Avast Free Antivirus 2015 review
Avast Free Antivirus was our pick of the free packages last year and this year we see little reason to change our minds. With a wealth of useful features – including strong anti-malware protection – it keeps your PC secure, and its relaxed approach to flogging premium features and skill at identifying legitimate software make it easy to live with. If you don’t want to pay for security software, it’s the best, most balanced proposition. See also: What is the best free antivirus of 2015?
It gets off to a good start. The package downloads the latest signatures during the initial install, followed by a quick scan as soon as setup is complete. The user interface is equally straightforward, exposing all the major features in a clean, pane-based interface.
The main Overview panel reveals what’s protected at a glance, while exposing the core Smart Scan, Browser Cleanup and Home Network Security tools, plus the SecureLine VPN service. The latter is – like the firewall, anti-spam and secure online banking features – a paid-for extra, but the software is upfront about this and doesn’t endlessly nag about upgrading. The software’s built-in store might be only one click away, but no-one is forcing you to use it.
For a free package, Avast packs in plenty of additional features, with a rescue disk tool for creating bootable USB sticks or CDs with antivirus software and the latest definitions preinstalled, and a browser clean-up feature that gets rid of irritating toolbars and extensions. The Home Network Security feature checks out your whole home network for potential risks, while the software updater can tell you whether components such as Java or Adobe Flash are up to date. Both features speak of a more holistic approach to security than taken by the other free packages.
With regards to scanning, you can choose between a quick scan, a full system scan and options to scan specific folders or removable media, plus a Boot Time Scan to deal with nasties that can’t be handled following startup.
You can also control how the package behaves, putting it in a silent mode with no pop-ups or alerts for gaming or a hardened mode to protect inexperienced users. Avast even includes a series of statistics screens, where you can see not only the good work it’s doing on your behalf, but also how its anti-malware crusade is working around the globe.
Avast comes close to matching the performance of the best paid-for packages when it comes to protection, defending against 97% of threats, and in most cases preventing them from getting a foothold on the system rather than neutralising them after the fact.
Other packages perform better with detection, but Avast is brilliant when it comes to false postives, allowing 97% of our legitimate applications to install. It’s also fairly light on system resources, not noticeably slowing down our ageing dual-core PC.
This, combined with Avast’s sensible, unobtrusive approach, and decent array of features, means it’s still our favourite free antivirus package.