Key features:
-Scheduled scan support
-Dedicated email scanning module
-Bootable rescue disk available as separate download
-Windows XP SP3/Vista/7/8/8.1/10
-Requires Intel Pentium 1.5GHz or faster, 512MB RAM, 1.2GB free disk space

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AVG Free is one of the longest-established free anti-virus suites on the market, available across multiple platforms with a wealth of features and modules. Its comes with an optional Zen dashboard that provides an overview of all the devices associated with your AVG account, as well as your PC’s protection status. However, it doesn’t add anything particularly useful when it comes to protecting a single PC against malware.
Sadly, AVG hasn’t been performing particularly well in AV-TEST’s recent results. In March, AVG achieved 100% protection in live real-world threat testing and 99.9% effectiveness against a bank of reference malware samples. However, its real-world effectiveness dropped to 95.2% in April, putting it below the industry average of 97%.
Its false-positive performance was good, however, since it misdetected only a couple of benign programs as malicious from a sample set of more than a million. It also did well in most performance tests, launching and downloading software much faster than average, although its web module slowed down website load times more than many of its rivals.
Like most free anti-virus suites, AVG offers a premium version, as well as the Free version we’re looking at here. By default, a 30-day trial of AVG Pro is installed, with extra features including a firewall, encryption and secure browsing tools. This reverts to a free version after that period, but if you just want to install AVG Free from the start, you should select Custom installation after the installer launches.
Custom installation also allows you to choose where the program should be installed and whether you want AVG’s extra email protection and in-browser link-scanning features – again, both are included in a default installation.
Once AVG has installed, it will prompt you to install the Web TuneUp browser extension, which provides an extra layer of warnings about potentially malicious websites. However, it also sets AVG’s Yahoo-based Secure Search as your homepage, new tab page and default search engine. We’re not fans of anything that co-opts your own choice of search engine, so we recommend declining this offer.
The AVG client displays the protection status of AVG and its various modules, such as identity and email protection. From there, you can click on each of these status buttons to view extra screens and options, allowing you to enable or disable specific modules and schedule or run specific scans.
If you want in-depth control over AVG’s behaviour, you’ll need to visit the Advanced Settings screen, where you can control everything from the size allocated to your Virus Vault, specific settings for email servers you wish to scan, and detailed scan behaviour – such as support for scanning removable devices or excluding specific folders from your scans. The Options menu also provides quick access to your Virus Vault, scan history and other features, although we’d have preferred these to be accessible from the main interface.
AVG’s performance in AV-TEST’s real-world live malware exposure tests was relatively poor, and we weren’t particularly impressed by its impact on system performance.