Free Anti-Virus Comparison ReviewGuest_Jim_* - April 9, 2013
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Avast! is more than just an antivirus with all of its neat features from multiple malware 'shields' to a nifty software updater. The software updater apparently checks some of the programs you have installed to see if any have updates available, and will then download and initiate the update for you. Of course that will help keep you secure as it will notify you when oft-attacked software, like Java, has an update which will close some security holes for you. However, we're looking at antiviruses and not general utilities, so let's talk about what this AV has to offer.
Along with a scanner, Avast! has shields to protect multiple aspects of your computer, such as the file system, email, network, and more. Such security is not unique to Avast! of course, but it is nice to have. Two things I feel worth mentioning about Avast! are that you do need to register to use the free version for more than 30 days and that it is not possible to disable it. Okay, most people are not going to be testing multiple antiviruses, so most people do not need the ability to prevent such a piece of software from loading, but I am just enough of a control freak when it comes to my computer, that I do not appreciate being given "Access Denied" messages when I try to turn something off. You cannot kill the process; you cannot change the Automatic setting in Services; you cannot disable the startup items. Once you install Avast! it is going to run when you boot-up your computer until you uninstall it. You can disable the shields through the tray icon, to minimize its impact one resources, but that is the most control you have.
Stepping away from that, possibly unique peeve of mine, the scanner for Avast! is not that bad. It has a very good record for catching viruses and other malware, and at around 49 minutes for a complete scan it is not terribly slow. It also is not terribly fast, but it could be worse. Without a doubt though, it is weird. Remember how one of the reasons I ran these tests on my laptop was because of the 60 GB SSD? Well Avast! found 82.9 GB of files to scan. Now THAT'S a thorough scan! Except that it actually scanned the third least number of files compared to the other antivirus programs I tested (literally half the one above it). Technically speaking, I guess it is possible it was double counting data size whenever it scanned archives, but I would hope that is not the case.
The weirdness does not end there though. The resource use information is definitely weird compared to the other programs. As expected, the CPU usage spiked when the scan started, but never really settled between two values, as it occasionally would leap from 50% to 100%. At the beginning of the scan, the disk was very active with transfers, but eventually relaxed down to only a few, possibly because the scanner started looking at processes loaded into the memory. Curiously though, the memory usage changed dramatically during the scan. Around one of the drops in disk transfers per second, the memory usage dropped a couple-three percent, but later on, with no apparent link to the disk, though perhaps one to the CPU usage, the memory usage dropped by an easy five percent. The only activity at the time was the scan running and performance data being collected, so it stands to reason that it was the scanner itself caused the drop in memory. How, I cannot guess though since starting the scan did not significantly increase memory usage. (By the way, this is true of every software I tested, not just Avast!)
While the experience of using Avast! has certainly not been my favorite, the reasons for that are so unimportant for most people, that really they should not be held against the program. If you are going to use Avast! as your primary antivirus/malware solution, I think you will be satisfied with it. If however you want something you can completely disable while benchmarking, this would not be it. (Hey, those few cycles and couple MB of memory dedicated to the tray icon could be a frame in 3DMark… or not. I'm just making up a defense for my control-obsession concerning my computers.)