Avast does have a paid antivirus program, but we wanted to look at Avast FREE Antivirus because we receive a lot of questions about how well free antivirus programs perform. And Avast is one of the more popular free programs. This software does a good job protecting against malware, but its greatest benefit is for die-hard gamers because of its intuitive and automatic gamer mode.
The gamming mode of this virus protection program recognizes when you are playing online and automatically activates. It also instinctively adds your gaming sites to its safe list so the game mode turns on quicker the next time you log in. The gamer mode suspends some functions while you play so you have all the system resources you need to play without any slowdown. Avast also stops pop-ups that can cause distraction or additional lag while playing online. This antivirus still runs lightly in the background to catch any threats trying to sneak in.
Installing Avast FREE Antivirus is really easy, and the dashboard is laid out so you can quickly find the features, tools and settings you need. But there are some quirks to this program. First, unlike most other antivirus programs we tested, Avast didn’t add the browser extensions we needed. This required us to do a little more detective work and search for the extensions. Once installed, Avast let us know when it detected a threat by displaying pop-up messages outside of the browser. Even when the threat was a malicious site, rather than displaying an in-browser warning message like other programs do, Avast still used the pop-up method. This required us to be a little more vigilant at watching for these warnings. And when we would close the message, it would pop up again, just to make sure we saw it. This caused a lot of frustration and lost time when we wanted to move on to our next task but had to wait until the pop-up message was canceled.
During our live malware detection tests, this software correctly identified 97 percent of the threats. This is quite different from other independent test laboratories. Some other labs gave Avast higher scores while others awarded substantially lower scores for malware protection. We noticed that Avast didn’t stop threats in the browser, nor prevent malicious files from downloading. Most other programs, including Avira Free Security Suite, do just that. Instead Avast waited and caught each threat as soon as it downloaded completely. This made us nervous when we tested since we knew the type of damage these threats could cause to our computers. But Avast didn’t let any of them slip through. In fact, the samples it didn’t catch were a few websites that had been tagged as dangerous and listed in malware databases because they had a phishing scheme on them.
Because it is a basic, free antivirus program, Avast doesn’t have a lot of extra security tools. Phishing and spam filters, personal firewalls, password managers and parental controls are all included with premium programs offered by Avast. But Avast FREE Antivirus does have a vulnerability scanner that looks for weak points in your system where ransomware and hackers like to slip through.
Avast FREE Antivirus is a decent program for virus detection, though it has a lot of pop-ups that are distracting and cause some slowdown. When you’re playing games online, Avast’s gamer mode automatically kicks in and suspends several functions, including pop-up messages, so you’re not interrupted while playing. There aren’t many advanced protection tools included, but Avast does have a system scanner that looks for any vulnerabilities that hackers and other threats might take advantage of.