AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition

Antivirus program AVG 8.5 Free offers solid features and a generally polished interface, but its relatively lackluster showing at malware detection pulled it down to third place in our rankings of free antivirus software.

Summary

Note: This review covers version 8.5 of the software. This software is now in version 9.0.

Antivirus program AVG 8.5 Free offers solid features and a generally polished interface, but its relatively lackluster showing at malware detection pulled it down to third place in our rankings of free antivirus software.

AVG detected 95.8 percent of AV-Test.org’s malware zoo of about half a million Trojan horses, worms, spyware, and other nasties. Though that isn’t a terrible result, it doesn’t stand up well against the detection rates of the top performers, Avira AntiVir Personal and the unranked Panda Cloud Antivirus. Hampering AVG’s overall score was its 95.3 percent detection rate for Trojan horses, the most common type of malware in the set, as well as its surprisingly poor 88.8 percent detection rate for spyware that tries to steal financial-account passwords.

AVG’s proactive detection and scan speed were both in the middle of the pack. The software was third in tests that evaluate the program’s ability to block new and unknown malware. It ranked the same for on-access scan speed, which comes into play when you open or save a file. For on-demand scans it was much pokier (sixth out of nine), but since you can schedule the scans for when you’re not around, a slower speed isn’t as problematic here.

This long-standing program performed well in system disinfection. In one test, it detected and disabled all ten malware infections. It tended to miss less-critical things such as Registry changes or blocked access to the Windows Task Manager, but so did all the other free antivirus software we tried. AVG also did well in avoiding false positives, making only one boy-who-cried-wolf mistake.

The AVG package offers a good set of features. Its LinkScanner component will try to detect and stop attacks on Web pages while you surf, and it will provide safety ratings for search results (you can download LinkScanner by itself).

The program can scan e-mail, too, something only Avast Antivirus Home Edition and ClamWin Free Antivirus also offer. But while that is a beneficial extra, the program’s AVG toolbar with search options doesn’t afford any additional protection; you can safely skip it during installation. You’ll likely find most of the default settings appropriate, except for the daily full scan at noon. You can choose another time of day in the installation wizard, but to change it to a weekly scan you’ll have to adjust the settings after installation.

AVG displays an ad for its paid product at the bottom of the main program window, along with an occasional pop-up ad. Neither is especially intrusive, and the interface is generally straightforward enough for use on a daily basis.

AVG 8.5 Free is well-rounded overall, but its second-tier malware detection rate should make you consider one of the better-performing programs first.

—Erik Larkin

Software
Platform Version Release Date Size
Windows 2000, 7, Server 2003, Server 2008, Vista, XP, XP x64 Edition 9.0 April 2, 2010 46.5 MB Download
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