The new Avast! Free Antivirus 8 was released a couple of minutes ago and is now available for download from the developer’s website or via automatic update. You need to pay attention to the installation dialog as it includes an offer to install Google Drive on your computer system by default. Be sure to select custom installation in step 2 and uncheck the Yes, install Google Drive box to prevent this from happening.
Custom installation also ensures that you can select the components you want to install on your PC. The program offers two profiles and a personalized option. It is again recommended to select custom from the options to uncheck the items you do not want to install on your system.
The available components are divided into three groups:
- Shields in real time: 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
avast! Existing users may have spotted new features in Avast! Free Antivirus 8 is already based on the list of components listed above.
This is a new component in all versions of Avast! 8 that scans the software installed on the system to find out if there are any updates available. It works similar to SUMO and Slim Cleaner in this respect. The updater works manually on the free version, while it runs automatically on all paid versions of Avast. 8. In Avast! Premier even silently installs updates 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.
Software Updater displays a system rating, from 0% critical to 100% good, that immediately tells you 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 Each program is listed with its name and status, and Fix Now buttons are available for each program that is out of date.
The interesting thing here is that a click on the Fix Now button will activate the installation immediately. Other programs often redirect you to a website where you need to download the program before you can install it manually. A great time saver.
What’s not so great is that it doesn’t warn you if the latest available version of a program, Java for example, isn’t secure. This can give you a false sense of security.
The Browser Cleanup module is another new feature in Avast! has incorporated into its products. I have reviewed this extensively here already. Only this. 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 a button to launch the program. It will automatically scan your system for toolbars that give you options to remove those you don’t want to remain on your system.
Please note that the tool currently only supports stable browser versions and not beta or development versions.
Remotely control a computer
You can use the free version of Avast Antivirus to remote control a computer, but not to set it up for remote control. For that, you need avast! Premier, a new commercial product that goes beyond what Internet Security has to offer.
So you need Avast Premier on the PC you want to remotely control, and whatever version of Avast on a remote PC you want to use to control the other PC.
The feature is tied to your Avast account and can be protected with a second password for added security. It goes without saying that both PCs must be online for this to work.
avast! 8 ships with a new professional-looking interface. The main page shows seven symbols and a menu only at the top. Avast displays system status here, as well as options to run a scan, the software updater, or general statistics. The remaining three icons lead to commercial offers, upgrades to add a firewall, for example, to the system.
The main page shows the status of each installed component and whether the cloud intelligence is running smoothly.
You can click 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 configuration to configure it extensively.
File System Shield alone makes a host of settings available, from configuring the program’s self-sandboxing behavior for when files on the system are scanned and file exclusions to whether archives should be unpacking during scans and heuristic sensitivity.
The team has also improved the following components:
- Behavior Shield: Now communicates with the Avast! virus lab! To make more accurate detections.
- Streaming Updates: to transfer updates faster and faster to users.
- Improved reporting: Show more and better information about false positive URLs.
- Full support for IPv6
Difference between Avast! Internet Security and Avast! Prime Minister
avast! Premier contains all the features of Internet Security plus the following three program-exclusive features:
- Data shredder to securely delete files on a system.
- Software Updater can now run in automatic mode so updates are silently installed as soon as they are released.
- AccessAnywhere to make the PC available through remote connections.
While it’s too early to tell how well Avast will perform in antivirus labs (the latest version performed well in most but not all tests), it’s the software updater that sets it apart from most free antivirus solutions out there. There have been so many reports of vulnerabilities in third-party software like Java or Flash being exploited by malware writers that it’s quite disconcerting that most security software producers haven’t yet started integrating software checkers and updaters into their programs.