Two of the most successful free Windows anti-virus products come from the Czech Republic. AVG, based in Brno, was once the most well-known of freebie options, while the subject of this review is the more recently popular Avast! 7 Free Antivirus from the Prague-based Avast!.
Both company’s offerings are stripped-down versions of their commercial products, providing straightforward anti-virus cover. Avast requires you to re-register Avast! 7 Free Antivirus annually, but otherwise you can continue to use it without interruption. See also: Group test: what's the best security software?
Once downloaded and installed, the main screen of Avast! 7 Free Antivirus is conventionally designed with an option menu down the left-hand side with setting and display panels to the right. The main options are Scan, Real-time shields and Additional protection. There’s also a Market tab, which offers a range of paid-for Avast products. Visit: Security Advisor
As well as comprehensive scan options: quick scan, full scan and custom scan, the other tabs offer some unusual options for a free product. There are eight different shields, for example, from a file shield, to a web shield, script shield and behaviour shield. They work together in Avast! 7 Free Antivirus to try to ensure miscreant code doesn’t run on your machine.
Then there’s Avast! 7 Free Antivirus's sandbox, which enables you to run new or possibly suspicious software in an environment where it can’t reach any important systems within your PC. A useful tool if you try out new stuff, regularly. One feature you’ll probably want to turn off is the annoying, American-accented voice, which too helpfully informs you whenever Avast completes any update or other housekeeping.
AV-Test hasn’t evaluated Avast! 7 Free Antivirus yet, but it’s most recent tests of Avast Free 6 in February 2012 gave it a good score of 14/18. This was made up of 4.5 out of 6 for Protection, 4.5 for Repair and 5.0 for Usability. It scored 96 percent or above in identifying zero-day malware, 98 percent in finding new examples and picked up a full 100 percent on more established code.
It managed to remove 85 percent of active malware, but could only remedy 59 percent of other malicious components. This is still above average, but not by a lot. It’s no better than average on the system slow-down it causes, either.
In our tests, Avast! 7 Free Antivirus showed very good scan performance, with the scanner checking over 18,000 files in our 50GB file basket in 2 minutes 12 seconds. That gives a scan rate of 137 files per second, the highest we’ve yet recorded. To achieve this level of performance, though, the software appears to make quite a hole in system resources. Our 1GB file transfer took over five times as long when Avast was scanning than when it wasn’t.