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Avast Free Anti-virus 2012

Avast has improved its installation process so it’s faster than before. It’s not the fastest on the market, not by a longshot, but a standard installation took us about three minutes.

Some items of note during the installation that will come up later in the review: to avoid the new Windows 7 and Vista desktop gadget, or the new WebRep browser add-on, you must choose the Custom install option and uncheck those here.

Automatic installation of these features is frowned upon, although Avast does provide a clear method for uninstalling them. It’s just not as simple as a check box that gets its own installation window, since you have to go through the Customize menu, which makes the auto-install sort of surreptitious.

The current versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer both block forced add-on installation. When you run one of those browsers for the first time after installing Avast, they’ll ask you if you want to allow the new add-on.

On the plus side, installing Avast doesn’t require a reboot, and using its uninstall tool we detected no remnants in the Registry or on the desktop. Avast has said that the installer has shrunk for all three versions by about 20 percent, although it’s still a large download at around 70MB for the free version.

A new Avast installation option, available only from the custom install menu, lets you sideload Avast as a secondary security program to supplement your main one. We’re not big fans of this option from a security point-of-view, because it can bog down your system resources without actually making you safer. However, for seeing if you like Avast, it’s not a bad thing as long as you remember to choose one security suite to go with.

Interface
Avast 7’s interface hasn’t changed much over the past three versions. There’ve been some decorative changes, a darkening of color here, lightening of grays there, but the changes have been either lightly cosmetic or utilitarian. For example, there are big graphics to illustrate the more nebulous security concepts that only have an on-or-off switch. This may sound useless, but it’s actually quite clever because it helps you visualize how one of the more complex Avast features is keeping you safe without bogging you down in jargon.

Highlighted with the familiar security colors of green for safe and red for dangerous, the Summary tab gives up-to-date info on shield status, auto-updates, virus definitions, the program version, and whether the silent/gaming mode is on. There’s also an unobtrusive ad urging you to upgrade to Avast Internet Security 7 if you’re using the free version, and an option to connect an Avast account. (This is for the Avast Web management tool, expected to be live about a month from when this review is published.)

The Summary tab contains two submenus, Cloud Services and Statistics. The former shows you how Avast’s servers help protect you, and offers a Settings button.

The latter is for those intrepid folks who’re curious to see how Avast’s shields have been performing against threats. It’s where you can get your math geek on. For each shield, it tells you how many files were scanned and when, and presents the data in a concise graph.

 

Performance
As far as Avast’s impact on system performance goes, in a real-world test Avast completed its scans in a timely yet not blazingly fast manner. A Quick Scan took about 20 minutes, and the Full Scan took 59 minutes. RAM usage was surprisingly light, with Avast only eating up about 16MB when running a scan.

CNET Labs determined that Avast has a fairly light touch on your computer’s performance. Avast Free 2012 scored well below the average impact on start-up time, and had the least impact of all suites tested on your PC’s shutdown time. Scans were faster than average, beating big names like Norton, Kaspersky, and Bitdefender, a tad slower than AVG, but not as fast as Trend Micro or Webroot.

 

Security Program Boot time Shutdown time Scan time MS Office performance iTunes decoding Media multitasking Cinebench
Unprotected system 40 6 n/a 395 120 342 17,711
Average of all tested systems (to date) 67.4 16.2 1,058 414 125 347 17,129
Avast Free Antivirus 2012 55.2 9.6 800 412 126 347 16,976
Avast Pro Antivirus 2012 69.8 11.3 732 402 126 343 17,148
Avast Internet Security 2012 63.6 12.2 831 407 125 346 17,060

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