Avast Free Antivirus Review (2019)

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Avast Free Antivirus is one of many Antivirus programs out there that tries to keep you safe. But not all Antivirus programs are created equally. With such a wide variety of programs to choose from how do you know which will keep you safest? Do you doubt that a free Antivirus is really good enough?
Avast Free Antivirus review Pinterest graphic does it really protect you?

I’ve been using Avast Free Antivirus for over 10 years. I’ve previously tried a lot of other antivirus and anti-malware software from things like Norton and AVG. Avast Free Antivirus has been the one that has stuck with me.

I’ve seen it change over the years from a very basic sit in the tray scanner to something that today has a lot more bells and whistles. Most of which Avast will try to get you to pay for.

If you use Avast Free Antivirus and you are like me. Then you’ve probably wondered if it’s really doing its job. Or whether you’ve just been lucky enough to not stumble onto any viruses or malware. As well as intrusive spyware that has a tendency to know too much.

Well, in this blog post I plan to review Avast Free Antivirus in detail. So you can make an informed decision as to whether you feel it gives you enough protection.

Installation

The installation is straightforward and only takes a few minutes. Avast Free Antivirus will even do a pre-scan before installed to check everything is ok.

One downside is the fact that the installer tries to also install additional products that you might not want. Specifically the Google Chrome browser and the Google Toolbar for any other browsers you might have already installed. Make sure you untick these if you don’t want them installed.

Interface

Avast Free Antivirus has visually changed a lot over the years. The design is dark with light and bright colours to contrast. The design is easy to read and fairly user-friendly. Though some tools feel a little hidden if you ask me.

Avast Free Antivirus full virus scan at 60%

Although it’s not clear at a glance that some of the features and tools you see in the menus are locked behind paid subscriptions. I’ll cover what’s included in the free version in a later section. I won’t be covering paid options other than to briefly mention they are not included.

There also 40+ additional languages supported. You can install additional languages by going into Settings > General and clicking Install additional languages in the top right corner.

There are tons of options to adjust to your needs, too many to cover one by one. Especially when most of them are self-explanatory. I do want to point out some important ones though.

System Impact

The impact Avast Free Antivirus has on the system is very low even when running a full scan. A full scan of my 2TB external HDD had no noticeable slowdown. The scan took 3 hours which is quite long. But I was able to leave it in the background and do other stuff without even noticing it.

There is a balance between system impact and scan speed. If you want faster scans you will have to take a bigger performance hit.

Technical Support

There’s a website for support if you use the Free version here.

Avast support knowledge base website

It contains common issues and troubleshooting processes to try and help you out. If you can’t find a solution here. You can ‘Contact them’ but all this really does it circle you back into their Knowledge Base or send you to the Avast Forums. So keep in mind any support you get might be limited.

What’s included in Avast Free Antivirus and what isn’t?

It’s hard to tell what’s free and what isn’t. Some features are marked with an orange padlock to indicate it’s a paid-for option. However, some features that don’t have the orange padlock can still have options within them that you have to pay for. Things like the Software Updater is included in the Avast Free Antivirus version but to switch on Automatic Updates you need to pay for the Avast Premier version first.

To make things more complicated, it’s not just a difference of Free vs Paid. There are 3 different licenses – Free, Avast Internet Security and Avast Premier. Then there’s also a few features that are included only on their own independent yearly subscription.

The prices also aren’t straightforward. You seem to get different prices offered to you depending on whether you take a free trial first, go with the first offer they give you or hold out and wait for a 75% discount offer.

Avast Free Antivirus save 75% offer for upgrading to Avast Internet Security

I’m not going to cover all the individual prices. There’s just so many and I really want to focus just on whether the Avast Free Antivirus is enough to help keep you safe. And the other free features you can get at the same time.

Here’s a comparison between what’s in the Avast Free Antivirus and what’s locked behind subscriptions.

Included in Avast Free Antivirus

Paid Subscription

  • Scans – Smart, full, boot-up and custom scans
  • 4 Core shields for files, suspicious activity, web attacks, unsafe downloads and dangerous emails
  • Virus Chest
  • Wi-Fi Inspector – for scanning wireless or wired networks for vulnerabilities
  • Software Updater – ability to manually update other software on your PC
  • Password Vault
  • Game Mode
  • Rescue Disk
  • Automatic updates for the Software Updater
  • Ransomware Shield
  • Firewall
  • Real Site for blocking fake shopping and banking websites
  • Sandbox – virtually test files in an isolated environment
  • Webcam Shield – blocks unauthorized access to the webcam feed
  • SecureLine VPN
  • Cleanup Premium – PC performance booster by fixing issues like junk and registry errors
  • Driver Updater – despite there being no orange padlock this is definitely not free
  • Sensitive Date Shield – protects documents that contain sensitive information
  • Data Shredder – securely deletes files so they cannot be recovered
  • AntiTrack Premium – helps to prevent tracking and the collection of personal data when browsing the internet
  • Password Guardian – you’ll get notified if a website leaks any of your passwords

 

Protection Features

Let’s have a look at some of the free features under the Protection menu for Avast Free Antivirus.

Avast Free Antivirus Protection menu

Scans

This is where you can control Smart Scans and other scans that can scan everything or specific places including external drives. You can even schedule Boot-Time Scans. This is also where the Rescue Disk is hidden.

Core Shields

These should always be on. Avast Free Antivirus has 4 main shields included. They help to protect you by monitoring files, detecting suspicious activity on your PC, blocking attacks from the web and keeping an eye on dodgy emails.

Avast Free Antivirus Core shields for files, behaviour, web and email

Virus Chest

You can have Avast Free Antivirus move nasty files here so they can’t harm your system. This is a pretty standard feature though.

Avast Free Antivirus empty virus chest

Wi-Fi Inspector

Avast Free Antivirus’ Wi-Fi Inspector isn’t just for your Wi-Fi. It is actually a handy little tool that scans your whole network and its connected devices for vulnerabilities. This means it will check any smartphones, PCs, laptops, tablets, gaming consoles as well as the router.

Ironically mine found a few problems that I wasn’t aware of. Which I was able to quickly fix using the provided suggestions by Avast.

Avast Free Antivirus Wi-Fi Inspector screen

Software Updater

This is included in the Avast Free Antivirus version unless you want to turn on Automatic updates. It’s well worth checking it from time to time. Keeping software updated so any known vulnerabilities can be patched is important. I just wish it could be automated to save time without having to pay for the Avast Premier version! Especially when it doesn’t seem to cover that much software on my PC. It was only monitoring 7 different programs on my machine.

Avast Free Antivirus software updater screen with all updates done

Rescue disk

This actually hides in the Protection > Scans screen up in the top right corner. You can use it to put an independent version of Avast Free Antivirus onto either CD or USB. This can be used to run scans if for some reason you can’t get your installed version running. Perhaps because the virus is blocking it. Nasty stuff!

The only problem with this is that it does require some know-how. Since it needs to be able to run on your computers boot-up. Even if you create a CD or USB capable of this. Some people will still need to tweak their boot order in the BIOS to get it to work.

Privacy Features

Passwords

If you are willing to let your passwords be stored somewhere on your PC then Avast Free Antivirus offers a secure option. If you currently keep your passwords stored in the password manager in your browser. Then I strongly recommend moving them into a more secure option like Avast or LastPass.

Keep an eye out for any websites you use that might have been compromised by an information breach. And create unique passwords as much as you can.

Auto Password Generation

Did I mention that Avast Free Antivirus Passwords can auto-generate passwords for you? Once you have enabled it in the main Avast Free Antivirus software via Privacy > Passwords. By clicking the little orange key add-on in your browser. You can click Generate a strong password. And customise character length requirements, lower-case, upper-case, numbers and special characters.

Avast Free Antivirus Passwords generate a strong password menu

Not only can it remember logins. It can also remember credit cards and any Secure Notes you want to create in it.

Sync Between Devices

If you go into Privacy > Passwords > Settings > Sync & Backup you can also sync all the information stored in Avast Free Antivirus Passwords to your other devices. This is usually a premium feature for stand-alone password managers such as LastPass.

No Password Analysis

On the other hand, Avast Free Antivirus Passwords don’t have any kind of reporting for duplicate or weak passwords. So you’ll need to keep an eye and update these manually via the individual websites if required.

Performance Features

Game mode

The gamers out there, like myself will also be glad that Avast Free Antivirus can mute its notifications and other annoying popups like Windows updates. It’s nice to just game in peace, right?

Avast Free Antivirus Game Mode

Yes, that’s all that’s actually free to use in Privacy and Performance – Passwords and Game Mode. It’s rather misleading when you look at the menus at a glance, isn’t it?

Background Features

There are a bunch of features that are hidden away. It’s not really obvious they exist unless you dig around in the Settings.

Hardened Mode

Under Settings > General there is an option to Enable Hardened mode which has 2 levels to it. Whilst the information description says it is recommended for inexperienced users, I recommend always having it switched on and set to the Aggressive level. Believe it or not, it’s smarter and actually less intrusive this way.

It basically works off a whitelist and disregards a files behaviour. Anything not on the whitelist gets blocked straight away.

Avast Free Antivirus general settings

Sounds

I’ve known Avast for its voice over sounds. It’s given me enough heart attacks over the years to suddenly have some loud voice tell me the software was updated. If you are like me and would prefer not to have the voice-over notifications then you’ll be glad to know these can be turned off in Settings > Sounds under Voiceovers.

Don’t worry though, you’ll still get sound notifications, they just won’t be voiced.

Popups

You can adjust all the popup durations under Settings > Popups. Setting values to 0 will stop it showing altogether. Personally, I recommend leaving all the defaults set. They are pretty unobtrusive unless they need to be – like they found some serious threat. Note that you can’t turn off the popups for Avast Free Antivirus trying to sell you its other products. Unless ironically you pay for the upgraded version. Though these kind of popups are quite rare.

Password Protection

Under Settings > Password you can password protect areas of the program. This is a good feature for anyone who lets someone else use their PC. Like parents who share their PC with their kids.

Email Alerts

If you’re like me and have friends or family who rely on you to help keep their PC safe from viruses because they are not very computer savvy. Then you may like to know that you can setup Avast Free Antivirus to send you an email when it finds a virus. You can set this via Settings > General > Alerts.

Great for keeping an eye on other peoples PCs without having to try to drag them away from the keyboard unless it’s really needed. Or in my case keep an eye on my Grandmother’s laptop since she doesn’t even realise she’s had a virus warning most of the time.

Updates

Make sure you keep automatic updates on for both virus definitions and the software. You won’t have to worry about having to go and check it manually. Everything will be up to date asap with zero extra effort or time from yourself. You can check the settings for this under Settings > Updates.

Security Browser Extension

This is an Avast Free Antivirus Component that works inside your browser. It monitors trackers. Analyses websites marking them up with an icon to show the links reputation in things like search engines. It works a bit like the Web of Trust.

Avast Free Antivirus Online Security Browser extension

There’s also Antiphishing protection, a SafeZone specifically for things like online banking which loads your session into an isolated desktop and SiteCorrect to fix typos making sure you get to the legitimate site.

You can see its settings for yourself by opening your browser and clicking the Avast icon from your Toolbar.

SafePrice Browser Extension

This is another component that sits in your browser like another add-on.

Avast Free Antivirus SafePrice toolbar with cheaper alternative and offers

It automatically displays when there are offers available. Which can be a cheaper price or some form of a coupon. Whilst it might help save you money. I don’t think it adds any extra security when browsing.

Mobile Options

Avast Free Antivirus has its own mobile app versions – including Antivirus, Passwords, VPN, and Wi-Fi Scanner for both Android and iPhone.

Cleanup and Battery Saver for Android only.

Call blocker, SecureMe for Wifi security and Photospace for iPhone only.

Having some protection on your phone is crucial these days. So if you enjoy using Avast Free Antivirus why not also have it on your phone?

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The Important Part – How does it fare in stopping & preventing viruses?

All these bells and whistles are nice and all. But none of that matters if it can’t keep you safe from viruses. The tricky bit is how do you test and measure something like this. You are trying to avoid getting any nasties as much as possible. Especially with things like Ransomware lurking around the internet these days.

For most people, this means installing software and seeing how it goes. Waiting and seeing whether anything gets past it.

This is not the way to make sure you stay safe! Waiting and seeing could mean you find out the software doesn’t work too late. Your files could already be gone and unrecoverable. Or you could have to get someone in to fix your PC for a pricey fee.

At the very least you should check how independent testing companies score your Antivirus software. As they do tests using actual viruses and malware in virtual environments. Click To Tweet

Independent Tests for Measuring Antivirus effectiveness

I would suggest AV Comparatives who regularly test a variety of Antivirus software’s. A search on Google though will yield you other options though in case you want to cross compare. Each independent testing company has different testing methods and scoring systems. So keep this in mind if you do try to compare.

Looking at the tests for all of 2017 by AV Comparatives. Suggests that Avast Free Antivirus is a high-quality performer. Their tests are ranked as Tested, Standard, Advanced or Advanced+.

Avast Free Antivirus scored Advanced+ on 5 out of 7 tests. The 2 tests it did not score Advanced+ on it scored as Advanced.

The only 2 Antivirus programs that scored perfect Advanced+ on all 7 tests were Bitdefender and Kaspersky Lab. It’s probably worth mentioned that Bitdefender and Kaspersky Labs do have free versions but they lack a lot of features that Avast Free Antivirus has. Such as Passwords and Wi-Fi Inspector. Their free versions are the bare bones virus, malware and antiphishing.

You can see the detailed report for these tests here.

Tests from other places suggest that Avast Free Antivirus does a really good job considering the other tools it also brings with it. It’s not perfect though, and other Antivirus’ such as Bitdefender and Kaspersky Labs consistently seem to score better.

Here are some other recent scores I found from 2017+:

Avast Free Antivirus AV-TEST results of 100% score in Protection for January and February 2018

Avast Free Antivirus: Pros vs Cons

Pros

Cons

  • Virus and Malware protection is among some of the top scores in independent labs.
  • Passwords management feature is included in the free version.
  • Home network scanner to make sure your router’s firmware and other connected devices don’t have any known issues.
  • Game mode to prevent popups ruining your game progress.
  • It doesn’t spam you with paid-version popups.
  • Low system impact.
  • Lots of bonus tools for free.
  • Tries to sneak in an installation of Chrome and Google toolbar into browsers.
  • Slow scans due to a low system performance hit.
  • Not clear what’s included in free and what’s paid.
  • Limited technical support in the form of a knowledge base and forums.
  • Limited Software Updater only covers a small amount of programs. Automatic updates are also locked behind the most expensive paid version.
  • Average usability. Some tools are hidden – such as Rescue Disk, which is hidden inside Protection > Scans. Whilst some extra tools are nice, some are not easy to use. Again Rescue Disk is a good idea, but Avast Free Antivirus relies on the user knowing how to create a bootable CD or USB.

 

Here’s What To Take Away

Avast Free Antivirus is an excellent choice for a high standard of preventing viruses and other internet nasties. With a nice bonus of a few extra tools if you feel they are useful for you. If they are not useful and all you want is the bare basics to keep you safe then Kaspersky Labs closely followed by Bitdefender seem to consistently score better in independent test labs.

Regardless of what Antivirus or other security you decide to use. You should always have a backup plan. And by that, I mean an actual backup of your important stuff. Click To Tweet

Paid-Features & Pricing

I strongly dislike the sales approach of the software. Whenever I click on a feature not included in the free version and click on the Upgrade Now button to check out what the pricing is. It only gives me a list of some of the features included depending on what feature I clicked on. It doesn’t give me a clear and transparent overview of all the features that are included or not included in the different versions.

I had to actually go through the entire Driver Updater install to confirm that it’s actually a paid-for tool. Even though there is no orange padlock icon in the menu for it.

The pricing is also all over the place with different offers thrown at you. Although, I will admit the number of popups related to paid-products is not noticeable. It’s just mostly inside the software itself that bugs me.

I recommend using Avast Free Antivirus.

I’ve used it myself for many, many years and I’ve never had any difficulties with it. If you do have difficulties then feel free to give me a poke via email or in the comments below.

I will highlight a few suggestions to those of you who do decide to use Avast Free Antivirus. Which will help improve your overall security. I use all of these myself.

Avast Free Antivirus current orange splat with white 'a' logo for 2019

Tips for Settings

Firstly go to Settings > General.

Tick Enable Hardened mode, and make sure you set it to Aggressive.

In the same screen also tick Scan for potentially unwanted programs (PUPS).

I recommend always having these switched on for stronger protection against malicious files.

Antivirus Browser Add-ons

Secondly, I’ve seen some discussions that the browser extensions and the separate browsers that Antivirus programs provide. Often come with security vulnerabilities. Things like Comodo’s Chromodo browser, AVG’s Web TuneUP and Avast too.

With this in mind, at the very least you should disable any browser add-ons that you don’t use.

Specifically for Avast Free Antivirus you could try LastPass over Avast Passwords. Web of Trust (WOT) and uBlock over the Avast Online Security main add-on. I’ve always had Avast SafePrice disabled as it just feels like another sales pitch.

Noticed a mistake, or missing feature?

I’ll be honest, writing this review was particularly hard for me. My Avast Free Antivirus updated itself mid-way through writing. And already there was a new feature added to one of the menus. What’s there and what isn’t, what’s free and what’s not is far from clear. It’s my major gripe about this software.

If you do notice something that is wrong or missing or has recently changed please let me know. As I definitely want to try and keep this updated and as accurate as possible.

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