The Free Anti-Virus Program Avast: Use it Instead of Expensive Virus Software

It's too bad people don't take more advantage of freeware out there on the net. The basic assumption probably is that most of that type of software doesn't do much that's helpful for sophisticated computer users doing sophisticated tasks day and day out. That really isn't further from the truth--and it's especially true with one particular virus program that just about all smart computer technicians will tell you is better than any other: Avast! (Exclamation point is part of the title.) Now in its 20th year, this program isn't an American creation, but it's nonetheless more efficient than any American-made anti-virus program on the market. The company that produces it is called Alwil Software and based in, of all places, Prague.

Yes, welcome to the reality that America doesn't make everything great--particularly software.

There is a choice to use the freeware version of Avast, or a shareware "Professional" edition that you can download as a 60-day trial and then a requirement to purchase a license key number that will need to be updated through certain increments you choose or are willing to pay. Sure, all anti-viruses are out to make money, and this one makes their money through this method. But even that charge for a license key is more reasonable than the yearly update fees at Norton's or McAfee. Also, the shareware version is probably unnecessary for most average computer/internet users. That shareware version does, however, provide more extensive protection for those who do more risky things on the net. The basic version will amaze you at how powerful it is on weeding out viruses, spyware and malware of all kinds.

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The only thing about it you might find uncomfortable (that I mention at the end) is a certain computer voice it uses to alert you to myriad updates in a given day. It's akin to having HAL 9000 on your computer.

Just a sampling of what Avast can do that's equal with Norton and McAfee...

As with most anti-virus programs, Avast will protect you in real time. That means the minute you get a virus, it'll detect it immediately and let you know so you can take steps to either delete it or quarantine it. Avast doesn't call it the ugly name of a quarantine, though. Here, it's a Virus Chest where you can not only place found viruses in there so they won't bother you (what an original concept) but also some of your valuable files in your operating system where they can be run while being shielded from getting a virus in the first place (much more of an original concept).

Considering we're talking free here, you also get real-time protection on your IM's, email and peer-to-peer as you'd normally have in the pricey programs. It also has a nice feature called Rootkit that works in conjunction with Windows and fishes for benign or serious viruses hidden in out-of-the-way places in your operating system. Just a few nights before my writing of this review, I had an alert from Avast (after a new program upgrade to 4.8 as of this writing) that I had a virus embedded somewhere in Windows XP. This was the first time I had an alert from Avast about a virus and it asked me to do one thing that my previous Norton software didn't do: Restart the computer while Avast did a boot scan. And that's where one of the greatest features comes in.

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When Avast detects a virus, it'll do a complete scan of your system (usually taking about half-an-hour as most do) as your computer reboots. It might look a little scary that Avast hijacks Windows during the reboot stage for that time frame, but never fear. After the scan was completed, it located a trojan virus and gave me the option of what to do with it. I chose delete, which arguably isn't always the right thing to do--especially when it's in your Windows system.

Through that boot scan process, it prevents viruses from coming in and disabling Avast as some do. It has a strong guard against such things so you can make sure it's always working for you behind the scenes as you surf the heavily-fortified landmine of the internet.

Oh, and then there's that computer voice Avast uses...

Avast 9000?

Perhaps one annoyance with Avast is that it updates sometimes half-a-dozen times a day. When it does update, a little blue pop-up will rise in the lower right-hand corner of your screen. Following a little chime, you'll hear a voice that sounds eerily like the voice of HAL in "2001: A Space Odyssey." It might startle you to hear "Virus data-base as been up-dated" (hyphens to show you how typical of a robotic voice it is) multiple times a day--particularly if you're working in a quiet room. After a while, though, you'll get used to it and will either ignore it or start uttering what Dave said to HAL in "2001": "Thank you." I promise it'll never, ever get to "Open the pod doors, Mr. Avast."

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Here's an enthusiastic recommendation to dump your McAfee or Norton virus software you bought for $20 or $30 and go gratis with Avast. It's been proven to catch all viruses (even rare ones) every single time. Keep in mind, though, that you need to re-register to get a new registration key number after a year--all as a security measure.

50 million people around the world use this software now, despite it still being unknown to many who still shell out the dough to make Norton and McAfee a monopoly in the anti-virus and anti-spyware business...

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