LIKE AVIRA, Avast boasts over 200 million installations on planet Earth-that seems to be the magic number in free AV. That’s to say Avast is no Johnny-come-lately to the PC-protection party, though it does sport a slightly freshened-up interface that’s a bit more streamlined compared to last year’s release. Weaving in and out of advanced settings is mostly straightforward and logical, though it’s a bit odd that Avast buries the update option in the Settings menu.
Avast doesn’t scan for potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) by default. Even worse, the option to turn it on lies several menus deep (Settings > Active Protection > File System Shield > Sensitivity). Given that malware often piggybacks on top of seemingly legitimate programs, Avast should at least give users the option of enabling PUP protection during installation.
Only one of our malware samples went undetected during a system sweep. Avast also did a good job blocking access to harmful websites, though we were successful in downloading an infected file. This doesn’t concern us too much, considering how many sites and downloads we put these programs through, and for the most part, Avast does well in third-party testing, save for AV-Test.org, which notes a below-average score in detecting zero-day malware attacks.
While the free version of Avast doesn’t include amenities like a firewall, spam protection, and parental controls, you do get a rescue media option (USB or CD) along with a software updater that alerts you to outdated programs. This is a thoughtful inclusion, as black-hat hackers are always on the hunt for security holes to sneak malware through.
Most of Avast’s attempts to upsell security are confined to the Store menu, which is where you’ll find add-ons and upgrades available for purchase. We like this tactful approach, as well as Avast in general. Free, http://www.avast.com
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