With a great user interface and reliable malware protection, Avast is once again our favourite free anti-virus program
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
Security software is often a yearly expense, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Honestly, considering the amount of hassle it can save you, anti-virus is a must in today’s digital age, but you don’t always have to go for the most expensive option. As is the case with IT software, there are always endearingly interesting free alternatives. The most well known of which is Avast Anti-Virus.
Recently, the free anti-virus software has been rated consistently by Expert Reviews as one fo the best free security software solutions, but does the 2015 version uphold this stellar reputation?
The best thing about Avas’s free service as there aren’t any strings attached, it’s just a free anti-virus software with no hidden costs included. All you’ve got to do is download it, and you get a free month. If you’re after a full year’s service, all you have to do is supply your email address. This gets you the basic service, with Avast making money from optional add-ons in the Store tab such as VPN services and a password storage solution. Our rigorous tests don’t look into these paid-for options products, yet the free malware protection is at the heart of the service.
^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.
|Windows XP SP2, Vista SP2, 7 SP1, 8 and 8.1 (excl RT and Starter)
|Hard disk space
|Price including VAT
|Free Antivirus 2014