German company Avira is owned by Norton LifeLock, the firm that also puts out the Norton 360 range of security software. Avira isn’t, however, Norton repackaged under a different name – the Avira software has been around since before the company was taken over, dating back to 1986 and H+BEDV Datentechnik GmbH. You can see why they settled on the name Avira.
There is a completely free version of Avira, known as Avira free security, with an upgrade path to three subscription products for Windows, Mac, and mobile platforms. The first is Avira antivirus pro, which nets you antivirus protection that covers removable drives you plug into your PC, real time protection that runs in the background, blocking of known malware websites, data and identity protection, and a cloud-based AI agent that stops emerging threats from infecting your PC.
The next tier is Avira internet security, which costs more and includes everything from antivirus pro plus a software updater and password manager. At the top is Avira prime, which costs a lot but can be installed on five different devices, and adds PC tuning tools and an unlimited VPN to the Internet security features. The VPN, password manager, software updater and PC tuneup tools can all be subscribed to separately.
However, that free version we mentioned earlier is actually very good. It offers real time protection as well as hard drive scanning, you get a 500MB/month bite of the VPN, identity protection, some PC tuning tools, a firewall, and protection from phishing attacks. There’s a software updater and PC cleaner. It installs plugins on your browser (Chrome, Opera, Edge and Firefox) to cover your online shopping trips, and generally feels like something they’d be mad to give away for free.
However, the reason they give it away becomes clear when you actually try to use it. It will happily scan your PC and report back on what’s wrong with it, including outdated apps, tracking cookies, and unwanted files taking up space. It will even fix some of it for you. If you want your apps updated, or any of the other services chosen to live behind the subscription, you’ll need to pay up. This is, we discovered, the only way to get a free trial of Avira. A 60-day test of Avira prime is available if you decline to sign up for a subscription, though you’ll need to input a credit card number or PayPal account to get it.
How we tested
We installed Avira in a virtual machine running a fully updated and activated copy of Windows 10 Home, ran it through its paces on the clean machine, then exposed it to test files from EICAR (the European Institute for Computer Anti-Virus Research) and spyshelter.com. It detected 100 per cent of our test files.
Buy now From £35.88 per year, Avira.com
Subscription: Antivirus pro, £35.88 per year for 1 device. Avira Prime, £107.88, 5 devices
Avira prime offers plenty of tools to protect your data. There’s a file shredder that overwrites deleted files for secure removal, the VPN for private online browsing, and part of the main app that updates your operating system settings to be more privacy-focused. There are a lot of options here, and it’s possible to plug every hole and seal Windows up tight. Some of the options, however, could potentially have an unwanted effect on the general running of your computer, so apply them with care.
There’s a firewall that plugs into the main Windows defender firewall – changing its settings beyond on/off takes you to Windows defender – and the browser plugins take care of things like tracking cookies.
Even in its prime bundle, Avira antivirus doesn’t offer parental controls. That’s a shame, because it feels less complete without them. A prime subscription allows you to install Avira on up to five devices, so installing the mobile version should be the next thing you do, as we all rely on our mobile devices, and the incidence of malware on mobile is increasing.
The Android app mainly comprises a virus scanner, plus the VPN and password manager, though there’s a handy call blocker too, and scanners to see if any apps have helped themselves to permissions they shouldn’t have, and to check for security holes in your network connections. The iOS app is a bit thinner in terms of features, due to the more tightly locked-down nature of Apple’s mobile OS, which tends to block anti-malware measures as neatly as it does malware itself.
The Android app is also the home of identity safeguard, which we couldn’t find in the main desktop app. This is Avira’s dark web checking service, which compares your email address against known data breaches circulating on the bits of the internet we don’t usually go to. It’s a great prompt to update your passwords if – when – you find you’ve been included in a leak.
How does Avira work?
When you’ve not got the main app open, Avira sits in the background. Realtime protection keeps a lookout for the changes a virus will attempt to make to your device – such as disabling security – while web protection blocks known malware sites should a supported browser attempt to access one. Email protection blocks emails with dodgy attachments from being downloaded into your mail app, and there’s ransomware protection too.
Infected files are quarantined, from where they can be repaired or deleted, and there’s a malware removal tool that can be downloaded from the Avira website if you’re struggling with an infestation.
Virus scanning comes in quick and full varieties, both of which can be scheduled, and there are separate scans for things like rootkits, and to scan removable drives. Humorously, the scanning window is called “Luke Filewalker”. It carried out a full scan on our entire system, which isn’t very heavily populated, in less than 40 minutes, and generally used less than 30 per cent of our CPU capacity while doing so, meaning it wouldn’t slow the PC down or put it out of use for any amount of time.
Buy now £35.88, Avira.com
The verdict: Avira antivirus
Avira is a good choice if you’re looking for a security suite to operate across multiple devices, but aren’t worried about parental controls or things like the secure online storage offered by its competitors. There are plenty of other privacy features, however, and the basic antivirus functionality seems sound.
It’s also worth keeping an eye on the pricing. Avira is one of the only antivirus apps that doesn’t increase its prices after your first year of subscription, but its subscriptions are often for one device only, unless you subscribe to prime, which nets you five. As the number of devices we have in our homes increases, we’ll need an increasing number of subscriptions to protect them all, so having five devices as the starting number for all subscriptions would have been nice to see here. As it stands, Avira only makes financial sense against its competitors if you buy a lot of licences, pushing the price down, especially in the first year.
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