The new Avast! Free Antivirus 8 has been released a couple of minutes ago and is now available for download from the developer website or via automatic update. It is necessary to pay attention to the installation dialog, as it includes an offer to install Google Drive on the computer system by default. Make sure you select custom install in step 2 and uncheck the Yes, install Google Drive box to avoid this from happening.
Custom installation also ensures that you can select the components that you want to install on your PC. The program makes available two profiles and a custom option. It is recommended again to select custom from the options to uncheck the items that you do not want to install on your system.
The available components are divided into three groups:
- Real-time shields: File shield, Mail shield, Web shield, P2P shield, IM shield, Network shield, Script shield and Behavior shield
- Components: Browser protection, Avast! gadget, Avast! remote assistance, Browser cleanup, Software updater
Existing Avast! users may have spotted new features in Avast! Free Antivirus 8 already based on the list of components listed above.
This is a new component in all versions of Avast! 8 that scans installed software on the system to find out if updates are available. It works similar to SUMO and Slim Cleaner in this regard. The updater works manually in the free version, while it runs automatic in all paid versions of Avast! 8. In Avast! Premier, it even installs updates silently if possible.
The component scans programs such as Flash Player, Java, web browsers and media players as well as other popular programs that many Windows users have installed.
The Software Updater displays a system rating, from 0% critical to 100% good which tells you right away how well – or not – your system software is up to date. Each program is listed with its name and status, and fix now buttons are available for each program that is not up to date.
What is interesting here is that a click on the Fix now button will trigger the installation right away. Other programs usually redirect you to a website where the program needs to be downloaded before it can be installed manually. A great time saver.
What’s not so good is that it does not warn you if the latest available version of a program, Java for instance, is not secure. This can give you a false sense of security.
The Browser Cleanup module is another new feature that Avast! has build in to its products. I have reviewed thisextensively here already. Only this much. You can use it to uninstall toolbars that are installed on your system. It is available as a standalone product or in Avast under Tools > Browser Cleanup.
All you need to do is click on a button to start the program. It will automatically scan the system for toolbars giving you options to remove those that you do not want to remain on it.
Note that the tool is currently only supporting stable browser versions and not beta or development versions.
Remotely control a computer
You can use the free version of Avast Antivirus to remotely control a computer but not to configure the computer to be remotely controlled. For that, you need avast! Premier, a new commercial product that goes beyond what Internet Security has to offer.
So, you do need Avast Premier on the PC you want to control remotely, and any version of Avast on a remote PC that you want to use to control the other PC.
The feature is linked to the Avast account and can be protected with a second password for additional security. It goes without saying that both PCs need to be online for this to work.
Avast! 8 ships with a new professional looking interface.The main page displays seven symbols and a menu on top only. Avast displays the system’s status here, as well as options to run a scan, the software updater or overall statistics. The remaining three icons lead to commercial offerings, upgrades to add a firewall for instance to the system.
The front page displays the status of each installed component and whether cloud intelligence is working without issues.
You can click on any item here, or open the Antivirus group on the left, to display real-time information about a component’s activities on the system. Here it is possible to stop any component directly or open its settings to configure it extensively.
The File System Shield alone makes available a large amount of settings, from configuring the auto-sandbox behavior of the program over when files are scanned on the system and file exclusions to whether archives should be unpacked during scans and the heuristic sensitivity.
The following components have been improved as well by the team:
- Behavior Shield: now communicates with Avast!’s virus lab for preciser detections.
- Streaming Updates: to transfer updates sooner and faster to users.
- Improved Reporting: displays more and better information about false positive urls.
- Full Support for IPv6
Difference between Avast! Internet Security and Avast! Premier
Avast! Premier contains all features of Internet Security plus the following three features exclusive to the program:
- Data Shredder to securely delete files on a system.
- Software Updater can now run in automatic mode so that updates are installed silently as soon as they are released.
- AccessAnywhere for making available the PC via remote connections.
While it is too early to tell how well Avast will perform in antivirus labs – the last version did well in most tests but not in all – it is the software updater that sets it apart from the majority of free antivirus solutions out there. There have been so many reports about vulnerabilities in third party software like Java or Flash that is exploited by malware creators that it is quite puzzling that the majority of security software producers have not started to integrate software checkers and updaters into their programs yet.