Avast is one of the oldest antivirus software companies in the world. Since its inception in 1988, the Czech company has amassed hundreds of millions of users and acquired another Czech antivirus firm (AVG), too.
This review aims to highlight the current capabilities of Avast; however, keep in mind that we won’t be recommending it to our readers until there is enough proof that it can be trusted. We strongly recommend Bitdefender and McAfee as the digital defenders for your computers and devices.
Avast’s security and privacy features are diverse. Check out my analysis of each feature below:
Ransomware is malicious software that blocks access to sensitive files and demands a ransom for their release. Because it’s a widespread problem responsible for billions in losses each year, most antivirus programs have a dedicated module responsible for ransomware protection.
Avast’s Ransomware Shield monitors anything that attempts to alter or delete files on your system. Furthermore, you can adjust this feature to specify which types of files you wish to protect.
In addition, you can designate specific folders for safekeeping:
To test the Ransomware Shield, I used the KnowBe4 ransomware simulator.
This surprised me:
With the Ransomware Shield on, Avast automatically blocked the simulation launcher, placing it into quarantine in the Virus Chest. This didn’t help me complete my test, so I restored it from the Virus Chest and added an exception so the launcher could carry out the test.
Once this was done, the test was able to run. Unfortunately, the scenarios were not executed. Thus, the ransomware test for this Avast antivirus review was inconclusive.
I decided to disable the Ransomware Shield to analyze how Avast would handle the test.
Avast didn’t allow me to run the test when the Ransomware Shield was disabled. This was disappointing as I wasn’t able to assess Avast’s ransomware protection. Avast is the only antivirus solution that didn’t allow the KnowBe4 ransomware simulator to run properly.
The core shields are Avast’s primary defenses for blocking malware in real-time. They consist of four components:
File Shield — Scans any files that you’ve copied or opened on your computer. This is an essential feature as it keeps you safe from malware automatically. Never disable it.
Behavior Shield — Monitors applications and informs you if they are behaving suspiciously. There are many programs out there that hackers can exploit to steal your sensitive information.
Mail Shield — Scans incoming and outgoing email when using apps like Outlook and Thunderbird. Once I installed Avast, all the emails I sent were scanned and a signature was added at the bottom of my emails. You can disable the signature feature in the settings.
Web Shield — This is the main web threat blocker; it defends against online scams, malware, and other threats. To test this shield, I opened several fake malicious website links:
maliciouswebsitetest.com: Avast blocked it and displayed a popup window (not a browser alert). This allowed me to abort the connection successfully.
wicar.org: The results were sufficient after attempting to open several fake links. That said, Avast only displayed an alert for one of the malicious links. My router and browser blocked the rest. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that Avast wouldn’t have intervened if the other defenses didn’t exist. Here’s how Avast’s Web Shield blocked one of the threats:
Amtso.org: (Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization): Avast stopped most of these threats, but only displayed a warning popup for a few of them. Here’s an example:
You can configure the core shields in many ways. For example, you can adjust the overall scanning sensitivity. You can also set how you would like them to deal with detected malware and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).
In addition, you can enhance web protection by installing Avast’s Online Security extension — there’s a shortcut to the installation page on the menu. I appreciate that Avast doesn’t install this without your consent.
Avast’s scanning options are diverse. This includes a smart scan, full scan, boot-time scan, and a quick scan. You can also create your own scans, too.
A common feature in many antivirus apps, the Smart Scan feature can detect many types of issues with a single click — zero configuration required. It scans your PC for browser threats, updates, and malware, and detects privacy issues related to ransomware, phishing, your webcam, and your network.
In my tests for this Avast review, the Smart Scan feature detected two outdated apps. I like that it shows the version numbers and includes a handy link to the changelog of each app.
Unfortunately, when I clicked on Update, it did not go through. Something had gone wrong. I tried again, but the results were the same.
The Smart Scan feature also searched for malware but didn’t detect anything. As for advanced issues, my system was in great shape according to Avast:
The first time I fully scanned my computer with Avast, it scanned 245GB of data — 860k files — in just 11 minutes. That’s pretty fast for a first full scan. However, the scan sensitivity was set to medium.
A second scan set to medium sensitivity with all deep search settings enabled took 12 minutes to scan the same amount of data. It found 32 threats — leftover files from a previous ransomware simulation.
I switched the mode to High Sensitivity.
This surprised me:
The full scan took the same amount of time and scanned the same number of files. Also, I chose to move the threats to the Virus Chest — there were no issues there.
I wanted to make the full scan go deeper; I thought I found the option: “Scan all files”. By the way, the default option scans all files that are more vulnerable to malware attacks in general. So, with “Scan all files” enabled, the depth of the scan was the same. It detected no infections. That said, I had already removed leftover malware during previous scans.
As expected, the quick scan took much less time (three minutes) and scanned 30 GB of data (86k files). But this wasn’t totally useless. It found six threats — the leftover files from a previous ransomware simulation — much less than the full scan (32 threats).
The Boot-Time Scan is an interesting addition to Avast’s defense arsenal. It’s an advanced way of detecting malware before it can do damage to your PC. Not all antivirus products include this feature. You can enable it from its dedicated window.
In my tests, the Boot-Time Scan took 12 minutes and scanned 175GB of data (820k files). That’s about the same as a full scan.
I scanned my system again after doing a ransomware simulation test. The Boot-Time Scan took 18 minutes, scanning 200GB of data (1473k files) finding four infected files left over from the ransomware test. I was able to view these details using the Scan History feature:
This proves that the Boot-Time Scan is more in-depth than the full scan, and does a good job detecting hidden malware.
The Rescue Disk is a system recovery tool that can detect and disinfect stubborn malware. Avast recommends using the Rescue Disk when normal scans fail to detect malware but you suspect it’s hiding somewhere in your system.
To use the Rescue Disk, copy it onto a DVD or USB then boot your computer from the DVD or USB. It takes a bit of technical knowledge to carry this out, but Avast includes a step-by-step guide you can follow.
Wi-Fi is everywhere. As we depend on it heavily, there are many cybersecurity risks involved. As a result, most antivirus suites feature tools like the Wi-Fi Inspector. Avast’s version makes it easy to locate vulnerabilities in your wireless network, whether you’re at home or in a public place. You can perform a scan of your network with one click:
While testing the Wi-Fi Inspector for this Avast review, the antivirus app displayed the following results:
The inspector analyzed all of the devices connected to my wireless network and highlighted a vulnerability with my router. Upon taking a closer look at the error, Avast warned me that my router’s password was weak and prone to hacking attempts. This isn’t the first time I’ve received a warning like this from an antivirus app. After creating a more secure password, Avast stopped reporting this issue.
The Wi-Fi Inspector also detects any devices connected to your network and spots those that may be using it without your knowledge.
As far as the settings go, you have two basic options:
The firewall is an essential security tool in any operating system. It protects against people that want to intrude on your network by monitoring all connections that go through the network.
Avast’s firewall can take control of the default Windows firewall if you enable it to do so:
From the firewall’s main window, you can see which apps the firewall manages, and make any necessary adjustments.
Application rules configuration:
Advanced users can delve deeper into the firewall settings using the Network Connections tool, the firewall logs, and the general settings.
Network connections configuration:
Configuring the firewall’s settings:
As usual, I tested Avast’s firewall using ShieldsUp, a popular firewall vulnerability finder. The results were satisfactory.
The Secure Browser isn’t one of Avast’s features, but it can be deployed via Avast’s installer. The Secure Browser is Chrome-based and provides plenty of security features, including a bank mode, anti-fingerprinting, anti-phishing mode, and lots more:
The Bank Mode is one of the best features of the Secure Browser. It consists of a virtual desktop for safely logging into bank accounts and other sensitive accounts. It resembles Bitdefender’s SafePay feature.
Not all tools are Avast originals. For instance, Webcam Guard and Privacy Cleaner are built-in tools that Chrome owns. That said, I appreciate that the Avast browser groups these security features together into a centralized space.
We’ve now reached the “privacy” section of our Avast antivirus review. But privacy and security are deeply connected, so the difference between them is minimal. Anyway, the Password Protection feature is not a password manager at all. It’s a password security function for your browsers.
If you’d like Avast’s old password manager, install it by running the installer again; but keep in mind that Avast no longer recommends it.
Password Protection adds a layer of security to the passwords stored in your browsers like Chrome and Firefox. This feature is similar to how mobile operating systems allow you to control what your apps can access on your phone. With Avast, you can control this from the settings:
Avast provides its VPN service through the SecureLine VPN app. Once you install it, you’ll benefit from the anonymity and encryption that it provides. If you connect to a server, you’ll see the status from the main window.
SecureLine doesn’t provide a lot of servers like a top-tier VPN, such as CyberGhost does. It grants access to about 60 servers in multiple countries — by comparison, CyberGhost offers access to over 5,000 servers across 90 countries.
For this Avast antivirus review, I tested the VPN’s speed using fast.com. Here’s what I found.
No VPN: 390 mb/s download, 390 mb/s upload, 4 ms latency.
Dallas, USA server: 52 mb/s download, 17 mb/s upload, 221 ms latency.
Berlin, Germany server: 39 mb/s download, 19 mb/s upload, 77 ms latency.
Australia server: 25 mb/s download, 7.3 mb/s upload, 287 ms latency.
For privacy testing, I first ran the ipleak.net test, which turned out ok. An IP leak test determines whether or not your IP address is visible on the Internet.
Another IP and DNS check — perfect-privacy.com — was also in favor of Avast’s service. The test didn’t discover my real location or IP address.
Webcam privacy is one of the most important security features for many users. Like top security solutions such as Norton or Kaspersky, Avast provides a webcam security feature that lets you choose which apps you want to access your webcam. You can do this from the settings:
AntiTrack Premium is a standalone application that improves your privacy by blocking trackers while browsing the web or using your operating system. Websites, programs, and operating systems all try to gather information about you. AntiTrack is designed to expose and block these trackers. You’ll receive a privacy rating as soon as you open the app:
I received a medium privacy score; however, I was able to improve this by clearing browsing data and blocking trackers. Browsing data consists of many things:
Avast boosts privacy to each of your installed browsers, but to do this, it needs access to the AntiTrack extension which is installed by default.
Here’s how the extension looks on Amazon:
Sensitive Data Shield is another interesting feature in Avast’s wide array of security tools. This feature protects your sensitive documents from malware and unauthorized access. It can detect docs such as resumes, tickets, invoices, and more.
When I tried this feature, it didn’t discover any sensitive documents. By the way, Sensitive Data Shield is also integrated with Smart Scan — you can run it from there, too. On another PC, Avast did manage to find a couple of tax documents stored on the local drive.
The Do Not Disturb Mode is a feature that aims to improve system performance when playing games and opening apps in full-screen by disabling notifications from Avast, Windows, or other software.
Furthermore, you can add any app to the DND list. I added my media player and a productivity tool to the list as I didn’t want any distractions while using these programs.
Since updating software is an important part of keeping your computer secure, Avast has made this easy by providing a software update finder. It can automatically detect and update apps installed on your PC (similar to mobile devices).
Avast already found outdated software during the Smart scan test, so the standalone Updater found no new patches.
You can enable the auto-update feature from the settings and exclude apps from the scan.
Antivirus solutions consume quite a bit of system resources. They have a lot of background processes that constantly scan for malware and PC issues. Here’s how the antivirus app fared in my tests for this Avast review. While running a full scan, Avast consumed about 15-20% CPU and 300 MB of memory.
The impact on my system’s resources was significant but low enough to let me carry on with my tasks.
If you need help with Avast, you can find plenty of information on Avast’s help page either online or via the user interface. If you can’t find the answer to your question, you can contact them via live chat or email.
I had a couple of questions about several security features and decided to ask them through live chat. A support person was ready to answer my questions quickly — within a few minutes. He gave me valid answers, but his English skills were not that great.
Avast is a good antivirus program, but considering the December 2019 privacy scandal, I wouldn’t recommend Avast to protect your personal information. If you’re looking for robust antivirus software with strict privacy policies, check out Bitdefender.
Avast ran into some major problems in December 2019 when it was revealed that a subsidiary of the company collected and sold the personal information of users who installed Avast’s browser extension. For this reason, users should stay away from Avast for now.
A privacy scandal has tarnished Avast’s reputation as of late. They allegedly sold the sensitive data of their browser extension users without their consent. That’s why you need to think twice before using Avast in the near future.
Avast itself isn’t malware, but its parent company used to own a browser extension that grabbed the personal information of users, which Avast sold to corporations.
Avast turned out to be an effective tool for malware detection and removal. However, I wouldn’t put my trust in it due to its invasive practices from the past. They used to collect and sell personal user data.
Octav Fedor (Cybersecurity Editor)
Octav is a cybersecurity researcher and writer at AntivirusGuide. When he’s not publishing his honest opinions about security software online, he likes to learn about programming, watch astronomy documentaries, and participate in general knowledge competitions.