I avoided the “Must Have” label for this one but it was tough. If you don’t like your current AV software or are about to spend money on some you should look here first. Avast Personal Edition is free (for home/non-commercial use) and is complete anti-virus software that does well in independent tests. I use it on all my Windows machines and recommend it whenever I can. When I was looking for AV software a couple years ago Avast came to my attention because it had scored 100% in Virus Bulletin testing and had gotten good reviews elsewhere. The clincher was that it was free for me to use.
You need to register to get a license key which is then good for 14 months. I’ve used the product for over two years and re-registering wasn’t a problem. They sell a full line of AV products so I assume they consider this a marketing expense. I give them credit and my thanks for making such a full featured product available for free.
They do offer a “Professional Version” for sale but the free version is not at all nagware or a severely limited product. A comparison with the Professional version is here. I’ve never run into a “You need the pro version for this, buy it now” type message when using Avast. The only mention is a “Buy Professional” menu selection. The online help does mention Professional only features but they aren’t identified as pro only which can be confusing.
- Resident scanner for for checking files and programs as they are accessed
- On-Demand scans of hard drives, network drives and removable media
- Resident scanners for E-Mail (Outlook, Outlook Express and others). Instant messaging, P2P, Network shield (protects against internet worms) and Web browsing.
- Scans inside .zip and other compressed files.
- You can’t schedule scans but there’s an anti-virus screen saver that will scan when the screen saver is activated.
- Virus definitions and program updates are downloaded automatically.
- Scans can be run a boot-time. They use the term “schedule” but this really means “set to run at next boot”.
- A virus recovery database is available. This collects information about your files (when your PC is inactive) on the theory this information may help repair an infected file.
- There’s logging and most other features you’d expect to find in a commercial product.
- Skinnable interface
The best thing I can say about this is that it works without being noticed. There’s no impact on performance which isn’t something I could say with Symantec when I used that. I don’t typically run into viruses but Avast successfully detected the Eicar test virus and then aborted the connection with the web page. It also correctly identified it as a test virus and not a real virus.
Check out Avast before spending money for AV on your home PC. Just because Symantec (or something else) comes with you PC doesn’t make it the best, just willing to pay your PC vendor the most for the privilege.