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Free Anti-virus Programs

NEW Avast! Free Version 6.0

Avast is one name in the antivirus industry that has endeared itself among over 122 million users worldwide. That happens especially when the company gives away for free a product that does exactly what it promises to do – detect, clean and protect your PC from the harmful codes that mostly come from the internet. That’s what the Avast! Free version 6.0 does with a set of features taken from its paid Pro edition. Needless to say, you just have to contend with pop-up purchase offers to upgrade to the full-featured Pro version, whenever you open the free apps.

Features

As a freeware, it would be too unfair to expect it to match what paid antivirus programs have. It is certainly far from perfect and there are better freeware antivirus programs out there, gut for the money you won’t be spending for it, it does what it sets out to do in most situations. Since it is free, you can download one and try it out yourself.

For starters, the basic protection is right there with features that are present in many commercial products. It stands out with its boot-time scan that effectively overcomes majority of entrenched malware and deeply lodged virus. Infected PCs are notorious for interfering with and even blocking antivirus installation and the Avast boot time scan and detection works before Windows is loaded. Entrenched rootkits and malware at this time are defenseless so that they are easily disabled and removed by Avast.

There is just a downside that has more to do with its highly interactive remediation effort. When the boot-time scan finds a threat, it interrupts the process and prompts you for an instruction to “Move all to chest” or to proceed. But even if you have made an instruction, it will once again prompt you for your decision if its finds the same malware trace in a folder.

The program provides reputation rating of URL sites appearing on your search engine results using its WebRep browser plug-in. The feature leverages its huge user community to gather website rating opinions in Firefox or Internet Explorer. This helps users avoid site with low reputation rating that increases your risk to threats.

Avast has eight distinct "shields" to protect your PC against new malware infection. The most useful is its File System Shield which it checks files as you open it and cleans infected ones. Behavior Shield watches for rootkits and malware-like behavior. Network Shield blocks malicious web sites, and Web Shield checks for dangerous downloads. Other shields are designed to check files coming from e-mail, instant messaging and P2P web traffic.

What is new to this version is the Script Shield which checks scripts, whether web-sourced or local, and blocks their executive should it detect potentially malicious code. This features was once only available from previous paid Pro versions.

Another new feature is its AutoSandbox facility which puts suspicious executable files or programs to run safely in an isolated virtual environment where any virus damage is contained. Running a suspected program that is sandboxed disables altering your Windows registry and saving files.

Installation and Set-up

Like any freeware, you only need to download the Avast! Free version 6 to get it installed on your PC. The process is a breeze and requires no rebooting in its boot-time scan. In addition, while most other similarly free antivirus programs download more than 50 Mb of virus profile to populate your local signature database, Avast downloads just a few kilobytes after installation.

User Interface

Since the 80s when its antivirus product first came out, the Avast program's interface has gone through several iteration refinements but the latest 6.0 version simply retains much of the preceding version except for a few new icons. Its main status page displays your PC’s overall security status with a link to manually put Avast into alert-free gaming mode though its automatically switches to this mode when it detects a full-screen display of any program such as movies and games. And as expected, the rest of the page banners a suggestion to upgrade it to its full security suite. There’s also a buttons at right-top to start updating it to the paid version.

Under Windows 7 and Vista, the program pops out semi-transparent notifications when detecting threats while database updates slide up from the function tray at the bottom right corner of the screen. Each alert type carries a distinctive audible cue that you can specify with an optional voiceover. Configuration pages allow you to specify the duration of alert visibility and which comes with sound cues.

Avast 4! Home Edition

Avast 4! Home Edition is a free anti-virus scanning program equipped with the standard anti-virus, anti-spyware, and adware features. If you read through blogs and forums, you'll find that many users commend Avast 4! Home Edition as one of the very few free anti-virus programs that offer scans on bootup.

Through bootup scanning, Avast has an increased ability to remove stubborn viruses and infectors, especially those that thwart removal attempts via resuscitators.

Features

As mentioned, Avast is equipped with built-in anti-rootkit and anti-spyware protection. Aside from this, the program also has protection mechanisms for emails and instant messages that scan incoming and outgoing mails and instant messages for any malicious content.

The program's Standard Shield feature also provides real-time protection against viruses and malware by scanning documents and files as you download and execute them. Avast 4! Home Edition also has P2P (peer-to-peer) protection - something that very few free anti-virus programs provide.

As mentioned, Avast 4! Home Edition has a boot-time scanning feature that removes viruses and infections that load during Windows startup. The viruses that load during startup are usually hard to remove; some of these viruses can even shut down virus protection once Windows starts. This is why the boot-time scan is one of the program's plus points that users commend.

Avast 4! Home Edition is also equipped with self-protection mechanisms. This means that aside from protecting your system, it also protects itself from malware that terminate and damage Avast processes and files. Similar to most anti-virus programs, Avast automatically updates virus definitions on a regular basis, further increasing its chances of detecting constantly evolving viruses and infections.

Installation and Setup

The Avast 4! Home Edition free anti-virus program is suited for those with older PCs or those with limited system resources because it only takes up under 40MB of disk space. Upon successfully installing Avast 4! Home Edition on your machine, make sure you register the program on the manufacturer's website within the first 60 days of use.

Registration is required for you to get the license key that will enable you to use the program for one year.

Not to worry though, this doesn't mean that Avast 4! Home Edition can only be used for a year. After a year upon your initial registration, all you have to do is simply re-register the program for continued usage and functionality.

User Interface

Many users report mixed feelings on Avast 4! Home Edition's graphical user interface. Some find it refreshing while some find it cumbersome. Avast 4 Home's user interface has a visual style similar to WinAmp's interface skins, which can be customized and changed by downloading skins from Avast's website.

Customizable skins aside, some users feel that Avast 4 Home's user interface is not that user-friendly and is less than intuitive. This is especially true for those who would much rather have easy-to-browse menus with standard Windows interface than have the sleek and skinnable look of the user interface.

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