11 Avast Free Antivirus 2014 tips to get you started

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 15, 2013
Updated • Oct 19, 2013
Antivirus, Security

Avast has just released the 2014 update to all of its security products.

We have reviewed the beta version of Avast Free Antivirus back when it was released for public testing, and encourage you to check out that review to find out what is new in this updated version.

The following guide provides you with tips on how to get the most out of the free antivirus solution.

This includes the best way to download and install it, and several configuration tips to improve the program's usability or get rid of features that you may not need or want.

Avast Free Antivirus 2014 tips

avast free antivirus 2014

1. Download

The official Avast website links to download.com for all downloads of the product line. The company seems to have a special agreement with the download portal, as it is being used exclusively by Avast.

Download.com does not have the best reputation, mainly because of its wrapped installer that it ships most downloads these days with. While that is not the case for Avast product downloads, you may prefer a direct download nevertheless.

Here are direct download links for all Avast applications:

  1. Avast Free Antivirus 2014
  2. Avast Pro Antivirus 2014
  3. Avast Internet Security 2014
  4. Avast Premiere Antivirus 2014

2. Installation

It is essential that you select the custom installation option during setup. If you do not, you may end up with modules, browser extensions, desktop gadgets and more that you do not have any use for. More importantly, they may also use system resources while they are running.

avast custom installation

Here is a quick rundown of what the shields and tools do that Avast ships with:

  • File Shield: Offers real-time protection. Scans files when they are run on the computer.
  • Web Shield: A shield for http traffic. Scans urls and can block urls.
  • Mail Shield: Scans mail for malicious files and spam.
  • Browser Protection: A web reputation browser extension.
  • Software Updater: Checks installed software for updates and lets you download and install those. Is fairly limited in terms of programs it supports.
  • Avast Remote Assistance: Control a computer from a remote location.
  • SecureLine: A VPN service built into all Avast products. Is available for $7.99 monthly or $5.99 when billed yearly. A three day trial is provided.
  • RescueDisk: Enables you to create a bootable CD, DVD or USB Flash Drive that you can use for offline scanning and cleaning.
  • Browser Cleanup: Can remove extensions, toolbars and plugins. Read our review here.
  • Avast Gadget: A desktop gadget that displays the system's security status and lists options to open various modules or run a scan.

3. Registration

Even if you are using the free version of Avast, you have to get it registered to continue using it after a 30 days trial period. Registration is free, but mandatory. You can register right from within the application, or create a new account on the avast website.

4. Hardened Mode

The feature is not enabled by default. Avast notes that the mode will tighten security further on the computer it has been activated on, and that it is designed for inexperienced users.

It blocks the execution of binaries that would normally be sandboxed by the DeepScreen feature or limits the execution of files to those accepted by FileRep running.

If you select moderate, it will block the execution based on the DeepScreen feature, while agreesive uses FileRep to block all but whitelisted apps.

If you want to enable it, click on Settings > Antivirus and check the Enable hardened mode box there.

5.  Turn off the voice in Avast

Avast will notify you by voice when operations complete. While that may be great at first, it can quickly get on your nerves.

If you want to disable sounds in the program, go to Settings > Appearance and uncheck the "Enable Avast sounds" box there, or only disable the voice over sound by clicking on sound settings and unchecking that box only.

6. Disable protections and uninstall modules

You can disable select protection modules in the program settings. It is possible to disable all shields under Active Protection for example, while other features cannot be disabled from within the program.

You need to run the software uninstaller for a chance to remove modules that you do not want to use anymore, and also if you want to add a module that you have not installed during setup.

Just select change after you have run the uninstaller to get the same list of program components displayed to you that you see during custom installation of Avast Free Antivirus.

7. Exclusions

You can exclude paths on the local computer system and urls from scanning and from Avast's shield protection. This can be useful if Avast detects a web address as malicious or problematic, when you know that it is not, among other things.

You can add these exceptions under Settings > Antivirus > Exclusions.

Here you can also add exceptions to the hardened mode, and add file exceptions to the DeepScreen module.

8. Exclusion II

Exclusions are also available for the Shields that run on your system. Both the File System Shield and the Web Shield support exclusions, so that you can add files or web addresses to them that you want the program to ignore.

Select Active Protection and then the settings button next to the shield that you want to configure to get started.

9. Block reporting to Avast

avast community

If you do not want to forward security-related information to Avast, then you better disable the feature under Settings > General.

10. Silent/Gaming mode

This mode suppresses popup notifications and alerts while you are running full screen applications on your system. It needs to be enabled under Settings > General.

11. Automatic clean-up of log files

If you want to keep log files for a long period of time, you better disable the automatic clean-up of logs in the application. Avast will delete all scan logs older than 30 days and all temporary scan logs older than one day otherwise.

To do so check Settings > Maintenance and either increase the interval in which log files are kept, or disable the auto-cleanup feature completely.

Now Read: Remove Avast software from your system


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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