Avira Free Antivirus: The anti-virus battle just got easier…and free

Cezar Renta

Avira Free Antivirus proudly stands among the top free antivirus solutions as a proof of the developer’s constant efforts to improve malware detection & blocking rates but also the product’s usability. Equipped with the essential set of security features and a clean, straightforward interface, Avira Free Antivirus manages to remain one of the most popular choices in terms of free antivirus software.

Installation & Requirements

Avira Free Antivirus installs fairly quickly but we couldn’t say the process is completely painless. It seems that the program “feels” it may be incompatible with certain other security applications -in our case it was Spybot Search&Destroy)-, thus before the install process began we faced a notification regarding this problem that recommended we uninstall it. The truth is we kept Spybot S&D and both programs managed to live with each other perfectly.

The other unpleasant event that took place during Avira’s installation is the adware options of installing Avira SearchFree Toolbar and Avira SearchFree Updater and set them as our default search provider in order to receive web protection. Fortunately these features can be skipped and we hope that Avira will soon find a way to deliver web protection as a separate feature, unrelated with the toolbar and search engine.

There are no other issues and as soon as the installation is complete the Configuration Wizard pops-up guiding users into performing a basic setup of their antivirus. The wizard lets the user configure the detection of AHeAD heuristics, extended threat categories (in this case default values work just fine) and the start mode (Normal or Secure). The configuration process ends with the option to start an initial short system scan.

Avira Free Antivirus works with Windows Windows XP SP2 (32-bit), XP SP3 (64-bit), Vista SP1 (32 and 64-bit) and 7 (32 and 64-bit). It also requires 150 MB of free hard disk space (with additional space needed temporay and for quarantine), 512 MB of RAM for Windows XP systems and 1 GB or RAM for Windows Vista and 7 systems.

Interface

Avira’s interface is most likely one of the most important reasons that stand behind its popularity: the GUI is clean and straightforward featuring a well-organized sidebar menu and a large section dedicated to the overview area.

The menu is divided into four categories, each listing the related functions: Overview –Status-, PC Protection –System Scanner, Realtime Protection and Backup (which is disabled in the free version), Internet Protection – Firewall (disabled), Web Protection (this function is enabled for those who choose to install the Avira SearchFree Toolbar and Updater) and E-mail Protection (disabled). From the Administration section the user can easily manage Quarantine, Scheduler, Reports and Events.

The Status page shows an overview of the security features split into PC Protection and Internet Protection (although Avira Free Antivirus users can only benefit of Web Protection, while the Firewall and E-mail Protection are turned off). From here you can also start the scan and update processes but also configure them and the Realtime Protection.

Worth mentioning is the fact that the default scan settings do not include the Rootkit scan so you either tick the option from the scan settings (this is a quick rootkit scan), select the “Scan for rootkits and active malware” from the System Scanner menu or define it as a new job in the Scheduler. This is not a major drawback, although non-technical users can have a difficult time with this type of configuration.

The scan process is not among the fastest but it goes easy on system resources and the scheduled task can be edited to run unobtrusively in “invisible” mode. While not at the top, Avira Free Antivirus is among the free best security programs and tests reveal that significant improvements have been made from the previous version of the product.

Pros

– Straightforward, intuitive interface.

– Provides reliable protection against viruses, worms, rootkits, Trojans, dialers and other types of malware.

– Fully customizable scheduled tasks (scans and program updates).

– Multiple scan modes include Complete and Quick System Scans, Active Processes, Scan for Rootkits and Active Malware and many others.

– Settings can be visualized in a basic or an Expert mode.

Cons

– Daily pop-up nag screen.

– During installation it can detect potential incompatibility with other antimalware applications, recommending their removal.

– Updates are only provided on a daily basis.

Alternatives

Other free antivirus programs with similar capabilities to Avira Free Antivirus include avast! Free Antivirus, AVG AntiVirus FREE and Comodo Antivirus.

Conclusion

Home users can definitely rely on the essential but powerful protection delivered by Avira Free Antivirus. Even if the program runs just fine with the basic setup performed via the Configuration Wizard, its simple and convenient interface provides multiple, easy to manage options for demanding users that wish to further tweak their copy of Avira.