Free Anti-virus Programs
Based in Prague, Avast Software is an incredibly popular cybersecurity firm with more than 400 million monthly users.
In addition to the premium and "ultimate" versions of their flagship antivirus software, they also offer a completely free security suite in the form of Avast Free Antivirus.
Unfortunately, Avast and its subsidiary AVG have gotten a lot of negative press recently, and for good reason - they've been caught red-handed selling user data for a huge profit.
We felt it necessary to mention this before taking a look at the Avast Antivirus software itself.
With this caveat out of the way, let's take an unbiased look at the features of Avast Free Antivirus.
Avast Free Antivirus is available for Windows versions 10, 8, 8.1, and 7, along with Mac, iOS, and Android. For free software, it really does have a lot of features, including:
To install Avast Free Antivirus, first download the executable file from Avast's website. Go to the Mac, Android, or iOS pages linked under the big green Download Now button if applicable.
Open the executable file and, after a bit, you'll be taken to the Avast Free Antivirus setup page. Here, you can choose whether or not to install the Avast Secure Browser - a browser focused on keeping your Internet experience safe - and make it your default browser.
Once the installation is complete, you can customize which areas - for instance, PC speed optimization - you'd like the program to focus on.
To complete installation, Avast will run its first "Smart Scan" of your computer.
You'll also get a "gift" which is a discount on upgrading the program. Don't even bother clicking it if you don't want that but, if you do click it, click the red X at the upper right corner - the one that seems like clicking it will close the entire program. If you do this, you can get a 60-day free trial and play around with some of the paid features.
Avast's black-and-green interface makes it very easy to navigate, though some people may not like this color scheme. On the sidebar, you've got "Status," where you can click "Run Smart Scan" at any time.
Under "Protection" you'll find Virus Scans, where you can choose to run a deeper full scan, targeted scan, or boot-time scan. You can also create a custom scan.
"Core Shields" offers more protection features like "Web Shield", "Virus Chest" can segregate malware, "Wi-Fi Inspector" will let you know of network vulnerabilities, and the "Ransomware Shield" will keep you safe from ransomware. Other features are locked off unless you pay.
Privacy features are also only included in the premium and ultimate versions of the software.
Under "Performance," you can update old software (which may have vulnerabilities) and activate the "Do not Disturb" Mode.
Overall, Avast's user interface is pretty standard, which isn't a bad thing - the more intuitive the better when it comes to antivirus programs!
If you do need support with using it, you'll find a large knowledgebase here.
Additionally, you can always call up Avast's 24/7 support service.
With the free version of Avast Antivirus, you're getting a solid, top-of-the-line malware detector. It not only blocks malware files from executing, but can stop them from getting onto your computer at all by preventing, for instance, code injection attacks.
You also get a lot of extra features that you might not find in other free antivirus programs - the "Smart Scan" and "Boot Time Scan" are especially nice, as is the Wi-Fi scanner.
The password manager is a bit "half-baked" - it won't even warn you of duplicate passwords. You can get better free, third-party password managers.
While it's neat that the standard "Smart Scan" will warn you of sensitive documents, the only way to really do anything about this is to upgrade the program and then store the files in an encrypted "storage locker" for you. Of course, it's still useful to know where they are, especially if you've forgotten you had these sensitive files on your computer.
You also won't get a VPN as part of this software.
Avast and its sister program AVG do very well in independent lab tests.
AV-Test performed 26 monthly tests in 2018, 2019, and 2020. They found that Avast found 100 % of known malware.
Where it didn't do so great is at spotting "zero-day" (brand new) threats - it missed nine of these over the multi-year period.
AV-Test Insitute gave Avast a rating of 17.5 out of a possible 18 (a maximum of 6 points in three categories - protection, performance, and usability. Avast slipped up in performance).
SE-Labs also gave Avast a AAA rating, which is its highest score for detecting malware.
Avast Free Antivirus is among the best free pieces of anti-malware software you can get.
Let's sum up with some pros and cons before reaching our final verdict.
1. One of the best free antivirus programs available in terms of keeping malware off your computer - offers solid protection at no cost
2. Extra features like boot scan, informing you of sensitive files, vulnerabilities, and network security issues
3. Easy to use with simple, navigable UI
4. The automatic software updater is nice
5. Good protection against ransomware
6. The selling of user data is a huge problem
7. A lot of upselling attempts while using the program
8. Lags behind other products in detecting zero-day attacks
9. Sometimes very slow scan times
10. Scans can have a large impact on your system performance
There's no way around it: Avast Free Antivirus is a great program that doesn't cost any money to use.
The elephant in the room, however, is the confirmed selling of user data.
If you don't care about such a thing, go ahead and the software.
If you do, there are free programs with higher malware detection rates available.
It's one of the best, but it's not the best free antivirus software. So, you're not missing out by opting for another free program that won't sell your data.