Avast Antivirus Review (2020) – Is This the Best Antivirus?

Avast Antivirus has been around for years and is easily one of the most popular antivirus app available, and it is not difficult to see why. This antivirus service works amazingly without any annoying restrictions to persuade you to upgrade. With Avast’s free account, you get the full package which includes an antivirus, malicious URL filtering, password manager, network vulnerability scan, and other extras.

Upgrade to Avast Premium Security suite and you’ll be furnished with a firewall, spam filter, secure file deletion, and even webcam hijacking protection. There is also an additional anti-ransomware feature that prevents unauthorized apps from modifying your files and software updated that automatically finds and installs missing security patches.

Highlights of Avast Antivirus

  • Compatible with most operating platforms: Windows 10, Mac, Android, iOS
  • Offers different levels of protection against malware
  • Effectively detects phishing sites
  • Strong security plug-in for browsers that detects suspicious websites
  • New passive mode for running multiple security products in parallel

Avast is best for

  1. Those who use many devices under one network. The antivirus offers free scanning of local WiFi network and each available device
  2. The free version features are equal to what most competitors offer in their paid subscription
  3. Playing games, watching movies, or making a presentation in full screen with their Do Not Disturb Mode that blocks all non-critical popups

In today’s comprehensive review on the Avast Antivirus, we will be figuring out all the benefits and weaker points of this product to give users an honest, unbiased overall view of its possibilities.

Security

Despite being a free service, the Avast Free Antivirus offers much more functionality than others. The basic scanning feature not only searches for viruses and malware, but it also works to detect outdated software, malicious add-ons, network issues, unprotected sensitive documents, and weak passwords.

While it is a rather extensive list of services, the last two have got me to raise my eyebrows. How would Avast identify and determine which are documents in my folder contain sensitive information and how would it find out the strength of my passwords?

Fret not as the highly effective document scan is able to sort out tax records, employment documents, financial statements, and other important documents. It will dig high and low to extract files that you have left forgotten within the hundreds of folders on your computer. Avast even gives you an easy button to the right side of each entry that shows you the exact location where the documents are stored.

Avast leverages a technology known as Data Loss Prevention (DLP), which is a tool that is commonly used by large data-storing companies. The DLP technology is able to effectively scan word documents and conduct optical character recognition (OCR) on your documents to detect strings of numbers that resemble sensitive bits of data. With this system, users can know where these data are stored and even take steps to ensure it cannot be moved or deleted.

In the upgraded Avast Premium account, you get the option to encrypt this sensitive information and store it in the service provider’s secure digital locker. When the system detects an attempt to move or delete such files, the program works to block access immediately and notified the user of such activities.

On the other hand, Avast’s password scan is quite frankly a letdown. What it essentially does is just to inform you that storing your passwords in the browser leaves you susceptible to cyberattacks and recommends users to upgrade to their Premium account in order to use Avast Passwords. While the password management system is useful, it is not all that worthwhile for a full year of subscription, especially considering that there are plenty of standalone password managers readily available online.

Antivirus Engine

While these extra features make for a nice add-on, the core of the antivirus scan itself is its malware detector function. Independent lab tests highly rated Avast for its antivirus engine that demonstrates advances features and flagging zero false positives. This is an impressive feat as not many antivirus engines have scored just as highly.

Under a real-world condition test, Avast performed efficiently at detecting and mitigating vectors that malware utilizes to propagate. The antivirus system detects almost all forms of advanced malware and works to prevent them from even getting installed on your computer. If any malware does successfully get by the first barrier, Avast’s automatic scan will detect it and destroy the infection within the day.

When Avast detects an attempt on malware execution on your computer, it will immediately spring into action to quarantine and delete them. If Avast detects a suspicious unknown file, it will kill the process and will send the malware sample to its corporate headquarters for further analysis. You even have the option to individually scan your files in the event you suspect that Avast has missed it.

Avast is able to detect most sites that attempt to distribute malware before the download even begins in order to prevent them from even entering your computer. Those who get past the detection, the malware will usually be caught by Avast’s active protection during the download stage.

Avast’s paid plan includes an additional feature to protect users from phishing attempts. Phishing sites work to duplicate banking login screens and social media to trick users into giving them their login details. Avast does not only just block blacklisted sites; they can also identify new phishing sites that have yet been registered by the security researchers.

Avast utilizes AI to help you detect phishing sites with hundreds of millions of sensors to provide data. This makes it possible for Avast to detect threats much faster and offer better protection to users. Avast scans every single site that you visit and analyzes it according to a pre-set list of criteria to determine whether it is safe or not.

Overall, the free version of Avast offers one of the best security available. However, the paid features, which include a password manager and sensitive files encryption option, is not all that worth it for a full year’s worth of subscription.

Features

Other than the core antivirus function, Avast also offers a bunch of additional features in both their free and paid plan that is specially designed to keep your data secure. Here’s a quick rundown on all their features:

Free Features

The features offered in the free plan are critical to online security and user’s quality of life. Their advanced security scan can easily be found on the “Smart Scan” button on the program’s main menu. Under the “protection” tab, you’ll find more options such as “Full Virus Scan” and “Boot-Time Scan”.

The Full Virus Scan is much more thorough than the primary smart scan albeit slower. The scan can take up to a very long time – sometimes even up to a couple of hours – to fully detect and resolve threats on your computer. While it takes a long time, it is a good idea to fun the Full Virus Scan at least once after you’ve installed Avast to weed out any lingering threats hidden within your computer.

Most advanced malware now has the ability to persist even when their original files are long-gone from your computer’s operating system. These viruses exist outside of the primary OS and can simply reinstall themselves. This is where the Boot-Time Scan comes in handy. Avast restarts your computer and watches for suspicious programs that try to execute while your computer is running. It detects and immediately puts a halt to such activities.

Lastly, Avast Free Antivirus also comes with a full-featured WiFi scanner that is designed to protect you both at home and when you’re out. The scan is able to identify every device that is connected to your WiFi in no time. Avast also points out any vulnerabilities of your devices such as exposed ports, default passwords, and so on.

Performance Features

Many white hats and black hat hackers are constantly on the lookout for security holes within the software, and security companies work round the clock to patch them up as soon as they can. Users are normally susceptible to these attacks especially when they do not apply security updates.

Fortunately, Avast’s Software Updater helps to scan your computer and report any outdated software it finds. Then, you have the option you can click on to update the apps. The automatic update function is, sadly, only available in the paid security suite.

The antivirus program postpones scheduled scans and suspends most non-critical notifications when it is set in the Do Not Disturb mode. Avast even notices when you run a program in full-screen and offers to add it into the list to avoid being a disturbance itself. The scan will only run after you’ve shut down the full-screen program.

Paid Features

Other than the scanning features discussed above, Avast does not really offer much else. One of the extras included in the paid plan is a utility that helps to clean your computer’s hard drive. Avast also has a secure erase function that writes over a file that you want to delete many times to completely remove any traces of it from your computer. While the system works fine, it is a function that not many general users will require.

Avast also offers a VPN add-on that you have the option to subscribe to, but other standalone VPN services offer similar or better features for much less. So, all-in-all, there still isn’t much to convince me that it’s worthwhile to subscribe to the premium pricing. The features available won’t make you much more secure than the free software, and these functionalities are also easily available from third party software that is much more affordable.

High Lab Scores

Many antivirus companies typically pay to have their products tested by independent labs. High scores help to reassure users on the security of the antivirus and if companies achieve a low score, they can work on improving by examining what went wrong. Avast subscribes to not one but four different independent lab testing and has earned three Advanced+ ratings and one Advanced. These high scores are quite impressive, especially for a free antivirus company.

Below is a list of performance categories that Avast scored highly in the independent lab testing:

  • File copying
  • Archiving/Unarchiving
  • Installing/Uninstalling apps
  • Launching apps
  • Download files
  • Browsing websites

Ease of Use

Avast boats an intuitive interface that can be easily navigated by beginners. On top of that, you can even customize your interface by adjusting or turning off tools. Other than that, Avast continues to work in the background even after you suspend or close the main dialogue window.

You also have the option to quickly check the current security status at any moment. If everything is okay, the Status button will appear green which will immediately turn red when the software detects a threat. You can also quickly run the Smart Scan option directly from the Status menu.

Despite all the strong features offered, friendly usability is something Avast does not come with. While it is understandable that antivirus companies need to earn money by having users subscribe to their paid plan, but Avast’s liberal use of dark-pattern UI makes it very frustrating to use their services.

A classic example is when you boot up Avast, a huge white box appears at the bottom to offer you a welcome gift. When you “unwrap” the gift, it turns out to be a huge discount on their subscription. The page does not have a “back” button, it only has an “upgrade now” button to click. In order to get out of the screen, you actually have to click X on the top right corner – which is very counter-intuitive as most users would think the button would close the entire program.

Once you get out of the page, another pop up immediately comes after to offer you a free trial. However, this is not the only method that Avast employs to convince its users to subscribe. Avast also offers other very confusing and intrusive upsells throughout its software.

Within Avast’s tabs, you’ll quickly notice that some of the options are closed off with a small orange lock on the top right corner. Naturally, you would expect that those without a lock can be used for free while you’ll need to pay to unlock the more advanced features. However, that is not exactly how it goes.

For example, when you click on SecureLine VPN, Avast will install a whole separate program into your computer, and when you try to run it, the app will ask you to pay up. This same thing happens when you try with other features. Avast will take you on a whole journey around the world and then ask you to pay up.

Another thing I noticed with Avast’s software is that their password manager is less than great. It operates as a browser extension that works to store all your passwords with a master lock. However, in terms of functionality, that is all it does, it will not suggest strong passwords, nor would it warn you about weak or duplicate passwords. It does not even come with a two-factor authentication option.

During installation, Avast also offers its Avast Secure Browser that is private, secure, and fast. It also automatically sets this as your default browser without your permission. Other than that, the installer also presents a full page of detailed explanation on how Avast uses your nonpersonal data, and how you can opt-out of it.

While these do not mean the functionality of the antivirus engine is weak, it does get worrying. Some may be able to tolerate Avast’s upsell effort, but for long-term users, the constant reminders and misleading menu options may just be a huge turn-off.

Support

Avast offers premium support services for its users with an extensive knowledge base that explains in detail how the features work and what they’re supposed to do. These easy-to-understand guides help to walk inexperienced users through the whole operation and even allow users to conduct some basic troubleshooting on their own.

The antivirus company also boasts a 24/7 call center for those who prefer to speak to a technician for more serious issues. The tech support specialists are able to quickly identify your issue and provide detailed information to resolve it in no time.

Pricing

When compared to other antivirus programs, Avast’s pricing plan is pretty average. There are four main subscriptions you can opt for – Free, Internet Security, Premier, and Ultimate. Personally, I think you should subscribe to the Internet Security plan if you’re determined to go for the paid features.

The Internet Security package comes with several useful features that are not available in the free plan, such as a Real Site option that works to keep users away from phishing sites and a Ransomware Shield to encrypt all your important files. It even has a firewall and anti-spam feature to block off any intrusion attempt.

Meanwhile, the other more expensive pricing tiers contain other features that are nice to have, but not critical. The Premier plan gets you a superfluous data shredder and disk cleanup function, while the Ultimate plan gets you the VPN and password manager. All these features are easily available from third party software at a fraction of the cost with the same effectiveness. So, it does not really seem worthwhile to upgrade to the more premium plans.

Money-back Guarantee

Most of Avast’s subscription products come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you do not want to continue using their products, you can easily opt-out of their recurring payment in the profile settings. The amount that you have already paid will automatically be refunded back to your PayPal or credit card. Besides, if the account was suspended by Avast, you will also be entitled to get a refund and you will not lose your money.

What We Love About It

  • Strong and reliable protection from various malware
  • Free password manager and free secure web browser
  • Home network scanning feature
  • Mobile security feature
  • Do Not Disturb mode suspends non-critical notification
  • Antivirus software is lightweight and does not slow down computer processes

What We Do Not Love About It

  • No automatic scanning of new drives connected
  • Boot scanning is too slow
  • No firewall offered in the free package

Final Verdict

Avast Free Antivirus offers great antivirus protection that earns good scores on various hands-on tests and independent testing labs. As for their extra features, Avast does offer much more than other competing antivirus services, including a network security scanner, password manager, and more. The basic version of the antivirus provides a lot of decent features that are good enough for general computer users. However, the premium features do not seem worth the price as all the add-on features can be found from cheaper and better third-party software.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Avast antivirus?

Avast antivirus is one of the most popular antivirus software available on the market. Avast first appeared on the market more than 15 years ago and is now installed on millions of computers worldwide. This antivirus software offers free and paid plans that work on most operating systems and even includes useful features.

Is Avast a good antivirus?

Avast is generally a good antivirus software that can be relied on to protect your devices from various online threats. In fact, it was one of the best services available with no compromise a while back. However, Avast has started to demonstrate weaker results compared to other more advanced antivirus competitions in recent years.

Is Avast completely free?

Yes, Avast Free Antivirus is completely free. However, the functionality of the free plan is limited compared to the paid subscription. On the other hand, the free option uses the same antivirus module which works to provide users with the highest level of security and protection.

Who owns Avast antivirus?

Avast antivirus is developed and distributed by Avast Software s.r.o which is headquartered in Prague, Czech Republic. Avast is one of the biggest companies in the industry working under the European Union legislation.

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