AVG AntiVirus Free is a popular antivirus tool from the now Avast-owned AVG Technologies.
The package includes all the features you’d expect – an antivirus engine, real-time download and email scanning, web filtering to block malicious links – and doesn’t have any ads, restrictions or significant limitations designed to force you to upgrade.
If the free build isn’t enough, AVG Internet Security extends the feature set with a firewall, webcam protection, secure DNS to avoid fake websites, folder access control to thwart ransomware, and a welcome bonus in AntiVirus Pro for Android.
This looks expensive to us at £49.99 ($70) for a year, even though it supports unlimited devices – a one-year, 10 device licence for Bitdefender Internet Security 2018 only costs £59.99 ($84), and a three-year licence works out cheaper than AVG at £139.99 ($196).
AVG’s specialist PC antivirus range includes only the Free and Internet Security products, so it’s not difficult to find the free edition on the website. A big green Free Download button makes it clear what you need to do next, and you can be downloading and installing the product in a couple of clicks.
A neat Customise Installation option gives an unusual level of control, with the ability to disable behavioral monitoring, web filtering, real-time file checking and more. This is much the same approach as used by Avast’s software, and there’s a clear indication of borrowed code at the top of the Customise dialog, where even though this is the AVG installer, it asks: “Where do you want to install Avast?”
AVG borrows another smart Avast feature in its Passive Mode. If the installer detects another antivirus during setup, it doesn’t demand you remove that tool, instead installing AVG with real-time protection turned off. This significantly reduces the chance of any conflicts, while still allowing you to use AVG for on-demand scans. And if you’re sure the programs will run together, or you’re willing to take the risk, you can tell AVG to turn off Passive Mode in a couple of clicks.
There’s another small installation plus in the lack of any need to register the program. You can sign up to create a My AVG account if you like, and it could help you monitor several AVG-equipped devices from one place, but that’s not compulsory and you’re able to use the program without providing any personal details.
Setup is very straightforward, then, and the program doesn’t even demand that you reboot your system. It just pops up the AVG AntiVirus Free interface and you’re able to explore its features immediately.
AVG AntiVirus Free opens with a straightforward console highlighting the areas it protects (Computer, Web & Email) and the modules not included in the free edition (Hacker Attacks, Privacy and Payments.)
One click on the Scan Computer button tells the program to check your system, or you can choose from six scan types. Computer Scan is the equivalent of a regular quick scan, and Deep Scan is a full system scan. USB/DVD Scan checks your removable drives, and there are scans to check specific folders, to schedule a scan to run at boot time, and to check your PC for performance issues.
The Schedule Scan option looks like it’s going to be just another way to automate a quick or full system scan, but that’s just the start. You can also use the feature to create multiple custom scans which do almost anything you want.
You can have the scan check running processes, for instance. It can check specific files, folders and drives. You can even set up a scan which prompts you to choose a target at run time. You’re able to define the files to be scanned, archive types you’d like to be checked, performance optimizations to be applied, the actions to perform on any threats, and how to handle reporting.
Despite this feature being called Schedule Scan, you don’t have to set up your custom scan to run automatically. Create something to, say, scan your Downloads folder and unpack any archives, and it will be listed under the other scan types. You can add other custom scans in exactly the same way and run them on-demand. Experienced users who like to fine-tune their security will love the control this gives them.
If you’re happy with the standard Computer Scan, it delivers reasonable protection at very high speed. The initial scan may take several minutes, depending on your system and the files to be checked, but we found subsequent checks were usually complete in 15-30 seconds.
A final report highlights any discovered malware, as well as checking browser add-ons, a welcome extra touch.
A Performance check highlights the file size of any browser histories, also reporting on missing software updates and any Registry issues. While that sounds good, it’s really just advertising. The free version can tell you about these ‘problems’, but you can only resolve them by installing a trial of AVG PC TuneUp – if you buy that, it’s £1.75 ($2.45) a month for a one-year subscription.
We found one further bonus feature in AVG’s File Shredder, a simple tool which securely deletes files or folders to ensure confidential data can’t be recovered. It’s a useful feature and there’s no harm in having it available – as long as you don’t accidentally shred something important, anyway – but AVG’s version is basic, and there are far more capable freeware shredders available.
AVG’s final highlight is its Settings dialog, which gives vast control over almost every area of how the program works. Choose the File System Shield, for instance, and you can define what the program does when you open, write or execute a file, when removable media is connected to your system, the files to scan or exclude, the actions to perform when a threat is found, any report file to generate, and more.
How many of these settings you’ll use is open to question, but we still applaud AVG’s effort in giving you this level of customization. If nothing else, it allows you to see exactly how the program behaves, and a little fine-tuning could enable optimizing your setup for performance or security.
AVG and Avast now use the same engine which combines the best of both companies’ antivirus technologies, and although independent testing doesn’t always give entirely consistent results, the products generally perform very well.
AV-Test’s February 2018 Home User report finds AVG and Avast blocking 100% of test threats and raising fewer false alarms than most. Can’t do much better than that.
AV-Comparatives Real-World Protection report summary for July-November 2017 placed AVG at a more mid-range equal tenth out of 21, but its 99.5% detection rate was still very acceptable as an average over five tests.
SE-Labs July-September 2017 consumer testing report uses a very different scoring system of its own, but still placed AVG AntiVirus Free as a creditable fourth out of ten, delivering equal performance to the excellent Bitdefender Internet Security.
AVG may not quite offer market-leading performance, then, but it’s more accurate and reliable than most of the competition, and leaves even some high-priced commercial products trailing in its digital wake.
An accurate antivirus and strong all-round performer. This is a smart choice for AVG fans, though Avast Free could be better for everyone else – it offers the same core protection and even more features.