Avast Free Antivirus 2015 review
OS Support: Windows XP SP2, Vista SP2, 7 SP1, 8 and 8.1 (excl RT and Starter), Minimum CPU: Not stated, Minimum GPU: N/A, Minimum RAM: Not stated, Hard disk space: Not stated
The yearly fee for security software suites is very modest considering the amount of time, hassle and loss they can save you, but as with any form of software, there's always an enduringly popular free alternative. In the world of anti-virus, the most popular alternative is Avast. In previous years, Avast been consistently rated as the best free service in our Labs tests, so it has quite the reputation to uphold.
There's no catch to Avast's free service. You get a free month just for downloading it, and in order to get a full year of free service you have to register with an email address. Avast makes its money from optional extras that can be found in the software's Store tab. Our tests don't delve into these paid-for products, but the free malware protection element of Avast is at the core of its paid-for services, too.
^The Avast Store is full of paid-for features, but the software rarely pressures you into paying for anything
The good news for those users still unwilling to invest cash into the service is that it's still the best free service in terms of malware protection. Avast fully protected our test machine from 93 out of 100 threats, neutralising four more after they had made it onto the machine. The PC was compromised three times, with Avast unable to stop the malware from taking hold on these occasions.
This gave it a protection score of 271 out of a possible 300. This good performance was backed up by unobtrusive behaviour during the installation of legitimate applications, with Avast only suspecting one piece of software of being potentially hazardous. On this occasion, it allowed the user to choose whether the application was allowed to run. Avast was too heavy-handed when it came to letting us install legitimate software, scoring 822 in this test, for a high overall protection rating of 1,093.
^A quick Avast scan found outdated software and junk files on our PC
Not only is Avast a reliable protector of your PC, it has one of the best interfaces we've encountered. There are five types of scan: a virus scan, an outdated software scan, a scan for threats within your network, and one for potential performance issues. The SmartScan option does a bit of everything, presenting you with a report after the scan informing you of threats relating to each of the above categories. On our system it found five outdated pieces of software including Mozilla Firefox, Apple QuickTime and Flash Player's ActiveX plugins, and directed us to each application to run updates.
SmartScan also runs the GrimeFighter tool, which lets you know how much "unnecessary junk" there is on your PC. It told us we had 10 incorrect system settings, 1GB of "junk files" and four "unnecessary" applications, but wouldn't inform us what or where they were, asking us to pay £14.99 to solve the issues. It isn't often that Avast lures you into paying for a product, and this is one of very few occasions where it stuck out. Of course, there are plenty of menu items that lead to services that you have to pay for, but this is made clear before you click, so we never felt like we were suffering through a sales pitch.
^GrimeFighter tells you what your problems are, but you'll need to pay £14.99 to solve them
Almost every aspect of the service can be tailored to your own preferences, making Avast great for tinkerers and the more technically minded.
Avast is still the best free anti-virus software on the market at the moment. While it can't offer the near 100 per cent reliability of the paid-for products, if you're dead set against paying for protection, Avast 2015 Free Anti Virus should be your first port of call.