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Avast Free Antivirus additional protections

By , Last modified: 2015-03-05.

How to use Avast Online Security, Browser Cleanup, Site Blocking and Software Updater in Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 and 81

Avast Free Antivirus 2015 has several advanced modules that provide additional protection from malware:

  • Online Security / Browser Protection (previously known as WebRep) - provides community-based Web Reputation system as a browser extension for Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.
    It also blocks known Phishing sites that try to steal your user names and passwords; SiteCorrect feature prevents visiting malicious sites if you make a spelling error in safe site's address - one example in the past was vs
    The extension also works as Ad Blocker and Tracking Protection; and SafePrice offers best prices for selected products on trusted vendor sites. This should keep users away from shady e-shops.
  • Browser Cleanup - removes browser toolbars that do not want to go away or have bad reputation among users.
  • Site Blocking - prevents access to defined web sites for parental control.
  • Software Updater - detects and notifies when updates are needed for common programs, such as browsers and add-ons.
  • Home Network Security - detects router problems, such as weak or default passwords, local network visibility from the Internet, even router malware infections.
  • GrimeFighter - removes unneeded startup items and registry entries, frees up disk space and detects hardware that is about to fail. Sadly, running the cleanup requires a paid subscription, so free product users should turn the feature off to prevent annoying popups.

In addition to GrimeFighter, Avast Free Antivirus offers paid subscription to SecureLine VPN service. To get rid of unneeded components that tend to annoy with popups, follow the instructions in Put Avast Free Antivirus on a diet tutorial on our sister site,

Avast Online Security browser extension

Avast Free Antivirus provides web reputation, anti-phishing, SiteCorrect, Ad Blocker and SafePrice with tracking protection.

The web reputation system is similar to WOT Safe Surfing Tool - a browser add-on that displays reputation ratings for web sites you visit and for search results of major search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing). The plugin also protects from entering phishing sites.
The color of letter "a" in browser toolbar shows how safe the site is:

  • green ones are safe,
  • yellow ones have bad reputation (but they are not malicious per sé),
  • red ones are unsafe and will be blocked,
  • grey ones have not been rated yet.

The number on Avast icon shows how many ads and trackers have been disabled on the current web page.
Avast Free Antivirus 2015, Online Security rating button in Mozilla Firefox. The number reveals how many ads and trackers have been stopped.

Clicking on the toolbar button opens an overview of tracking protection results. To see more details about a feature, stop mouse pointer on it. Here you can also turn tracking protection options (and individual tracking companies) on and off quickly.
Learn more reveals details behind the rating: whether Avast has scanned the site, has malware or phishing been detected, and how community (Avast users) rate the site.
Rate now button allows casting your positive or negative vote for the currently open web site.
Avast Free Antivirus, click toolbar button to see Tracking Protection details. You can enable or disable tracking options and individual trackers here. 'Rate now' allows voting for or against the site.

Here are a few examples of search engine results that have yellow and red rating:
Avast Free Antivirus, Online Security ratings in Google. Yellow sites have bad reputation. Avast Free Antivirus, Online Security ratings in Google. Red sites are unsafe and you cannot open them.

And here's an example of Avast blocking a phishing site. Clicking the Get me out of here button is the recommended action.
Avast Free Antivirus 2015, Warning, This site has been marked as a phishing site. Click 'Get me out of here'.

Enabling Avast Online Security browser extension

Nowadays, each extension/plug-in/add-on must be manually approved. Here are steps you need to take after installing or upgrading to Avast Free Antivirus 2015.

Internet Explorer 9, 10 and 11 users will see the yellow Notification Bar stating that the 'Avast Online Security' add-on is ready for use. Click Enable.
Internet Explorer 10, The 'Avast Online Security' add-on from 'AVAST Software a.s.' is ready for use. Click Enable.

Google Chrome users will see the "Avast Online Security" added dialog. Click Enable extension.
Google Chrome, 'Avast Online Security' added. Click 'Enable extension'.

Mozilla Firefox users must take a few more steps. First, in the Avast Online Security notification, tick the Allow this installation check box and click Continue.
Mozilal Firefox, 'Avast Online Security' add-on notification. Enable the 'Allow this installation' option and then click 'Continue'.

Next, in the bottom of the same dialog, click Restart Firefox.
Mozilal Firefox, 'Avast Online Security' add-on notification after installation. Click 'Restart Firefox'.

Configuring Avast Online Security browser extension

To change the settings of Avast Online Security, click its button in browser toolbar and then click Settings in the bottom.

These are the settings available in Avast Online Security. SafeZone feature is available in paid versions of Avast Internet Security and Premiere only.
Please ensure that at least Antiphishing, SiteCorrect and Search engine results check boxes are ticked here.
Do not track blocks social networks and ad tracking by default. If you do not see some useful content after enabling Avast Online Protection module, you can first try disabling the blocking of social networks (many sites use Facebook commenting system, for example) here.
Web analytics and others are harmless for most people, so leave these check boxes unticked.
Statistics is up to you: if you want maximum privacy, clear this check box to prevent sharing anonymous data about your browsing with Avast.
SafePrice is optional again - in case you shop in well-known e-shops only, you can safely disable the feature.
Reset to default is available for those who mess up settings badly.
Click Save after making changes.
Avast Online Security Settings. Ensure that 'Antiphishing', 'SiteCorrect' and 'Search engine results' are enabled. Other features are optional.

You can add exclusions for specific sites - for example, to disable hiding ads on (thank you, ads keep this site free), click Avast Online Security button on browser toolbar and set the Ad blocking switch to off (red) position.

Here's how Online Security report for currently open web page looks after clicking its toolbar button. To see further details about an item, stop mouse pointer on a switch button. This reveals which trackers were (or were not) blocked. You can enable or disable any category or individual sub-items by flipping its switch (the category switch turns yellow and has exclamation mark after disabling any sub-item).
Avast Free Antivirus, Online Security details in browser. Flip switches reveal details if you stop mouse pointer on them.

Rating sites with Avast Online Security

If you use the browser protection plug-in, please help Avast by providing your own rating to unrated sites or sites with few votes.
Click the extension's toolbar button and then click the Rate Now button on the top right.
Choose either Positive or Negative. The latter will spawn another question about the site category, but answering this is optional - just click Done if the site does not fit into any of the listed types.
Avast Free Antivirus, Online Security rating options. Click 'Positive' or 'Negative'. Avast Free Antivirus, Online Security, negative rating optional question. Click Done.

Your opinion will then be reviewed by Avast team. Click the Online Security toolbar button again to hide the sidebar.

Disabling Avast Online Security browser extension

If you do not like or need the browser add-on, you can turn it off easily.

In Internet Explorer, open Tools menu (press Alt key once to reveal menus) and click Manage add-ons. IE 9 and newer also support keyboard shortcut Alt+X.
In Manage Add-ons window, make sure that the Toolbars and Extensions tab is selected on the left. Find and click Avast Online Security and then click Disable in the bottom right. If you have more than one Avast-related add-on listed, make sure to turn off all of them.
Internet Explorer, Manage Add-ons. To turn off Avast Online Security extension, click it once. Then click 'Disable' in the bottom right.

In Google Chrome, click Customize and control Google Chrome button (the three bars on top right), expand More tools menu and click Extensions.
Then clear the Enabled check box for Avast Online Security and Avast SafePrice extensions.
Google Chrome, Extensions. To turn off Avast Online Security extensions, clear the 'Enabled' check box.

In Mozilla Firefox, click the Open menu button (the three bars on top right) and select Add-ons.
Open Extensions tab from the left and click Disable button for Avast Online Security.
Then click Restart now.
Mozilla Firefox, Add-ons, Extensions. To turn off Avast Online Security extension, click 'Disable' button and then click 'Restart now'.

Using Avast Browser Cleanup for getting rid of stubborn toolbars and add-ons

Avast Browser Cleanup is a godsend for those who have been struggling with browser toolbars and plugins/addons that do not want to uninstall properly, change your browser home/start page or search provider without asking, or come back alive from nowhere. Browser Cleanup uses reputation services to determine which toolbars and addons cause trouble or are malicious.

First, open Avast user interface by clicking its icon in Taskbar Notification Area (aka System Tray).
Avast Free Antivirus system tray icon. Click it to open Avast main window.

Open Scan tab from the left and click Scan for browser add-ons. This is available since Avast version 2015.10.2.2214.
Avast Free Antivirus 2015, Scan tab. Click 'Scan for browser add-ons'.

If all browser extensions look nice and clean, you can safely close Avast window.
Avast Free Antivirus 2015, Browser Cleanup, Your browsers appear to be free from add-ons that have a poor reputation. Close Avast window.

In case Avast Browser Cleanup detects a BHO (Browser Helper Object), toolbar protector or a toolbar with a poor reputation, it appears in the results. The results are grouped by browser name. Clicking the Start cleaning button is the quickest way of cleaning your web browsers, but you can also use individual Remove buttons if you disagree with some of the results.
Please also note the Reset browser settings link - this allows reverting to defaults in case a browser does not start at all due to some bad add-ons. 
Avast Free Antivirus 2015, Browser Cleanup results. Click 'Start cleaning' on the top right.

If a misbehaving extension has changed a browser's default search provider or home page, a dialog with safe defaults appears. While Yahoo! is the recommended choice here, I personally prefer Google (or DuckDuckGo, but it's not in the list) Click Complete Free Cleanup.
Avast Free Antivirus 2015, Removal of poorly rated add-ons requires you to select your default browser search provider. Choose the default search engine and click 'Complete Free Cleanup'.

After the cleanup is complete, a success message appears. Click Close.
Avast Free Antivirus 2015, Browser Cleanup, Your browsers are clean again. Click Close.

Configuring Avast Site Blocking - denying access to unwanted sites

Site Blocking feature is useful for parents protecting their kids from addiction to some online games or websites; or any user who needs to block his/her computer from accessing some certain site (for example, to help cleaning malware).

This feature must be used with Avast password protection, otherwise it is absolutely useless.

In Avast Free Antivirus 2015 main window, click Settings tab on the left.
Then, in Avast Settings window, open Active Protection tab from the left and click the cogwheel icon for Web Shield.
In Avast Web Shield Settings window, open Site Blocking tab.

First, tick the Enable site blocking box. Then, under URLs to block, type a web site address. For example, Note that Avast adds an asterisk (*) to the end of the address. The asterisk means that any sub-address (e.g. of the site will also be blocked.
You can now block HTTPS connections with Avast Free Antivirus 2015 - just add https:// to the beginning. For example, https://*

As wildcards, such as asterisks and question marks are supported, it is not recommended to use the "www." prefix. Instead, replace it with "*.", for example "*" - this will prevent opening any subsites of Facebook. E.G., specifying "" will deny access to, but not to; while using "*" will block both.
Avast Free Antivirus 2015, Web Shield Settings, Site Blocking. To deny access to a site, type its address in an empty field.

To change an entry, simply click it and make your corrections. To delete an entry, click the delete button to the right of the entry.
Click OK to close the window and apply Site Blocking settings.

When a user tries to open a blocked site, a blocking message will be displayed by Avast Web Shield:
Avast Free Antivirus 2015, Web Shield Warning - Site Blocked.

Using Avast Software Updater for manually updating important programs and add-ons

Shortly after installing Avast Free Antivirus 2015, many users encounter notifications from Avast Software Updater: "Important updates for some programs are ready for installation".
In such case, click Show updates to open Software Updater.
Avast Free Antivirus 2015, Important updates for some programs are ready for installation. Click 'Show updates'.

This feature checks if there are any security updates available for most important programs, such as web browsers and common add-ons. Free version of Avast will not apply these updates automatically (only paid versions do). To get free automated updating, use Secunia PSI.

Software Updater can also be launched from Avast main window: open Scan tab and click Scan for outdated software.
Avast Free Antivirus 2015 main window. Open Scan tab and click 'Scan for outdated software' to access Software Updater.

Click Update for software that is listed as out-of-date.
Please note that most browsers have automatic updating function available. After updating a program manually, you can click Refresh in the bottom left of Avast Software Updater window if the warning dialogs still appear.
Avast Free Antivirus 2015, Scan, Software Updater. Click 'Update' for an item to download and upgrade it to the latest version.

A separate window opens during the update process. Click Close after it completes.
Avast Software Updater, update complete. Click Close.

If there is some software that you cannot or do not want to update, click the Ignore Updates link instead.
To resume warnings about the program later, click Stop ignoring.
Avast Free Antivirus 2015, Scan, Software Updater. Click 'Ignore Updates' for a program that you do not want to upgrade. Avast Free Antivirus 2015, Scan, Software Updater. Click 'Stop ignoring' for a program that you now want to update.

To configure the feature, either click Settings button on the bottom left of Software Updater window, or click Settings in the left part of Avast user interface, open Tools tab and click Customize for Software Updater.
To quickly disable Software Updater instead, set its switch to Off. As the feature is a part of Avast's new Smart scan, you might have to disable it there, too.
Avast Settings, Tools tab. Click 'Customize' for Software Updater.

If you have multiple users on your Windows PC, it is strongly recommended to tick the Allow update of system-wide products for administrators only check box. This will prevent Avast from notifying standard (non-administrator) users about programs that require administrative rights during installation.
To speed up updating, enable the Automatically download updates if possible option. Avast will then save installers quietly and you'll spare some time. This one is not recommended if your primary/system hard drive is tight on space.
Notifications (popups) enabled should be turned on if you want to use Avast Software Updater.
Avast Software Updater Settings. Make sure all check boxes are ticked.

The Database reset (troubleshooting) section in the bottom of the window allows clearing Avast's list of installed products and versions. This comes in handy if Avast Software Updater thinks falsely that some latest programs are not up-to-date, or detects software that is not installed.
Just click Reset database now in such cases.
Avast Software Updater Settings. If wrong products or updates are repeatedly offered, click 'Reset database now'.

The action will be confirmed, click Yes.
Avast Information, Are you sure you want to reset the Avast Software Updater database. Click Yes.

And then you can also clear the Enable Software Updater check box altogether if you use alternative programs, such as Secunia PSI, for this task.

Testing routers for weaknesses and malware with Avast Home Network Security

Avast Free Antivirus 2015 added scanning for network threats: it can detect weak and default passwords, open ports, and even infected firmware.

To check your router settings, open Avast main window, expand Scan tab and click Scan for network threats.
Avast Free Antivirus, Scan tab. Click 'Scan for network threats'.

In the Home Network Security window, click Scan network.
Avast Free Antivirus, Scan, Home Network Security. Click 'Scan network'.

In the example below, Avast detected that router settings can be accessed from the Internet. Click More info to see instructions for disabling this feature in common routers, and then click Go to the router settings to apply the changes. The latter will open your default browser and navigate to your router's login page.
Avast Free Antivirus, Scan, Home Network Security, Your network router is accessible from the Internet. Click 'Go to the router settings'.

Please note that some Avast Home Network Security warnings might be false positives: for example, if you do want to make Remote Desktop of your computer available via the Internet, then this detection can be safely ignored.

If everything looks fine, you'll see this result instead.
Avast Free Antivirus, Scan, Home Network Security, your home network is well secured.

There are no configuration options available for Home Network Security, but you can turn it off just like GrimeFighter - see the next section.

Network scan is a part of Avast's new Smart scan feature, so you might have to disable it there, too.

Disabling Avast GrimeFighter

Most users encounter the Your PC can perform better notification after installing Avast Free Antivirus 2015. Clicking Learn more opens Avast main window with GrimeFighter report with a few more details.
Looks good so far? If you click the Optimize my PC button, you'll see a sales offer instead of real cleanup.
Avast Free Antivirus, Your PC can perform better. Avast Free Antivirus, GrimeFighter results overview

Because GrimeFighter requires a yearly paid subscription, it is necessary to turn it off in free version of Avast Antivirus 2015.
You can safely use free CCleaner to perform all of the optimizations at no additional cost.

To disable GrimeFighter, open Avast user interface and click Settings tab in the left part of the window. Then open Tools tab click On switch for GrimeFighter. The switch should then change to Off. Click OK to close Avast settings.
Avast Settings, Tools tab. To turn off GrimeFighter, click the 'On' switch once.

GrimeFighter is a part of Avast's new Smart scan feature, so you might have to disable it there, too.



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