After installing avast! 2014 Free Antivirus, you'll see avast!'s orange icon in Taskbar Notification Area (aka System Tray) and a "Welcome to avast!" message pops up. Close it.
If you hover your mouse pointer over avast! Free Antivirus icon, you will see system status - normally this should be "Everything is good". This means that no action is necessary. More information about different statuses and messages is available on the second page of this article.
Enhanced protection features, such as Browser Cleanup, Site Blocking and Software Updater are covered in the avast! Free Antivirus Additional Protections tutorial.
If you already have avast! installed and registered, it starts reminding you 30 days before the yearly free license expires. A small pop-up appears above Taskbar Notification area, stating that "Your avast! Antivirus expires in <number> days". Click the Continue button.
If your license has expired, all avast! Real-Time Shields turn off and cannot be re-activated without renewing your subscription.
A large Choose your protection window appears, with main focus on paid product. Look to the left and click the gray Select button in the Standard protection column.
Enter your e-mail address and click Continue to get free license.
Another teaser for paid avast! product appears. Click the small Stay with basic protection link in the bottom of the window.
Your avast! Free Antivirus 2014 is now licensed for another full year!
For brand new installations, right-click avast! icon in Taskbar Notification Area (aka System Tray) and click Registration information.
Then click Register in the avast! Free Antivirus window.
The process starts with comparsion of free and paid solutions. Click Register in Free Antivirus column on the left.
Fill in First name, Last name and Your email fields in Free Antivirus Registration window. Then click Register with email address.
Second offer to upgrade to paid version appears. Click Stay with basic protection on the bottom of the window.
This completes the registration process. You can use avast! Free Antivirus without paying a dime for unlimited amount of time, but you do need to re-register every year.
This guide covers only most important settings in avast! 2014, because others are fine by default.
If avast! Free Antivirus is not open yet, click its orange ball-shaped icon in Taskbar Notification area, or click Open avast! user interface button (the left one) of avast! Desktop Gadget.
To configure avast!, click Settings tab in the lower left part of main window.
General tab opens in avast! Settings window.
Having avast! Account is not required for Free Antivirus to work, but it can be helpful for those who have installed the program on several Windows or Mac computers, or have installed avast! Free Mobile Security on their Android device(s). Users with avast! Account can check their PC/device status and logs, and perform advanced actions (remote locate, lock and wipe) on smartphones and tablets at https://my.avast.com.
Users with only one avast!-protected PC do not really need the account.
Here's an example of connected account. Expand the Account settings section. Make sure you tick the Report program status to the avast! account check box (this enables remote status monitoring) and set Update frequency to at least 60 minutes.
You can also connect your PC to an existing account, or create a new account. If avast! Account Status reads "Not Connected", click the Connect now button.
You can then either log in to your existing account or create a new one.
Scrolling down the General tab reveals Community section. Those who are extremely concerned about their privacy can clear the Participate in the avast! community option.
Password section follows. This is very important for those who have turned on advanced features, such as Site Blocking and Hardened mode, or for those who have trouble with malware disabling avast! Real-Time Shields.
This option basically locks down all settings until you provide a correct password.
Click to enable the Protect avast! with a password check box and then fill Password and Re-enter password fields. Make sure you choose a good password, and if necessary, store it safely with free Password Safe.
Expand the Protected areas section. Default settings are displayed in the picture below, but you can also lock down Update Control in case you are using a pay-per-megabyte Internet connection: avast! updates its virus databases automatically every few hours and during boot process, potentially causing additional charges.
After saving settings with OK button, avast! will open an authorization prompt before allowing access to configuration, virus chest and shields control (disabling or enabling real-time protection). You can expand the Advanced section in the bottom of the dialog to verify that Requesting process is "avast!". If it is some other process, you might want to scan for viruses and malware.
The prompt will close automatically after 60 seconds if no button is clicked.
In case you start seeing such prompts frequently for no apparent reason, and avast! Free Antivirus is unable to detect or remove malware, you should run RKill and then perform a Malwarebytes Anti-Malware full scan to make sure there is no malware in your computer.
Scroll all the way down to Settings Backup section. Here you can back up and restore all avast! settings. This can also be used to import the exact same settings on different avast!-protected PC-s.
First-time users should first finish configuring the program.
Others can safely click Back up settings. In the Components dialog, make sure that all items have been selected, and then click Continue.
Select a folder for the backup file in standard Windows Save As dialog and then click OK in the information window.
Restoring (or importing) avast! settings goes almost exactly the same way (just click Restore settings instead), but you might need to restart your computer for all changes to take effect.
Let's fine-tune avast! real-time shields next. Open Active Protection tab from the left and click the cogwheel icon for File System Shield.
Also, make sure that all listed items are set to On.
In the avast! File System Shield Settings window, open Actions tab. By default, avast! Shields try to fix infected items automatically, but no further action is taken if this fails (you will be notified about this, though).
It is better to set Move to Chest as secondary action in Virus, PUP (Potentially Unwanted Program) and Suspicious tabs.
Also, make sure that Show a notification window when action is taken and If necessary, perform the selected action at the next system restart check boxes are ticked in the Options section.
The last thing to change here is select Try to remove only the packed file; if it fails, remove the whole containing archive option for Processing of infected archives setting. This will avoid unneeded error messages if a packed files contains some malware.
Click OK to close File System Shield settings. Next, open Mail Shield settings using the cogwheel icon.
If you've encountered error messages about encrypted e-mail scanning, open SSL scanning tab and click Export certificate. This will save avast! SSL certificate into a .der file that you can import into your e-mail client software.
Those who feel confident about the security of configured e-mail services, can clear the Scan SSL connections check box. Please remember that this is only for experienced users!
Next, open Actions tab and configure it the same way as you did in File System Shield settings. Click OK for the changes to take effect.
Back in the Active Protection tab of avast! Settings window, click cogwheel button for Web Shield.
In the Main settings tab of avast! Web Shield Settings window, enable the Warn when downloading files with poor reputation option. This is useful for inexperienced users who tend to accept every download and/or click Yes/OK everywhere.
Next time a download of rare file is initiated, a File Reputation Warning window pops up. The reason for blocking is supplied for easier decisions. If you did not start the download, or you are not sure that the file is actually safe, leave Abort the connection (recommended) selected in Actions to take combo box and click OK.
In case you are absolutely certain that the file is clean, select Complete the download instead.
By the way, the file in this example IS safe.
Because other settings of Web Shield are fine by default (Abort the connection is the only usable automatic action there), click OK for the changes to take effect.
avast 2014 Antivirus settings: Reputation services, DeepScreen, Hardened mode, Exclusions and Special scans
Open Antivirus tab from the left. First, make sure that there is a check mark in Enable Reputation Services check box.
It is also strongly recommended to leave Enable DeepScreen option activated. While this may temporarily interfere with launching programs that are still unknown to avast! Free Antivirus (there is only one that I've encountered), it still enhances protection a lot by detecting potential new threats. My experience shows that scanning a program takes about 15 seconds, and the program launches correctly after this.
Hardened mode is a different story: it blocks many non-default and unsigned programs, but makes it easy to add exclusions. This is certainly a nuisance for experienced users who like to test many utilities, but on the other hand, it can be useful for beginners. If you decide to tick the Enable Hardened mode check box, leave its setting to Moderate - this reduces whining... err, warning dialogs.
This feature can be used for locking down software permissions when you also enable password protection: users cannot add exclusions to Hardened mode without knowing avast! Free Antivirus password.
Here are examples of DeepScreen and Hardened mode pop-ups.
If Hardened mode prevents a program from starting, you have two options. Click Close if you do not know or trust the software, or if you did not launch it in the first place. Click Add an exclusion only if you've safely used the program before.
Please note that onOne Perfect Photo Suite and ControlAutoRun installer in the examples below are NOT malicious programs.
The next section in Antivirus tab of avast! Settings window is Exclusions. Here you can specify files, URL-s and programs that will never be scanned. Because this might actually weaken your PC-s protection, it is never recommended to add anything under File paths, Urls and DeepScreen tabs.
If you have enabled avast! Hardened mode, you can manage its exclusions here. Delete and browse buttons appear if you move mouse pointer onto a row.
Next section is Special Scans. avast! 2014 Free Antivirus brings back good old screen saver scanning that is useful for people who tend to leave their computers running overnight or while going to lunch.
Those who leave their PC-s running processor-intensive tasks, such as video encoding, 3D processing, software compiling, etc should not configure this option - this hinders overall performance while virus scan is running.
To manage avast! 2014 Free Antivirus Screen saver scan, click Settings.
In avast! Screen Saver window, set your preferred item in Underlying screensaver combo box. Then set Window movement speed to Moderate or Slow (this will improve performance a bit).
Laptop users should definitely enable the Do not start the scan if running on batteries and Pause the scan if battery mode begins options for enhanced runtime.
Next, you need to select avast! antivirus in Windows Screen Saver Settings and click OK. Securing Windows tutorial describes how to configure screen saver.
Please note that Settings button also allows configuring avast! Screen Saver Scan.
And this is how screen saver scan looks like with Photos screen saver in Windows Vista. The semi-transparent avast! window moves around the screen.
Explorer scan affects right-click scanning in Windows/File Explorer, but it is absolutely fine at its defaults.
Tray Icon is the first item in Appearance tab. Those with slower computers might want to clear the Animate the icon when scanning check box for minor performance improvement.
Please leave Show avast! tray icon enabled at all times.
In the Sounds section, you can disable audible events altogether by unticking the Enable avast! sounds check box. If you do like sounds (some voiceovers are quite funny!), you might want to clear the Automatic update box for fewer distractions.
In Popups section, deactivate the Show monthly security reports option. But if you're a statistics geek, numbers fan or an accountant, you might still keep this one switched on.
You can also configure popup durations here, but the default 20 seconds is generally fine.
In the Update tab, move to Program section and select Automatic update in Settings sub-section. This will automatically download and install program updates in the background. avast! will notify you if restart is required.
Virus definitions are set to automatic update by default (but you can verify that now anyway).
Next, expand Details section and clear the Show notification box after automatic update option. You do not really need the information about successful actions.
Those who do not always have internet connection should also tick the I only connect to the internet using a dial up modem check box. This prevents update error notifications while the internet is not accessible.
In Troubleshooting tab, you should leave all check boxes alone - you might cause stability issues and security degradation. Defaults are listed in the picture below.
However, if you've messed up avast! Free Antivirus settings really bad, you can always recover default ones. Just expand the Restore factory defaults section, tick both check boxes and hit Reset now.
avast! will ask whether you really-really want to clear all your custom settings. Click Yes.
As expected, some changes take effect only after a restart. Click OK in the information dialog and restart your PC.
Move on to page 2 of this article to find out how to automate avast! 2014 Free Antivirus, check logs and Virus Chest, use Desktop Gadget and see which messages require immediate action.