Avast Antivirus Review

Overview

With so many threats lurking on the Internet, most antivirus developers have stepped up their game, by adding all sorts of special tools and features into their suites, but few of them come close to what Avast has to offer. Even if you decide to go for the most basic protection package, you will get more than you bargain for. Besides the intelligent antivirus scanning engine, you will also enjoy full Wi-Fi protection, advanced anti-phishing measures, password management and much more, so not only will you be able to prevent virus and malware attacks, but you will also be able to prevent hackers and scammers from stealing your valuable data and spot dangerous websites before you walk into their traps.

Headquartered in Prague, Czech Republic, Avast serves more than 400 million users world-wide and has the largest market share among antivirus vendors. After developing the first program capable of removing the Vienna virus, Pavel Baudiš co-founded Alwil with Eduard Kucera, in 1988, in Czechoslovakia, where they continued to work on the Avast antivirus program. Originally a cooperative, Alwil became a joint partnership in 1991, after the regime change, caused by the Velvet Revolution. It became a private company in 2010, the same year in which it adopted the name of its flagship product: Avast.

Despite a few bumps in the road, Avast can be counted among the world's leading antivirus developers. With more than two decades of experience and over 1600 employees, in offices in the US, Europe and Asia, Avast can certainly deliver a highly reliable security solution for your computer and personal data.

Packages and features

Avast's product line consists of three main packages, which offer different bonus features, depending on how much you intend to spend. You can opt for a one, two or three-year license, for one, three, five or ten PCs, unless you buy Avast Ultimate, which can be used on a single machine. Also, all products come with the same antivirus engine, so you can benefit from the same powerful detection tools, even if you are on a tight budget.

  • Avast Internet Security

  • For a product that can be considered the most basic package you can buy, Avast Internet Security has a lot to offer. Geared towards a deeper privacy protection, this package can not only fend off virus and hacker attacks, but it can also ensure that your personal files will stay safe and that you won't make any mistakes that could lead to your passwords or credit card details being stolen. The pricing is flexible, depending on how many computers you want to protect and for how long, which makes it an excellent choice for most user categories, from casuals or gamers to people who bring their work home.

    • Intelligent Antivirus

      Avast uses all the latest techniques to detect and block viruses well in advance, before they get the chance to affect any of your files. Thanks to its comprehensive scanning methods and real-time protection measures, you don't need to worry about any incoming threats or existing infections on your computer, while working or playing.

    • Smart Scan

      While the quick scan of most antivirus programs involve checking for infections in common locations, where viruses usually hide, Avast takes things a bit further. Besides scanning for viruses, it will also check for unsafe system settings and other vulnerabilities. With a single click, you will know about any infections on your system, as well as weak passwords, out-of-date software or other issues that require your attention.

    • Behavior Shield

      Zero-day threats can slip through an antivirus program's normal detection system, but with the Behavior Shield in place, they won't be able to bring any harm to your files, when they execute their malicious code. Thanks to this extra security layer, you don't have to worry that the new program you are about to run may be infected and could damage your operating system.

    • Avast Rescue Disk

      With certain forms of malware, a computer can become so infected, that it would be impossible to remove the threat by normal means. Fortunately, the Avast Rescue Disk can help you eliminate such infections, without requiring any advanced knowledge or skills.

    • CyberCapture

      A program in which you can opt in and out at any time, CyberCapture collects new virus samples and sends them to Avast for analysis. This can help millions of users protect themselves against new threats. You will, of course, benefit from any new virus cures, as a result of this program, even if you opt out.

    • Wi-Fi Inspector

      If you lack the necessary skills to set up a secure Wi-Fi network, you can let the Wi-Fi Inspector analyze your network for weaknesses that can be exploited. Additionally, this tool lets you know if someone has connected to your network without your knowledge and consent. It can also prove to be quite useful if you intend to connect with your laptop to a public Wi-Fi, since it can warn you if there is a risk of someone intruding into your system or collecting your data.

    • Passwords

      With the built-in password manager, you can generate long and complex passwords for all your accounts and protect all your login credentials with a single password. What's more, this tool gives you the possibility of logging into your accounts quicker, without actually typing anything, so you don't have to worry about indiscreet glances from other people or spyware capturing what you type.
      Note: Passwords comes in a Premium version as well, which is included in Avast Ultimate. However, you can upgrade to Passwords Premium separately, without upgrading the entire antivirus package.

    • Game Mode

      If you want to enjoy a few hours of entertainment on your computer, you can switch the program to Game Mode, to prevent any notifications from ruining your experience. Whenever you run a game, play a movie or launch other full-screen media, Avast will automatically put all notifications on hold, to let you dominate your opponents in that new online game, without being interrupted.

    • Browser Cleanup

      After installing certain applications, you may find some extra buttons or toolbars on your web browser's interface. With Avast's Browser Cleanup tool, you can remove every browser add-ons and extensions you didn't ask for, in just a few seconds, with only a few clicks.

    • Sandbox

      Advanced users will definitely appreciate the Sandbox tool, but regular users can enjoy it as well. This tool creates a safe environment, in which you can open infected files or applications, without bringing any harm to your computer. Even if you run a malware program that can render an operating system unbootable, Avast will undo any malicious changes, as if nothing ever happened.

    • Passive Mode

      While most antiviruses don't like sharing a system with other similar programs, Avast can be put into Passive Mode, which gives you the possibility of running a third party antivirus in parallel. If you want a second opinion from another security solution, you can install it, run it and run scans, without encountering any conflicts.

    • Real Site

      Through DNS poisoning, scammers can imitate legitimate websites, thus tricking you into giving away your usernames, passwords or banking details. The principle itself is a bit technical, which is why inexperienced users are likely to fall for such scams. Fortunately, Avast can verify the websites you visit and warns you if they are attempts to steal your private information.

    • Ransomware Shield

      Although its baseline capabilities can guard your data against such threats, Avast's Ransomware Shield adds an additional layer of protection against ransomware. It lets you specify what applications are allowed to access and modify your files, so if an undetected program attempts to encrypt your documents, the only outcome will be a failed attempt and your documents safe and sound.

    • Firewall

      Avast's Firewall prevents compromised applications from connecting to the Internet and sending privileged information or allowing access to outside threats. At the same time, it prevents hackers from gaining access to your computer. It comes with with its own preset rules, but it also gives you the possibility of deciding for yourself what kind of traffic goes in and out of your computer.

    • Anti-spam

      Although email providers offer good spam filtering systems nowadays, Avast's Anti-spam tool provides a similar, but more flexible feature. It can block spam messages and phishing attempts in your desktop email clients, so you don't have to manually delete countless messages, to find what is really important. You can also set it to different severity levels, to make sure that the legitimate messages you are waiting for don't get sent to the spam folder by mistake.

    • SafeZone Browser

      Based on Google's Chromium browser, SafeZone comes with dedicated online banking and shopping protection. It creates a safe environment, isolated from the rest of the system, in which you can look at your bank account or purchase something online, without worrying that a hidden keylogger might record your credit card details and send them to unscrupulous individuals. The application blocks ads, dangerous websites and browser extensions by default. Additionally, when you look at a product's price, on its web page, SafeZone will automatically search for better deals, on legitimate websites, so you may end up spending less on that item you were always looking to buy.
      Note: SafeZone installs itself as a separate application and you have to launch it through its own executable.

  • Avast Premier

  • The extra features that Avast Premier brings to the table, besides everything Internet Security has to offer, can give that much needed peace of mind to users who spend a lot of time online and are afraid of hacker attacks and data theft. Just like the previous package, Premier can be used on up to ten computers, with a one, two or three-year license.

    • Webcam Shield

      Everybody is afraid that they could be watched through their webcam and that fear is actually well-founded. Avast's Webcam Shield prevents everything from using your webcam, unless you specifically allow it to do so. You can let only your instant messenger make use of your webcam and rest assured that no clandestine program will record footage of you and send it to unknown people on the Internet.

    • Automatic Software Updater

      Out-of-date applications can provide a loop hole for hackers and allow them to infiltrate your system and cause damage. The Automatic Software Updater can update your applications to the latest versions and apply the latest security patches, thus sealing these gaps in your defenses. You can have all applications up to date, and fewer security holes to worry about, and the best part is that you don't need to do anything, besides letting the program work in the background.

    • Data Shredder

      If you intend to dispose of a hard drive or sell it, you might want to think what sensitive data you have stored on it. If you delete a file through normal means, someone could recover it and gain access to the information. However, if you erase your files with the Data Shredder, they will be gone forever and no one will be able to salvage them, even with the most powerful recovery utility, so your secrets will remain safe.

  • Avast Ultimate

  • Though it comes at a premium price, Avast Ultimate comes bundled with premium tools from Avast. Intended for advanced users, who want the strongest protection, it includes everything from the previous two packages, as well as something extra, for maximum privacy protection.

    • Cleanup Premium

      esting out different applications can have a significant toll on your computer. You can use Cleanup Premium to remove useless data from your computer to free up disk space, speed up your computer and solve small issues before they can affect your system in a bad way. Furthermore, background and auto-start applications will no longer hog all your memory and processing power, thus allowing you to work in a comfortable manner. The best part is that you can do everything, from removing junk files to solving small issues, with nothing more than one click.

    • SecureLine VPN

      Nothing you do online is private nowadays, unless you use a VPN. This tool redirects your Internet traffic through Virtual Private Networks from other countries, to mask your real IP address and keep your identity safe. While SecureLine VPN is active, you will be safe against hackers, especially when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, advertisers won't be able to track your online activity and you will also be able to access content that is blocked in your country.

    • Passwords Premium

      If you rely on a large number of online accounts, you can store your login credentials in a secure database and protect them with a single password. Besides managing all your accounts in a single place, you can also use an auto-fill function to log into an account much faster, without typing anything. The tool's synchronization capabilities enable you to manage your credentials and log into your accounts even from mobile devices. What's more, Avast will keep an eye out for login leaks, so if any of your credentials get stolen, you will know about it and you can react before someone gets a chance to steal your account.

Installation and setup

Installing any Avast package shouldn't take more than ten minutes, but you shouldn't rush through the setup process, if you don't want to find an additional tool installed on your computer. You don't have to wait for an initial scan, when the installation is complete, because the installer will perform a quick scan before it starts setting everything up, to make sure there are no serious threats, which could hinder the antivirus later on. Unlike other programs, Avast doesn't force you to create an online account and log in, tough it is still a possibility. You can go through the entire installation process and start using the program, without creating any accounts.

Though certain tools may be incompatible with Avast, especially if they have a similar functionality, like anti-spam, encountering such issues is quite rare. What's more, Avast does not cause any conflicts with other major antivirus programs. If you set it to silent mode, you can even work with a third party antivirus in parallel.

You don't need to meet any special requirements to install and run Avast and you don't have to go through any complex configurations. Once the program is up and running on your computer, you can start scanning immediately. Important settings are made automatically, according to the best recommendations, so you can return to your normal activities immediately after installing the program.

User Experience

The user interface is designed for maximum comfort. It displays large icons, to help you navigate easily through its different sections and access the program's main components. A status screen displays a large green shield if everything on your computer is in order or a red shield if a threat has been detected or if there are other problems that require your attention.

You can start a smart scan from the same Status screen, with a single click. If you want to perform a full or custom scan or make use of other modules, you can navigate through other sections of the interface, where the large icons make them easy to spot. Illustrations are displayed whenever you access a tool, which should make it obvious what the tools in question do. If it's not enough, you may click an "i" icon, next to a tool's name, to get a short description on how it works.

The software places a wide range of configuration options at your disposal, which you can use to make various changes to it's behavior. For example, you can set the scanning module to ignore certain files, if you are sure they are safe or wish to complete the scanning process faster. The best part is that most of the settings can be done on the fly. It's quite clear that Avast was created with regular users in mind. You don't need too much knowledge to make important configurations, at least when it comes to general settings.

You can disable or enable individual components, like the real-time protection or behavior analysis, by simply clicking a series of On/Off switches, so there will be no looking around the interface for several minutes, trying to figure out how to make a specific setting. Of course, you can also go deeper and tweak certain aspects of each component, if you have the know-how.

Avast is not too aggressive with its notifications. Unless it's something important, that can affect your system's security, you won't be bothered by the program. What's more, switching to Game Mode can suspend all notifications whenever you start playing a video game or watch a movie, so you can enjoy yourself without any interruptions. If you didn't catch an alert or notification, the system tray icon will show a blue dot, which means that there is something you need to look at. This way, you won't leave your system exposed and catch a virus infection, because you were away from your computer and failed to notice something important.

Scanning and detection

Avast provides a highly rated virus detection engine for all users, regardless of what security solution they are looking for or how much they are prepared to spend. The program adds several layers of protection to your system, which include basic signature recognition, real-time protection and behavioral analysis, so your system and your personal data will be safe against numerous forms of attacks and scams. What's more, the program's scanning functionality is not limited to viruses and malware. Avast can also check for weaknesses which can leave your computer open to attacks.

  • Smart scanning

    The program doesn't stop at performing simple virus scans. Checking for exploits and vulnerabilities on your system is the norm. Whenever you hit that Scan option, not only will you ensure that there are no viruses in areas that are commonly infected, but you will also know that there are no gaps that can be exploited by hackers or other issues that may lead to corrupted files or stolen information.

    Full virus scans take longer to complete and they don't involve vulnerability checks, but it ensures that there are no infections deep within your system, which are more difficult to trace. Though it is sufficient to perform regular smart scans or schedule custom scans, running a full scan every now and then is a good time investment, if you want to be sure that you won't have to deal with damaged files, as a result of a deep infection.

    If an infection is detected, you can choose between several actions, like attempting to disinfect the file, sending it to the quarantine or deleting it. Furthermore, if you encounter an advanced form of malware, which can't be removed, the Rescue Disk tool will help you get rid of it, without reinstalling your operating system or calling a technician.

  • Real-time protection

    Avast does a good job at identifying and removing viruses, but its functionality is also focused on preventing infections and attacks. Thanks to its real-time protection system, you can download and open files, check email attachments and run new programs on your computer, without any risks. Any file you touch will be checked for infections automatically, before it is actually opened, so you won't trigger any malicious code by mistake.

    Besides verifying everything you double click on, the program can also help you avoid stumbling into online scams. The Anti-spam tool automatically filters the messages in your desktop mail client, so you don't have to sift through dozens of unique investment opportunities that can leave you significantly poorer. Additionally, the Real Site module points out dangerous websites before you connect to them and relinquish passwords or banking information.

  • Behavior Shield

    Ordinarily, an antivirus program is as good as its virus definitions database. If it doesn't have the latest virus signatures in its database, then it can't detect zero-day threats, so it won't be of much use to you. However, Avast makes use of a heuristic analysis mechanism, which identifies viruses by their behavior.

    If you run an infected application, that didn't trigger any virus warnings, and it attempts to infect other files or gather data, Avast will terminate it immediately, without asking you for any input. Even if the threat is not detected at first, it won't have a chance to affect any of your files, while the Behavior Shield is active.

    Through Avast's CyberCapture functionality, the Behavior Shield can reinforce the program's detection system. If you see an application being shut down and deleted, then it means that you have stumbled upon an undocumented threat. Besides stopping it before doing any damage, the program will also send a sample to Avast for analysis, which can lead to a better prevention of that particular threat. Just to put things into perspective, there are over 400 million Avast users and you can benefit from new cures and prevention measures that result from their contributions.

System Performance

Minimum system requirements:

CPU: Any modern processor
RAM: 256 MB
Disk space: 1.5 GB (Windows) / 500 MB (Mac)

Avast is not too demanding when it comes to hardware requirements. It runs smoothly, even on slower machines, and it doesn't put a strain on their processors. You can let it work in the background, with its real-time protection active, and you won't notice a measurable effect on your computer's performance. Your applications and games will run just like they did before installing Avast.

With most antivirus programs, full system scans are usually the most taxing. However, Avast's performance is on par with the best scoring security solutions. It takes somewhere around 50 minutes to complete a full scan, which is about 5 minutes above the average scanning time of other products. Although there are faster programs out there, Avast can still be counted among the faster antiviruses.

Despite Avast's relative long scanning time, and the fact that it doesn't improve in future scans, the performance hit barely passes 13%, which is practically unnoticeable. You can watch a movie or do anything else on your computer, without noticing any slow-downs. What's more, smart scans take less than 3 minutes to complete and they have an impact of up to 10%, even if they involve patching up vulnerabilities, besides virus checks. It may actually take you more time to look over the results and decide what to delete or quarantine than waiting for the scan to complete.

Support and Customer Service

If you encounter a problem that is beyond your control, the best course of action is to contact Avast's tech support team. Although a live web chat option is not available, the customer support service is available around the clock, over the phone, so there will always be someone to answer your phone call, even at late ours or early in the morning. What's more, Avast offers support in 11 languages. If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with the program in the first 30 days after you buy it, you can request a full refund.

The Avast website is very well organized and it has a pleasant design, which makes it quite easy to find their phone number. You may not realize this now, but if you have a problem that needs to be solved right away, you will definitely appreciate the fact that you don't have to navigate through countless pages to be able to contact the support team. Alternatively, you can submit a ticket and wait for an email response, if the problem is not urgent, ask other users in the forums or have a look over the FAQs that are available on the same website.

Value for the Money

Avast is definitely worth the investment if you are looking for a comprehensive protection solution. Its detection capabilities are well-regarded by all the major independent testers, it has an insignificant impact on a computer's performance and its basic package brings a wealth of useful features. The program's user-friendly design makes it easy for beginners to set up and control their security system and it comes in over 40 languages, including Pirate Talk, if you are feeling adventurous.

Avast can be found in all important test, in which some programs are not even taken into consideration. If you consider its near-perfect scores in AV-TEST's evaluations, as well as the "Advanced+", "Top Rated" and other awards from AV-Comparatives, you will agree that Avast deserves its spot among the top-ranking antivirus solutions. Coming in closer to 100% than many other programs, in terms of threat detection rate, it can certainly be considered a reliable security product.

The packages Avast has on offer can serve your needs in many situations. It doesn't matter if you use a single computer or if you have a home network, for work or relaxation. You can definitely find something that suits your needs, regardless of your experience level.

Avast Internet Security

Most users will probably opt for this package, since it offers much more than just a baseline antivirus protection system. Its password manager can be a big plus for professionals, who work with a large number of accounts, the Sandbox feature allows tech experts to study how viruses behave, without damaging their operating systems and the improved Firewall can protect everyone, including regular users, from inside or outside attacks, without requiring any advanced configurations. If you haven't used an antivirus before and you wish to start protecting your computer, you certainly can't go wrong with Avast Internet Security.

Avast Premier

If you spend most of your time online, then Avast Premier might be worth looking at. It has everything from Internet Security, but the additional webcam protection and software updater can help you fortify your computer's defenses, to prevent hackers from exploiting any vulnerabilities you may not have been aware of and from connecting to your webcam, to see what you are doing.

Avast Ultimate

Professionals who take privacy and security matters seriously are going to be interested in this top-tier package. Although it covers only one PC, the included VPN enables you to surf the web anonymously and bypass restrictions to online content, while the Password Premium tool allows you to manage the login credentials to all your online accounts, along with other sensitive information, in a safe and secure manner. If you have one computer, on which you keep all your important work, this package ensures that it will be kept in a good working condition and that you will be informed if someone manages to hack into your accounts.

Final Verdict

While there is no such thing as a perfect antivirus solution, Avast can be found among the biggest names on the market. With certifications from top antivirus testers, numerous features and a design that makes it usable even by less-experienced users, this product line is definitely a good deal, regardless of how you look at it.

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