AVG AntiVirus Free is a longstanding security program for Microsoft Windows that protects computer systems from viruses, trojans and other malicious code.
One interesting fact about AVG is that it maintains two free antivirus solutions, namely AVG AntiVirus Free and AVG Protection Free. The core difference between both products is that Protection Free offers multi-device protection and controls using AVG Zen, an online dashboard.
AVG appears to be in a transition phase away from AntiVirus Free to Protection Free, as the latter is advertised on AVG's main website while the former is only available through back channels.
AVG Antivirus Free is provided as a web installer by default, but you can grab offline installers that weight in at around 200 Megabyte as well which don't require an Internet connection during installation.
AVG Antivirus Free
Installation of AVG Antivirus Free is straightforward but if you have certain security products installed on your system already, you are asked to remove those first before you can run the installer again to install AVG AntiVirus Free.
You can select a different installation location on the local system, and disable the Web and Email protection components that the program ships with.
Web protection installs a LinkScanner module only, and not Online Shield which is only included in AVG AnviVirus Pro or Internet Security.
LinkScanner scans Internet links to make sure they don't link to harmful sites.
The same is true for Email protection which only comes with the Email Scanner module and not Anti-Spam.
Email Scanner scans file attachments for malicious code but won't keep spam out.
Once you have installed the program it loads the main interface. First thing that you will notice if you have used the offline installer is that you will get a "you are not fully protected" message.
The reason why you are getting this is that the offline installer is only updated ever so often which means that database updates are not installed yet.
Once you hit the big "fix now" button or click on "update now", latest virus definitions get installed and the message goes away.
A click on "scan now" starts a scan of the system. You may click on the cog wheel icon next to scans to customize scans, and the screen that opens lets you run a full scan of the whole computer, a scan of specific files or folders, or an anti-rootkit scan instead.
Another option there is to schedule scans which let's you automate scans by selecting intervals and days you want them to run on the computer in question.
Interestingly enough, this is also the place where you find out more about what AVG AntiVirus Free supports. The scheduled scan settings page lists scan types that you can include or exclude, among them a scan for tracking cookies or potentially unwanted programs.
The advanced settings provide you with quite a few options to configure program behavior. These customization options are definitely one of the strengths of AVG AntiVirus Free.
You can configure each scan type individually there for instance, manage exceptions, turn of self-protection, or change appearance related preferences.
Some features are advertised in the program but not included. This is the case when you click on "fix performance" in the main interface for instance. While it will scan for junk files, disk fragmentation or Registry errors, it won't fix those but suggest you get AVG PC TuneUP for that instead.
How good is AVG AntiVirus Free's protection?
It is difficult to find recent tests that include AVG AntiVirus Free. If you check AV Test, you will notice that the site's last record of the program dates back to December 2014.
The program scored a 3/6 in protection, a 3.5/6 in performance, and a 6/6 in usability.
AVG Internet Security on the other hand was tested as recently as February 2016. It scored 6/6 in protection, 5/6 in performance, and 6/6 in usability.
On AV Comparatives, things are even more complicated as the site does not allow you to search for a specific vendor or product.
AVG scored well but not as good as the top products in the company's most recent real-world protection test for instance.
AVG was in the news recently as its Web TuneUp application was found to put users at risk. While not directly related to the antivirus offering, it seems to have been offered to users previously when they installed certain AVG products.
Comparison to AVG AntiVirus
AVG AntiVirus is the commercial version of AVG's security offering. As is the case usually, it includes all features of AVG AntiVirus Free plus additional features.
- Online Shield: this is the second part of the Web Browsing Protection module (the first is LinkScanner which is included in the free version). It adds the scanning of file downloads to the security program.
- Data Safe: this component allows you to encrypt files to protect them from prying eyes.
- Free Support: 24/7 phone and email support.
The multi-device version is called AVG AntiVirus Protection Pro. It features priority updates, and mobile versions for Android and iOS on top of that.
Comparison to AVG Internet Security
AVG Internet Security is AVG's top of the line single-device security product. It includes all features of the free and paid antivirus products plus the following ones:
- Anti-Spam: blocks spam and scam messages from reaching the inbox.
- Shopping Protection: A firewall component that works on wired and wireless networks.
AVG's free offering feels a bit left behind especially when you browse the AVG website in search for it. While I liked the customization options, and the fact that you can disable modules that you don't require during installation, it is not clear how good its protective features really are due to a lack of recent tests.
While AVG Internet Security did well in most tests, it is unclear if the same engine is being used in the free offering.
Now You: do you use free antivirus? If so, which and why?