IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Avira Free Security review: An effective antimalware suite, but heavy on the marketing

It’s hard to fully appreciate Avira’s malware protection when the packaging feels so manipulative

A screenshot of Avira Free Security's main dashboard
  • Strong protection against viruses
  • Little impact on system performance
  • Very few false positives
  • Most features are restricted or unavailable in the free edition
  • Bundles additional apps whether you want them or not
  • Prime licence is expensive

Avira Free Security looks smart, with its dark colour scheme and tasteful splashes of colour. It also looks quite substantial for a free security suite: distributed across the Security, Privacy and Performance pages you’ll find a total of 16 big buttons for various promising-sounding functions.

Unfortunately, once you start clicking around, you discover that many of the apparent features are dummies. Try to enable web, email or ransomware protection and you’re merely greeted with an advert inviting you to upgrade to the commercial Avira Prime suite. 

Other buttons do half a job, then invite you to pay for the rest of it. For example, the software updater scans your system and warns you about apps that might be obsolete, but when you click “Update” it reveals that automatic updates require – you guessed it – an Avira Prime subscription. It’s not unreasonable to ask people to pay for security services, but this isn’t a respectful way to do it. It doesn’t help that the full suite is pretty pricey, costing £52 for five devices in the first year, rising to £86 after that. 

Although it’s disappointingly light on features, Avira Free Security delivers quite creditable virus protection. In the latest tests by independent security lab AV-Comparatives.org it managed a 99.96% malware protection rate while connected to the internet – matching Microsoft Defender – with an impressive false positive rate of just one wrong detection in over 10,000 items. That’s better than any other free security solution we’ve tried.

Perhaps because so little is actually included in the free package, it’s also very lightweight. In performance tests carried out by AV-Test.org, Avira slowed down web browsing on a standard PC by just 8% – just a whisker above Defender’s 5%. Apps launched quickly too, with an 8% slowdown that was once again barely any different to the 6% impact of using Windows’ built-in protections.

A screenshot of Avira Free Security

Alongside the main application, the Avira installer sets up the company’s Phantom VPN service. Like Avast’s VPN, this allows limited use for free, but it’s much more restrictive, allowing just 500MB of protected traffic per month. There’s a link to the web-based Avira password manager service too, which can store and auto-fill any number of passwords for free. The optional Avira Safe Shopping browser extension warns you away from fake sites and blocks trackers – though it also inserts coupon deals into web pages, which feels a little sleazy for a security product.

The component we’re most uneasy about is Avira System SpeedUp – a completely separate app which installs without asking for permission, and pops up when you click various buttons on the Performance page, including Battery saver and Advanced tools. It’s effectively another limited demo: unlocking its features requires a separate SpeedUp Pro licence, which starts at £4 a year, then rockets up to £22.

To be fair, it’s easy to ignore Avira’s upsell attempts. You can leave the antivirus running in the background and enjoy very good malware protection, with minimal impact on performance. If you do want additional features, though, Avast One Essential gives you much more for free, while those seeking a minimal experience might as well stick with Microsoft Defender.

Featured Resources

Accelerating AI modernisation with data infrastructure

Generate business value from your AI initiatives

Free Download

Recommendations for managing AI risks

Integrate your external AI tool findings into your broader security programs

Free Download

Modernise your legacy databases in the cloud

An introduction to cloud databases

Free Download

Powering through to innovation

IT agility drive digital transformation

Free Download

Recommended

Senate report slams agencies for poor cyber security
cyber security

Senate report slams agencies for poor cyber security

3 Aug 2021
Most employees put their workplace at risk by taking cyber security shortcuts
cyber security

Most employees put their workplace at risk by taking cyber security shortcuts

27 Jul 2021

Most Popular

FCC commissioner urges Apple and Google to remove TikTok from app stores
data protection

FCC commissioner urges Apple and Google to remove TikTok from app stores

29 Jun 2022
Former Uber security chief to face fraud charges over hack coverup
data breaches

Former Uber security chief to face fraud charges over hack coverup

29 Jun 2022
Internet providers look to ease cost of living crisis with cheaper broadband
broadband

Internet providers look to ease cost of living crisis with cheaper broadband

29 Jun 2022