As with most antivirus software, during the installation of any of Avast’s products, the user will be prompted to remove any competing apps and security software, although you can activate Avast’s passive mode if you want to use an alternative antivirus product at any point.
Avast is compatible with a range of different operating systems and installs with Windows 10 without issue, unlike McAfee for example which requires a pre-install tool to be activated before the actual antivirus software can begin installing. In fact, installing Avast was almost a pleasurable experience and certainly a lot faster and easier than my previous attempts with Norton and BitDefender.
The installation wizard takes care of the entire setup process for you and activates basic security using its default settings automatically. It will also prompt the user to complete an initial scan once the installation process is complete. Swift and smooth, Avast is one of the easiest antivirus apps to install on Windows 10 and is strongly recommended for those battling with aging machines and out-of-date operating systems.
Virus, Spyware & Malware Protection
To protect against cyber threats such as ransomware, malware, phishing, and viruses, Avast applies six different layers of detection and protection. These layers are:
- Avast Web Shield – uses content filtering and URL detection algorithms to prevent malware infections and phishing
- Static Scanner – uses machine learning and other detection methods to ascertain a file’s characteristics and behavior enabling it to differentiate between malicious and benign
- Emulators – by imitating the native computer system, this technology is able to safely gather information about potential harmful files and use it to block zero-day threats
- Avast DeepScreen – this virtual computer creates a quarantine zone in which suspicious files can be tested without endangering the device’s operation
- Avast CyberCapture – locks down the user’s device in the event of a sophisticated malware threat and moves the malicious files to Avast’s Threat Labs to be inspected and analyzed.
- Behavior Shield – keeps an eye out for any unusual or suspicious behavior that may indicate utility hijacking. For example, if an unauthorized user attempts to use your webcam, the Behavior Shield will interrupt the activity, invalidate the operation and isolate the offending objects.
Although this may all sound extremely complex and multi-faceted, it is only one aspect of the protection Avast’s products provide. The free Avast Antivirus software may only have three features but everything listed above is included in just one of them so, not only do you get multi-layered malware protection, but you also benefit from online protection and a secure password facility.
Avast’s level of protection increases step-by-step as you go further up the pricing structure so, by the time you arrive at the Ultimate package, you have so many layers of protection you’d be forgiven for feeling a little like a virtual Michelin man. In addition to a solid firewall, online and offline malware protection, Avast’s Ultimate package will also give you enhanced ransomware protection, webcam security, password protection and a Virtual Private Network function for private browsing. Avast’s premium packages also allow you to scan your Wi-Fi connection for potential vulnerabilities which means additional protection for those who often make use of public Wi-Fi hotspots.
While additional tools and features are all very well, the bottom line for any antivirus software is how effectively it can protect against malware and other cyber threats without impacting on system performance or throwing up endless false positives. In these terms, Avast is hard to beat, consistently outperforming its rivals. It can be a little over-zealous in its detection, however, and would benefit from reducing its false positive alerts. In every other sense, however, Avast offers outstanding protection backed up by the latest antivirus technology.
The latest versions of Avast’s Internet Security package boasts a couple of new features that users will welcome, including its sensitive data and ransomware shields. These new tools are designed to give users extra protection against ransomware as well as another layer of defense to safeguard your sensitive files and documents.
Features that were present in previous versions and remain central to Avast’s impressive internet security package include a file shredder, sandbox, secure browser, anti-spam technology, and password manager. Upgrading to the Premier package will also give users access to an adblocker, VPN, automatic updates, and performance optimization tools. Avast has also introduced a game mode which minimizes system impact to facilitate seamless online gaming.
One feature of Avast that’s not so appealing is its data collection policy which, Avast openly admits, allows for users’ search queries and browsing history to be shared with various third-parties and even redirects users to certain third-party websites. While some may feel this contravenes their right to privacy, Avast defends its actions by saying it uses the information gathered to provide better protection by amalgamating the threat data from its millions of users and using it to detect and defend against the latest cyber threats. That’s all well and good but not everyone wants their online activities tracked, hence the popularity of the best VPNs. Fortunately, Avast does seem to have some empathy with those who prefer to play their virtual cards close to their chests, and opting out of its data collection is both quick and simple.
Overall, there are few antivirus products that offer as comprehensive an array of tools and features as Avast. Norton does have its additional identity theft protection and dark web monitoring features which Avast does not, but beyond that, you can expect to find every security feature you need with an Avast subscription, and even the free version will give you robust basic protection.
Ease of Use
In the top right-hand corner of the main interface is the hamburger menu which takes you into another realm of possibilities. The settings menu basically gives you access to the same options as the menu in the main interface, but here you have access to a greater level of customization and specification. Almost every feature of Avast can be adapted to suit your individual security needs, whether that means selecting all jpg files for protection or choosing which notifications are silenced when Do Not Disturb mode is activated.
General settings can also be accessed via the hamburger menu and allow the user to protect their internet security product with a password, change their default language, and specific their privacy preferences.
Most of what Avast does in terms of protecting your device and sensitive data happens quietly in the background, without impacting on the user’s other activities. Unlike some products, like Norton for example, Avast’s impact on system speed and performance is minimal, a fact that boosts its overall performance score considerably.
While some antivirus software comes with impressive imagery and fancy logos (BitDefender we love you – to look at anyway), it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a pleasure to use. Avast’s design may not be anything to write home about but it’s certainly slick and simple, placing customizable protection in the hands of all users, from technophobes to cybergeeks.
One of the benefits of Norton is that you can choose between a monthly or yearly subscription, while Avast only has annual subscriptions available. Nevertheless, not all internet security companies offer multi-year subscriptions but Avast does, meaning you could sign up for three years’ protection under its Internet Security package and pay just $159.99, saving you $6 per year compared to a single-year subscription. It’s not much but every cent counts.
As with any cybersecurity product, having a free version available is always a bonus, and Avast’s free antivirus package is well-respected and versatile. If you want the additional benefits of a firewall, phishing protection, and extra ransomware security, however, you’ll have to be willing to commit to a paid subscription of some type.
Many antivirus software developers have regular discounts and special offers designed to make their products easier on the pocket and more appealing to users. These often mean significant savings. Total AV, for example, currently has a special offer that sees the regular price of its Essential Antivirus software slashed by nearly 80%. Although Avast doesn’t have any discounts available at present, if you’re really keen on getting Avast protection but not so keen on the price, keep checking back as a special offer is bound to crop up at some point during the year.
In addition to its free antivirus software, Avast also has a few handy features available to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. These include a host of ransomware decryption tools designed to release your device from the stranglehold of the most virulent cybercriminals
While Avast could make its products more appealing to a wider audience by introducing a cheaper basic alternative, it’s premium packages are still cost-effective. Furthermore, with free antivirus software available, Avast is hardly discriminating against those looking for a bargain. Overall, the level of protection provided by Avast’s premium packages doesn’t come much cheaper and skimping on cybersecurity in this day and age is a false economy.
Many of the more advanced customer support options are available only if you have paid for a subscription so, if you’re using the free software or taking advantage of a free trial, you may well feel a little isolated. Even the online support center tends to make you feel like a hamster on a wheel, making you jump through a seemingly endless series of hoops while presenting you with the same limited options over again.
Unfortunately, Avast’s online support for free users focuses on DIY solutions and leaves customers at a bit of a loss when it comes to actually getting in touch with a customer support representative. The user forums are popular and well-used but the search function isn’t particularly user-friendly and calls for the user to complete a nearly impossible to differentiate verification process. As the image below indicates, working out the letters in the verification window is nigh impossible making searching customer forums for solutions both frustrating and time-consuming.
Although paid and free users alike can get telephonic assistance with product choice, billing issues, software, and malware removal, there is only one single international number available, making it pricey for international users to access. Email support is reserved for paid users, although there is an online ticket system users can use to submit a query, the response times are fundamentally unimpressive.
With no live chat option available, Avast is really letting the side down and improving its customer support service to the point that it can compete with the likes of Norton would boost its overall score considerably. The only real positive about Avast’s customer support is its strong and responsive social media presence, usually responding within 24 hours to queries sent by either Twitter or Facebook. Avast also has a nice range of tutorials and product guides available on YouTube but this isn’t enough to compensate for the lack of options for direct communication.
Avast does have some interesting articles available in its Online Threats Academy but these are aimed more at familiarising users with potential threats than helping them operate their antivirus products and, again indicate that Avast has yet to understand the finer details and importance of robust customer service. It’s certainly not alone in this and more than a handful of antivirus companies could do with taking a look at the type of customer support other cybersecurity companies provide and start dragging themselves into the 21st century.
Lightweight yet powerful applications make Avast a popular choice while its user-friendly interface puts highly customizable protection in the hands of its users. Overall, Avast’s products are easy to use, even when operating the more sophisticated security options available in its premium options which is a good thing given the substandard state of its customer support service.
Prices are competitive and multiyear subscription options give users the chance to get even more protection for even less money. Avast’s operations run quietly and efficiently in the background making it the perfect choice for those who simply want a secure experience without too much tweaking or interference. Avast can perform a full scan in a matter of minutes which makes it appealing, especially for those with older or more sluggish devices.
At the end of last year, Avast introduced protection for iPhones and other iOS devices so is now compatible across most popular operating systems. Providing a high level of malware protection and enhanced online security with VPN and ad blocking features available as part of its more expensive packages, Avast is both robust and reliable.
Overall, Avast is an excellent choice whether you’re trying to save every penny or you’ve just won the lottery, if only it would do something to improve its customer support service.