Avast Free Antivirus from Avast Software is a free and comprehensive security solution for the home user.
The fact that it is absolutely free doesn’t take a shine from it’s armor. Avast Free Antivirus has consistently maintained it’s position at the top, alongside paid and expensive AV software, in security and AV tests conducted regularly by reputed organizations like ICSA Labs, AV-Comparatives, AV-Test, Virus Bulletin and West Coast Labs, among others. The long arms of avast provides efficient protection in the wide and wild landscape of viruses, rootkits, spyware and other malware. Added to that, the admirable scanning speeds coupled with low memory and CPU overhead makes it a hassle free and fairly lightweight solution.
The program is built around the concept of highly customizable modules, with each module protecting against a different attack vector. The ‘File System Shield’ is the real-time scanner. The ‘Mail Shield’ monitors activities of email clients like Outlook Express, Thunderbird etc. while the ‘Web Shield’ monitors web browsing. Then there is the ‘P2P Shield’ and the ‘IM Shield’ scrutinizing the activities of file sharing applications and messenger / instant messaging applications respectively. The ‘Network Shield’ protects against malware attempting to infiltrate your computer through the network and the internet. The ‘Script Shield’, as the name suggests defends against malicious local and remote scripts. Rounding up the formidable array is the ‘Behavior Shield’, which is sort of a commonsense or intelligent module that tries to predict and shield against new and unknown malware.
An advantage with this module based approach is that you can safely turn off an unwanted module thereby further reducing the already low memory footprint. For example, if you do not have or are not using any P2P applications like Kazaa or Bit Torrent, then you don’t need the services of the P2P Shield. Likewise with the Mail Shield and the IM Shield.
Other gunnery includes the ‘AutoSandbox’ that isolates suspicious or new programs (for eg. a downloaded game) exhibiting suspicious behavior, away from the operating system workings. In the event the program later turns out to be a malware, your PC remains unscathed because the program was run in a sandbox and the sandbox along with the contents are vaporized once the program or sandbox is closed or when you normally shut down the PC. Another component, called the ‘WebRep’ acts like a guardian angel that guides you on your wild wild web voyages. And yes, like a guardian angel, it only guides you; it doesn’t forcibly stop you from hara-kiri. It appears as a small beacon on your browser toolbar. And finally, the ‘Site Blocking’ feature enables you to manually block websites. These three components can be individually enabled / disabled and configured like the others.
Avast also has self-protection built in, enabling it to defeat common attempts of malware to deactivate it or change it’s security settings.
The identification and elimination of potentially unwanted programs (PUP) like adware, etc. complements the antivirus and antispyware capabilities. Another feature worth noting is the boot-time scan, especially useful for an already infected PC. Avast also has support for many types of packers and packed executables as well as archive / compressed files.
The initial installation is valid and active for 30 days within which you have to register the product. Registration with your email address is a quick, simple process either through the program interface or online, and is valid for an year, after which you can re-register again for another year and so on.