Avast! 8 Free Antivirus Review

Antivirus:
Lee
Version:
2013
Price:
$0
Avast! Free Antivirus 8

Reviewed by:
Rating:
3.5
On March 10, 2013
Last modified:May 25, 2013

Summary:

Malware detection and removal is ok but certainly not the best you'll find this year. If that isn't the be all and end all of your decision-making process then this free program is very lightweight and comes with some genuinely useful extra features such as Software Updater and Browser Cleaner.

Key Benefits

  • Good at getting rid of browser toolbars (yay!!! I like)
  • Software updater is a really nice touch
  • Auto sandboxing of suspicious programs
  • Remote assistance built in

This review is rather timely given recent goings-on at Avast! (read about that here) but such things can happen at with any security vendor so don’t let that put you off the rest of the review…

Will it run on my PC?

The minimum suggested system requirements for this program are as follows:

  • Microsoft Windows – 2000 SP4 / XP SP2 (32- and 64-bit) / Vista (32- and 64-bit) / 7 and 8 (32- and 64-bit)
  • Pentium III processor
  • 128 Mb of RAM
  • 400 MB of hard drive space

Is it easy to install this program?

Installation of the program itself was easy enough and no-one should have any problems getting up and running with the latest free version of Avast antivirus.

One thing that is worth pointing out however is that the download comes via CNET and, in my case at least, the standard installation (as opposed to the custom version that you would have to manually choose instead) was all set up to install some other free stuff that I didn’t recognise – look out for this if this sort of thing bothers you.

What is the user interface like?

As is the trend this year the interface is a very simple Windows 8ish affair. The first thing you’ll notice is the colour coded security notice on the left hand side. Just in case you are colour blind, I guess, Avast have helpfully added a smiley face as well, just so you’re certain whether you are protected (green and smiling) or in trouble (red and frowning).

Avast

From this main screen you’ll notice there aren’t many too choices of where to go. I know many people who will appreciate an interface that minimises the risk of baffling them!

Something to note here though is that several of the options in the free version of this antivirus program aren’t available to you unless you purchase them. Theres nothing really wrong with this as I guess Avast are showing users what they are missing out on by using the free version of the program but, still, its annoying (almost as annoying as the upsell in Avast Free version 7 in fact) to click on Firewall, SafeZone or Market only to see stuff you can’t have without paying.

What features does the program offer?

As a free program there aren’t, as you would expect, a huge amount of features available to you beyond the obvious antivirus and anti-spyware.

One nice inclusion though is the software updater. Running this portion of the program will prompt the program to check the other software on your PC to see if it is up to date. This is becoming more and more essential these days as the bad guys look to exploit popular programs that the majority of PC users have installed almost seemingly by default. If any software is found to be out of date then the program will prompt you to fix the issue by updating there and then.

The software updater can be run on demand but also runs in the background too which is useful as it will pop up with a warning should it detect a fix that is required. I rather like this feature.

software-updater

The software updater can be run on demand but also runs in the background too which is useful as it will pop up with a warning should it detect a fix that is required. I rather like this feature.

security

Another cool feature that I got my money’s worth from (not on one of my systems I hasten to add) is the Browser Cleaner which deals with those pesky toolbars that find their way into your browser. Sure, removal of this problem can be done manually and¬†reasonably¬†easy but plenty of people still don’t know how. Therefore, someone I know, who shall remain nameless, now has none versus way too many :)

maintenance

Other important features include anti-phishing and web reputation. Web reputation is interesting in that Avast! users are actually responsible for assigning said reputation via a voting system!!

settings

Will it keep me safe?

In my own testing I found the program to be fairly good in both detecting and removing malware but it certainly isn’t up there with the likes of BitDefender or Norton this year. That said, it is free of course so maybe that a trade-off you can live with? Personally I wouldn’t put all my trust into this program on a work machine or the one I use for sensitive tasks such as internet banking. For a kids’ PC then the cost may be appealing and it will likely keep them safe enough, depending on how adventurous they are on the web ;)

Resource Usage

One area that I’m always keen to examine is the system resources a security program uses whilst running a full scan. To my mind it doesn’t really matter how good a program is if it makes my computer unusable for anything else, even for short periods of time.

resources

Luckily, Avast! 8 Free is really, really good in this area with relatively low memory usage and ridiculously low CPU usage even when running a full scan – typically under 10% for an entire scan.

Whilst engaging in multiple other tasks – surfing, listening to music, watching a video and more – I noticed no slow down on my computer whatsoever whilst this antivirus program ran a full system scan.

Overall impression

What do you need from an antivirus program?

If the answer is the absolute best protection you can get then this is not the program for you – several of the paid alternatives are much better this year.

On the other hand, if you want pretty good protection at no cost plus some very handy extra features then Avast may well have the security solution you are looking for.

Malware detection and removal is ok but certainly not the best you'll find this year. If that isn't the be all and end all of your decision-making process then this free program is very lightweight and comes with some genuinely useful extra features such as Software Updater and Browser Cleaner.
About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

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