‘Help Center’ and ‘Setting’ have to be in this instead of the font at the sidebar menu.
While chosen to be in the Google Pack doesn’t mean the software is a heaven-sent, but it does mean something good. Avast! 5 Free Anti-Virus could be one of the most complete free solutions to date, with all the basic features as well as some very user-oriented features. Let see what Avast! 5 can offer us:
Blocking of malicious websites
Blocking of hijacked or infected websites
Heuristics and signature detections
Scheduled, on-demand, and real time scanning
Gaming and full screen mode
You may check the complete list of features included in Avast! 5 Free AntiVirus under Technology Tab. Most of the features are expected in a free anti-virus solution, but after a month of usage, I found several features are praisable.
How good is it?
First of all – The stability and the usability. Avast! 5 Free AV although looks heavy, but it run very lightly on my computer. It doesn’t cause any significant hang/delay/crash etc. in my Windows 7 64-bits, and do its job without failing (though it tend to have quite frequent updates which requires restart, but it could be a good thing isn’t?). I rarely pay for an anti-virus/internet security suite, except one time, I paid for the Kaspersky IS. While it is undeniable that the features are of high quality build, but I have to uninstall it within one month. Why? I am sorry to say but it tend to make my computer hang more often, and did I mention the startup time for it have to be 3-5 minutes? And reports and logs take forever to load and possibly to crash itself while loading (This is just for my experience sharing). Avast! 5 Free AV did well in maintaining the stability of usability of itself and the computer, and protecting the user at the same time, thumbs up for this.
Multiple built-in Shields – Not something very surprising, but they are very good features in a free anti-virus software. The multiple shields covered almost all kind of possible activities in a computer that can cause the computer get infected by malware/virus/spyware etc. One word to describe all of them – Impressive. Below are all the shields available in Avast! 5 Free AV taken from their home page (I am lazy, sorry :P):
Monitors activity on your computer using a number of sensors (file system, registry and network based) and reports/blocks any suspicious behavior.
avast! sensors identify and monitor suspicious file activity on selected computers, automatically submitting files to the Virus Lab for additional analysis.
File System Shield
Real-time scanning of opened/executed files.
Scans all incoming/outgoing e-mails for malware. For MS Outlook, a special plug-in is used. Other email clients are protected by a generic POP3/IMAP4/SMTP proxy. New in version 5, the proxy also supports scanning of SSL communication (gmail.com, sympatico.ca, ….)
Scans all visited web pages and checks all files, pages and java scripts downloaded from the internet. Thanks to the Intelligent Stream Scan feature, the Web shield doesn’t slow down your web browsing.
Checks files downloaded using P2P programs. – ABC, Ares, Azureus, BearShare, Bit Torrent, BitComet, BitLord, BitPump, CZDC++, Direct Connect, eDonkey, eMule, iDC++, iMesh, Kazaa, Kceasy, LimeWire, Morpheus, Opera’s DC++, Overnet, Qtrax, Shareaza, SoulSeek, StrongDC++, uTorrent, Vuze, WinMX, Winny2, Zultrax.
Checks files downloaded while using instant messaging or “chat” programs. – AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), Gadu-Gadu, gaim/Pidgin, Google Talk, ICQ, IM2 Messenger, Infium, Miranda, mIRC, MSN/Windows Messenger, Odigo, PalTalk Messenger, Psi Jabber Client, QIP, QQ, SIM, Skype, Tlen, Trillian, WengoPhone, XFire, Yahoo! Messenger.
Provides protection against network-based viruses. The module has two main components: a URL blocker, designed to block malicious URLs (as defined by the Virus Lab), and a lightweight intrusion-detection system.
However, the shield doesn’t come with a very complete report/log in Avast! 5 Free AV (Not sure whether it is available in Pro edition), eg. I can’t check what/which get shielded by Avast! 5 Free AV. Although it is not important for most of the users, but it could be implemented (just don’t be as bad as Kaspersky’s). But all in all, I am satisfied to have all the shields protecting me (and my computer).
As a PC gamer, I always look for virus protection that DOES NOT interrupt when I am in the midst of the game. Some of the Free Anti-Virus seems to have forgotten this and does not even bother to include the feature until now – eg. AVIRA, thanks for the pop-up for asking me to upgrade to the PRO version when I am in the L4D2 game. And now I have no such a problem in Avast! 5 Free AntiVirus. The silent/gaming mode will detect full screen application and it will get turned on once there is any full screen application detected eg. No pop-up, no message, no interruption. A simple yet user-oriented feature. Nice one!
Last but not least, the clean and silent advertisement. We certainly understand that the company who release the free anti-virus software has to earn a living via the sales of paid version, but it doesn’t mean that the free edition users have to get disturbed and disrespected. Avast! 5 Free AV has just a very simple advertisement in the home page of the software, and doesn’t make noise or pop-up to ‘threaten’ the computer users. If you want to see how an advertisement can be so disturbing, go on and try the free edition anti-virus software from AVIRA and AVG.
If you look for the real-world scan time, here you go. In an empirical real-world test, the Quick scan took 13 minutes, 52 seconds, while a Full scan ran about 90 minutes. [Source: Cnet.com]
Avast! 5 Free AV has everything you can expect in a free anti-virus solution, with some extra nice features. If you rarely do online-shopping and banking activities, Avast! 5 Free AV can be your first choice of AV solution of you computer, and all these good features doesn’t come with a price tag. You can always give it a try if you do not satisfy with your current AV solution, it might surprises you.
I believe most of the users would still opt for the free anti-virus solution despite of the cheap price tag for numerous of reasons. While (sadly) the free anti-virus doesn’t generate much revenue for the company, but it can be easily see that how the AV company care about the worldwide computer users from their free edition build quality. When a free solution come with a nicely packed features and do the job well, I don’t see why a computer user wouldn’t opt for the paid version when he/she is affordable for that in the future.
You can always give Avast! 5 Free AntiVirus a try if you missed the download link. Enjoy a safer PC!