Avira Internet Security 2012
Avira Operations GmbH & Co. KG.
Starts at $59.99 (1 PC/year)
Pros: Standard and advanced option selections simplify configuration
Cons: Scanning and detection disrupt workflow; false positives
Rating (1-5): 3.0
Avira feels like a program that needs more work to be really palatable. It's littered with annoyances that make living with it less pleasant than the competition, and doesn't have enough really standout features of its own to make the drawbacks worth tolerating.
We've come a long way from the old days of security suites, when most every single action on your part required you to secure the program's approval. Avira is a bit of a throwback to those times, unfortunately. Right after installation it asked for approval to allow access for at least one common system network service, although at least it didn't ask me to say yes to every single conventional program that needed network access (Chrome, Firefox, etc.). Most of the really important stuff seems to be pre-approved out of the box.
The interruptions become pretty blatant when a virus is detected. If you elect to take action, the program pops up a "Scanning…" dialog which can't be minimized (although at least you can put other windows over it). Ask for more detailed information, and the resulting system scan can take a several seconds or more to complete--another delay.
You can set the program to automatically quarantine a suspect file without prompting you, though. The program also doesn't seem to give the option of scanning USB media when attached, although it did find the sample malware I placed on an attached USB drive when I attempted to launch the file in question.
I also wasn't thrilled with the false positives I got. During a manual system scan, Avira flagged a program believed to be virus-free (ArcSoft Media Player) as a false positive. Also, if you change the default list of object types to detect, you may get that many more false positives as well. When I included "unwanted programs" as part of the scan, a number of relatively innocuous utility programs -- like a tool I use for viewing which .DLL files are registered with Explorer -- were flagged as "unwanted". The default scanning options seem scrutinous enough for most people.
Most of the program's features are familiar territory: firewall, live protection, email scanning, parental protection, and a backup utility (the latter mostly eclipsed by the native functionality in Windows 7). There's little which really stands out, save for a feature or two. I liked the option that prevents a common malware trick, the unwarranted termination of other processes--e.g., killing Windows Update.
The program's interface also has your choice of standard or expert-level options, the former of which filters out most of the stuff that doesn't need to be tweaked for everyday use. There's also evidence some of the engineers over at Avira have a sense of humor: when a file scan is in progress, the window that appears is named "Luke Filewaker." But let's face it, a program like this needs more than a sense of humor.
Avira's at-a-glance interface lets you know what needs attention.