Comparing AVG, Avast, and Avira
I agree that for most users, one of the free anti-virus
programs will perform just as well as Norton, McAfee or other
commercial software. But which free anti-virus should you choose?
Avast! Free Antivirus <http://www.avast.com/free-antivirus-download>
and AVG Free <http://free.avg.com/us-en/download-avg-anti-virus-free>
are two of the most popular free antivirus programs of all time. Over a
million copies of each are downloaded in a typical week. Another very
worthy contender that you didn't mention is Avira <http://www.avira.com/free>.
So let's compare all three, and see which program gives the better
overall protection against various forms of malware.
AV-Comparatives.org is an independent antivirus testing
service that answers exactly this type of question. Its February, 2011,
report says that Avast! detected more than 98 percent of all sample
malware thrown at it, Avira found 97.5 percent, while AVG detected only
91.4 percent. The difference held steady between subcategories, with
Avast! and Avira outperforming AVG on backdoors/bots (98.5, 99.0, and
92.6 percent respectively), and Trojans (98.4, 97.7, 91.4 percent). AVG
and Avira showed larger weaknesses in the malware/virus category, which
scored the two at 80.7 and 87.7 percent, compared to Avast's score of
False positives - legitimate programs that are
erroneously tagged as malware - is a third important criterion for
effectiveness. False positives are more than just alarming. They can
prevent a necessary program from functioning properly. All anti-malware
programs produce false positives occasionally but the fewer, the
better. In AV-Compartives' test on a standard set of applications, 19
false positives were reported Avast! and 15 by AVG. Avira reported just
9 false positives.
Other Factors to Consider
Impact on system performance is important when running
an antimalware program constantly (as you should). AV-Comparatives
tested this impact on a number of computer functions such as file
copying, archiving/unarchiving, encoding/transcoding,
installing/uninstalling applications, launching applications, and
downloading files. Avast, AVG and Avira were all rated "very fast" in
most cases, meaning they had less than a 10 percent impact on overall
system performance. AVG slowed the installation/uninstallation of
programs slightly more than Avast and Avira did, but was still rated as
"fast". When downloading files from the Internet, Avast and AVG scored
"very fast" and Avira slipped to "fast".
None of the popular free anti-virus programs, Avast,
AVG, and Avira, are perfect, as you can see from the test results
above. But all three programs do some parts of their jobs better than
other anti-malware programs tested. It's worthwhile to take a look at
the reports on AV-Comparatives.org <http://av-comparatives.org/>
to see how other programs such as BitDefender, ESET, F-Secure,
Kaspersky, McAfee, Microsoft and Symantec/Norton stack up in the
various testing categories.
It's tempting to jump to the end of the "On-Demand
Detection" report and make a decision based on the award levels shown
there. But if you poke around further, you'll see that each report
(detection, false alarm, performance and removal) has its own award
levels, and the players tend to bounce around from one round of testing
to another, just months apart. My reading of the data says that both
Avast and Avira are rock solid "A+" performers over the long haul, but
I'd give AVG an "A" or "A-" grade.
I've used all three on various computers in my home, and
it's significant that none of my machines has ever been compromised.
Especially when you consider that I scour the Internet for a living,
and have kids in the house. Which one is right for you also depends on
the types of malware you encounter, the type of websites you visit, and
personal preferences as to user interface.