AVG AntiVirus Free 2013 Review
When talking about free antivirus software, many people instinctively think about AVG. AVG has been available as a free product since 1998, and many people have used it to protect their computers at no cost.
Since then, the Internet security landscape has changed somewhat. AVG are now among several providers who offer a free product, with even Microsoft offering one of their own. We were therefore curious to see how well AVG stands up to its new competition.
All-in-all, we were impressed in several areas, especially in terms of the low memory footprint which had no noticeable impact on the performance of our test machine. And while AVG Free didn’t quite manage a “perfect” score in our real-life tests, it did really rather well.
AVG offer just two software options: the free AVG Antivirus 2013, which we concentrate on in this review, and a commercial product (AVG Internet Security 2013) at €44.95 (around $60).
As you can see in the screenshot above (which is, in fact, just a proportion of the comparison chart), AVG are keen to show how many more features are available in the commercial product, and in fact specifically recommend it for anyone who “shops or banks online.” However, as stated above, this review concentrates on the free antivirus product, which the vendor describes as providing “essential protection.”
AVG Antivirus Free is, by its nature, a simple product. After installation the two key functions (update and scan) are made available via a Windows sidebar gadget:
The more in-depth features of the software are available from the main software interface, accessible via the Windows system tray.
AVG clearly use the program GUI to do all they can to convince people to upgrade to the commercial Internet Security product, with the offer of a 30-day trial, and various features only accessible after upgrading. However, the free edition includes the following key features:
On-Access Scanning: The core of most antivirus software, this feature scans each file as the computer accesses it. The AVG Free product also scans for rootkits.
Surf Shield: This works to alert you to any sites that may be compromised while you browse the Web. AVG Free also includes identity protection.
Email Scanning: Email scanning is included for incoming and outgoing mail, although the latter is disabled by default. Email scanning is configurable with a wide range of options, includes heuristic functionality, and scans for viruses within archived attachments.
PC Analyzer: PC Analyzer is halfway between a registry clean-up tool and an enhancement of Windows’ inbuilt Disk Cleanup utility.
Custom Scanning and Scheduling: It’s possible to schedule full or partial computer scans, and do “on the fly” scanning of individual files and folders. One-off “right click” scanning is also available.
Although the list of features is fairly limited, it’s impressive enough for a free program, and all of the features are clear and simple to get to.
Installation and Configuration
Downloading the free version of AVG is very straightforward: there is a link on the first page of the vendor website. However, you are persuaded to invest in the commercial product before you reach the download link!
The installation file is small, as the install routine downloads additional software whilst in progress. Running the install file first prompts for language selection:
Then, you are once again tempted by the proposition of installing a free trial of the commercial product, rather than the free software. It’s certainly hard not to admire AVG’s persistence in making some money from their software!
Next, you are offered an “express” or “custom” installation. We chose “express.”
Next, we were asked if we wished to install an AVG “Safe Search” toolbar. We declined. Then, the installer proceeds with downloading the remainder of the software.
Once the download completes, the software begins to work immediately, with no requirement for a reboot. An update of the virus definition files also began automatically.
Once this was complete, we were then presented with the software’s user interface.
We began our “real-life” testing by plugging in a USB key containing a test virus developed by the European Expert Group for IT Security.
As soon as we attempted to run the file saved on it, Windows blocked access to it and an AVG warning appeared:
Next, we attempted to install our fake, “scareware” antivirus product. This also instantly triggered AVG to block access to the file.
Finally, we proceeded to install our fake copy of Google Chrome. This is a particular challenge for antivirus software, as it counts on the user to accept the installation of a range of rogue programs with a questionable reputation.
Unfortunately, AVG didn’t prevent us running the program installer. However, it did trigger a warning about one part of the installation as the software installed, but it was unable to remove the virus found at the time.
The installation also tried to mess with our browser search settings, however Windows itself alerted us to this.
In the end, the installation completed, and did manage to install various items of malware on our test machine, including Desk365, which is widely considered to be a nuisance at best, malicious at worst.
Finally, we proceeded to run a full scan on our machine. This did pick up (and clean) another couple of infections. However, we were still left with the Desk365 software and a hijacked Internet Explorer browser.
We were pleased to note that, even during a full scan, AVG only had a memory footprint of 11MB.
AVG provide links to a number of support options via a “support” button within the program interface. These include self-service options such as FAQs and virus removal tools.
If you need help from a “real person,” AVG offer telephone support in the USA and UK, and live chat support from 9AM to 10PM EST.
- Low memory footprint
- Completely free
- No noticable impact on performance
We weren’t so sure about
- Constant pestering to upgrade to commerical product
- Struggled to deal with a file containing multiple threats
AVG have had to adapt to a changing marketplace, and it’s pleasing to see that the latest version of their product is suitably lightweight, after anecdotal reports of a tendency towards bloatware in recent years.
The basic functionality is adequate too, and the product had no problem dealing with two of our virus tests. Unfortunately it struggled with a more complex threat. However, if you just need a simple free product to use in a “low risk” computing environment, AVG is worth consideration.