Avast! Antivirus for Macs 2012 Review: Internet Security Software
|For a free software suite, it has a lot of protection capabilities, but system glitches and poor performance hurt its overall score|
In theory Avast! Antivirus for Mac is a complete software package offering a lot of features that other antivirus software for the Mac doesn't include. In practice those features either don't always work or aren't always a benefit. It's an impressive-sounding software suite with a lot of kinks and not a lot of ways to fix them.
The installation itself is quick and painless, for the most part. The software also starts up right away after the install and is instantly protecting your computer. The only issue we found was that you have to quit out of all of your web browsers in order to get the complete install, although Avast! does provide a skip button if you don't want the web add-ons for your web browsers.
Compared to the PC version of Avast!, the Mac version's interface is pretty plain and boring. It looks as though you are just inside the computer's own System Preferences window, which doesn't really draw one's attention. Aesthetics aside, the plain interface actually makes it easier to understand, so you can find the things you need to protect your computer.
Once the interface opens, you know right away whether you are protected or not, with either a big, green "Secured" or an orange "Not Secured" hanging over the rest of the interface. Below that is the flashiest part of the interface, which is a kind of bar graph ticker that shows you the activity happening on all of your shields, although we couldn't for the life of us decipher what use this had.
On the side of the interface, all of your protections are categorized into five categories, which allow you to view your status (the main interface page), run a scan, read old reports of scans you've done, check on the activity of your File System, Mail and Web Shields, and adjust the preferences on your WebReb application.
Each of these options is very straightforward and doesn't allow a lot of room for error, mostly because there aren't many options besides the obvious ones. Overall, the interface is simple and straightforward, if not a little dull.
TUTORIAL: How to Run a Scan with Avast! Anti-Virus for Mac
At its root core antivirus software is supposed to scan and delete any viruses or malware on your machine, and Avast! has some of the flashiest and best options for doing that. The software offers you seven different scan options, letting you pinpoint the different places you would like to scan for viruses. These include a Local Volumes Scan (for hard drives), a Full Scan, a Custom Scan, a Home Folder scan (documents, downloads, etc.), a Removable Volumes Scan (flash drives, external hard drives, etc.), and a Network Volumes Scan (for any networks you are connected to). The seventh and coolest option is a drag-and-drop scan where you can just drop a file into a window on the main screen and it scans that file for viruses and malware.
The problem for Avast! comes with all of its extra security software. The Mail Shield and Web Shield, which protect your email and your web surfing, are great in theory, but when we installed Avast! on two different test machines, the software told us that those features were not working. (They worked on the other test machine.) Even more troubling, the program told us that to troubleshoot the problem, we should just reinstall the software, which is kind of a pain to uninstall, reboot and then reinstall. Even after three reinstalls, the software still didn't work. That is a problem for Avast! if two out of three machines can't run two of their main shields.
One plug-in that we did find helpful and useful was the WebRep application, a browser plug-in that rates the websites that you visit and the search terms you enter, based on ratings that Avast! collects from its community of users. The plug-in is a tiny three-bar green graph on the left side of your browser. Three bars means a site is totally secure, while no bars means that the site is untested or unsecure. It's completely unintrusive but absolutely helpful.
As there are very few virus or malware tests that can penetrate a Mac at this point, we could only run a few in-house tests on the software's protection capabilities, but Avast! for the PC has always performed well in both the independent testing as well as our in-house testing. Avast! has consistently scored high marks from AV-Comparatives, and they scored 3 out of 3 stars in this summer's Whole-Product Dynamic Test, which takes into account the sum of the product's parts in protecting PCs.
Here is the really big problem with Avast!: performance. On all three of our test machines, once Avast! was installed it slowed down the computers considerably, especially all of the web browsers. At certain points, it was excruciatingly slow. Once we uninstalled the program, our computers were back to their speedy selves. While it's great to have protection on your computer, it is not worth it if your computer can't function regularly.
We loved the PC version of Avast! so much that we had high hopes for the Mac version, but sadly our hopes were dashed. Between half the software's shields not working and the performance problems it seemed to have on our computer, we think the software is more of a hinderance than a help. Having said that, the software is free and does provide the proven protection that Avast! is known for, so it can still be an effective security software tool for your Mac, as long as you don't mind a slow computer.
System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.5, Mac OS X 10.6 or Mac OS X 10.7 (Mac must have Intel processor.)
AV-Comparatives ratings on a variety of tasks related to the antivirus and anti-malware product. "Known Malware" refers to a product's ability to catch pre-identified viruses, while "Unknown Malware" refers to its ability to detect brand new viruses. Older scores may reflect previous software versions. All AV-Comparatives scores are based on the PC version of Avast.
AV-Comparatives. Score indicates overall effectiveness in a variety of tests over time. † indicates that company did not take part in all tests. See reviews for details.*Averaged 2010/2011 scores for each company's antivirus/anti-malware product by independent testing agency
**Score indicates impact of antivirus product on system performance. Average of performance tests by AV-Comparatives.
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