AVG Internet Security 2011 offers the full complement of tools you'd expect in an all-in-one Windows security suite, packaged in a simple-to-use interface and offering integration with popular browsers and Microsoft’s Outlook.
AVG Internet Security 2011 is aimed at those looking for a do-it-all piece of software, offering anti-virus, anti-spyware, a rootkit detector and killer, firewall, link scanner, online shield, email scanner, identity protection, spam killer and more.
A one-year subscription for a single computer sells for £37.99, a two-year subscription for £60 - and there are also discounts for up to 10 computers. It uses a "just-the-facts-ma'am" main interface for accessing all of those modules, in which a single screen displays a black-and-white icon for each.
Each active module of AVG Internet Security 2011 has a green check next to it, so that you know it's turned on and working properly. Most of the time, however, you won't see the main interface, because the modules do their work in the background. You'll only need to access it to change a setting.
But although the interface of AVG Internet Security 2011 itself is straightforward, the software uses wording that may confuse you. To turn off a module, for example, you right-click its icon and choose “Ignore the state of this component”.
Similarly, when you delve into the software's advanced settings, you'll find yourself occasionally scratching your head. What does it mean to "certify" incoming and outgoing mail, for example, and how does that differ from merely checking incoming and outgoing e-mail for viruses and other threats? The program, and its help file, offers no guidance.
On the plus side, however, those who like to configure their own security settings will find a wealth of options to tweak, all available from a single, straightforward advanced settings screen.
Underlying the simple veneer of AVG Internet Security 2011 is a more complex interface
The modules in AVG Internet Security 2011 work in much the same way as modules in similar suites. The firewall, for example, comes pre-configured to allow well-known applications such as browsers and e-mail software gain access to the internet. When you use software that AVG Internet Security 2011 doesn't think is safe, a notification pops up asking whether you want to allow the application to access the internet, and if so, whether to allow it just this one time or permanently.
You can also tell the firewall in AVG Internet Security 2011 whether to allow the application to access the internet on every network you use (home, work, Wi-Fi hotspots and so on) or only on networks known to be safe — an especially useful feature.
Similarly when the anti-virus module comes across what it perceives as threats, it notifies you and moves the offending software to a vault, where the software is disabled. You can leave the software in the vault, or else delete it or restore it if you decide the software is safe.
We found AVG Internet Security 2011's initial scan to be painfully slow, taking more than three hours. During the time the scan was being performed, it also slowed down our system and the operation of other applications. In later scans, we set the priority of the scan to be low, but even then it affected system performance.
Email attachment checking and anti-spam functions integrate into email applications, including Microsoft Outlook and any application that uses POP3, IMAP or SMTP. We tried it with Outlook and didn't find the anti-spam feature any more or less effective than the one already built into Microsoft’s email client, although it did seem to err very slightly on the side of identifying too many legitimate messages as spam.
AVG Internet Security 2011's System Tools module, which shows you all of your currently running processes, network connections, browser extensions, along with the software that runs on startup, is somewhat useful. But the module is bare-bones and offers no help. For example, it shows the names of files that run on startup, but doesn't explain what they do, or whether they can be safely removed.
Beware of upsells
AVG Internet Security 2011's link scanner installs as a toolbar into the Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox browsers and reports whether the page you're currently visiting is considered safe. But the toolbar also has a Yahoo! search box and link to Yahoo! Weather, which has nothing to do with keeping you secure and everything to do with whatever business relationship AVG has forged with Yahoo.
In fact, during the installation process, your default search provider will be changed to Yahoo! unless you uncheck the box that does that.
Installing unnecessary Yahoo! features is annoying enough, but even worse is the way in which AVG tries to sell you other services, in what almost feels at times like a bait-and-switch scheme.
For example, the main AVG Internet Security 2011 screen shows a PC Analyzer module. Click the icon and it will check your Windows Registry, check your hard disk to see if it is defragmented, check for broken shortcuts and see whether you have "junk files" that can be deleted to free up drive space.
However, when you tell it to fix the problems, you are sent to a web page that offers a download that will do the fix for a single time - the next time you use it, you'll have to pay an additional annual fee of $29.99 (£22).
We also found the results of the PC Analyzer somewhat suspect, and wondered whether it overstated the severity of the problems that existed on our system.
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