Avira Antivirus Free Review
Based on our review, those many people can rest easy, as Avira’s free product did superbly in our real life tests. That alone warrants a recommendation, but at the same time it’s important to recognise that this really is a “light” version with minimal functionality. Those with anything beyond very basic requirements may want to consider upgrading to a commercial version of the product.
As is usually the case with free antivirus software packages, there are commercial products on offer from the same vendor too.
In common with AVG, Avira recommend their chargeable product for anyone who shops online – a clever marketing tactic. In the case of Avira, the Premium Antivirus costs €24.95 (approx. $33) for one year.
Avira also offer two Internet Security products, including a “plus” version. While the principal Internet Security offering adds “secure online banking,” the remainder of the extra features in the Internet security products are additional utilities that aren’t really related to security.
For the purposes of this review, we concentrate entirely on Avira’s Free Antivirus product, but 30-day free trials are available for all of the other products.
As is usually the case with free Antivirus products, the feature list for Avira Antivirus Free is rather limited. Particularly notable is the absence of any email or attachment scanning.
Key features of Avira 2013 include the following:
Real Time Scanning: Often known as “on access” scanning, this is the main feature of all antivirus programs and scans files as they are accessed by the operating system.
Spyware Scanning: This blocks malicious and irritating programs and is pleasing to see in a free security product.
Tracking Blocker / Safety Advisor: In common with many antivirus products, Avira includes a browser toolbar extension, which encourages you to use a custom search facility. We’re not a huge fan of these toolbars as they clutter our Web browsers and often duplicate the functionality provided by the browsers themselves.
On-Demand Scanning: One-off scans can be performed of individual drives. A one-off rootkit scan is also available.
Scheduling: A task scheduler is built in so you can configure custom scan jobs.
Avira’s free product does feel as if it’s been truly “stripped down,” when you begin to explore the interface. This is, arguably, a better way to entice people to buy the full product than intrusive advertising!
Installation and Configuration
It’s easy to download the free version of Avira, but as is usually the case, you must turn down the offer of the chargeable product first, as shown below:
The installation file is small, but the full product downloads as part of the installation, as is often the case for modern Windows installers. This download took about five minutes – a surprisingly long time over our fast DSL connection.
Before the installation continues, the installer scans for “incompatible software.” This is a nice touch, as installing two antivirus products on the same PC usually results in a serious mess.
We were then offered a choice of an “express” or custom install. We chose the express option.
As discussed briefly in the “key features” section, we then reached the point where the software installer wanted to install the search toolbar. It also wanted to change our search provider to Ask, and change our browser homepage. We didn’t like the intrusive nature of these suggestions, and declined them all.
Avira then began to run (with no reboot needed), and performed an impressively quick startup scan, which completed in less than a minute:
We were then able to access Avira’s main interface, courtesy of a new icon in the Windows system tray. Upon opening the program, we were prompted to update the virus definitions, which was a very quick process.
We noticed, on exploring the interface, that several features were greyed out – all features that would unlock upon the purchase of commercial Avira products.
We threw our usual selection of real-life viruses at Avira, to see how it coped with genuine infections.
First, we plugged in a USB key containing the European Expert Group for IT Security’s test virus. As soon as we attempted to run the file, a warning popped up, and our access to the file was blocked.
Next, we tried to install our “scareware” fake antivirus product. Again, we were stopped in our tracks by Avira.
Finally, we tried our fake version of Google Chrome. This is sometimes a challenge for antivirus programs, as it contains a range of malware that installs when the user clicks “next” within the installer. AVG’s free product, for example, failed to fully prevent infection with this test virus.
Avira, however, came up trumps, and identified the whole installed as malicious, blocking access to it.
So, all in all, Avira did fantastically well, with a full 3 out of 3 in our real-life tests.
This meant that we didn’t need to run a full system scan to pick up any remnants, but we kicked one off anyway to have a look at the memory footprint of the software during scanning.
This was actually surprisingly high, at around 130MB, with an extra 20MB taken up with the program’s GUI. The trade-off was that a full scan of our C drive took just 16 minutes, however we couldn’t help wondering whether a scan during heavy use of the computer would result in a noticeable performance drop.
Free 24/7/365 live support is quoted as one of the benefits of signing up to the retail version of Avira, so we were very interested to ascertain exactly what was on offer with the free version:
It turns out that all the free support on offer is “self service” in nature, although there is quite a range of forum and knowledge base content.
Another option for those using the free product is the rather innovative recommendation of the “Avira Experts Market,” which is accessible from directly within the software. This allows you to pay an Avira expert for assistance – costs are dependent on a negotiation with the individual technician.
Those finding themselves in need of support would probably be just as well to pay to upgrade to a commercial version of Avira, and then benefit from phone, email and remote support.
- Perfect results in real world tests
- Fast full system scan
- Persuasion to upgrade to the commercial version kept to a minimum
We weren’t so sure about
- High memory and CPU footprint during testing
- Lack of an email scanner
- Installer tries to change search and homepage settings
We were very impressed with Avira’s free product. Comparisons with AVG are inevitable, and based on our reviews the verdict is simple: Avira caught all three of our test infections and AVG didn’t. On that basis alone, Avira gets a firm recommendation.
The memory footprint during scanning is a small concern, and it is worth emphasising that this really is a “bare bones” product, with the lack of an email scanner a particular concern. Still, it’s an effective basic program, and you can’t argue with the test results.