The bottom line: AVG Free 2012’s renewed focus on performance keeps scans zippy, but struggles with slowing down your boot time and too many false positives.
The never-ending mantra chanted by security suite vendors sounds a lot like “faster scans, easier to use, better performance,” and AVG has released a new version that it says accomplishes all three. Certainly, the scans are faster, it does install more quickly, and some tweaks to the interface have made it easier to view. Two new core security changes will make you safer, too.
Faster and lighter land in AVG Free 2012
Editors’ note: Portions of this review are based on CNET’s review of AVG Anti-Virus Free 2012.
We found that the program can go from completed download to ready to use in about 5 minutes.
Last year, AVG cut down the number of installation screens from 13 to 5. This year, the process continues to be short, but savvy users will want to be wary of a few things. First, if you have a browser open when installing, AVG will not warn you before it forces it to close. Second, you are opted-in to AVG’s Security Toolbar and the Secure Search default search engine change. Users who opt out of installing the toolbar but want it later will need to rerun the installer to get it.
On the polite side, AVG does not opt you in to an automatic AVG Internet Security trial. By starting from a null position, you are required to actively choose to install AVG Free or the 30-day trial of AVG Internet Security. So this year’s install procedure is a bit of a crapshoot, better in some ways than last year, but unchanged in others.
The changes to AVG’s interface in the 2011 version were minor but actually improved usability quite a bit. This year, the tweaks are even less pronounced. There’s not much different besides redoing the icons in the main interface so they’re easier on your eyes.
Features and support
AVG 2012 includes a couple of solid changes to make you safer. The first is a patent-pending technique for identifying one of the most obnoxious threats to ever reach your computer: the fake antivirus. If you’re unfamiliar, these programs purport to be an antivirus, or a Web-based antivirus scan. Once they install on your computer, the only way to get rid of the infection is to “buy” their license. They’re also related to the ransomware infections, which don’t even bother with the effort to pretend to be an antivirus. AVG 2012 will block both of them.
The LinkScanner tool has been improved to watch out for more dynamic code, which is essential in the security game because threats are mutating at such a rapid rate. Meanwhile, premium users get the new AVG Accelerator option, which optimizes your Internet connection to speed up downloads and rendering. It currently works on two sites: YouTube, and you can see its impact when pausing and unpausing videos; and Download.com binary downloads. The accelerator protocol was developed internally at AVG.
AVG now includes a monitoring tool that automatically warns you when Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer consumes too much memory. Called AVG Advisor and in all of the AVG suites, it opens a small pop-up and asks you if you’d like to restart your browser. There’s no way to “force” it to activate, although if you open up a couple dozen tabs, wait a few minutes, and then open another dozen or so, it ought to kick in.
Changes made last year are still relevant. The software offers what it calls “smart scanning,” which leverages AVG’s behavioral detection network to scan known safe files once, and only rescan them if it detects changes. As with its competitors, AVG’s network is made up of its user base anonymously contributing data up to the cloud. You can choose to opt out of contributing your data when you install, or from the options menu. AVG says opting out won’t negatively affect your security.
The smart scanning tech also gives you a built-in system resource manager that prioritizes scans. If a scan is scheduled to begin while the computer is in use, it will automatically restrict the scan so that it runs slower but doesn’t interfere with the computer’s other tasks. When it detects the computer idling, it will then allocate more power to the scan. The feature comes with a slider so you can customize how sensitive it is.