Is Avast for Mac Really Free?

Is Avast for Mac free? Well, yes and no. There is a free version. There is also a paid version. What’s the difference? Most digital products today come with a free doppelganger to show customers the value in the paid-for product. Bloggers offer a free e-book to get people to subscribe to their email list. Subscription services offer a free week or month so people can try the services (if you’re a music lover, don’t try Spotify’s three-month free trial. You will be helpless to resist continuing your subscription afterward.)

The point is, these sales methods can be very effective. Free is hard to resist. But free can also be expensive. It all comes down to the simple question – “is it worth it?” Of course, the answer varies depending on your needs and wants. Avast for Mac is no different.

What is Avast for Mac?

Image: Public Domain, Avast Software, via Wikimedia

Avast Antivirus for Mac is a “free” software program that protects your Mac from viruses, malware, spyware, and ransomware. The free version doesn’t do much more than allow you to scan for malware that has already made its way into your system. And you can only scan so often – once a day is typical. Scanning more often than once a day can be cumbersome, especially if you are working on your Mac throughout the day. Malware scanning apps take a lot of processing power and so the rest of your computer will work much slower while a scan is taking place. More complex programs might even grind to a halt.

The paid-for version can do much more than just scan. One of the most significant differences between the free and paid-for versions of Avast for Mac is a feature called real-time protection.

Real-time protection is a proactive method of protecting your Mac. Instead of finding malware and removing it after the fact (which allows enough time for malware to make its way back to a third-party with your information or otherwise accomplish its malicious purpose), real-time protection scans for malicious software in real-time. This way, you’re constantly protected by most threats, so long as you keep the threat database of Avast for Mac updated.

Add-ons for Avast for Mac

So, the free version doesn’t cut it for those who need around-the-clock protection and are constantly using their devices. Avast for Mac is not free if you’re looking for real-time protection. The paid version comes with this feature first and foremost. But it’s not the only option available once you upgrade.

There’s not just one paid-for version – there are multiple different kinds of add-ons. Each addon gives Avast for Mac additional functionality. Let’s see what some of these can do.

Avast Secure line VPN

Image: CC BY 2.0, Mike MacKenzie, via Flickr

A virtual-private-network (VPN) provides an encrypted tunnel for all of your web traffic to travel through. This gives you an additional layer of security and privacy.

A VPN can also mask your IP address, making it look like your device is located in another city, state, or country. The farther away the VPN server is from your general location, however, the slower the connection tends to be. All of your traffic has to first arrive at the server before going out to its final destination.

Obviously, Avast is not the only VPN provider in the world. There are dozens of VPNs available, and many reviews for them have been written. We’ll leave it up to you whether or not to choose the VPN offered by Avast for Mac.

Avast File Shield

Avast File Shield is one of the simplest features of Avast for Mac. It simply allows you to permanently delete files forever. You may think simply hitting “delete” on something in the Trash accomplishes this, but it does not. There are ways for erased files to be recovered even years later. But Avast promises to get rid of any trace of sensitive data. Obviously, the average person doesn’t have much use for this.

Avast Wireless Defender

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Scanning your wireless network for open ports is important. If there is an open port in your wireless access point (home router), this is like an open door for hackers. If you don’t know you have open ports, you could already have someone snooping around on your network without you knowing anything about it.

Avast Security Pro comes with a Wi-Fi scanner to let you know about open ports or any other potential problems. It scans all devices on your network in addition to the wireless access point. Like most everything else, there are free apps for this. But they’re not usually as comprehensive as Avast.

Avast Wireless Defender also lets you see when someone joins your network. This is great but can also get annoying. For example, every time someone walks into your home with a smartphone that is on, you will be notified.

The same thing will happen when someone turns on a tablet or laptop and connects to your Wi-Fi network. You can turn off these notifications for trusted devices, but then there’s not much point in having it in the first place. This feature is made for the most highly security-conscious individuals.

Avast Driver Updater

This software add-on will allow Avast for Mac to automatically update the drivers your computer needs as they become available. Drivers are files that tell your system how a particular piece of hardware should work. Without the proper drivers, you can’t use your video card, sound card, USB devices, or printer. Driver issues can be a source of much frustration for novice and veteran technology users alike.

Although it is possible to download and install the drivers you need on your own, Avast promises to make the process easy and automated. Do you really need this service? Maybe. If you’re a professional in an office setting, it might be worth it just to make sure you never have a problem with printers or Internet of Things (IoT) devices. And if you’re a gamer, your video and sound cards need to always be up-to-date in order to keep video games running smoothly.

Then again, those in office settings probably have IT teams to take care of this. And the average gamer is likely to have the requisite tech know-how to do this on his or her own (interesting and irrelevant side note – at least 30% of all gamers are female!)

Avast Clean up

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Avast for Mac can go through your system and help you delete unnecessary files and programs. After identifying anything that might be slowing down your system, it will give you options for dealing with them.

To a certain extent, you can do this yourself by clicking the Apple icon in the upper-left of your screen and choosing “About This Mac.” Select the “Storage” tab and click “Manage.” You will then be given options for reducing the amount of storage space used on your hard drive.

As you can see, many of these add-ons serve functions that can be accomplished by the individual user. Some people might see them as unnecessary. But if you’re less than tech-savvy, don’t want to learn how to do these things on your own, and have a little extra cash, then maybe these products are for you.

Another thing to note is that if you want to have all of these features bundled together in one convenient place, Avast for Mac accomplishes this purpose well. Instead of having a VPN provider, a wireless network scanning app, and updating your drivers by yourself, you can have all of that in one central location. Some things can even be automated, like the updates for your drivers.

Avast for Mac is Both Free and Expensive

In the end, Avast for Mac is not really free. Yes, there is a free version, but all it does is scan for viruses.
For many users, the malware scanning feature of Avast for Mac might be all they really need. But for real-time protection and all the bells and whistles like file shield, driver updater, and more, you will have to pay a price.

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