Avira Free Antivirus 9.0 Review

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  • Pros

    • FREE of charge
    • Virtually no performance impact
    • Reasonable scan times
  • Cons

    • Could be more pro-active
    • Unpolished interface
    • Pop-up ads

By Charles P. Jefferies

Avira AntiVir Personal is a free security suite for home users. It promises basic protection from viruses and spyware. How does it rank against other antivirus solutions? Read our review to find out.

Product Overview

Avira AntiVir Personal provides basic protection against viruses, worms, and Trojans, and also has basic anti-spyware protection. Avira claims the application monitors all user activities on the system for maximum pro-activeness.

Support is handled through an online support forum. An FAQ, tutorials/install guides, and documentation are all provided. This is essentially the same way AVG handles support for its free antivirus suite.

Avira is available in four languages — English, German, Italian, and French. AntiVir Personal is for home use only.

Download & Installation

Avira is a 33MB free download from the company’s website. The install is relatively simple and takes about 10-12 clicks and three to five minutes to install. This is slightly longer than other antivirus suites but nothing to complain about.

During the install users must agree to use the product for personal use only in addition to a license agreement. Registration is optional.

After the install, users must click through a configuration wizard which we found to be unnecessary. The wizard makes the user select protection settings, which was confusing as shown above. The next screen was equally as confusing:

Avira Free Antivirus 9.0 configuration screen 2

Avira Free Antivirus 9.0 configuration screen 3

Lastly, the wizard asks when to start the antivirus suite. Why? All of this should have been automatic; no other antivirus suite has required us to perform something this low-level. We left all install and configuration settings at default.

Program Interface

Avira Free Antivirus 9.0 interface

Avira has a simple yet drab and outdated-looking interface. Basic navigation is handled in the left pane, and the selected item is displayed in the center. The overview tab shown above displays the status of program components including security, last scan and update times, and license info.

We found the names of items to unwieldy. For example, overall status is shown in the “AntiVir Guard” component, but that was not immediately obvious. Avira uses color-coding for status, though it could be more accentuated.

Avira Free Antivirus 9.0 confusion

Many of the screens are not user-friendly. For example, the Local Protection’s Scanner screen displays the confusion screen at the right.

There are three options for each component listed, revealed by rolling over the icons:

  • Start scan with the selected profile
  • Start the scan with selected profile as administrator
  • Create a desktop link for the selected profile

These options are a first for us, and we’re betting most users won’t know what they mean.

Overall we find the interface lacking polish compared to AVG. It is functional but not always intuitive.

Updates

Avira automatically updates every 24 hours like AVG. Unlike AVG the updates took an unusually long time to complete; despite our 10 megabit connection we achieved just a few kilobytes per second download rate. The initial update was over 8MB in size, which at the slow speeds required over an hour of waiting to download and install. We actually aborted the update at first because we thought it froze. We can only hope this is a sporadic issue and not widespread.

In Use & Effectiveness

Avira Free Antivirus 9.0 advertisementAvira generally stayed out of the way with one exception: the occasional pop-up advertising for the paid version.

Since the software is free it is hard to complain about this, however AVG has a far less intrusive way of doing so through the program interface.

To test the effectiveness of Avira I used several virus files from Eicar.org, an IT security website. Please see the test description for extensive information on the tests.

Avira detected one out of four upon download and discovered the others during a system scan. It performed the appropriate actions to remove them from the system. This is the same level of pro-activeness we observed with AVG. Avira performs as expected with no surprises.

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
  2. Memory footprint
  3. Time it took to perform a full system scan

Our test system is an HP Pavilion dv5t.

Overall System Performance Impact Measured with PCMark Vantage

Prior to installing Avira the notebook had the numbers on the left. After installing Avira the benchmark was run again, producing the numbers on the right.

Avira Free Antivirus 9.0 preinstall benchmarkAvira Free Antivirus 9.0 post-install benchmark

Avira has essentially a 0% impact on system performance — call us impressed. This is on par with AVG and bests many paid solutions.

Memory Footprint

Avira uses about 20MB of RAM, which is less than AVG.

Time it took to perform a full system scan

Avira took 45 minutes to scan our test computer’s hard drive with 122GB of data; this is a very reasonable time and beats the scan times of some paid solutions. AVG comes in at 23 minutes however only after performing a system optimization scan.

Conclusion

Avira is a functional free antivirus suite. It matches AVG for proactiveness and system performance impact, however we have reservations. Its interface is very Windows 98-like and not always user-friendly. Updates take a long time to complete. We did not like the occasional pop-up ads for the paid version either. Overall we recommend the suite though prefer AVG due to its better interface, faster updates, and non-intrusive ads.

PROS

  • FREE of charge
  • Virtually no performance impact
  • Reasonable scan times

CONS

  • Could be more pro-active
  • Unpolished interface
  • Pop-up ads


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