Antivirus Software Review: AVG
In the 21st century, an antivirus program isn't really a luxury, but rather, a necessary tool that protects you from dangers on the Internet. But just because something is a "must have" doesn't mean that it has to be user-friendly, with the large number of poorly-designed, or difficult-to-navigate antivirus programs providing good evidence of this.
AVG refers to their own antivirus product as "refreshingly simple", and able to provide solid cybersecurity to anyone. In the free antivirus segment, AVG has one of the most popular programs. Our review below shows if it's deserving of such a good reputation.
What is AVG Antivirus?
AVG Antivirus is an antivirus program produced by AVG Technologies, which since 2016 has been owned by Avast. Yes, the same Avast known for their eponymous antivirus program. Even though both one-time competitors have now joined forces, they continue to offer different software solutions. AVG Antivirus is available for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS.
Protection against viruses is offered free-of-charge through AVG Antivirus Free, whereas premium subscribers receive it through AVG Internet Security.
Pros and Cons
Easy to install and use
Offers a free version with basic protection
Comparably high premium subscription price
Installation & Usage
Installing AVG Antivirus takes at the most a few minutes. The program can be customized to a greater extent than those of its competitors. For example, the decision to install AVG's Secure Browser is left entirely up to you. You're also allowed to choose whether you want to install additional features like Internet and email protection or a data-shredder. Should you already have these features provided by other services or programs, you can cut back on redundancy and save disk space by un-checking them.
Installation concludes with performance of your first "Smart Scan", which checks your system for threats and malware. In the freeware version, attempts are made to coax you into becoming a paid subscriber: A pop-up window opens and invites you to sign up for AVG TuneUp, which claims to be able to make your PC faster, while in the program's dashboard, a notice alerts you to the inadequacy of your firewall. For users of freeware, such up-selling tactics can and should be seen as the "price" for the otherwise free software.
Is the program so "refreshingly simple" as promised? AVG Antivirus definitely does not make anything more complicated than it needs to be. In the main window, there are five user modules which are divided into "Basic Protection" ("Computer" and "Web and Email") as well as "Full Protection" ("Hacker Attacks", "Privacy", and "Payments").
The modules show via green or red check marks what their current status is, and whether, for example, your device is safe or threatened. Underneath the modules is a green button, clicking on which will run a scan. You can also see when your last virus scan took place on the dashboard, as well as when you, or the program last updated the virus definition database.
Settings and additional features, like the above-mentioned data shredder, or "Do Not Disturb" mode, as well as an option to be forwarded to support can all be found by clicking on the "Menu" button in the upper menu bar. If you are signed in and have a subscription, you can also view your subscription status and other AVG products you have installed by clicking on "My AVG".
AVG Antivirus keeps its promise of being easy to use, managing to get a positive surprise in as well owing to the high degree of freedom it grants users in tailoring the program's installation to their needs.
Score: 5 / 5
Like every antivirus program, AVG scans your device for threats, either automatically, or at a time of your choosing. By clicking on the gear symbol next to "Scan" in the main window, you can select the type of scan you'd like to perform: With "Deep Scan", an intensive search for malware is performed, "Performance Scan" looks for files that can be deleted and performance issues, while "Boot-Time Scan" ensures that AVG monitors your computer from the moment you turn your computer on. In addition, you can also scan external (connected) USB storage devices, folders, or even files.
Alongside a variety of different scanning options, AVG Antivirus also offers real-time protection against threats. The basic protection afforded to free users (as mentioned above, divided into "Computer" and "Internet and Email") includes this. For "Computer" this entails active scans for viruses, spyware, ransomware, Trojans, and other malware, either neutralizing or removing them if found. In "Internet and Email", this extends to checking links while surfing, warning against unsafe WiFi connections, and testing incoming and outgoing email attachments for threats. Each of these features can be configured independently of one another.
The data shredder, which allows you to remove files without leaving behind any traces, can be accessed through the AVG client, but also by right-clicking on the file or folder in question and selecting "Shred using AVG".
AVG users, even without paid subscriptions, are protected both locally and online. For paying customers, a variety of other defense mechanisms are offered. Protection against hackers is afforded by a firewall, which can be configured in detail, such as by defining friendly network profiles or even networks, so as to minimize risky connections. You can also set guidelines for trustworthy connections that will apply to each installed app or program. With "Ransomware Protection", your files will be secured against so-called extortion Trojans, which are used by cyber criminals to make digital hostages out of your files and generate ransoms.
"Webcam Protection", which bars unauthorized access to your webcam, is also offered for premium subscribers, as is the "Sensitive Data Shield" which protects important files by adding extra security to them. During testing, when we attempted to 'raise' the "Sensitive Data Shield", the program froze. According to customer support, this is owing to a known software error and can be rectified with a clean re-installation of the program.
Finally, AVG offers its premium users payment protection, which includes "Anti-Spam", that blocks spam and phishing emails, as well as "Fake Website Protection", which identifies unreliable sites and makes online shopping more secure.
Fancy extras like a VPN, password manager, or performance tuning aren't available, even for premium subscribers, most likely because AVG has paid programs in its portfolio that offer these, such as TuneUp, Password Protection, and Secure VPN.
AVG Secure Browser is free of charge though, and is offered as an accompaniment to AVG Antivirus when installing. This is identical with the Avast browser and based on Chromium, making it very similar to Chrome as well. It also comes pre-installed with extensions like an adblocker and auto-tracking, which only need to be activated to start working.
Of course, AVG also offers a mobile free (with ads) or premium (without ads) antivirus app for smartphones and devices. Alongside manual scans and real-time protection, there is a data scanner that scans files and data and a photo vault, in which pictures are protected. You can also use the app to measure the speed and security of your WiFi connection.
Of particular importance to many smartphone users are anti-theft measures or counter-measures. With AVG, you can preemptively set when your device should be marked as "lost" and what should happen if those conditions are met. For example, the device can be locked, or even activate a siren to make the thief stand out. You can also locate the phone using GPS.
Some of the "Anti-Theft" features are limited to premium users, such as one which automatically marks your device as lost if an unknown SIM card is detected, or a camera trap that secretly takes a picture of the person who has your phone when activated.
In sum, AVG Antivirus offers its free users a solid basic package, whereby the premium subscription covers any and all remaining features.
Score: 4.3 / 5
Security & Performance
Overall, AVG Antivirus made a very good impression with AV-Test, taking all points in terms of security, however, in AV-Comparatives' latest real-world protection test it only received 2 out of 3 stars, owing to some security lapses and false positives. Nevertheless, the program blocks 99.3% of malware.
Score: 4.3 / 5
An investigative report published jointly by Motherboard (Vice) and PCmag in January 2020 revealed that Avast, through its subsidiary, Jumpshot, had sold user data on a massive scale to third-parties, including Google, Microsoft, McKinsey, Pepsi, and Yelp. According to the authors, this data pertains to "Google searches, GPS coordinates used in Google Maps, LinkedIn site history, YouTube videos, and porn browsing history, including the entered search terms and the videos watched." Even though no personal data was sold, it would not have been difficult for the buying companies to identify individual user IDs on the basis of movement data and device numbers. In the interim, Avast's CEO Ondrej Vlcek apologized for the incident and closed Jumpshot.
As mentioned above, you can be forwarded to AVG's support center through the antivirus program's menu. However, this has a relatively superficial FAQ area and forum, only providing users with the ability to file a support ticket. The service does not offer a hotline or live chat.
During testing, it took us two weeks to receive an answer to our query. The answer itself was very comprehensive and helpful, however, by that time, we had already forgotten about the issue.
In terms of support, AVG performance was well below par.
Score: 1 / 5
In addition to a free version, AVG Internet Security comes in one-, two-, or three-year subscriptions, which, as expected, become cheaper as they increase in duration. You can also select whether you want to have access for up to ten different devices. There's also a Business edition of the software, for which you pay per device.
|Price per year||$0.00||from $39.48||$77.88|
|Contract period (months)||0||12||12|
|Max. Number of devices||unlimited||10||10|
|Special Protection Features|
AVG's Internet Security package is definitely in the lower price segment. Since subscription packages for each program vary, the table below compares each provider's offering on the basis of a sample, with similar conditions:
AVG promises simplicity in terms of antivirus protection, and keeps its word, impressing from the first usage with its intuitive design, which makes navigating between the variety of features relatively easy. These features don't only stand out for their simplicity: Freeware users receive basic protection, whereas the paid version of the software, AVG Internet Security, barely leaves any stone un-turned in terms of the capabilities desired in an antivirus program.
In terms of support, AVG does lose the plot, all the more confusing since its parent program, Avast Antivirus made up for its own lack of contact possibilities with an excellent support center. It seems to follow the same logic that AVG is so easy to use that there shouldn't be any support issues, but that isn't enough for us; there will always be some customers who require personalized assistance, and software developers need to provide a channel for supplying this in a timely fashion.
In the customer reviews that Experte.com evaluated, AVG Antivirus performed very well. The program's accessibility and simplicity are lauded time and again. On Trustpilot, similarly to Avast, AVG Antivirus is criticized for billing irregularities and non-transparent renewal and subscription practices.
Alternatives to AVG Antivirus
Should you want to "stay in the family", the easiest option is to take a look at Avast, which is based on the same engine. A number of providers also offer more affordable premium subscriptions than AVG, such as Sophos and 360 Total Security. If support is important to you, we can highly recommend Bitdefender. A list of popular alternatives can be found here: