Avast is quite a household brand name when it comes to anti-virus. Although not as well known as some of the bigger manufactures such as Kaspersky, Norton and MacAfee, they are growing in popularity and are becoming a well trusted name when it comes to computer security.
Avast offer a free and paid for anti-virus solution and both have an impressive set of features to keep your computer safe from viruses and malware. Let’s take a look.
Features – As with most anti-virus programs Avast uses real time shields to protect your system. However, unlike many other programs Avast uses a separate shield for each type of protection it offers, they are as follows:
- File System Shield – Protects your system by monitoring file activity and scans all files being read and write for virus signatures.
- Mail Shield – Scans your emails for any potential viruses in the attachments and message bodies.
- Web Shield – Monitors your online activity and scans any web pages you visit to detect any possible exploits.
- P2P Shield – For those who use any p2p clients such as bit torrent, Avast will scan the programs you are downloading and check for viruses.
- IM Shield – Monitors your instant messaging programs and checks for any suspicious activity.
- Network Shield – Acts as a basic firewall to check for any security breaches.
- Behaviour Shield – This works as a heuristics engine to monitor your entire system for any suspicious behaviour.
The list is certainly impressive and Avast pretty much have all angles covered. All the shields are customisable and can be fine tuned to exclude certain file types or change the detection and notification settings.
Avast also uses an auto update to engine to ensure that your definitions are kept up to date at all times. Full system scans can be ran at any time and you can also schedule boot time scans which will scan your system upon start-up, this is a handy feature since a lot of viruses and malware will auto start-up when Windows first loads and a boot scan should intercept them before they can do this.
Effectiveness – The most important feature of any anti-virus program is how effective it is against catching and removing viruses. Lots of wonderful features are useless unless the anti-virus vendor can address the main critical issue, which is its detection rate.
Avast scores very high in this department and in the tests that I conducted it was able to detect some very stubborn and well hidden viruses that other anti-virus vendors missed out on. The heuristics engine is also very effective especially if you turn the sensitivity up to full, by doing so you are using the maximum level of protection but there might be occasions where it detects false positives (programs that aren’t actually viruses but are detected as them). This is a small price to pay for the extra protection you get.
Free Version Vs Paid Version – The free version of Avast is very effective and for those on a budget it is usually quite adequate for general use. You will find that many popular anti-virus vendors offer free antivirus software as well as paid-for versions. The paid version of Avast comes in at $39.95 and offers some nice extra features:
- Faster updates.
- Scripting Shield to protect against Windows based scripting viruses.
- Sandbox feature (Allows you to run a potentially infected file or website without causing any damage to your system).
- Better Web shield to protect against web exploits.
Are the extra features worth the price tag? Probably yes, if you do a lot of web surfing and download quite a lot then the improved web shield and scripting shield can make a big difference to prevent infection. The faster updates are also a very good feature to stay ahead of ‘0-day’ viruses which have only recently been discovered.