AVG AntiVirus FREE 2014 review

I had a bit of trouble getting AVG AntiVirus FREE 2014 installed on my malware-infested test systems, but once installed it did a good cleanup job, and it was even better at protecting an already-clean system. You'll get excellent free antivirus protection from AVG.
Photo of AVG AntiVirus FREE 2014

If you don’t have antivirus protection installed on all your PCs, shame on you! Given the quality of free antivirus products currently available, there’s just no excuse for going without protection. AVG AntiVirus FREE 2014 is a good choice. I had a little trouble getting it installed on malware-infested test systems, but once installed it did a good cleanup job, and it turned in a great score in my malware-blocking test.

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 and scored 6.4 points, narrowly beating Norton AntiVirus (2014)’s 6.3 points. Of products tested using my current malware collection, only Bitdefender Antivirus Plus (2014) and the cleanup-only Jumpshot tool did better, with 6.6 and 6.5 points respectively.

Looking at antivirus products tested using my previous malware collection, the free, cleanup-only Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 1.70 beat all the competition, earning 7.1 points, and it did so without a hint of difficulty installing or scanning for malware. also did well, with 6.6 points. For an explanation of how I gather malware samples and perform this test, please see How We Test Malware Removal.

AVG AntiVirus FREE 2014 malware removal chart

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. At 9.4 points, it’s tied with Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ 10.5 for best malware blocking score.

A few products managed an even higher score when tested with my previous malware collection. Webroot is the most notable, with a near-perfect 9.9 points. The unusual managed security offered by SecureIT (2013) also proved effective, earning 9.7 points. For an explanation of how I derive these scores, see How We Test Malware Blocking.

AVG AntiVirus FREE 2014 malware blocking chart

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. Note that Bitdefender routinely beats the rest in this test, earning 17.0 of 18 possible points. For a discussion of the labs and their tests, please see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.

AVG AntiVirus FREE 2014 lab tests chart

Bonus Features
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.

Good, Free Antivirus Protection
While I had a bit of trouble getting AVG installed on my malware-infested test systems, it did a good cleanup job once I got past that hurdle. If you run into installation difficulties, you may want to try a cleanup scan using Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 1.70, our Editors’ Choice for free, cleanup-only antivirus. AVG took top scores in my malware blocking test, so once you get it installed you can rely on it for day-to-day protection.

If the AVG color scheme doesn’t suit your taste, or if anything about AVG isn’t to your liking, you might consider Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ 10.5. Ad-Aware and AVG share our Editors’ Choice honor for free, full-scale antivirus.


Verdict
I had a bit of trouble getting AVG AntiVirus FREE 2014 installed on my malware-infested test systems, but once installed it did a good cleanup job, and it was even better at protecting an already-clean system. You'll get excellent free antivirus protection from AVG.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc