Avast! Free Antivirus 8 has been released

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 28, 2013
Updated • Feb 28, 2013
Antivirus, Security

The new Avast! Free Antivirus 8 has been released a couple of minutes ago and is now available for download from the developer website or via automatic update. It is necessary to pay attention to the installation dialog, as it includes an offer to install Google Drive on the computer system by default. Make sure you select custom install in step 2 and uncheck the Yes, install Google Drive box to avoid this from happening.

Custom installation also ensures that you can select the components that you want to install on your PC. The program makes available two profiles and a custom option. It is recommended again to select custom from the options to uncheck the items that you do not want to install on your system.

The available components are divided into three groups:

  1. Real-time shields: File shield, Mail shield, Web shield, P2P shield, IM shield, Network shield, Script shield and Behavior shield
  2. Components: Browser protection, Avast! gadget, Avast! remote assistance, Browser cleanup, Software updater
  3. Languages

Existing Avast! users may have spotted new features in Avast! Free Antivirus 8 already based on the list of components listed above.

Software Updater

This is a new component in all versions of Avast! 8 that scans installed software on the system to find out if updates are available. It works similar to SUMO and Slim Cleaner in this regard. The updater works manually in the free version, while it runs automatic in all paid versions of Avast! 8. In Avast! Premier, it even installs updates silently if possible.

The component scans programs such as Flash Player, Java, web browsers and media players as well as other popular programs that many Windows users have installed.

The Software Updater displays a system rating, from 0% critical to 100% good which tells you right away how well - or not - your system software is up to date. Each program is listed with its name and status, and fix now buttons are available for each program that is not up to date.

What is interesting here is that a click on the Fix now button will trigger the installation right away. Other programs usually redirect you to a website where the program needs to be downloaded before it can be installed manually. A great time saver.

What's not so good is that it does not warn you if the latest available version of a program, Java for instance, is not secure. This can give you a false sense of security.

software updater screenshot

Browser Cleanup

The Browser Cleanup module is another new feature that Avast! has build in to its products. I have reviewed this extensively here already. Only this much. You can use it to uninstall toolbars that are installed on your system. It is available as a standalone product or in Avast under Tools > Browser Cleanup.

All you need to do is click on a button to start the program. It will automatically scan the system for toolbars giving you options to remove those that you do not want to remain on it.

Note that the tool is currently only supporting stable browser versions and not beta or development versions.

browser cleanup screenshot

Remotely control a computer

You can use the free version of Avast Antivirus to remotely control a computer but not to configure the computer to be remotely controlled. For that, you need avast! Premier, a new commercial product that goes beyond what Internet Security has to offer.

So, you do need Avast Premier on the PC you want to control remotely, and any version of Avast on a remote PC that you want to use to control the other PC.

The feature is linked to the Avast account and can be protected with a second password for additional security. It goes without saying that both PCs need to be online for this to work.

New Interface

Avast! 8 ships with a new professional looking interface.The main page displays seven symbols and a menu on top only. Avast displays the system's status here, as well as options to run a scan, the software updater or overall statistics. The remaining three icons lead to commercial offerings, upgrades to add a firewall for instance to the system.

The front page displays the status of each installed component and whether cloud intelligence is working without issues.

You can click on any item here, or open the Antivirus group on the left, to display real-time information about a component's activities on the system. Here it is possible to stop any component directly or open its settings to configure it extensively.

The File System Shield alone makes available a large amount of settings, from configuring the auto-sandbox behavior of the program over when files are scanned on the system and file exclusions to whether archives should be unpacked during scans and the heuristic sensitivity.

avast free antivirus interface screenshot

Minor Changes

The following components have been improved as well by the team:

  • Behavior Shield: now communicates with Avast!'s virus lab for preciser detections.
  • Streaming Updates: to transfer updates sooner and faster to users.
  • Improved Reporting: displays more and better information about false positive urls.
  • Full Support for IPv6

Difference between Avast! Internet Security and Avast! Premier

Avast! Premier contains all features of Internet Security plus the following three features exclusive to the program:

  • Data Shredder to securely delete files on a system.
  • Software Updater can now run in automatic mode so that updates are installed silently as soon as they are released.
  • AccessAnywhere for making available the PC via remote connections.

avast 8 product family overview


While it is too early to tell how well Avast will perform in antivirus labs - the last version did well in most tests but not in all - it is the software updater that sets it apart from the majority of free antivirus solutions out there. There have been so many reports about vulnerabilities in third party software like Java or Flash that is exploited by malware creators that it is quite puzzling that the majority of security software producers have not started to integrate software checkers and updaters into their programs yet.


Tutorials & Tips

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  1. mishasin said on October 8, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Thanks Martin for the warning and tips on how to prevent possible headaches.
    Best regards

  2. Davin Peterson said on October 9, 2012 at 1:23 am

    Thanks for the good tips.

    I check my spam email to make sure their is no legitimate email and often find fake emails. So, when I hover the mouse over a link it goes to a different URL than the text.

    If you are not sure of an email, type the URL in the web browser, don’t click the link in the email

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 9, 2012 at 8:10 am

      Typing in the url manually is a good tip provided that you go to a legit site and not a fake one. So, if it shows paypal.com but the link is pointing to somesite.example.com, typing in paypal.com in your browser will do the trick. Then again, there is no need to do that if you have identified the email as fake.

    2. Mike Corbeil said on October 12, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      Davin Peterson wrote, “… If you are not sure of an email, type the URL in the web browser, don’t click the link in the email”.

      Rather than typing in the URL, why not simply right-click on the hyperlink in an email, choose to copy the actual or real link, paste it in the address bar of the Web browser that’s open, and then the user will immediately see what the real URL is? Pressing Return shouldn’t be done until having carefully examined the URL pasted in the address bar.

      I wouldn’t bother doing that, either, for I simply hover the mouse pointer over hyperlinks in emails using Thunderbird and this permits being able to immediately see what the hyperlink really links to. But, copying and pasting would often be quicker than retyping whatever the real link is.

      I begin by checking if the domain names are the same. If they aren’t and a reason isn’t provided in the email, then I surely won’t bother using the real url. Otherwise, I’ll check the rest of the real address shown when hovering the mouse pointer over the hyperlink. If there happened to be a redirection included in the full link, then we have a number of options:

      1) We can just ignore the link altogether.

      2) Copy the full link and paste it in a CTRL+D prompt for making bookmarks, but without saving the link as a bookmark; permitting us to scroll across the full length of the link to be able to carefully examine the whole thing.

      3) If options 1 and 2 aren’t convenient, then we can alternatively paste the real url in the address bar for a new Web browser tab, f.e.

      4) And if options 1, 2 and 3 aren’t convenient, due to the length of a url (being too long to be able to see the whole thing without needing to scroll or cursor over a lot of it, say), then we can paste the url in a temporary text file that provides wrapping of long lines.

      When we don’t choose option 1, then we can view the whole url and then decide whether we want to use it, or not.

      Retyping URLs is fine, if they’re not too long, but they often are. It would often be quicker to use one of the above 4 approaches, and maybe there’re other safe options that I’m not thinking or aware of. But retyping URLs isn’t going to be something I’d do, except for short ones; and I don’t mean links that’re just shorteners for the real URLs, for I won’t use these shorteners. It’s an interesting concept, but it’s unfortunately untrustworthy. Imo, no one should use services like TinyURL and likes. Nice little concept, but users need to know where they’re going, before going to wherever it is. Internauters, everyone for that matter, have an inherent right to know in what direction others try to lead them to.

      A good middle-aged Catholic priest I momentarily met during the 1980s, and yes, there’re some good RCC clergy, it happens, he told me the first evening of a weekend retreat, a little secret, or something the overall RCC at least appears to want to keep secret. He said that I had two bosses. First, there is God. And, next in line, is …, well, guess? Yourself! In another manner of speaking, no one should “mess” with the inherent rights of another. And I detest services like TinyURL, et cetera, being used. If it’s done at websites that I know to be reliably/trustworthily managed, then I don’t mind the presence of these links, though still don’t like the idea of using them, so I do so only on very rare occasion. Having plenty of security for my PC, I can, on rare occasion, make use of such links; but, I always detest that they’re used. I’ve only used such links maybe twice over the past several years and it was only at websites that I know to be very trustworthy.

      Thankfully, there’re add-ons for Firefox and these extensions will show the real URLs of short-cut, say, links; but, I don’t know if there’s such an add-on for Thunderbird and I won’t use Microsoft Outlook, Live, and other email services. I use other Web browsers, first Opera and then MSIE, but only when I’m trying to troubleshoot a problem. Otherwise, it’s always Firefox and Thunderbird. My main Firefox profile (having several of them in one Windows user account and using the -P option to select which profile to open with Firefox, and similar for Thunderbird) has plenty of security. GRC.com’s ShieldsUp! tests this morning reported that all of my ports, the first 1,085 or so, are all stealth-protected and I have basic Windows XP Firewall, Avira Antivir, Threatfire (from PC Tools) and WinPatrol always running. So I’m not worried; but, I still detest the usage of TinyURL and such services. It’s of no service to me, for what I want to see is the real url.

      Preferable to using such services is to just use a short name or title for a hyperlink, but a meaningful title; preferably. If the title attracts a reader’s attention, then the person can just hover their mouse over the hyperlink’s text in order to see what the real link is. With services like TinyURL, et cetera, the real links are completely masked, unless we use, f.e., Firefox with the Long URL Please extension, or the Long URL Please Mod one.

  3. Mike Corbeil said on October 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Quote: “It is important to verify links before you click on them.”

    Definitely, but as aware as I am about this, I sometimes forget and just blindly trust the text shown for a link. There haven’t been any nasty surprises for me, not yet, but it could happen. People should try to never forget to check what links lead to, before using the links.

    That’s when I used Firefox or another Web browser. With email, which I use Thunderbird for, I never open links directly from the bodies of the emails. Instead, I always use right-click on a link, select the copy option, and then paste the URL in the Web browser’s address bar or field. That guarantees always seeing what the URL is, before pressing the Return key, so it’s less likely that I’ll get “skunked”, say, when it’s a link from an email. It’s links in Web browsers that I need to try to never forget to properly check before opening whatever the corresponding pages are. Using Firefox over 99% of the time and Having Long URL Please Mod installed for Firefox extension is often useful, but I’ve recently found that this add-on didn’t seem to be working for some shortened URLs. I think that that’s now corrected, but it’ll take a while to be able to see if it is, or not.

    It may’ve possibly been for shortening links that the add-on wasn’t yet programmed for, but I’m pretty sure that this wasn’t the case. And some other things were no longer working correctly in Firefox over the past couple or few weeks. It all seems to now be corrected, after I shut down and restarted Firefox yesterday. And I just updated Firefox to v16.0.1 this morning.

    Your example using google.com (for hyperlink text) and bing.com for the actual URL is a good one, and I wonder if I would’ve checked what the real URL is, if I wasn’t reading the text of your tutorial or advice. By far most websites I use are very reliable, so I can easily navigate through them without double-checking what hyperlinks actually link to, and this can be a problem, for then we can easily come to develop the habit of opening links before hovering the mouse point over them in order to see what the real linked pages are. And habits are sometimes a little difficult to cease, until we “burn” ourselves one or two times; if not three.

    I think that I’m very safe, anyway. For the past couple of hours, I’ve been running GRC.com ShieldsUp! tests and the very initial page finds a “machine name” for my PC or connection, though also says that this may or may not be permanent, so I’ll have to check again after rebooting the PC, eventually. Other GRC ShieldsUp! tests say that all of my ports are stealthed though. Apparently, people from the WWW or WAN world can get access to my PC and maybe that’s because a router was added last week. I have only one PC connected to the Internet, but learned last year that passing through a router, rather than directly through a hi-speed modem, provides a considerable amount of security. So, and having learned that from both experienced users as well as college teachers in computer network administration, I definitely wanted a router for my personal connection.

    Nonetheless, we should always double-check what hyperlinks actually link to, as a matter of personal Internet usage policy, say. What would be possibly good to have is an add-on that would automatically run a verification of every URL users try to open; but, that would surely not be fail-proof. How could a developer do that in a fully fail-proof way? And there’d surely be a fairly serious performance hit/impact, I imagine anyway.

  4. Mike Corbeil said on October 12, 2012 at 3:08 pm


    Wherein, in the 2nd-to-last paragraph, I wrote, “Apparently, people from the WWW or WAN world can get access to my PC and maybe that’s because a router was added last week.”, there’s a slight typo. error.

    It should be, “Apparently, people from the WWW or WAN world can’t get access to my PC …”.

    There’re some other typo. errors in my prior post, but I think readers will quickly realize what the correct text would be, so I won’t bother explaining these errors.

  5. asdf said on October 5, 2016 at 9:47 am

    What about server side redirects? Is there a way to know the actual destination your browser will land on before you click a link, when a server has been set up to redirect traffic straight away?

    It may be that the displayed link and the “a href” tag are both giving one url, but if you click it it instantly redirects you somewhere else because the server is set up to do this. (This just recently happened to me).

    Is the redirection detectable before you follow a link, so you don’t end up somewhere you wouldn’t want to be?

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