Avast have just released Avast 7 Free Antivirus – a major new version of their popular antivirus software. We take a first look at the new features.
Download Size – increased a little from 62MB to 72MB but, as before, the single download covers both 32bit and 64bit versions of Windows in one installation file.
Ease Of Download – Avast’s website points you to a download at Cnet but at least this download is the full version, not an online installer (like AVG) which you have to run in order to download the rest of the files. If you prefer not to use Cnet, download from FileHippo instead (download links at bottom of this article).
Installation / Upgrading – In my own test a new installation of Avast 7 was still quick to install (about a minute, followed by an initial quick scan) and did not require a restart. Users of Avast 6 do not have to uninstall first – you can upgrade by opening Avast 6, going to the Maintenance tab and selecting ‘Update Program’ – this does require a restart after the upgrade.
Tip: The end of the installation process (both new install and upgrade install) offers to install Google Chrome and make it your default web browser. If you don’t want this, untick both the boxes – they are selected by default as shown below:
- Streaming real time virus definition updates (cloud-based) – virus signatures are sent to you in real-time, rather than waiting for a traditional database update i.e. your database will be continuously updated with the latest definitions
- Reputation scanning via FileRep (cloud-based) – FileRep lets you know whether a file is safe before you open it, determined partly by how many people have the file and how new the file is. This technology is also used internally, to help the scanning engine make more intelligent decisions.
[Settings for both the above Cloud services can be accessed from Avast – click the ‘Summary’ tab then the ‘Cloud Services’ tab then the ‘Settings’ button to switch them On or Off – recommended to leave On]
- Remote assistance – Remote Assistance tool lets you initiate remote support and share desktops with any of your friends or family who agree to help (they must also have Avast 7 installed). Initiated by you, it routes through Avast’s servers, bypasses firewalls, and can be terminated by you at any time [Open Avast, click on ‘Additional Protection’ tab then ‘Remote Assistance’ tab – options to allow control or take control]
- Export/Import settings – you can now backup or restore your antivirus settings [Open Avast, click on ‘Settings’ and select the ‘Maintenance’ tab then click to Backup or Restore Settings]
- Online management portal – optional, only really useful if you have Avast installed on more than 1 device. The Account portal lets you track all your Avast installations and is multi-platform, allowing you to manage installations on both Windows and Mac computers, as well as Android devices [Open Avast, click the ‘Summary’ tab then the ‘Current Status’ tab, click the ‘Connect’ button]
- Avast 7 runs on Windows 8 Developer Preview – also has new Windows 8 specific features e.g. ELAM which snaps into the Windows 8 Secure Boot process to provide additional protection against system-level rootkits and bootkits
Avast 7 Improvements
- Autosandbox improvements – suspicious programs are now automatically placed inside the Avast Sandbox
- Browser protection improvements (including antiphishing) – version 7 WebRep browser plugins provide greater protection against phishing sites and other threats. Added browser support for Safari
- User Interface facelift – optimized to be more intuitive
- Many other security and stability related fixes – faster and less resource hungry
How Good Is The Security?
Avast 7 is too new to have been tested by independent labs yet but the previous version was a steady performer and early signs are that it is a decent improvement at least.
Minimum System Requirements (same as previous version)
Operating System: Windows 7, Vista, XP SP2 (or SP3), Windows 2000 SP4
RAM: minimum 128MB RAM
Avast 7 is a good improvement on the previous version – if you are currently using an older version then it is well worth upgrading. The average user shouldn’t be too concerned about size and ease of download as they will likely only have to do it once or twice.
However, a free antivirus should be effective and lightweight because it does not have all the bells and whistles of commercial versions – Avast 7 certainly achieves those goals.
It has a relatively low impact on computer performance and the new features add extra levels of security – it will be interesting to see how much of a difference they make to scores in future security lab tests but I would expect a significant improvement over previous versions, primarily due to the new cloud based FileRep technology and the Autosandbox improvements.