AVG 9.0 Anti-Virus Free Review

by Reads (47,500)
  • Pros

    • It's FREE
    • Virtually no performance impact
    • Identity theft protection
  • Cons

    • Could be more proactive
    • Feature-light
    • LinkScanner requires toolbar

By: Charles P. Jefferies

Introduction

AVG 9.0 promises protection and performance improvements as well as a better user experience over the previous version. Does it work as advertised? See how it fared in our testing.

Product Overview

AVG promises hassle-free protection from their 9.0 Anti-Virus Free suite. The software protects from viruses, spyware, and malware. AVG claims its newest 9.0 version has numerous improvements over 8.5, including significantly increased scan performance, protection, and ease of use. AVG claims scan times are reduced up to 50 percent. 9.0 also includes some new technologies. One of them is LinkScanner, which provides anti-phishing protection on the Internet by scanning Internet search engine results.

Also new in 9.0 is integration between the Resident Shield and identity protection modules (and the firewall module, however the Free does not include a firewall). This increases protection by allowing the modules to share information with each other and resolve unknown threats.

AVG also offers something that other security vendors do not — free identity protection. The AVG Identity Theft Recovery Unit provides protection through Intersections, Inc. The Identity Theft Recovery Unit will provide AVG customers compromised by identity theft with a support team to help them get back on their feet free of charge.

Customer support for AVG Anti-Virus Free customers is handled through a community forum; registration is required to participate but anyone can read it.

Download & Installation

The AVG Anti-Virus Free installation begins with downloading a download manager from the company’s website. The download manager handles the download of the actual program files and initiates the installer. It takes about five clicks and just a few minutes to get through the install. The steps involved include accepting the license agreement, choosing the installation type (we chose standard since that is what most users will choose), and activating the software license.

Users are given the option to install the AVG Security Toolbar, which provides the above-described LinkScanner functionality and the option to provide AVG with anonymous information about discovered threats. Although AVG claims the installation process was shortened by 50 percent, we cannot say it was any different versus 8.5. That is hardly a complaint since the install is relatively painless and is easy to click through.

Program Interface

AVG 9.0 Anti-Virus Free interface

AVG 9.0’s interface is more or less identical to 8.5’s. The color scheme is easy on the eyes and navigation is simple. Basic navigation is handled by tabs on the left; more detailed navigation is handled through menu options along the top. The Overview tab shows an overview of all components and their status. Double-clicking on any component in the center shows more information about it:

AVG 9.0 Anti-Virus Free Resident Shield

The scanner tab allows users to start a system scan and schedule scans. Lastly, clicking on the Update tab initiates an update. The software updates itself automatically so there is little point to visiting this tab.

Advanced program settings can be accessed through the Tools menu:

AVG 9.0 Anti-Virus Free advanced settings

Most users will not have to touch anything in here; we did not have to.

In Use & Effectiveness

AVG Anti-Virus Free stayed out of the way during everyday tasks. The LinkScanner feature was helpful while picking through search engine results because it helped determine the safety of links displayed. Over 100 different potential threat indicators are applied to each page to determine a link’s safety. A small indicator icon is displayed next to each search engine result:

AVG 9.0 Anti-Virus Free LinkScanner results

To test the effectiveness of AVG I used several virus files from Eicar.org, an IT security website. The four files provided for download, which have different extensions including .com, .zip, and .txt, contain viruses. Please see the test description for extensive information on the tests. Good anti-virus software should detect these files as threats.

AVG 9.0 Anti-Virus Free Threat Detected

AVG detected all four threats; one during download and three afterwards. It did not detect them immediately upon download but a minute or two later came up with a warning and automatically removed and neutralized them. A history of detected threats can be viewed:

AVG 9.0 Anti-Virus Free History

Overall AVG performs as expected; it protects though is not particularly pro-active. More pro-active solutions detect viruses during or even before download.

Performance Impact

We evaluate the performance impact and system resource usage of using anti-virus software in three ways:

1.    Overall system performance measured before and after installation using PCMark, a system benchmark suite

2.    Memory footprint

3.    Time it took to perform a full system scan

Our test system is an HP Pavilion dv5t:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 (2.26GHz/3MB L2/1066MHz FSB)
  • 4GB RAM
  • 500GB 5400RPM hard drive
  • Windows Vista Home Premium x86

Overall System Performance Impact Measured with PCMark Vantage

Prior to installing AVG the notebook had the following numbers:

PCMark before AVG 9.0 Anti-Virus Free install

After installing AVG I ran the benchmark again:

PCMark after AVG 9.0 Anti-Virus Free install

The difference — well, it essentially does not exist! AVG has a near-zero impact on system performance — most impressive.

Memory Footprint

AVG 9.0 Anti-Virus Free memory footprint

AVG uses about 35MB of system memory according to the Task Manager, which is basically nothing. Some antivirus suites use less (15-20MB), however the difference is so trivial considering how much memory modern computers have that it does not matter.

Time it took to perform a full system scan

AVG 9.0 Anti-Virus Free scan time

A full scan of our test system’s hard drive containing 122GB of data took 23 minutes, which is about twice as fast as competitors Norton 2010 and ESET NOD32. AVG 8.5 lagged behind so there were clearly performance gains made in 9.0. AVG did an optimization scan after it installed, which probably helped reduce the scan times:

AVG 9.0 Anti-Virus Free setup

Conclusion

It is difficult to complain about a free product — even so, we have very little to complain about AVG Anti-Virus Free. While not as proactive as paid competitors’ software it still gets the job done and includes nifty utilities such as the LinkScanner Internet toolbar. The free identity theft protection is an added bonus. Even though AVG Free is free, it can still compare to paid solutions. We recommend AVG Anti-Virus Free to users looking for basic protection.

PROS

  • It’s FREE
  • Virtually no performance impact
  • Identity theft protection

CONS

  • Could be more proactive
  • Feature-light
  • LinkScanner requires toolbar


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