AVG is a security software company founded in 1991 and is one of the leading providers in the industry. It has offices in Europe, United Kingdom and the United States and is also one of the best performing antivirus software companies in the world. AVG has antivirus and Internet security software products and it provides free and paid versions of this antivirus software. And both versions work on Windows, Macintosh and LINUX operating systems.
Free or Licensed Options Available
The product itself is free, but AVG really, really wants you to launch a 30-day trial of their full security suite. You get that option during installation, and a banner across the bottom of the main window repeats the offer each time you launch the antivirus. As I stepped through the product's features, I found quite a few marked "Upgrade to activate." I'll look at those features when I review the full suite.
One row of big buttons on AVG's main window let you access components like computer protection and Web browsing protection. Another row links to an array of other solutions from AVG. You can launch a one-time performance-fixing scan, and optionally install AVG's tune-up solution. There are links to the company's mobile apps, and to a partner-licenses app for ensuring you have the latest drivers. And a whole separate "More from AVG" page displays the company's entire line of products, most of which require separate purchase.
But don't worry. You really can have free antivirus protection. You just need to resist the temptation to purchase the various optional add-ons.
Rough Time at Installation
On exactly two of my twelve malware-infested test systems AVG installed and scanned without any problems. The installer crashed on another two, but worked OK when I retried the installation. In several cases the full scan halted with an "unspecified error"; trying the scan one or two more times fixed most of these.
Like most security companies, AVG offers a Rescue CD for situations where the antivirus can't install. The Rescue CD is a blast from the past, with a totally text-driven interface, but it offers a full collection of tools, not just an antivirus scan. It wiped out ransomware on one test system and cleared up a malware infestation that actively blocked the installer on another.
I went back and forth with tech support, supplying diagnostic logs and running the tools they supplied. The toughest problem was a system that lost all connectivity after AVG's scan; they eventually tracked that one down. Ten of twelve test systems encountered some sort of problem and a few needed days of back-and-forth with tech support. They all got sorted in the end, but I'm giving AVG two stars for installation experience.
Effective Malware Removal
Once I got past the installation difficulties, I found that AVG did a good job cleaning up my messy, malware-infested test systems. It detected 78 percent of the samples.
Excellent Malware Blocking
If you can install AVG on a system that's already clean, or perhaps one that's been cleaned by Malwarebytes, my tests suggest you'll have smooth sailing. As soon as I opened a folder containing my malware samples, AVG started wiping them out. Within a few minutes, it had eliminated over 80 percent of the samples. And when I repeated the test using hand-modified versions of the same samples it wasn't fooled at all.
Continuing, I launched those samples that weren't eliminated in the initial malware massacre. AVG wiped out almost all of those at some point during the installation process. One way or another, it detected 97 percent of the samples, more than any other product tested using my current collection of samples.
Decent Lab Results
Getting your antivirus product tested by an independent lab actually costs money, in most cases, so vendors whose product is free can be less inclined to participate. So, for example, AVG doesn't presently engage with ICSA Labs or West Coast Labs. The antivirus earned VB100 certification in eight of the ten most recent tests by Virus Bulletin.
Along with several other vendors, AVG opted out of the latest retrospective test by Austrian lab AV-Comparatives. AVG did pass the straightforward on-demand test with a STANDARD rating, and earned an ADVANCED rating in the lab's real-world dynamic test.
In the three-part testing regime conducted by AV-Test, products can earn up to six points apiece for protection against malware, low performance impact, and general usability. AVG has done well recently, scoring 15.0 and 15.5 points in the two most recent tests.
At installation, AVG adds a security toolbar to your default browser and optionally switches the browser's default search engine to AVG's own secure search. You can launch a secure search from the toolbar, and a button reports the safety status of the current website. Clicking that button brings up a report with details on why the site is considered safe (or otherwise) and a link to an even more detailed report.
Ad banners can collect information about your Web-surfing habits and use that information to serve you ads they think you'll like. If this seems more creepy than helpful, you'll like AVG's Do Not Track feature. A toolbar button displays how many ad networks and other trackers are on the current page. Clicking the button brings down a full list and also lets you block any or all of the trackers.
Other toolbar features aren't quite as directly useful. There's a button to clear recent history, but that's easily accomplished with a simple key combination. Another button launches a one-time system tune-up, with an option to purchase AVG's tune-up tool. You can tie your Facebook account to the toolbar for a quick view of your news feed, notifications, and messages. Note, though, that if you set Do Not Track to block absolutely everything it will disable this feature.
The full AVG security suite includes a new feature that lets you store sensitive files in an encrypted "Data Safe," along with a file shredding feature for secure deletion of the unprotected original copies of those files. Only the shredder is available in the free antivirus.