Avast is one of a number of free antivirus tools vying for attention and it fares well against the competition in lab tests for rates of detection. It provides great protection against viruses and malware, displaying a casual warning when anything nasty is detected rather than making a song and dance about things.
So the program’s headline feature works well – but it doesn’t end there. You’re also treated to a password managed, a VPN, system performance enhancements and a game mode that prevents interruptions while you play.
It’s not all great news, though. After the installation there is a slightly disturbing – but refreshingly honest – warning that user data may be collected and shared with third parties. While Avast points out that this can be switched off, you have to manually hunt down the opt-out setting; it would have been nice to have been presented with it immediately. Instead you have to head to Settings > General > Privacy and uncheck the ‘Participate in data sharing’ option.
There’s also the question of what essentially amount to advertisements. There are links within Avast Free Antivirus – such as the firewall and secure DNS – that are not actually available until you upgrade to the paid-for version of the program. It feels a little sneaky.
For the most part there’s little to worry about when it comes to the virus protection side of things; Avast will just run in the background and stay out the way until it’s needed, and you can perform a manual scan if you want. Venture into Settings, however, and prepare to whimper. There’s not only a seemingly endless selection of settings, they are very inefficiently laid out. It’s good to have options, but they are probably best left to advanced users.
Overall, the program’s interface is great to use, easy to navigate and intuitively set out – but you might find the nags to upgrade somewhat annoying after a while.
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By Mark Wilson
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