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Avira’s Service Pack 2 delivers browsing protection for free – but there’s a catch

28 June 2011, Mike Williams

German security specialist Avira today announced that its WebGuard browsing protection tool will now be available to all AntiVir Personal Free Antivirus users, as a part of its Service Pack 2 Upgrade.

Good news, then. Or at least it should be – but the full story is a little more complicated.

Install the optional WebGuard and you’ll also get the Avira SearchFree toolbar, which is essentially the Ask toolbar with Avira-related status information (it’ll tell you whether WebGuard is running, and if the program needs updating). You can uninstall this from Control Panel like any other application, but that will disable WebGuard, too: you need to keep the toolbar if you want the browsing protection. (On the Personal Free edition, anyway – the Premium version remains Ask-free.)

Is it worthwhile? The Ask toolbar is less than popular with some, and installing it on our system revealed one of the reasons: it was by far the slowest add-on to load, holding up IE launch time by almost a second. It’ll also use additional resources, and extra toolbars generally aren’t good news for browser stability.

On the other hand, WebGuard does offer a useful extra layer of protection, both preventing your access to known dangerous sites, and scanning the contents of other pages as you visit them, detecting and blocking malware before it can do any damage.

And if Chrome is your browser of choice then there’s even better news. Avira SearchFree supports IE and Firefox only, so run Chrome and you won’t see a toolbar, but WebGuard will remain running in the background, keeping you safe online.

If you decide you don’t want the toolbar anyway, please keep in mind that it’s not a compulsory installation. So allow Avira’s Update tool as usual, click Install, then clear the checkboxes on the “WebGuard with Avira SearchFree Toolbar” page. The toolbar won’t be installed. (You’ll be nagged about this later, after rebooting, but refuse the installation three times and you won’t see it again.)

If you’re willing to accept the toolbar in exchange for WebGuard, though, check the box that says you’d like to install both, click Next, and you’re done. You can always uninstall it later, if you change your mind.

What you really shouldn’t do is avoid the update at all, because the rest of Service Pack 2 delivers a host of welcome improvements: better detection; improved repair (particularly of rootkits); more detailed logs; enhanced manuals; bug fixes, performance tweaks and a whole lot more. Take a look at Avira’s TechBlog for the full rundown.

Please note, as we write the download version of AntiVir Personal Free has yet to be updated to include WebGuard, but this is likely to happen soon. When it does, and if you don’t want the toolbar, then you can avoid it as we’ve described; clear the relevant checkbox during setup, refuse it when you’re nagged later on three separate occasions, and you won’t see it mentioned again.

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