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Antivirus protection is mandatory in these days of uninhibited cyber violence. If you use your PC to surf the web, send or receive e-mail, or share files with others, you need to have adequate protection for your PC and your data. Thankfully, there is a wide variety of antivirus software available to choose from. Most of them are available for a charge, plus sometimes an additional annual subscription fee for the ability to download current virus definition updates (without which antivirus software would be pretty much useless).
But there are also several free (for personal use) antivirus solutions available. Usually free means that there is some kind of catch, e.g. no support, limited features, advertising on the screen, no automatic updates, or something similar. AVG 6.0 from Grisoft is one of these free antivirus programs, but it seems to be extremely powerful for a free antivirus solution and offers some impressive features. Let’s take a closer look at AVG 6.0 to see why it stands out.
After downloading a less than 5MB file, the installation itself is pretty uneventful. You’re asked to register and obtain a free serial number that you’ll need at the beginning of the installation. During the installation you get to choose your level of protection. AVG 6 consists of 4 different components:
* AVG Resident Shield – This is the resident part of AVG. It runs in the background at all times for real-time virus protection.
* AVG E-mail Scanner – The e-mail scanner hooks into your e-mail and scans incoming and outgoing e-mail for virii. It currently works with the most popular e-mail clients, such as MS Outlook, Outlook Express, and Eudora (programs with MAPI support).
* AVG Control Center – This is the management system for AVG. Here you can schedule tests and modify program settings
* AVG Boot-up Scanner – It checks the most important parts of your operating system when booting the computer
Then you will be prompted whether you wish to enable automated updates, meaning you can schedule the program to automatically connect to their web site, check for updated virus definitions, and download them if available.
At the end of the installation you’ll be prompted to reboot your system. When Windows returns, AVG will start automatically and greet you with a First Run Wizard to help you configure the program properly, such as installing the most recent virus definitions, scheduling the automatic system scan, etc. This makes configuring the software a breeze and in combination with the user-friendly interface pretty much eliminates any need for a manual.
AVG 6 starts automatically with Windows and runs in the background, providing real-time virus protection. It has a very low overhead and seems to be extremely unobtrusive. At no time did the system seem to run slower or exhibit any problems with AVG running in the background which is something you can’t say about some commercial antivirus software.
The e-mail scanner is an extremely handy feature, given the fact that most virii these days propagate via e-mail. It scans every incoming and outgoing e-mail and immedidately quarantines any nastiness before it can reach your inbox, or leave your outbox. For the visual aspect and additional peace of mind it can attach a certification to each sent and received e-mail, verifying that the e-mail has been scanned and found to be virus-free. AVG adds itself to your e-mail program for convenient access.
Not only does the e-mail scanner work very well, it is also very inconspicuous and adds no noticable delay or overhead, again something that you cannot say about some commercial antivirus software.
A feature that distinguishes AVG from most other antivirus software is the presence of an automatic virus definition update option. You can schedule it to check for updated definitions on a regular basis, and install them automatically when available, which leaves you without any excuses for using outdated virus definitions. AVG seems to update their definition about every two weeks, which is not as often as some other vendors, but they always have an update available when a new virus is in circulation.
In addition to scheduled updates, AVG’s scheduler also allows you to run a complete test of your machine automatically on a regular basis.
AVG also adds an option to the context menu in Windows Explorer for convenient scans of individual files.
As mentioned before, AVG is extremely user friendly. Every important setting can be controlled from the AVG Control Center which is accessible by double-click on the icon in the system tray. The layout it very simple, clear, and easy to use. Many other programs could learn a thing or two from AVG in this department.
AVG has been performing well so far. I ran it on several Windows 2000 systems and it ran perfectly. The nightly system scans are fast and efficient. The e-mail scanner works well, too. It caught several infected e-mails, such as the infamous Hybris virus, and quarantined the attachments appropriately.
On the downside, there are a few problems with AVG that need to be taken seriously. For example, AVG has a horrible track record in the Virus Bulletin tests of antivirus software with only 2 passes and 19 fails.
Users have reported intermittent problems with downloading virus definition update files, an important part of any antivirus software. Other users have had problems receiving the email with the serial number, which is needed to actually install the software.
This review might not be very exciting reading, but in this case that’s a good thing. AVG 6 is not very exciting, either – but it runs quietly, effectively, and smoothly. It does a great job while being essentially invisible. In addition, it offers several great features, e.g. automated updates, e-mail scanner, scheduled system scans, that you won’t find in most other free antivirus programs.
However, given the bad test results and intermittent problems downloading updates, I would treat it with caution. Virus protection should be taken seriously, and I recommend you spend the money for a good antivirus program.
Submitted by: Alex “crazygerman” Byron