Security for everyone - Review Avira Free Security Suite
Avira is a German IT security company that is well known for its free antivirus software. It is so popular that, back in 2012, they had over 100 million customers and were ranked to be the sixth largest antivirus vendor in the world. That was quite an achievement, and the company kept on maintaining its popularity in the following years. Nowadays, they are not only offering a free antivirus, but also a free security suite that promises to include all the tools you need to protect your Windows computer efficiently. It is called Avira Free Security Suite, and we have reviewed it thoroughly for a couple of days. To see whether it is a good product, read this review:
What is Avira Free Security Suite good at?
Avira Free Security Suite is good security software for users who:
- Want good anti-malware protection
- Desire a free security suite but do not have the budget for commercial products
- Want a free VPN tool, and are willing to make do with limited traffic
Pros and cons
Here are the most important positives about Avira Free Security Suite:
- The antivirus engine is powerful and efficient, and can block malware easily
- The Browser Safety extension for Chrome and Firefox works well and can secure your web browsing experience
- The Phantom VPN tool helps secure your network connections, for free, without asking you to register an account, as long as you are OK with a monthly 500MB traffic limit, or 1GB if you do register an account with Avira
- This product is free of charge
There are also many negatives to consider:
- There are some advertisements displayed on your desktop when you use Avira
- Most of the additional tools that are bundled are not functional and are there only to convince you to buy the Pro version
- Safe Shopping is a marketing tool that has nothing to do with your security. It can also represent a privacy issue for users
- You are protected from dangerous websites only if you use Chrome or Firefox
- Avira Free Security Suite does not have a firewall module, so you have to be OK with using Windows Firewall
- The user interface does not look great, and it is poorly organized
- The antivirus engine is slow at scanning your computer for viruses
Avira Free Security Suite is an unbalanced security product. It does offer a good antivirus engine that is capable of protecting you against all kinds of malware threats, but that is the only significant positive about this security suite. There are many negatives, like the poorly organized user interface, the fact that it includes tools that do not work and try to convince you to buy the Pro version, or Safe Shopping which is there only to monetize your online shopping. If you want a free antivirus product from Avira, we recommend using Avira Free Antivirus, and not Avira Free Security Suite. It is a more straightforward choice, with less bloatware included.
The download and installation experience
To use Avira Free Security Suite on your computer, you must first download it. What you get is a small 5.12 MB executable file called avira_en_fass0_[some_random_characters]_ws.exe which you must run to download and install all the security modules. One positive we noticed about Avira Free Security Suite is that it does not ask you for any personal information. The installation process is simple and easy to go through: accept the license terms and wait for the wizard to download and install everything. In total, the security suite needs to download 364.5MB of data from the internet, which is a fairly big download, especially if you are using a metered connection.
During the installation, you can see what protection modules and additional tools you are getting, and you can also click on "Learn more" to see some details about the main features.
When the installation is done, Avira Free Security Suite loads its user interface, which looks simple at first.
There is no need to reboot your computer, as Avira's antivirus starts protecting you immediately after you finish installing it. Also, the security suite already uses the latest virus definitions available, so you get the best protection available at the moment.
Downloading and installing Avira Free Security Suite is easy and straightforward. All it takes is a few clicks, and the security suite is installed on your Windows computer. We also like the fact that Avira does not force you to provide any personal information to install their product.
Integration with Windows, web browsers and universal Windows platform apps
Avira Free Security Suite disables Windows Defender during its installation. It is a good thing because having two antivirus applications running simultaneously can lead to unexpected conflicts and performance issues. However, we did not see the Windows Firewall is disabled by Avira and, at first, we were wary of this. Multiple firewall solutions running at the same time can also be risky for your computer. When we looked closer, we found that Avira Free Security Suite does not include a proprietary firewall and, instead, relies on the Windows Firewall.
Then we checked whether Avira Free Security Suite is well integrated with Windows 10 regarding networking features. As this security product relies on Windows Firewall, it is self-evident that it works great with Windows 10: we could create and join Homegroups, we could access network shares and stream media files over the network, and we had no problems in downloading, installing or using universal Windows apps. Another direct consequence of Avira Free Security Suite using the Windows Firewall is the fact that you are always going to have the appropriate firewall settings applied for both Public and Private networks.
We also checked how Avira Free Security Suite protects users while browsing websites. The bad news is that this security product does not protect you against online dangers. This security feature is available only in the Pro version of the suite, which costs money.
However, Avira Free Security Suite also offers a browser extension called Browser Safety, designed to protect you when surfing the web, but only if you use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
We also used Task Manager to monitor how much RAM is needed by Avira Free Security Suite to run its processes. The security suite uses about 147 MB of RAM, which is not a significant value for modern computers. Then, we also checked how much it affects the boot time of our test computer. To do that, we used BootRacer, and we measured that Avira Free Security Suite added 2 seconds to our test system's boot. That is 9.87% more time added to the original boot time. To check whether the internet or local network speeds are affected by Avira Free Security Suite, we also ran a few tests with Speedtest.net and with LAN Speed Test. The transfer rates were the same before and after installing the security suite, which means that it has no adverse effect on internet or local network data transfers. It is an excellent result!
Avira Free Security Suite does not include a proprietary firewall module. Instead, it relies on the Windows Firewall. Because of that, it is well integrated with Windows 10 and universal Windows apps. The only minor negative is that this suite increases a bit the boot time of your computer.
Ease of use & configuration
Avira Free Security Suite is rather peculiar when it comes to its user interface. In fact, you could say that this product includes more than one user interface. You get a window called Avira, which acts as a central console for viewing and launching the tools available. This part of the user interface lets you know if you are well protected, it gives you a glimpse of the status of each protection module and it also allows you to start the tasks offered by each protection module: run an antivirus Quick Scan, Connect to a VPN server, or Optimize your PC. This central console uses bright and warm colors which look good. What we do not like about it is the fact that it is a window with a fixed size, and that its size is rather small, so you have to scroll through it to find all the tools.
When you install Avira Free Security Suite, you get the following protection modules: Antivirus, Software Updater, Password Manager, Phantom VPN, System Speedup, Safe Shopping, and Browser Safety. The interesting thing is that the Antivirus module is not just about the antivirus engine, but also the tool that you need to launch if you want to access things like the firewall settings, the web protection (which is not available in the security suite but which turns on if you buy the Pro version), or the reports. Avira Free Security Suite is not organized intuitively, and it can be confusing.
This settings window of the Avira Antivirus Free module does not follow the same design lines as the main user interface, and it even looks dated. As you can see in the screenshot below, Avira's antivirus settings window changes from bright colors to black and white and offers access to details, options, and settings. This time, the menus items are written in small fonts that are hard to read and are also hard to use on a touchscreen.
A positive aspect of Avira Free Security Suite is the fact that it is enough to hover the mouse cursor on most of the advanced settings to see brief information about what they do. This helps you understand what the settings do, without having to open the help and documentation files.
Talking about help and documentation, Avira includes offline Help files, which is great. You do not need internet access if you want to read Avira's documentation. Avira Free Security Suite also offers easy access to online documentation, frequently asked questions, and even video tutorials about how to improve your security. However, email and phone support are available only to paying customers, not to users of Avira Free Security Suite. This is the norm for free products.
Regarding reports, Avira Free Security Suite offers a section called Activity where you can see some text logs, but no visual statistics whatsoever. The text logs are, unfortunately, just summaries of what happened on your computer, so if you want details, you are out of luck.
From a user interaction point of view, we must note that we saw alerts when malware was detected, but also other types of notifications, including advertisements.
Avira Free Security Suite is not what you would call a user-friendly security product. Some of it looks good, but some parts seem like they came from the past. Unfortunately, Avira's user interface looks like a bunch of different things thrown in together, without coherence and fluency.