Configure Avast Free Antivirus
After installing Avast 2015 Free Antivirus, you'll see Avast's orange icon in Taskbar Notification Area (aka System Tray). If you hover your mouse pointer over the 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, Software Updater and Home Network Scan 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. For trial offers, click the small Stay with basic protection link in the bottom of the window. For loyalty rewards, close the window - registration for free license of Avast is already complete.
Your Avast Free Antivirus 2015 is now licensed for another full year!
Brand new installations of Avast Free Antivirus run for up to 30 days without requiring registration. About a week before the trial run expires, a message stating "Continued protection requires registration or upgrade" pops up. Click Continue in this case. A comparison between free and paid solutions appears, scroll down a few lines to continue.
If you have not seen this message or want to register immediately, 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 Select in Standard protection 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 in 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 once a year.
This guide covers only most important settings in Avast 2015, 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.
Make sure that Show Avast tray icon check box is ticked - this enables the icon in the Notification area of Taskbar. Those with slow computers can disable the Animate the icon when scanning option to spare some CPU cycles.
People who require high level of privacy can turn off the Participate in the Avast community option. This will keep Avast Antivirus from sharing anonymous data about detections.
Always tick the Enable reputation services and Enable DeepScreen / Use secure virtual machines check boxes: these options keep unknown malware away.
The Enable Hardened mode option is meant for beginners: it keeps inexperienced users from installing software. If you share a PC with other users, you can turn it on for your computer-illiterate family members and kids.
Hardened mode works best with password protection - this will keep beginners from adding exclusions to every program they're trying to run.
In most cases, turning on the Scan for potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) option is strongly recommended as it will keep users from installing bloatware and stuff that is potentially illegal to use (keyloggers, license key generators, etc).
Even if this option is disabled here, it can be individually turned on for all on-demand and scheduled scan types.
Silent/Gaming mode should be disabled in the General settings of Avast. If you temporarily require this mode for gaming or full-screen presentations/videos, you can always do so by right-clicking Avast tray icon and enabling the mode.
Here is an example of DeepScreen scanning an unknown program: it first tests the software for malicious behavior in secure virtual environment, and if nothing suspicious is detected, the program launches successfully. The analysis takes from 5 to 15 seconds to complete.
And here's Avast Hardened mode at work: to prevent the installer from running, click Close.
To let the program launch anyway, click Add an exclusion instead. This option should be password-protected as described later in this tutorial.
In the Avast settings window, click to expand the Sounds section. While I usually clear the Enable Avast sounds check box, some users might prefer audible feedback. The most commonly disabled option here is Automatic update - most of us do not need to hear the loud confirmation each time antivirus database has been updated.
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 selected (or 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.
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).
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.
Maintenance and Status monitoring sections are fine by default, so please expand Exclusions section next. Here you can select files and URLs (local network and internet addresses) that will not be scanned by any Avast real-time shields. Also, DeepScreen and Hardened mode exclusions can be modified here.
Please note that this section is meant for experienced users who really know what they're doing. Excluding commonly attacked programs such as Adobe Flash Player and Reader, or Java from scanning puts your PC at serious risk from Internet threats.
Exclusions for on-demand scans can be managed separately by modifying a scan settings.
You can create a new entry in any of the tabs by clicking Add and then clicking browse. To remove an entry, click on it and then hit delete.
Smart scan configuration and usage is covered in the Avast Free Antivirus on-demand scan guide.
Special scans section contains screen saver scanning that is useful for people who tend to leave their computers running overnight or while going to lunch, and on-demand scanning from Windows/File Explorer (right-click an item and select Scan). Settings of the latter are fine by default.
Those who leave their PC-s running processor-intensive tasks, such as video encoding, 3D processing, software compiling, etc should not configure Screen saver scan options - this hinders overall performance while virus scan is running.
To manage Avast 2015 Free Antivirus Screen saver scan, click Settings.
In Avast Screen Saver window, choose your preferred item from 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. For more details, see Securing Windows tutorial on 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 Mystify screen saver in Windows 8. The semi-transparent Avast window moves around the screen at the selected speed (moderate or slow).
Alerts section is for those who need e-mail notifications of important Avast events. As this is not required by most home users, I'll skip this one.
The last items on General tab of Avast Settings allow backing up and restoring all or selected Avast settings. This can also be used to import the exact same settings on different Avast-protected PC-s.
Please note that you should first finish configuring Avast Antivirus in order to export the most effective settings.
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.
Avast real-time shields are set to pretty good configuration by default, but a few items need some fine-tuning.
Open Active Protection tab from the left and click Customize for File System Shield.
Also, make sure that all three listed shields 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; if this fails, the detected items will be moved to Virus Chest (aka Quarantine folder); and if this fails too, the files will be deleted.
This is good, make sure that Fix automatically is the preferred action in PUP and Suspicious tabs also.
Then ensure 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 only thing to change in the defaults is to select Try to remove only the packed file; if it fails, remove the whole containing archive option for the 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 Customize button.
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.
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 Customize for Web Shield.
In the Main settings tab of Avast Web Shield Settings window, make sure that all check boxes except for Scan traffic from well-known browser processes only are ticked. This maximizes your web browsing and download protection.
Experienced users can also turn off the Warn when downloading files with poor reputation option to prevent warnings while downloading brand new software.
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.
Site Blocking feature is explained in the Avast Free Antivirus additional protections guide.
In the Update tab, make sure that the Enable streaming updates check box is ticked in Virus definitions section.
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. If you are using some pay-per-megabyte Internet connection, choose the Ask when an update is available option instead to cut down the bills.
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.
This is it for updates.
Registration tab is covered in the beginning of this tutorial, and instructions for the Tools tab can be found in the Avast Free Antivirus additional protections guide.
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 the default ones. Just expand the Restore factory defaults section, tick both check boxes and hit Reset now.
This action is also useful when you've upgraded from some old (pre-2014) version of Avast Antivirus and need to start with the defaults - some older settings (especially Active Protection configuration) might not be the most useful in the 2015 version.
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 reboot your PC.
Move on to page 2 of this article to find out how to automate Avast 2015 Free Antivirus scanning, check logs and Virus Chest, use Desktop Gadget and see which messages require immediate action.