An Overview of Free Antivirus Programs – Part VII – Avira AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic

Welcome to the seventh installment in our series on free antivirus programs. Be sure to also see:

  • Part I – AVG Free Edition
  • Part II – PC Tools Free Edition
  • Part III – Comodo Antivirus 2.0 Beta
  • Part IV – Avast 4 Home Edition
  • Part V – BitDefender v10 Free Edition
  • Part VI – EAV Antivirus Suite Free Edition

Up for examination today is the free version of Avira AntiVir. Review version: 7.06.00.270

Product link: AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic

Installation – Like AVG, AntiVir is one of those rare programs that does not require registration, nor does it require a reboot after installation. Yay!

However, during installation the program will generate a random serial number tied to a license.

avira_serial.png

After installation, I noticed that my license is valid until the end of May 2008. I assume that acquiring another free license is simple, but I have no experience with it (yet). As with AVG and Avast, Windows Security Center recognizes AntiVir as a valid antivirus program.

Interface – AntiVir sports a clean, easy-to-understand tabbed interface. Here is the main program window:

avira_main.png

As you can see, the tabs across the top control the various elements of the program. Here is what scanning looks like:

avira_scanning.png

Updating – Like most of its competitors, AntiVir comes with an automatic update feature. By default, it will try to update itself every 24 hours. If you want to edit its settings, navigate to the “Scheduler.” Thankfully, you can also configure AntiVir to update itself invisibly by editing the “Display Mode.”

avira_invisible.png

One note about updates – the free edition of AntiVir will spawn a window urging you to upgrade to the paid version. Do they have the right to do this? Yes. Is it annoying? Yes. Is there a way to suppress it? Yes. Should you suppress it? I’ll leave that up to you.

Footprint and Scanning – Like AVG, AntiVir is light on system resources. I have not noticed any slowdowns during normal operations. Running a full scan showed some strain, but the system was still definitely usable.

Speaking of scans, a full scan took one hour and six minutes on my system (over 400 GB worth of files), making its scanning speed comparable to Avast, AVG, and BitDefender.

One suggestion – turn on “expert mode” in the program’s configuration, as this will yield many more options for scanning and reporting. You can also disable the short audible alert that AntiVir plays if it finds a virus.

avira_expert_mode.png

Types of Protection – The free version of AntiVir comes with both an on-demand and an on-access scanner. The main element separating it from both AVG and Avast is the lack of a POP3 e-mail scanner. If you access e-mail through a program such as Outlook or Thunderbird, this may be a deal breaker for you. On the other hand, if you rely on webmail (such as Gmail or Yahoo), you have no need for a POP3 scanner.

Like most programs, AntiVir integrates a targeted scanning feature into the “right-click” explorer menu.

EICAR TestHere is a link where you can download a harmless test file that should be detected as malicious by antivirus programs. As I’ve mentioned before, it is NOT a real virus. In order to test the effectiveness of a program, I download the EICAR test file to my desktop and start counting to see how long it takes the antivirus program to find it. Sooner is always better than later. Let’s see what AntiVir thinks of it.

avira_eicar.png

As soon as the file hit the desktop, AntiVir snagged it. This is good news, but would have been more impressive if it had prevented the file from downloading at all (like Avast did). Still, I can’t complain.

Final Thoughts – Avira AntiVir is undoubtedly one of the top contenders in the free antivirus arena. Not only is it a breeze to use, its detection rate has proven stellar in the past. This comes as no surprise considering that both the free and paid versions of AntiVir use the same detection engine. For more information on past detection-rate performance, please see av-comparatives.

The two potential downfalls of AntiVir are the pop-up following every update and the lack of an e-mail scanner. If you can live with the pop-up (or just disable it), and have no need for POP3 mail scanning, AntiVir should be your top choice.

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An Overview of Free Antivirus Programs – Part VI – EAV Antivirus Suite Free Edition

Welcome to the sixth installment in our series on free antivirus programs. Be sure to also see:

  • Part I – AVG Free Edition
  • Part II – PC Tools Free Edition
  • Part III – Comodo Antivirus 2.0 Beta
  • Part IV – Avast 4 Home Edition
  • Part V – BitDefender v10 Free Edition

What’s in store today? Answer: a brief look at the free EAV Antivirus Suite. I say “brief” because after having this software installed on my system for only one day, I am already eager to remove it!

Review version: 5.42

Product link: EAV at download.com (Why am I linking to download.com? Because they do.)

Installation – If you want to download and install the free version of EAV Antivirus, good luck finding it on their main website. I actually found it on download.com, which is probably how most people find it, considering that I could not find mention of the free version on their own website.

Anyway, the installer is tiny – under two megabytes. What can EAV pack into 1.62 MB? Let’s find out.

Interface – There’s not much to EAV’s interface. If you like stark simplicity, you’ll feel at home.

eav_main.png

Curiously, clicking “Full Scan” does not start a full scan. Instead, it brings up a separate window in which you must choose the file path that you wish to scan. Fortunately, they include an “all disks” checkbox, but it is not selected by default.

eav_scanning.png

As you can see from the screenshot above, EAV supposedly found three viruses. One of them is a required component for Java (false positive), and I have no idea what the other two are supposed to be. EAV is certainly not telling me! Should I delete them? No.

Updating – As of now, there are NO separate virus definition updates. In fact, clicking the “update” button simply launches your default browser and takes you back to the download.com page! Therefore, if you want an update, you must re-install the entire program. Ridiculous.

Footprint and Scanning – One nice thing is that EAV is extremely lean on system resources. As I type this, EAV is running a full scan, and my CPU usage only occasionally rises higher than 0%. Nice.

Whether or not EAV is actually doing anything useful (given the false positives that it’s already “found”) remains to be seen.

EAV lacks integration with the “right-click” explorer menu.

Types of Protection – From what I can tell, EAV only provides an on-demand scanner, though the ability to also scan memory is appreciated.

The included IE Doctor and Windows Doctor are perplexing. They appear to modify settings for internet explorer and the windows registry. Here is a screenshot of the Windows Doctor.

eav_windows_doctor.png

Pardon me for objecting, but I don’t dare execute any task that will modify my registry without knowing explicitly what it will do! I understand some of these registry hacks, but others are too vague. For instance, what does “Speedup Computer” mean? Perhaps I should consult the Help manual.

Ah, here we go, here is the explanation taken literally from the Help manual:

Speed Computer – make your computer running fast by modifying system configuration

Oh, thanks! That explains everything! If you’re going to make my computer running fast, you better start explaining me before I clicking you. 🙂 Language issues aside, more explanation would be nice.

EICAR TestHere is a link where you can download a harmless test file that should be detected as malicious by antivirus programs. As I’ve mentioned before, it is NOT a real virus. In order to test the effectiveness of a program, I download the EICAR test file to my desktop and start counting to see how long it takes the antivirus program to find it. Sooner is always better than later.

How does EAV fare? It doesn’t find the test virus AT ALL! That’s right. No amount of scanning made EAV find the test virus, though it did tell me that one of my Nvidia video driver components was a virus. Wrong again!

Final Thoughts – Now that I have installed and used this program, I’m not quite sure why they call it a “suite,” since there’s not much to it.

Would I recommend EAV? Let’s see – false positives, lack of incremental updates, barebones features, failure to detect test virus, and vague, poorly-written documentation…

Not recommended. Hopefully it will improve in the future, but considering the quality of other free antivirus programs (such as AVG and Avast), EAV is currently not worth using.

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An Overview of Free Antivirus Programs – Part V – BitDefender Free Edition

Welcome to the fifth installment in our series on free antivirus programs. Be sure to also see:

On the inspection table today is the free version of BitDefender. Review version: v10 (build 247)
Product link: BitDefender 10 Free Edition

First, a quick note – the free version of BitDefender lacks an “on-access” scanner. This means that BitDefender does not provide active protection from viruses – it only detects viruses when you manually scan for them. They ask that you upgrade to a paid version if you want more than just an “on-demand” scanner. For some people, this is an immediate turn-off. If you trust your online habits and are careful about manually scanning items, the free version of BitDefender may be all that you need.

Installation – In order to download BitDefender, you must provide them with a valid e-mail address. Once you do so, you will receive a download link in the e-mail address that you provide.

During the installation, BitDefender is pre-registered with a key that will eventually expire. Mine is valid for 9 months. After the key expires, you must contact them to receive a new key. While this is acceptable (given that the product is free), I prefer an installation that requires no registration at all.

Installation requires a reboot. The first update than I ran (which must have been major) required a reboot as well.

Interface – BitDefender takes the opposite approach to Avast with regard to interface design – while Avast’s is stylish and modern, Bitdefender’s is professional and minimal. Here is the main program window, featuring a dual-tabbed design:

bitdefender-main.png

Supposedly, the interface can be “skinned,” though only one other skin comes installed by default, and all it does is turn the red color into blue.

Updating – BitDefender comes with an automatic update feature that is enabled by default, and will check for new updates every hour. You can change the update frequency if you want, but I see no trouble with leaving it as it is.

I like that BitDefender offers a “silent” update feature, though you can set it to prompt if you want. Here is a screenshot of the “update settings” page:

bitdefender_update.png

Footprint and Scanning – If you are looking for a free antivirus program that does not suck away system resources, you will find it hard to beat BitDefender. In fact, the minimum requirement is only a Pentium MMX 200 MHz processor and 64 MB of RAM. Since there is no on-access scanner, the program just sits silently in the system tray, idly waiting for you to call upon it.

I love the options that BitDefender provides when setting up a system scan. Not only can you choose the priority and depth of the scan, you can also have it run in the system tray. Nice! Like AVG, you can tell BitDefender to automatically shut down the computer after a scan. Those of you who start a system scan before you go to bed will appreciate this option. Here’s a screenshot:

bitdefender_scan_options.png

A full scan of my system (over 400 GB of files) took just over an hour. This speed is comparable to both Avast and AVG.

Types of Protection – As mentioned before, BitDefender Free only provides an on-demand scanner, meaning that you must manually scan files. Fortunately, targeted scanning is integrated into the “right-click” explorer menu, making quick scanning of downloaded files easier.

The on-demand scanner does have a number of different features, including a memory scan and a “rootkit” scan.

bitdefender_system_tasks.png

EICAR TestHere is a link where you can download a harmless test file that should be detected as malicious by antivirus programs. As I’ve mentioned before, it is NOT a real virus. In order to test the effectiveness of a program, I download the EICAR test file to my desktop and start counting to see how long it takes the antivirus program to find it.

In BitDefender’s case, this test is not valid because of the lack of on-access scanner. Still, we can test to see if the targeted on-demand scanner will find it.

bitdefender-eicar.png

Indeed, it does. The targeted scan immediately moves the file to quarantine as well.

Final Thoughts – If you can live without an on-access scanner, BitDefender is a good option. Obviously, the main point of this program is to entice users to eventually upgrade to a paid version, but for some people the free version may be sufficient. If you must have an on-access scanner, please look elsewhere.

The free version of BitDefender uses the same scanning engine as the paid version, and considering that this engine has performed very well in the past, this makes BitDefender an attractive choice. Given the other benefits, such as the very small footprint, you certainly get a lot for your money.

Users who need more comprehensive protection (such as an on-access and e-mail scanner) should look try a different program, such as Avast or AVG. Power users who rely only on webmail and who schedule a daily scan could potentially use BitDefender as an “install and forget” program. Either way, it’s another solid offering in the free antivirus world.

An Overview of Free Antivirus Programs – Part IV – Avast 4 Home Edition

Here is the fourth installment in our series on free antivirus programs. Be sure to also see:

Up for review today is the free Avast 4 Home Edition. Review version: 4.7 (build 4.7.1074)

Product link: Avast 4 Home Edition

Installation – Yes, Avast is indeed free, but you must register it after 60 days if you want to continue using the program. Registration is free, and the license that you receive will be valid for one year. After that, you must register again. Get the idea?

While I would prefer not to register at all, it’s difficult to complain considering that the product is free. Is the registration procedure worth it to use Avast? Let’s find out.

two_icons.pngInstallation is easy and requires a reboot when finished. After the reboot, you will notice two blue icons in your system tray – one for the on-access scanner and one for the Virus Recovery Database (VRDB).

Essentially, the VRDB stores information about the current state of your files. In case of an infection, the VRDB can help restore clean versions of them. By default, the VRDB only generates while the computer is idle, so it doesn’t hurt system performance to leave it enabled. If you want to hide the VRDB icon, just right-click it and choose to merge it with the main Avast icon.

Interface – Avast has by default the wackiest, most “modern” interface of all the programs I’ve tried so far. Here is how it looks by default:

avast_main.png

If you do not like how it looks, fear not, for there are dozens of skins available, most of which are made by third parties. Even though I’m no fan of Vista, I kind of like the aVist skin. Here’s how it looks:

avist_main.png

No matter what skin you choose, know that Avast has a “sound enabled” interface, meaning you will hear little sounds depending on the action you choose. Unless you like such a thing, I suggest disabling program sounds. I prefer my antivirus programs to be seen and not heard. 🙂

Updating – As expected, Avast offers automatic updates. Not only that, you have a ton of choices available – just want to update virus definitions automatically? Done. How about program updates, too? Done.

avast_update_basic.png

One feature that I truly enjoy is the ability to run in “silent” running mode – updates provide no notification of when they are complete, making Avast a good “install and forget” program. Very nice.

avast_silent_update.png

Footprint and Scanning – The good news: I have not noticed any slowdowns in normal usage, so Avast appears to be light on system resources.

The bad news: Running a thorough scan tends to hold my CPU usage around 70%, with occasional spikes up to 100%. System responsiveness is reduced drastically when this happens. Fortunately, Avast provides an option to “Go to background” while scanning, and my advice is to please take advantage of this, as doing so made my system responsive again.

avast_background.png

A complete scan took a little over an hour on my system (over 400 GB of files). This is comparable to AVG’s speed.

avast_shields.pngTypes of Protection – This is one area where Avast truly shines. By default, Avast offers 7 different resident protection “shields.” They include:

  • Network shield – analyzes network traffic
  • P2P shield – for added file-sharing protection
  • Standard shield – the “on-access” scanner
  • Web shield – monitors HTTP traffic (includes URL blocking)
  • Instant Messaging shield – useful if you receive files through IM
  • Internet Mail shield – for most mail programs
  • Outlook/Exchange shield -exclusively for Outlook

Each “shield” has configuration options of its own, and you may enable or disable entire shields at will. In the screenshot I provide, notice that I have disabled 3 of the shields (greyed out) since I have no use for them on this particular machine.

Like the other programs reviewed so far, Avast integrates a targeted scan into the “right-click” explorer menu. As in most programs, initializing a targeted scan spawn a new program window, but unlike most programs, that windows immediately disappears if no threat is found. Yes! Many program creators should take a lesson here – why create extra steps to dismiss windows if there is no intervention needed?

EICAR TestHere is a link where you can download a harmless test file that should be detected as malicious by antivirus programs. As I’ve mentioned before, it is NOT a real virus. In order to test the effectiveness of a program, I download the EICAR test file to my desktop and start counting to see how long it takes the antivirus program to find it. Sooner is always better than later. Let’s see how Avast handles it.

avast_eicar.png

Impressively, Avast will not even let the file download at all! Clicking “Abort connection” stops the download from taking place. Very nice.

Final Thoughts – Avast was one of the first free antivirus programs that I tried years ago. At that time, I was simply impressed that an antivirus program was available for free. Now, Avast continues to impress me despite competition from many other free offerings.

If you don’t mind the annual re-registration, it’s hard to beat Avast. Like AVG, it’s one of the most popular free antivirus programs for a reason.

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An Overview of Free Antivirus Programs – Part III – Comodo Antivirus 2.0 Beta

This is the third installment in our series on free antivirus programs. Be sure to also see:

Up for examination today is Comodo Antivirus. Review version: 2.0 Beta (build 2.0.17.58)

Product link: Comodo Antivirus

Installation – No registration is required, though you may optionally submit your e-mail address as an ID. Even if you do not provide an e-mail address, the program is still “activated” for life. A reboot is required after installation.

Interface – I don’t think the interface will win many design awards, but it doesn’t take long to figure it out. Here is the main screen:

comodo_main.png

As you can see, the buttons across the top control most of the navigation, while you can easily enable or disable elements of the program from the main window. Here is what scanning looks like:

comodo_scan.png

Updating – Manual updates are easily handled by clicking the “Update Now” button on the main window. Comodo also comes with a seamless “automatic” update feature that will automatically download and install updates as needed, making it a good “install and forget” program.

Footprint and Scanning – Thankfully, Comodo is light on system resources, and on my system it feels no heavier than AVG. I did not notice any “hangs” or slowdowns in opening files or applications.

Comodo offers a number of scanning options, ranging from a complete scan to isolating specific folders/files. I applaud the inclusion of a memory scan as well.

Upon running a complete scan, imagine my surprise when Comodo reported that the scan only took about 6 minutes on my system (over 400 GB of files)! Six minutes? Surely there must be a mistake here.

There is. An isolated scan of just one of my hard disks takes nearly 7 minutes. How can the “full” scan take less time than that? Somehow, Comodo’s “full system” scan does not even come close to scanning the full system. I’m still scratching my head about it.

That said, Comodo’s scanning speed is still very impressive. Even if I combine the time it takes to scan each of my hard disks, Comodo far outpaces AVG and PC Tools by a long shot. Admittedly, Comodo did run an initial scan just after installation to help set up its Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS), so perhaps there’s some aggressive caching going on. Or maybe it’s just a bug. 🙂

Types of Protection – Like the other two programs reviewed thus far, Comodo features an on-access scanner, an on-demand scanner, and an e-mail scanner for users of POP3 programs such as Thunderbird and Outlook. Quick scanning of individual files is integrated though the”right-click” explorer menu.

If you use the HIPS Application Control feature, Comodo will require some training in which applications are safe to use. In the picture below, I have just launched my Finale music software.

comodo_finale.png

Just like setting up a software firewall, Comodo will “learn” which programs are authorized and never bother you again about them. Though initial setup can be tedious, HIPS Application Control can come in handy to stop a rogue virus or trojan from even executing.

EICAR TestHere is a link where you can download a harmless test file that should be detected as malicious by antivirus programs. As I’ve mentioned before, it is NOT a real virus. In order to test the effectiveness of a program, I download the EICAR test file to my desktop and start counting to see how long it takes the antivirus program to find it. Sooner is always better than later. Let’s see how Comodo fares.

I downloaded the file and waited… and waited… and waited. Nothing happened. Uh-oh.

Bad news. Comodo does NOT automatically detect the test virus, even though the on-access scanner is active. Clicking the file does not trigger the scanner either. In fact, only by right-clicking the test virus and choosing to manually scan it did Comodo finally provide an alert.

comodo_eicar.png

Fortunately, the Comodo “Repair Wizard” was able to successfully delete the file, but it is still disturbing that the on-access scanner did not detect the test virus at all.

Update: Comodo’s on-access scanner finally found another copy of the EICAR virus that I manually deleted… 12 hours after I first deleted it! Maybe the on-access scanner was just on an extended coffee break.

comodo_eicar_recycle.png

Final Thoughts – I really want to like Comodo, and there are a number of things that the program does well. Not only is scanning blazing fast, Comodo is the first program that I have reviewed so far that does not have any nag screens or banners urging me to upgrade to a paid version.

Still, this is Beta software, and there are a few quirks, such as the “not-so-full” scan issue. A more minor issue is that the Windows Security Center does not recognize Comodo as a valid antivirus program, and by default will leave an annoying icon in the tray asking you to install a valid program. This is easily remedied by going to the Security Center and checking the box next to “I have an antivirus program that I’ll monitor myself.” Still, I hope this will be addressed later.

Of course, there is also the glaring issue of detection rates. Given how Comodo fails to quickly find the EICAR test virus, I worry about its overall effectiveness in detecting real viruses. As it stands now, I am not comfortable using this version of Comodo as my primary line of defense against viruses.

If these issues are addressed, Comodo has the potential to become a leading figure in the free antivirus software arena. A glance through their forums shows mention that a beta of a completely-rewritten version 3 should be on the way soon. I look forward to testing it.

Stay tuned for more entries in this series.

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An Overview of Free Antivirus Programs – Part II – PC Tools AntiVirus Free Edition

This is the second installment in our series on free antivirus programs. Be sure to also see Part I (AVG Free Edition).

Next on the list is the free edition of PC Tools AntiVirus. Review version: 3.6.1.8

Product Link: PC Tools Free Edition

Installation – No registration required, which is nice. Reboot required after installation.

Interface – PC Tools sports a slick and shiny interface. More importantly, it’s easy to navigate and understand. Here is the main program:

pc_tools_main.png

And here is what it looks like while scanning:

pc_tools_scanning.png

Updating – Manually updating the program is easy – just use the “Smart Update” button on the main program window.

Concerning automatic updates, there are two options available.

  1. Set a frequency in which to search for updates (ranging from 30 minutes to 24 hours).
  2. Set a scheduled time in which to update (can be daily, weekly, or monthly).

pc_tools_smart_update.png

Of course, you may use both options. However, the main downfall is that the first option will NOT automatically install any updates. Instead, it will display a prompt from the taskbar notifying you that an update is available. In my opinion, this feature is almost useless because it requires manual intervention. I would much rather see it go ahead and install the updates, preferably without notifying me at all!

Fortunately, the second option seems to automatically install updates, though your computer must be turned on at the time you specify. All-in-all, the manual updating procedure is stronger than the automatic with this program.

Footprint and Scanning – On my system, PC Tools AntiVirus took over 3 hours to run a “complete” scan (over 400 GB of files). By comparison, AVG only took just over an hour to run. Make no mistake, PC Tools AntiVirus is slow at scanning, though overall effectiveness is admittedly more important than sheer speed. Still, this is an area that I would like to see improved.

Concerning system resources, PC Tools AntiVirus definitely “feels” heavier than AVG, though not as heavy as in my experiences with some versions of McAfee and Norton. It’s subjective, but programs and files on my system take a little longer to open with PC Tools installed.

Types of Protection – PC Tools AntiVirus offers both real-time protection and on-demand scanning. I’m pleased to see that a plug-in for e-mail protection is also available (separate install – look near the bottom of the product page), which is handy for you POP3 mail users.

EICAR TestHere is a link where you can download a harmless test file that should be detected as malicious by antivirus programs. It is NOT a real virus. In order to test the effectiveness of a program, I download the EICAR test file to my desktop and start counting to see how long it takes the antivirus program to find it.

pc_tools_eicar.png

I was pleased that PC Tools did not even allow the file to download to my desktop. As soon at the EICAR file went into my browser’s cache, PC Tools snagged it and sounded the alarm. Nice! This is even faster than AVG’s detection and is one of PC Tool’s stronger points.

Final Thoughts – PC Tools AntiVirus impresses immediately with its shiny, intuitive interface. However, beauty is only skin-deep, and this free antivirus program fails to impress in other areas, such as the needlessly-complicated automatic updates and the tremendously-slow scanning speed.

Other little tasks show a lack of foresight as well. For instance, I appreciate that targeted scanning is integrated into the “right-click” explorer menu, but once scanning is finished, clicking “Close” leaves me staring at the main program window instead of sending it back to the taskbar. In a targeted scan, why would I want to keep the main program open when the scan of my file(s) is finished? It just adds an extra step.

So then, would I recommend the free version of PC Tools AntiVirus? Yes, but not as highly as other free antivirus programs, such as AVG. In a way, it’s a shame that I don’t have a system chock fully of viruses that I could use to evaluate detection rates, because I suspect that PC Tools is quite good at it. If you are willing to sacrifice a few system resources and don’t mind a little manual intervention for updates, PC Tools AntiVirus should reward you with good looks and virus detection.

Stay tuned for further entries in this series.

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An Overview of Free Antivirus Programs – Part I – AVG Free Edition

Henceforth begins a multi-part series in which I plan to install and test every different free antivirus program that I can find. Since 2002, I have switched between a handful of various free antivirus programs, but there are several available now that I have not tested.

Therefore, I have decided to document this process here in order to provide an overview of the currently-available free antivirus programs. I have currently compiled a list of seven different programs to try, but there may be more if I find others along the way. Here are my criteria:

  • The program must be “install-able” – I will not cover any online scans.
  • The program must be FREE. Upgrade paths are acceptable, but no “trialware” allowed.
  • The program must not contain any spyware. If any spyware is detected, that program’s creator will receive a virtual kick in the junk from me personally.

In the coming weeks I will post reviews on each of these programs, as I plan to “live” with each of them for a few days in order to write more “informed” reviews.
Let us begin with the venerable AVG Free Edition. Review version: 7.5.503

Product Link – AVG Free

I have used AVG Free Edition off-and-on for several years now. And while it has not always scored the highest in detection rates, it is simple to install, simple to use, and is very light on system resources.

Installation – No registration currently required. Just download and install. Piece of cake.

Interface – AVG may not be the best looking girl at the ball, but she’ll turn a head or two. Though the looks are spartan, the interface is easy to navigate. Here is the Control Center.

avg_control_center.png

And here is the Test Center.

avg_test_center.png

Updating – AVG offers automatic updates, making it an effective set-and-forget piece of software. You can also easily make updates silent.

Footprint and Scanning – AVG is remarkably light on system resources. In 2003 I replaced Norton with AVG and was amazed at how much faster my computer booted and ran. It was like a breath of fresh air.

By default, AVG will try to schedule a complete system scan every 24 hours, though you may easily opt out. When doing a complete scan, I appreciate the option to automatically shut down the computer when the scan is complete.

It took AVG approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to finish a complete scan of my system, which includes about 400 gigabytes worth of files. Of course, your mileage will vary.

Types of Protection – AVG offers real-time protection, on-demand scanning, and an e-mail scanner. It does not scan for spyware or offer firewall protection. To some this may be a downfall, but it is a feature in my opinion. I prefer programs that “do one thing, and do it well.” The included e-mail scanner is handy for people who rely on POP3 programs such as Outlook and Thunderbird.

EICAR TestHere is a link where you can download a harmless test file that should be detected as malicious by antivirus programs. It is NOT a real virus. In order to test the effectiveness of a program, I download the EICAR test file to my desktop and start counting to see how long it takes the antivirus program to find it.

avg_eicar.png

It only took AVG a couple seconds to find it and provide options on what to do with it. “Healing” deleted the file.

Final Thoughts – AVG is one of the most popular antivirus software programs for a reason. Yes, there are probably more effective commercial programs available, but most of them will rob you of both your money and your system resources. I have no problem recommending AVG to anyone who wants a free antivirus program, though I suggest that you install a separate anti-spyware utility.

Stay tuned for further entries in this series.

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