Free antivirus protection provided by software like AVG Antivirus is tempting. But what kind of protection do you get without paying for it? How well-protected are you if you rely on AVG Antivirus for your protection?
In this AVG Antivirus review, we look at the popular service’s features, pricing plans, user interface, and more.
Is AVG any good?
AVG Antivirus is quite good. Purchased by Avast in 2016, it uses the same engine. In lab tests, AVG Antivirus detected 100% of all viruses it had prior knowledge of, and 99% of all viruses it had no prior knowledge of (i.e. “zero-day” attacks by new viruses), on some tests outperforming the likes of BitDefender, Kaspersky, and McAfee.
That said, AVG offers premium cybersecurity plans, most notably AVG Internet Security and AVG Android Pro Security. These upper-tier plans are inexpensive compared to some of their competitors, but they do imply that the free version of AVG Antivirus is incomplete to some extent. After all, there’s a higher bar of security out there—and AVG sells it!
|Rating:||4.1||Price:||from $39.99/year, 1 PC|
|Free version:||Yes||Platforms:||Windows, macOS, iOS, Android|
AVG Antivirus pros & cons
- Third-party tested for security
- Simple interface
- Lots of features
- Competitive pricing (including a free version)
- Phone and chat support
- Incomplete protection
- Unhelpful knowledge base
- Expensive premium support
- No AVG products for Ubuntu or other Linux versions
Anti-theft phone tracker
On the Android version of AVG Antivirus, you can protect your device in case it gets lost or stolen. You can set it up by enabling the feature and setting up a PIN code. Select which account to allow to make remote changes. When you give the required permissions, you’ll be able to log in to my.avg.com and access the phone from a distance. If you need, you can erase all data located on the phone from a distance or change the screen lock. All of this is available for free users.
If you’re a paid AVG user, more power to you. You can set up automatic locking if the screen lock is entered incorrectly eight times. When the phone becomes locked, you can set up additional actions. There’s even a sound siren that should alert nearby people. One of the most interesting features is a secret camera mode that turns on when the phone is marked as lost. The phone sneakily takes a picture of whoever is holding it in its hand and uploads it to my.avg.com. You can then take this photo and go to the police station to identify the thief.
Sensitive Data Shield
Sensitive Data Shield is available to paid-only users in the AVG Internet Security package. This feature protects your most important files by controlling which applications have access to them. It means even if a hacker would find a way around other blocks put in place by AVG, he would still have no way to touch them. You can even perform an automatic scan that identifies your sensitive files, then the software marks them as highly personal. After your confirmation, every single file is limited access to other apps. When an untrusted application tries to access marked files, you get a notification asking to block or allow access. That way, you are always in the loop of what’s happening with the files.
AI-based detection of phishing threats
This paid-user exclusive feature uses machine learning to identify phishing sites. Many of these sites follow similar patterns and use common tactics like registering for similarly sounding domains. Although a typical user might be too inattentive to expect all of them carefully, AVG antivirus can do the heavy lifting for you. AVG will run a check for domain meta information, suspicious tokens, and even visual elements in a blink of an eye. Most of this scanning will happen while the page is loading. The system is effective 99% of the time. You can believe that an average user wouldn’t get that good results. Most importantly, this can be done before the AVG VirusLab team blacklists the site, so you can stay safe even if the phishing scam site is fairly recent.
Webcam Protection is another premium feature that acts as a strict software block for your webcam. With it, you can get much better control of what applications can access your webcam. This is especially useful for laptops that don’t have built-in webcam covers. Some of the processes can be done automatically. AVG File Reputation service scans what services are currently running. It cross-checks how many users have it installed along with the application’s certificates. So, you have a valid confirmation that the app is safe to use and can get your camera permissions. Since, on average, there is a relatively limited number of apps that you willingly share your webcam permissions. It’s a simple monitoring tool with a strong block to all unauthorized attempts.
Although paid-only, this firewall could as well justify the price bump. It’s designed to monitor all incoming and outgoing connections on your network. You can select appropriate presets according to your desired usage or strictness. It can work in a separate mode when you’re using public wifi that automatically switches to stricter settings. This is very useful if you’re moving a lot.
Reliability & Security
This is really the whole ballgame—with insufficient protection, even free antivirus software is not worth it. So how good is AVG Antivirus at its job?
AVG Antivirus creates several layers of protection that malware must breach to get access to your system. At the top layer, it blocks suspicious programs. If malicious software breaches that first layer of protection, AVG Antivirus performs a thorough scan of the suspicious software before deleting it.
AVG Antivirus has performed very well against nearly every virus pitted against it in tests. However, the promise for the scanning function to take a maximum of 15 seconds doesn’t hold true in every case. Some scans take considerably longer.
AVG Antivirus has not fared so well in tests against malware-hosting URLs, blocking about 90% of threatening links. That’s still impressive, but lagging behind the 97% blocked by McAfee, or the 99% blocked by BitDefender.
AVG Antivirus offers advanced firewalls that protect your computer against ransomware, a popular form of malware that encrypts your files and then holds them for “ransom” in exchange for a payment. Note, however, that AVG Internet Security has better firewalls.
Phishing is a type of social engineering that takes many forms., but the most well-known phishing attacks target users through email. AVG Antivirus does a great job of spotting phishing attacks that depend on downloads.
However, email phishing can also rely on links. Other types of phishing depend on fake websites, including “fake payment” websites, which hackers try to insert into legitimate customer journeys to collect personal information like credit card data. AVG Internet Security offers protection against links and fake websites, but AVG Antivirus does not.
Cybercrime prevention relies on real-time response. Even a split-second delay in function could allow a virus or malware to breach a firewall. AVG Antivirus offers excellent real-time functionality through its industry-leading use of AI. It applies machine learning to discover and learn about new threats as it discovers them.
AVG Antivirus real-time protection enables the software to effectively protect your computer without having to scan every file you download or open.
The green scan button in the middle of the dashboard performs a basic scan of the most vulnerable parts of the system. The first scan takes a few minutes, but subsequent scans take only about thirty seconds.
To do a deep, complete system scan, though, you need to click through the center button three times. Only then do you get the most effective security scan AVG has to offer. It takes longer, but it’s worth it.
AVG Antivirus can also perform USB and DVD drive scans to check removable drives. You can also customize your scans to target certain files, and schedule scans for times of limited use, including boot-up scans.
AVG Antivirus also includes a performance scan to fix issues bogging down your OS, but we didn’t find it to be particularly effective over the long term.
Pricing and plans
AVG Antivirus is free for PC, Mac, or Android. The premium version, AVG Internet Security, costs $39.99 for the first year to protect one Mac or one PC. AVG advertises this as a 43% discount, so expect the renewal price to be closer to $69.99. There are no AVG apps for Ubuntu or other Linux versions.
The AVG Internet Security also offers a 10-device plan to protect up to ten PCs, Macs, or Android devices for less than $10 more a year—$47.88, discounted from a regular price of $89.99.
AVG offers free trials on its paid plans. How long a trial depends on the device and version:
- Mac: 60 days
- PC: 30 days
- Android: 14 days
Ease of use and setup
AVG Antivirus is extremely easy to use. The free version downloads with just a few clicks, no account necessary.
The AVG Antivirus user interface is extremely simple and intuitive. The front panel features a top-line assessment of your protection and a “Fix All” button to correct all issues covered by your plan.
Below are panels for “Basic Protection” (Computer, Web & Email) and “Full Protection” (Hacker Attacks, Payments). Each tile gives you a “Protected” or “Not Protected” reading.
At the bottom of the panel is the date of your last virus scan, a “Scan Now” button, and a “Refresh” button to update your virus definitions.
Clicking on the middle tiles will unlock simple interfaces to manage and activate features and functions.
If features require plan upgrades to unlock, the function pages include “Upgrade” buttons. A green “Upgrade” button is also helpfully placed at the top of every panel.
AVG Antivirus has a reputation for great customer support, and the experience mostly bears that out. A visit to the support page reveals an extensive knowledge base with a search field, a support community, quick links to the download center and license finder, and numerous FAQs.
Unfortunately, like so many knowledge bases, it isn’t very helpful unless you have a fairly basic question. It’s a bit labyrinthine.
Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to get more direct support. Where it says “Need Help With Your AVG Product,” just click on your product. You will be taken to another FAQ page, but there is also a prominent “Get More Help” link.
The window you are taken to has tabs for technical support and sales support. The tech support tab has a contact form to initiate a support ticket, with response by email.
The sales support tab includes customer service phone numbers, a quick link to refund requests, and a chat support link.
It’s worth noting, however, that 24/7 technical and customer support is only available if you pay for a “premium support” plan with a price tag of $200 per year. It’s fair to say that this could erase the savings and affordability that act as selling points for budget-conscious users.
AVG Antivirus offers impressive protection for free software. Add to that the user-friendly interface and excellent support, and this product is a no-brainer for Mac, PC, and Android users.
However, while it is far better than no protection, AVG Antivirus doesn’t offer the level of protection that paid software does. There’s no consolation prize for Second Place in cybersecurity. Even at 90% effective, a cyberattack that squeaks through that 10% window can wreak havoc on a business or individual.
We recommend AVG Antivirus for newcomers to cybersecurity. Get your feet wet, play with it … but if you decide that you like the interface, seriously consider upgrading to AVG Internet Security. It offers significantly better protection at a reasonable price.
Is AVG Antivirus safe?
AVG Antivirus is safe to run on your PC, Mac, or Android device (the security of iOS is secure on its own, so you don’t really need antivirus for it). The virus-blockers, firewalls, and system scans this free software offers make your computer significantly better protected than a computer with no antivirus or firewalls running.
However, AVG Antivirus underperformed paid software in identifying link-based malware attacks. While it’s better than nothing, the paid version, AVG Internet Security, offers more comprehensive protection.
How much does AVG Antivirus cost?
AVG Antivirus has a free basic version. Upgrading to AVG Internet Security, a more complete suite of protections and firewalls, costs $39.99 for one device in the first year, $69.99 in subsequent years. A plan that covers up to ten devices costs $49.88 in the first year, $89.99 thereafter.
Is AVG Antivirus better than Norton?
AVG Antivirus performed comparably to Norton Antivirus when blocking viruses, malware, ransomware, and download-based attacks. However, it underperformed Norton Antivirus when blocking link-based attacks.
The free software AVG Antivirus also does not offer protection against phishing attacks based on links or fake web pages, including fake payment pages. For that, you would need to upgrade to AVG Internet Security.
Which is better, Avast or AVG?
Avast bought AVG in 2016. They run off the same security engine and have been adapted to have similar interfaces. Picking between free versions is largely a matter of preference—you will have the same level of protection with either one.
Upper-tier Premium packages are where the two brands start to diverge. Premium AVG plans include VPNs, while premium versions of Avast include parental controls and home wi-fi protection.
Even if you are only considering the free version of these antivirus products, check the premium features to see which ones you might find more useful if you decide to upgrade.