Avast is like the little train that could when it comes to antivirus software. It started to gain a lot of ground by offering its free antivirus software, but has since become one of the top names in security software.

How Does Avast Work?

Avast works very similarly to other antivirus software programs. Once you have it installed, which is an easy process, it will do a scan of your device to check for viruses or malware. Once the scan is done, you can customize Avast to monitor your device any way you want. Generally, it will run scans periodically to search for viruses or malware, but if it detects suspicious activity on your device, it will alert you immediately.

Some cool features Avast offers in addition to its free basic protection:

Master password: Avast will help you set up a master password for your device, which you can use to gain access to any of your favorite websites or apps. Not having to remember all of your passwords is a nice bonus.

Sandbox: Sandbox allows you to perform unsecure tasks in a controlled environment. Simply put, if you aren’t sure about an email you want to open or an application you want to launch, you can take it into Sandbox and open it first to make sure it doesn’t contain any viruses or malware that can infect your computer. If it’s safe, you can do it again on your live device.

WiFi Inspector: This is a new tool that some of the top antivirus software services are now offering. The WiFi Inspector will scan any wifi signal you are trying to connect to in order to make sure it is safe to use, which is nice if you are constantly connecting to wifi signals from your phone or tablet.

Browser Cleanup: This tool is more for performance than protection, but it applies to both. Browser Cleanup will help you get rid of any extensions or add-ons to your browser that you no longer need or that may be hurting your computer in any way.

SafeZone Browser: Most security software services include a similar tool. SafeZone Browser allows you to make financial transactions and do online banking in a secure browser environment, so hackers can’t gain access to your personal and financial information.

These features are not included in the free version of Avast, but are included in most of the paid versions of the software.

Can I Trust Avast?

Avast hasn’t been around as long as some of the other antivirus software services, but it has quickly become one of the most-used, mostly because of its free antivirus software offering. It also tends to do very well in independent testing.

Protection: Avast can play with the big dogs when it comes to protection. It scored a 6 out of 6 from AV-Test’s protection testing, which can be difficult to do since it tests multiple aspects of antivirus software as well as “overprotective” software that alerts even when there is no threat. Avast has always shown strong results in the protection testing, but 6 out of 6 is an impressive score, even for Avast.

Performance: In the performance section of AV-Test’s testing, Avast did not fare as well. It scored 4.5 out of 6, which is just an OK score. This is surprising since Avast offers specific performance-enhancing tools like Browser Cleanup and Passive Mode, which allows Avast to sit quietly in the background while your computer does its thing.

Common Avast Reviews

Avast actually has some of the best reviews because of its combination of affordability and stellar protection. Professional review sites like Cnet and PC Magazine give Avast 4.5 out of 5 stars, which puts it in the same class as big names like Norton and Bitdefender.

Users also seem to be big fans of Avast’s antivirus software. On Cnet, Avast scored a 4.5 out of 5 stars from more than 27,000 user reviews, which is impressive for any antivirus software. To put it in perspective, Norton and Kaspersky generally receive between 3 and 4 stars from user reviews on the same site.

Is Avast Right For You?

Do you like free? Then Avast is for you. But seriously, even if you want more protection than its free software can offer, Avast is still one of the cheaper software services that offers an extensive suite of protection tools that rivals some of the biggest names.

If you are looking for the best free antivirus software, Avast is for you.

If you are looking for a low-cost security software suite with some cool features, Avast is also for you.

If you don’t mind spending money and you want the best of the best, you might want to go with one of the top three antivirus software suites.

McAfee was one of the original pioneers of security software, until it lost direction when its founder left the company. Since then, it’s been playing catch up with the other big names in antivirus software. Since Intel acquired McAfee in 2010, it has been making big changes, including a name change to Intel Security until it was changed back to McAfee earlier this year, but it still lacks some of the sophistication and advanced tools of some of the bigger antivirus names. It does, however, have some ground-breaking new features that can start to set it apart from the big dogs in antivirus software.

How Does McAfee Work?

McAfee works very similarly to all the other antivirus software services. After you install, which is generally a fairly easy process, McAfee will do an initial scan to make sure there are no current viruses or malware on your computer or device. It will report any viruses back to you and either remove them or instruct you on how to remove them.

After the initial scan, you can customize your scans to run whenever you want to make sure your computer or device stays clean. McAfee will also alert you if you are online and are heading to a site that may not be secure or are trying to download something that may contain a virus or malware. As a basic protection, it also will keep your identity and online transactions safe from hackers.

Some cool features McAfee offers in addition to basic protection:

True Key: This is one of the best features we’ve seen from an antivirus software service. True Key basically allows you to sign into apps, websites and tools with things other than your login and password. For example, if you visit your bank’s website all the time, but it always makes you log in, you could set up True Key to trust the site and automatically log you in, or you can use things like face recognition or fingerprint matching to give you access to the site without logging in. Beyond being convenient, it is a good protection tool against spammers who may use software to grab your logins when you type them in.

Encryption software: McAfee uses encryption software to make sure all the data on your computer or any information you access online is encrypted, making it harder for hackers to gain access to your information.

Digital file shredder: This is one that most people don’t think they need, but can be a big factor in protecting your data. When you move something to Trash on your computer, you delete it, but there are still traces of it on your computer, meaning hackers can still gain access to it. A digital file shredder completely erases all traces of your file and data when you shred it.

Multi-device protection: This is a nice plus for McAfee. While other antivirus software services will include multi-device protection on more expensive total protection plans, very few offer it on basic antivirus protection software. McAfee does. Other services also put a cap on the number of devices, while McAfee does not.

Most of these features are only offered on McAfee’s Internet Security and Total Security products, so that is something to keep in mind when looking at which product to buy.

Can I Trust McAfee?

McAfee is owned by Intel, which gives it a lot of clout and a lot of technology know-how to back it up. In addition, McAfee has been in the antivirus software game almost from the beginning, so it knows how to protect your devices. Here is how McAfee scored in some of the top independent testing done on antivirus software:

Protection: McAfee only scored a 4 out of 6 on AV-Test’s litany of protection tests, which is a little low compared to some of the bigger names we reviewed. AV-Test performs the same tests on all software, using its own viruses and malware to make testing consistent. It tests all protection features that the antivirus software includes.

Performance: A big factor in deciding on an antivirus software service is whether the software slows down your computer’s speed. In the past, security software could have a profound effect on the processing speed of your computer, so AV-Test developed a performance test to see how different antivirus software services compared. McAfee scored a 5.5 out of 6 on the test, making it a great choice for performance.

Common McAfee Reviews

Reviews from professional consumer product review sites tend to be solid for McAfee. Most point to McAfee’s features as the main bragging point, although the reviews do give McAfee a solid protection rating.

User reviews on McAfee, or any antivirus software for that matter, are hard to gauge because the software changes every year, so older negative reviews could reflect issues that have already been fixed or are outdated features. Generally, the reviews have been mixed on McAfee, although there don’t seem to be a lot from the current iteration of software.

Is McAfee Right For You?

Really, there are only two reasons to pick McAfee above some of the other big-name antivirus software companies:

  1. If you just want basic antivirus software but want to use it on multiple devices.
  2. If you want to try out the new True Key technology.

Most other antivirus software services only allow you to use the basic antivirus package on one computer, and offer additional packages for mobile, or force you to buy the more expensive total protection packages to include all devices. McAfee allows you to use any software package on any of the devices you own for no extra charge, which is nice for those who don’t want to spend the extra money.

The other reason is to try out McAfee’s new True Key technology. Not having to remember a slew of passwords and logins is incentive enough, but being able to log in to websites and apps with technology like face recognition and fingerprint matching just adds to the cool factor. Just remember, if you want to try the new technology, you need to spring for the more expensive Total Protection package to do it.