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Alwil Avast! Home Edition 4.8 review

Kat Orphanides
7 Jan 2010
Our Rating 
Free

Avast! has loads of features and provided effective all-round malware defence, but it wasn't the best free security suite against web threats.

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Specifications

Alwil's Avast! is one of Europe's most popular free anti-virus programs, despite a quirky interface. Fortunately, it works well without any configuration or user intervention and will only alert you when it detects a malicious file or updates its virus database.

The default interface looks more like a media player than a virus scanner. You even have to press a play button to start scanning once you've selected your options from a selection of obscure icons. There are only a limited number of options, so this isn't too much of a chore. There's a less incongruous alternative skin for the interface, but we'd still have liked labels or tooltips for each icon.

If you want to configure the level of protection provided by Avast!'s Resident Protection components, you have to click on its Notification Area icon. A button marked Details switches the default basic status information into a more advanced mode. It can be hard to find what you're looking for here, but the level of control is excellent for a free product. We were impressed by the Network Shield, which scans all network traffic for potential threats and provided most of the defence in our tests. There's also Web Shield, which monitors HTTP traffic from the internet. It's a standalone product rather than a plug-in, so will work with any browser. Other components include a boot-time scanner and protection against malicious files sent via instant messaging, P2P clients and email.

Avast! is free, but you have to register and renew your free licence key every year. It has been recently updated to support Windows 7, and it will work with much older operating systems than most of its competitors. It's quick to install and lightweight; we had no trouble running other programs during scans. It has loads of features, but an often-confusing interface. Unfortunately, it was compromised in four of our web threat exposure tests. Microsoft's free Security Essentials lacks many of Avast!'s more advanced features, but is easy to use and was compromised only once.

See page 2 for benchmark results.