Wednesday, August 25, 2010

SOFTWARE: Avast!, Ye'll Be Hearty 'N Happy!

I DO use paid-for software. Honest. But like the preceding articles in this series I'm doing about software I auto-load, this is another freebie. Providing you can outlast Avast's attempts to upgrade to pro versions of their software.

Avast! is my anti-virus software of choice. I'm not running Windows 7 (yet), just XP. If I was keeping actually current, I think I'd give Microsoft's built-in AV software a shot. But in the XP world, that's not smart. So, I've run through a LOT of AV programs over the years. I got burned by the ridiculous resource-intensive big boys, McAfee and Norton. And I hated their “update yearly or get orphaned” approach, first perfected by Intuit. My later preference became AVG, but the makers of that product did another thing I hate.

Rather than continuing to perfect their answer to a specific need, AVG became a suite. And I really, really believe in a single tool to do a single job. Now, I KNOW Anti-virus is part of a whole plethora of things required to keep you safe from the scum of the earth. But I like ZoneAlarm's firewall and I quite like Spybot Search and Destroy when it comes to detecting scumware after the fact. I want JUST an AV product and Avast! does that for me.

Frankly, it's not the best AV out there, nor should it be. Paying for pro versions SHOULD get you better stuff. And lately AVG has kicked Avast's butt in freebies comparison testing. But, here's the thing, by running ON-LINE virus sweeps at ESet's site and keeping Avast up-to-date and humming, I get as good as I'm going to get in terms of free protection.

And I like the way Avast does things. It's easy to customize the free version. I run frequent on-the-spot scans of my downloads folder and weekly system checks. Once in a while (less often than I should, I go to the ESet site and run the system scan from there). It's all really quite easy. And Avast generates waaaay fewer positives than others. The fake kind I mean. That's good, because my ALL-THE-TIME approach is to immediately delete that file, not store it away. And if that file comes from a recently downloaded sub-folder of stuff (usually stored that way from a zip or rar file decompressed), I get rid of the whole folder. THEN I clean out the recycle bin.

Outside of the need to re-register once a year and submit to the on-line attempts to pitch the pro version, there's not a lot to dislike about Avast! Anti-virus. It plays well with others, gets updated frequently enough and catches most of what might float your way. Not much more can be asked of a free product.

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