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avast! Home Edition Review

Version 4.7

by Coenraad de Beer (Webmaster & Founder of Cyber Top Cops)

Avast is an innovative anti-virus application with a couple of great features that's being missed in some of the best security applications available today. Its real-time protection is the best we have seen amongst the products reviewed. In today's world of cyber crime, prevention is better than curing.

A simple and straightforward installation process. An impressive feature is the option to do a boot-up scan the next time you restart your computer.

Automatic Updating

Real-time Protection
The most impressive part of Avast. Avast's real-time protection consists of 7 different resident shields:

Instant Messenger Shield
This shield is useful for those who love to do instant messaging. A total of 18 different instant messaging programs are supported including popular messaging clients like AIM, MSN Messenger, ICQ, Trillian, mIRC, Yahoo Messenger, etc.

Internet Mail Shield
The Internet Mail Shield provides protection for POP, SMTP, IMAP and NNTP mail protocols.

Network Shield
Like the name says, protection for networks. It acts like a typical firewall.

Outlook/Exchange Shield
This shield is only active when you have Microsoft Outlook/Exchange installed on your PC.

P2P Shield
A total of 28 Peer-to-Peer (also known as Point-to-Point) programs are supported. Most popular ones supported are Kazaa, BearShare, iMesh, LimeWire and eMule.

Standard Shield
This is your standard anti-virus shield, which provides auto protection against known threats.

Web Shield
The Web Shield scans content from the World Wide Web while you are browsing. You can also specify certain URL's to be blocked by this shield.

Another impressive feature is the Virus Recovery Database (VRDB). This little useful utility creates a database of the files on your computer. This will enable Avast to restore them to their original state, should they get infected.

Resource Usage
Avast's resource usage is really not bad at all, especially if you take into consideration that the resident shield consists of 7 different sub-shields running in the memory. Of course they do not all run simultaneously (for instance the Internet Mail Shield will only do active processing when you download e-mail). The system are very responsive during the scanning process and the VRDB can be set to only update the database when the system is idle, so it won't interfere while you are working on your computer. We did notice that certain parts, like the virus chest took some time to open, but this was mainly due to the high number of infections that were quarantined on our system.

Isolation of Threats
Very good. All access to infected files and objects are restricted by the resident shield. You can also configure the shield to bring up a confirmation box when specific file types (you can even specify your own set of file extensions) are opened for writing or when they are renamed, deleted, or when formatting operations are started. You will have the option to allow or deny any of these operations.

We found this part of the program the most disappointing one. The user is annoyed by popup windows from the resident shield, which require constant user interaction, on a severely infected machine. Anti-virus programs like AVG automatically takes action when the user does not respond in a timely matter. Another thing we feel that may cause confusion for users is the fact that you have to choose how thorough a scan should be every time you want to scan your computer. We feel that this is something that should be set-up automatically to a default setting during the initial installation of the program and allow the user to change it at a later time. Novice users will seldom change the default setting and the expert user will only change it when needed.

Scanning & Healing
The scanning process is not completely automated. The scanning stops when the first infection is found. The user has the option of ticking a box to instruct Avast not to show the popup box until the scanning is completed. The user must also select what action should be taken against the infection. Avast will take the same action against every infection found if you ticked the box mentioned earlier. Another option available is to choose not to take any action at the moment and to proceed with the scanning process. After the scanning process you will get a list of infected objects found on your system. You can then take action against them all at once or one by one. Although it is not critical we would have liked to see a counter during the scanning process indicating the number of infections found as the scanning process progressed.

1. The Standard Shield scans the boot sector at all times. The scanner does not scan the boot sector during the scanning process.
2. Avast does not scan the Windows Registry, but does access it when fixing certain infections.
3. There is not a separate scan for the system area but it is scanned every time you launch a scan.

Avast had a 99% success rate during the healing process on our system. Some objects could not be moved to the virus chest and we had to instruct Avast to delete them.

Clean and fast un-installation. No shortcut is provided for un-installation so you have to go to the Windows Control Panel to un-install.

CTC Rating for
Avast Home Edition:

Installation: 8
Automatic Updating: 8
Real-time Protection: 9
Resource Usage: 8
Isolation of Threats: 9
Interface: 5
Scanning & Healing: 7
Un-installation: 7
Overall: 7.63

Avast is a good anti-virus application with exceptional preventative features. We feel that certain interface aspects may be challenging to inexperienced users but poses no real problem to experienced ones. Free registration is required if you want to use the program more than 60 days. You have to obtain a new registration key every 14 months. This may be frustrating to some users but we think it is a good way to stay in touch with the users of your software.

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