Avast! Free Antivirus 2014 is avast!'s latest malware-hunting engine.
Installation is fast, perhaps due to a major reduction in product size. Compatibility seems good, too, with the package running happily alongside Norton Internet Security on our test PC.
Scans can apparently be much faster, for some file types at least; in terms of in-memory scan times, EXE files are now checked around twice as quickly, text contents (web pages, scripts) are up to 10x faster. (The program still needs to load this content in the first place, though, so final scan times won't change very much.)
There are several important improvements to avast's protection features. You get enhanced streaming updates for real-time detections; a new DeepScreen technology helps the program make smarter decisions about unknown files; extended cloud scanning again assists in detection; and if something does turn up, then improved cleaning will get rid of it more reliably.
Still not enough? A new "Hardened" mode can be set up to run only known safe programs. It's a little drastic but can work well for inexperienced users (see Settings > Antivirus > Hardened Mode to set this up).
And all this is presented in a vastly simplified and more configurable interface (there are now only three shields to worry about, for instance).
Please note, the program will by default install Google Toolbar. If that's not what you want, pay attention during setup and clear the relevant checkbox when it appears.
What's new in build 9.0.2013:
- FIXED: Uninstalling avast might hang at "stopping service: avast! antivirus"
- FIXED: Upload issues for Dropbox and Flickr
- Performance and stabilization fixes in Stream Filter - e.g blocking of ajax calls
- Several firewall fixes - e.g. blocking of Google Earth
- Stability improvements - several crashes fixed