Avast made great strides in its previous update. Version 5 set the stage for the modern, massively popular, and free security suite with a new interface that ditched a quirky, late-'90s jukebox style for a more polished look. Easier to navigate, it also became easier to add new features.
Make no mistake: Avast 6 adds features both big and small. Some that had previously only been available to paid upgrade users are now free for all versions, and newer features have been seamlessly added to the interface experience. If you're familiar with Avast 5, upgrading to Avast 6 won't be that big of a leap.
Installing Avast is a painless process that compares well against its free competitors like AVG, although--like those competitors--it's much slower than installing paid programs like Trend Micro, Kaspersky, or Norton.
Some items of note during the installation that will come up later in the review: to completely avoid the new Windows 7 and Vista desktop gadget, or the new WebRep browser add-on, you must choose the Custom install option and uncheck those here.
Automatic installation of these features is frowned upon, although Avast does provide a clear method for uninstalling them. It's just not as simple as a check box that gets its own installation window, since you have to go through the Customize menu, which makes the auto-install sort of surreptitious.
On the plus side, installing Avast doesn't require a reboot, and using its uninstall tool we detected no remnants in the Registry or on the desktop. Avast has said that the installer has shrunk for all three versions by about 20 percent, although it's still a large download at around 57MB for the free version.
Avast 6's interface is virtually identical to the previous version's. Perhaps the most major change, aside from a slight lightening of the gray in the color scheme, is the removal of the Windows Explorer-style forward and backward buttons. We actually liked those, since they made it easy to return to a previous pane, no matter how deeply into the settings you had explored.
The only other change is the addition of the Additional Protection tab to the left nav area, which hosts the new AutoSandbox and WebRep feature controls.
For users new to Avast, the sleek user interface is a change that came at the end of 2009. The gray-and-orange color scheme stands out well on the screen, and the tab-based navigation on the left makes it easy to navigate between features. Highlighted with the familiar security colors of green for safe and red for dangerous, the Summary tab gives up-to-date info on shield status, auto-updates, virus definitions, the program version, and whether the silent/gaming mode is on. There's also an unobtrusive ad urging you to upgrade to Avast Internet Security 6.
The Summary tab contains a second submenu, Statistics. If you're curious to see how Avast's shields have been performing against threats, here's where you can get your math geek on. For each shield, it tells you how many files were scanned and when, and presents the data in a concise graph.
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