Avast Antivirus Review – Does Avast Protect Your Computer?

Avast antivirus logoAll computers need protection from all those nasties on the web, from viruses to trojans, worms and malware. There’s dozens of anti-virus products out there, and there’s a good chance that a trial version has been pre-installed on your computer when you bought it. I use Avast! Antivirus, and this is my personal review on this excellent product.

Your own antivirus program likely works fine. However, as I will explain later, there’s a good chance that it’s actually slowing down your computer (not to mention that you PAID money for it.) Your computer may be bogged down with several other programs, but anti-virus protection is a must. So, what do you do? You check out an alternative program that works just as well or better. More importantly, you want a program that doesn’t slow your computer to a crawl.

I have used the free version of Avast for several years now, and it has always successfully protected my computer from viruses. This review talks about my personal experience with Avast!, how to install and configure it, why I like it (over, say, Norton Anti-Virus), free vs. paid versions, and where you can download and begin using it.

Effectiveness of Blocking Viruses

I have been free of viruses for several years now. However, it’s not like I never encounter them – I do, about three times a week. Since I work full-time on my computer as a web designer, I am constantly visiting different websites. Every so often, I will get a red warning box popping up on the bottom right of my screen, saying that Avast! has detected and stopped an attempted infection. “Good” I say, and click my Back button. If I have been silently infected due to a virus not being detected … well, I’m sure it would have eventually showed on my computer!

Every so often I do a full scan with not only Avast, but some other programs … just to be sure. A virus has never been detected. More importantly, strange behavior, random crashes and sudden sluggishness has never happened in three years, definite warning signs of a virus.

Avast! vs. AVG

Before Avast!, I used AVG, another top-quality anti-virus product. Both are free. Why did I switch? Well, AVG once didn’t catch a virus from infecting my system. And it was a BAD one. So bad I had to completely wipe my computer … actually, it convinced me to buy a fresh new computer anyway, but the sudden crashes, weird pop-ups and speed grinding to a halt certainly didn’t help matters! I pride myself on my ability to clean and optimize my own system, but I could not get rid of this infection. Bad AVG!

I would have still used it on my new computer, except for another annoyance: AVG started popping up ads too often to upgrade to the paid version. Also, the renewal process confused my Mom … and I see her as the “average” computer user. If she couldn’t figure it out, I’m sure a lot of other people couldn’t, either.

You have to renew your free Avast license every year as well, but it’s a quick “fill in the blanks” and click “Renew”. Much easier! Of course, Avast tries to get you to upgrade at the same time, which may be worth it (I’ll compare free vs. paid in a minute).

Some reviews have AVG at the top, with Avast! a close second. Both have similar features and perform the same. I’ve been Avast for a few years now, and with every virus stopped, I see no reason to switch back.

Avast! vs. Paid Antivirus Software

When you buy a new computer, it’ll more than likely have a “trial” version of an antivirus product – in a lot of cases, Norton or McAfee. So, is it worth going for paid over free? Well, that depends what you are looking for.

Simply put, paid antivirus programs have a lot more features. While free software like Avast and AVG are strictly antivirus products, products like Norton 360 combine antivirus with a firewall, anti-phishing, spam protection for your inbox, parental controls, 24/7 phone support, and much more. It’s more known as a “security suite” rather than just an antivirus.

Do you need all that? Maybe. I don’t. I feel (I hope) I’m savvy enough to know when a phishing attempt is taking place (basically, you get an email purportedly coming from your bank, but it really takes you to a fake website that looks like your bank’s – if you enter your login and password, they have your account info. Yikes!) Do I need spam protection? No, I use Gmail for my email, and they do a great job of blocking unsolicited email. Do I need parental controls? Well, I do have a 5 year old and a 3 year old, so I may be in the market soon!

However, for me (and probably for you as well), the issue is computer speed. Installing a massive security suite will obviously slow down your computer. Norton used to be horrible with this, though in the last few years they have completely redesigned their product to make it much faster and easier to use. However, with the latest version, it might be getting needlessly complicated and slowing down people’s computers again.

McAfee, the “other” security suite you’ll usually see pre-installed on new computers, is dragging behind, scoring mediocre in most comparison tests. I would stay away from it – the one time I used it, it used 20% of my system resources, I couldn’t even USE my computer when it was performing a full scan, and to add insult to injury, I got a virus a month after using it! No thank you.

Avast! Computer Performance

The main reason I love Avast! is that it feels like I don’t have an antivirus program installed on my computer – and that’s a good thing. I don’t have a slow computer because of it. I can go about my day, surfing, working and playing, and not have to worry about things grinding down. As you can see from this screenshot I took from my computer’s task manager (click Alt+Ctrl+Del at the same time and choose this from the menu), it uses only 3MB of memory – considering most modern computers come with 2 GBs of memory (or around 2000 MB), this is barely a drop in the memory ocean!

avast memory processes

Even when I am performing a system scan, the memory “footprint” on the computer is still low. I can easily work on the computer while Avast scans in the background:

avast memory process while scanning

Being able to have my computer still respond fast is almost as important as the protection it offers.

Avast! Antivirus Annoyances

I hate annoyances, and I’m sure you do, too. As I explained before, I see my Mom as the average computer user. She uses it to check email, surf the web and do a bit of online banking. So a few months after I replaced her default Norton Antivirus with Avast!, I asked her what she thought of it.

“Really good! Nothing bad’s gotten into my computer …” But I heard the “However …”

So I asked.

“However … I get these annoying pop-up boxes every single day!”

Those pop-up boxes state that Avast has updated their virus definitions, and they update every day – sometimes more than once a day. The pop-up box, like all other boxes from Avast, show up on the bottom right hand window. I realized that they annoyed me too. I got so used to them, I’d just quickly click them off.

So, I checked to see if I could do something about it. Lo and behold, simply open the Avast! interface (right-click the icon in your Windows toolbar) and click Settings on the top right. Go to Updates and uncheck the “Show Notification box after automatic update”. Done!

Avast update notification box off

Honestly, that’s the only annoyance I have with the program, and I easily corrected it.

Avast! Antivirus Features

You can see all the features of Avast on this nifty graph in the main interface. All the functions are neatly listed on the left hand side of the program. Simply click “Real-time Shields” and you’ll see this screen below:

avast real time shields

The features for the free version includes:

File System Shield – Monitors all files and programs on your computer

Mail Shield – Scans all your incoming email and detects potentially harmful viruses even before they reach your inbox. Also scans your outgoing email

Web Shield – Scans all your web browsing activities and blocks any threats before the webpage you load even becomes visible (this has saved my computer numerous times!)

P2P Shield – Scans most Peer to Peer sharing programs (Napster is the most famous, or infamous, depending on your perspective. Also includes online gaming programs and programs such as Skype, bitTorrent, Limewire and Bearshare

IM Shield – Scans Internet Messaging programs, like AIM and Windows Live Messenger

Network Shield – Monitors all activity on your network and blocks known malicious websites

Script Shield – Monitors any programs and scripts loading on your computer to make sure they are legit

Behavior Shield – Monitors the general state of your computer, and alerts you if “something funny” suddenly appears

Each of these shields can be started and stopped at any time, and there are expert settings for all of them (which I leave alone).

In addition Avast! Antivirus also places any suspicious programs into a controlled environment within the computer (“sandboxing” it), then activates it. If it is a virus, it can not do any harm to your computer. If it is harmless, or you are absolutely sure it is fine and trusted, you can then install it. Like the shields, this can be turned on and off at any time.

Avast! Antivirus – Free or Paid?

While I am completely happy with the free version, you may wish to purchase it for the extra security. Note that you can only use the free version for personal and non-commercial use. Along with all the features above in the free version, the following is what you also get with a paid subscription (there are 2 types):

avast pro#1 – Avast! Pro Antivirus – $39.99/year, $49.99/2 years, or $59.99/3 years

All of the features in the free version plus:

Safezone – Secured Data and Identity: When you bank online, your paid version of Avast! will actually “sandbox” your identity on your computer when paying at an ecommerce site or while banking online. Basically, Avast takes your personal information and secures it inside your computer so no hidden malware or keyloggers can silently record your information.

Malware is a hidden program that installs undetected into your computer through security holes in programs, such as Microsoft Explorer. It can then either silently track you or completely lock your computer (a new form of “ransomware” is now floating around the web. Yikes!)

A keylogger actually records every keystroke you make, and can thus record not only where you bank (when you type in your bank’s address) but your login and password (since you have to type these in as well).

Since I use the free version, I admit that this is a risk I am taking. To minimize this, I make sure all the software I am using is up to date. However, if you’re not on the computer 8 hours a day like I am, updating your computer software may not be something you think about often.

#2 – Avast! Internet Security – $39.99/year, $59.99 2/years, or $79.99/3 years

All the features in Avast! Pro Antivirus plus:

Built-in Firewall: A firewall is either a piece of software (like Avast) or hardware that controls all the data coming through your internet connection. Every second, millions of pieces of rogue coding “sniffs out” unprotected internet connections to illegally gain access to your computer. If they do, your computer can then be hacked. Think of it as a traffic cop. If you watched the movie “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest”, then you know there were a lot of characters in that movie without effective firewalls!

I myself have a physical firewall (it’s actually a black box on my desk with lots of blinking lights) that monitors all  internet activity on my connection, so I don’t need this service from Avast.

Anti-spam and Anti-phishing: The upgraded version of Avast will also detect and delete any spam or phishing attempts from getting into your email’s inbox or IM screen. You likely know what spam is (unsolicited email), but phishing is a bit more obscure. It’s a lot more dangerous, because thieves will actually create very official looking emails or messages, and websites that look and feel exactly like legitimate websites.

A typical phishing attempt will be a warning email saying that your bank has been hacked, and that you will need to log in to change your password. However, if you click the link, it will take you to a site that looks exactly like your bank, but is not. If you type in your login and password, they will now have your information. Yikes!

Yes, I take the risk of this, but I “hope” I won’t be tricked. I receive phishing emails once every few weeks that aren’t caught by Gmail’s spam filter. Some are extremely sophisticated, even calling me by my personal name (they could have harvested my name from this website). You can view this page from the U.S. government on learning how to avoid these types of electronic scams.

One Response to “Avast Antivirus Review – Does Avast Protect Your Computer?”

  1. Hey Chris – Really nice job on your site and this Avast review. I’ve been using Avast Free for years also and love it.


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