Paying for anti-virus protection if you’re a casual home computer user is something that many people consider unnecessary for the vast majority of tasks. Although some of the popular commercial programs score highly when independently benchmarked, many find the benefit doesn’t outweigh the cost. And while commercial programs largely perform very well, freeware versions shouldn’t immediately be discounted.

Throughout the years, freebielist.com has recommended a number of quality freeware anti-virus programs, one of which is avast! Free Antivirus. The latest version is a major update on previous incarnations and protects over 170 million people worldwide. The software quietly scans for viruses and spyware while you surf the Web, and if you require help from a ‘techy’ friend, the Remote Assistance feature is sure to come in handy.

The interface is user-friendly to the point even novices will find it a breeze. The application resides in the system tray and springs into action if there’s a security threat, providing options on what action to take. Configuration is also extremely easy thanks to the large graphical menus. However, more advanced features can also be accessed for those who like to go ‘under the hood’.

For basic use, the free version is adequate, but for those who think the program is the best thing since sliced bread, two commercial upgrades are available: ‘Pro Antivirus’ and ‘Internet Security’. Pro Antivirus enhances protection for online shopping and banking, plus it lets you run programs in a virtual environment (ideal if the files are of dubious origin). Internet Security is avast!’s fully-featured security solution, including anti-virus and malware, firewall, anti-phishing, and spam protection.

The free mobile security download from avast! is particularly impressive - and highly recommended since the vast majority of smartphone users neglect to install security software. This latest version for Android protects against malicious apps, allows you to manage data transfer more effectively (thereby saving money), and blocks access to threatening malware sites. And if for some reason your prized possession gets lost or stolen, the Anti-Theft component lets you covertly track the device via a Web portal. As one commentator said about the software: “the thief won’t stand a chance!”.

To sum up, this is an excellent freeware anti-virus solution, with great features (especially for mobile). If you’re serious about protecting your devices but want to avoid commercial solutions, avast! is a great choice and provides ample ability to upgrade should the need arise.