Perhaps you've just bought a new PC and want to lock it down from threats. Or you've downloaded a program of dubious security. Whatever your situation, within a few minutes of downloading and installing Avast Free Antivirus you'll have already completed your first scan. A top performer based on independent studies for its protection potency, Avast will quickly check for internet browser vulnerabilities, outdated apps, viruses and malware, and then show a set of advanced issues. Of course the resolution of these advanced issues is a tease; you need to upgrade to Avast Internet Security or Premium for those and many other nifty features.
The download process is a piece of cake, it delivers quickly on its promise of virus and malware detection and resolution, and offers a ton of different options to lock down your PC from every angle if you want to pay more. Some of the free version felt intrusive. Upon installation it prompts you to install the Avast Secure Browser and after checking out the Avast Passwords feature the next Chrome browsing session gave a pop-up to let Avast handle passwords. These, however, are no reasons to avoid Avast. The platform is packed with functionality in such a slick UI that you almost want the app to find flaws to keep you clicking.
Avast has all the angles covered
Avast scores points for a seamless, inviting user interface that gets straight to the point when you install it: let's scan for some viruses.
Thus it begins a a comprehensive health check that claims to leverage the world's largest threat-detection network. It's hard for a layperson to judge the effectiveness of a program like this. It scans four categories (browser, apps, viruses/malware, and advanced issues) before deeming you safe or not.
The first inkling of the pay-to-play structure for Avast comes at the Smart Scan's last step. 'Sensitive Documents are unprotected! Primary folders are exposed to ransomware! You're only using a basic firewall! Fake websites can harm you!' You need Avast Internet Security to solve these at a very low price per year.
Once you've run the Smart Scan for the first time you can now enjoy the Avast UI and the multitude of options it offers. On it, there are four tiles.
Here you see a simple stoplight motif green, yellow, or red depending on the open vulnerabilities. When it's green, it means that your protection components are turned on. Everything is a-OK. A yellow warning would signify a recent and urgent vulnerability. Red means that there's a critical issue with core antivirus components that you need to address. Anything other than a green will have a button to push for a guided resolution.
Eight features that you can actively decide to run apart from the usual Smart Scan
Virus Scans. Smart scan is the default choice but you can choose more specific scans like a full virus scan, a scan of particular folders or external drives, a scan that focuses on boot-up procedures, and you can even create your own scan.- Core Shields. Avast has four shields that it keeps on at all times. One for files, system behavior, web activities, and emails and attachment. You can toggle these here.- Virus Chest. The quarantine zone. Any detected virus gets stored here.- Wi-Fi Inspector. Scans every wifi enabled component on your network for any threats.- Real Site (premium). Ensures you don't get DNS hijacked which redirects you from a real site to a fake version.- Sandbox (premium). Very neat feature where you can run apps, download files, and visit the web from a secure environment. If you have doubts about something you just downloaded, you can run it in the sandbox with a clear conscience.- Firewall (premium). Your usual firewall protective service that some consider better than Windows Defender.- Ransomware Shield (Premium). This nifty tool secures any files or folders that contain your personal, sensitive data. You can also choose which applications are able to modify those files.
Six features appear here
- Offers an alternative to internet browser (Chrome comes to mind) password management that Avast claims is more secure due to better encryption. It has many of the same features like auto-filling forms and generating random passwords.- SecureLine VPN. Avast offers a free VPN service which, if you're unfamiliar with the concept, is a virtual private network that encrypts all of your internet behavior data. Many modern internet users swear by the technology in this ever-increasing data driven world.- AntiTrack Premium. Every time you use the web you leave digital traces that third parties use to gauge that behavior. That's how you get targeted ads. AntiTrack obfuscates your digital behavior to prevent this.- Data Shredder (premium). Goes the extra mile to ensure any deleted files are completely overwritten and irretrievable.- Webcam Shield (premium). Ever wonder if your webcam surreptitiously spies on you? This removes that chance.- Sensitive Data Shield (premium). This feature scans for sensitive documents and then applies controls to which applications can touch them.
Some extra features
- Cleanup Premium. Nothing to do with security but a neat option to give your PC a tune-up.- Driver Updater. One-stop shop to update your system drivers. After a quick install it identifies any number of drivers on your PC such as your video card, PCI express port, wireless adapter, and recommends an update. Requires Avast Internet Security package to execute the updates.- Do Not Disturb Mode: Super cool. When you're presenting in fullscreen, gaming, or watching a movie, you won't receive any pop-up messages from the client. You activate this feature per application so you can pick and choose where to implement it.- Software Updater. Similar to the Driver Updater but for software applications, e.g., Adobe Reader.
Where can you run this program?
You can install Avast on Windows, Mac, and Android.
Is there a better alternative?
You have plenty of similar options to Avast. Don't neglect the built-in Microsoft Windows Defender. It scores well for basic antivirus protection and won't try to install all sorts of extra software on your PC that frequently remind you to upgrade or bog down your performance in the background. Kaspersky and Bitdefender are other great options that keep it simple and score high on malware.
It takes no time to download and get scanned, does the basics antivirus and malware scans just as well as anything else, and there are so many modular options. We thought it could be a little less invasive on the pop-ups and more up-front on what exactly is hidden behind the paywall before you get excited to run a feature.
Should you download it?
Yes. While your native Microsoft Windows Defender likely takes care of most threats, it's always good to get a second opinion, especially if you want to be extra secure with the Avast pay-to-play options that Windows Defender will never have.