avast! is a full-featured anti-virus program that detects and removes malware and viruses from your computer. Although avast! is free for non-commercial use on a home or personal computer, your free copy must be registered after installation, otherwise it will expire in 30 days. Registration also ensures that you will automatically receive the latest avast! program versions and virus definitions as they become available.
Version used in this guide:
Level: 1: Beginner, 2: Average, 3: Intermediate, 4: Experienced, 5: Advanced
Time required to start using this tool: 20 minutes
What you will get in return:
GNU Linux, Mac OS and other Microsoft Windows Compatible Programs:
Although we recommend avast! Free Antivirus in this chapter, there are other free anti-malware programs compatible with Microsoft Windows that are worth recommending as well:
Also if you can afford to purchase a commercial version of the anti-virus software for Microsoft Windows it may offer you more complete protection.
Although operating systems like GNU Linux and Mac OS are virtually virus free, there are compelling reasons for installing an anti-malware program on them. Firstly, viruses will eventually be created for these operating systems, and secondly, you may risk spreading viruses unknowingly, even if your own system remains protected from them.
At present, unfortunately, there are no free anti-virus programs that we are comfortable recommending for Linux and Mac OS. However, there are quite a few commercial products which offer more features and greater protection; a few of the most popular are listed as follows:
If you can afford to purchase one of these, do so.
Computer viruses are malicious programs that can destroy files, slow your computer down and use your address book to locate and infect other computers. avast! can protect your system against viruses that might infect your computer through downloads from the Internet, email attachments, or transfers from removable media (CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, USB memory sticks, etc).
Make sure that you do not have two anti-virus programs installed and running at the same time. If you are currently using a different program and you want to switch to avast!, you must first uninstall the other anti-virus program before installing avast!.
New anti-malware and viruses are being developed all the time. The avast! database must be kept up-to-date to effectively protect your computer.
Among the more insidious viruses are those which can actually prevent the installation of avast!, and/or viruses that avast! can fail to detect and delete. In these kinds of situations, fairly advanced methods are required, and some of those are discussed in section 4.9 Advanced Virus Removal Methods.
List of sections on this page:
Installing avast! is a relatively easy and quick procedure. To begin installing avast!, perform the following steps:
Step 1. Double click ; the Open File - Security Warning dialog box may appear. If it does, click to activate a progress status bar that runs for a minute or so depending on the speed of your computer. After the avast! components are completely unpacked, a dialog box is activated as follows:
Figure 1: The Free Antivirus Setup-avast! Installation screen
Step 2. Click to activate the following dialog box:
Figure 2: The avast! Installation dialog box
During the avast! installation process, the avast! Installation dialog box will appear with the Participate in the avast! community option enabled. For reasons of internet privacy and security, it is recommended that you disable this option as shown in Figure 2 above.
Step 3. Uncheck the Participate in the avast! community check box to disable this option, and then click to activate the following dialog box:
Figure 3: The avast! recommends screen
During the avast! installation process, the avast! recommends dialog box appears with the Yes, also install the Google Chrome web browser option enabled. We recommend that you disable this option as shown in Figure 3 above.
Step 4. Check the No, do not install the Google Chrome web browser option to disable it, and then click to continue installing avast!.
A notice informing you that the installation process has completed itself will appear after a few minutes.
Step 5. Click to complete the software installation procedure. After a brief interval, avast! icon appears in your System Tray as follows:
Figure 4: The avast! icon outlined in black in the System Tray
After another brief interval, a message confirming the successful installation of avast! appears as follows:
Figure 5: The avast! installation confirmation message
Every time avast! automatically updates both its program and virus definitions, a notice will appear over the System Tray and resemble the following screen:
Figure 6: An example of an avast! message
Important: You must register your copy of the software, to ensure that the software engines, virus definitions and the program itself are updated on a regular basis.
After you have properly registered avast!, it will continue to automatically protect you from malware and virus attacks, and issue notices which resemble the following screen:
Figure 7: An example of a notice in which a threat has been blocked.
Step 6. Double click in the System Tray (refer to Figure 4) to activate the avast! main user interface, and then click to display the Current Status details as follows:
Figure 8: The avast! main user interface.
Important: avast! must be registered in order for you to continue receiving program versions and virus definition updates, which are essential to protecting your computer from different threats.
Note: If you do not register your copy of avast! it will stop working after 30 days. You must be connected to the Internet to register avast!.
To register your copy of avast!, perform the following steps:
Step 1. Click to activate the avast! main user interface (Figure 10).
Step 2. Click (through MAINTENANCE and Registration menu items) to activate the following two screens in quick succession:
Figure 9: The Free Antivirus Registration screen
The avast! Free Antivirus Registration pops-up window advises you that information is being retrieved. It is followed by another screen warning you that avast! will expire in 30 days if you do not register your software by then. (It also displays information about commercial software products and promotions currently available.)
Figure 10: The Your Registration Status screen
Step 3. Click to activate Figure 2 again, followed by this screen:
Figure 11: The Antivirus Free Registration - Registration Form
Note: The Name and Email are the only mandatory text fields. They are identified by asterisks and outlined in small red squares. The other fields are not mandatory in the registration process.
Step 4. Type your name and email address into the corresponding text fields, and then click to activate the following screen:
Figure 12: Thank You for Registering pop-up screen
Step 5. Click to access the YOUR REGISTRATION pane in the main user interface as follows:
Figure 13: The YOUR REGISTRATION pane registration confirmation
You have now completed registering of your copy of avast!, and are ready to learn how to manually update the program and virus definition updates. To begin doing so, please refer to section 3.0 How to Manually Update avast!
List of sections on this page:
avast! runs silently in the background on your computer, automatically updating its virus definitions and program upgrades every time you connect to the Internet. However, in situations where your internet access is discontinuous, restricted or temporary in some way, performing a manual update would be more convenient or useful.
Note: There are two ways of updating avast! manually: The first is through the avast! main user interface, and the second is through a pop-up menu that appears whenever you right click the avast! icon located in the System Tray. Furthermore, you can simply turn off the automatic update feature through the BASIC SETTINGS pop-up window, when you click at the top right corner of the main user interface.
To manually update avast! through the main user interface, perform the following steps:
Step 1. Click to activate the avast! main user interface as follows:
Figure 1: The Summary tab displaying the Current Status pane, displaying a typical notification of a Program version update
A program or virus definition update is indicated by an orange icon with a centred exclamation mark, instead of the usual green icon with a check mark. The program or virus definition update version is displayed in red, and the Update button now is now visible.
Figure 2: A new Program version upgrade is available
Step 2: Click to update the Program version pane as follows:
Figure 3: The Program version after it has been updated
The program version changes from 5.0.545 to 5.0.594 after this task has been performed.
The following list briefly describes each item or status icon in the Current Status SECURED pane as follows:
Tip: Click to either display or hide the information in the Current Status pane.
Real-time shields: This icon indicates whether the real-time shields are working properly. The real-time shields monitor all computer-related activities; there are real-time shields for email, the local file system, the web and other systems. If or when one real-time shield is turned off, either deliberately or by a malware attack, the avast! icon in the System Tray changes appearance to reflect this:
Definitions auto updates: This icon indicates whether the automated update mechanism is turned off or on.
Virus definitions version: This icon displays the date stamp of the most recent virus definition version. The date is displayed according to the following format: 10 refers to the year 2010, 06 refers to the month and 29 refers to the day.
Program version: This icon displays the most recent update of the program version.
Expiration date: This item displays the expiration date and time of your copy of avast!, and is the date before which it should be renewed or re-registered.
Step 3. Click to activate the following screen:
Figure 4: The main interface displaying the Maintenance UPDATE pane
The Maintenance UPDATE pane is used to update the program and virus definitions manually.
Step 4: Click to begin updating the engine and virus definitions.
Step 5: Click after the engine and virus definition process has been completed, to return to the Maintenance UPDATE screen.
Updating the avast! program upgrade follows a similar procedure to updating the engine and virus definitions.
Step 6: Click to start the update process, and start the Program upgrade process.
Step 7: Click after the program upgrade process has been completed, to return to the Maintenance UPDATE pane.
The avast! program upgrade and virus definition updates can be performed through the avast! pop-up menu. The pop-up menu can be used to directly access the Maintenance UPDATE screen.
To manually update the avast! Engine and virus definitions using the pop-up menu, perform the following steps:
Step 1. Right click in the System Tray to activate the following pop-up menu:
Figure 5: The avast! pop-up menu
Step 2: Select Update > Engine and virus definitions to activate Figure 4, and then perform steps 4 to 5.
Step 3: Select Update > Program to activate Figure 6 and then perform steps 6 to 7 in section 3.1 How to Manually Update avast! Using the Main User Interface
In default mode, avast! is configured to automatically download and update its program version and virus definitions. However, this mode can be turned off through the Settings button in the top right corner of the main user interface.
Step 1. Click to activate the avast! BASIC SETTINGS pop-up window, and then select Updates to activate the UPDATE SETTINGS pane.
Step 2. Click the Manual update option under both the ENGINE AND VIRUS DEFINITIONS and PROGRAM sections.
Figure 6: The SUMMARY ATTENTION pane with the Definitions auto updates turned off
Advanced users may further refine these update parameters in the Details and Proxy Settings sections. To begin doing so, perform the following step:
Step 3. Click to expand the Details and Proxy Settings sections to begin modifying the parameters displayed in each section.
You have now learned about the different ways to manually update the Engine and virus definitions and program upgrades in avast!. To begin using avast!, please refer to section 4.0 How to Scan for and Deal with Viruses Update avast!
List of sections on this page:
There are two basic parts to dealing with malware and other assorted viruses when using avast!. The first is scanning your computer to identify such threats. The second involves either deleting or moving such threats to the avast! Virus Chest. Deleting and/or moving malware and viruses to the Virus Chest effectively prevents them from interacting with different computer systems, for instance, the file system or email programs.
It may seem unusual to store such malware or viruses. However, if they have attached themselves to important or sensitive information, you may want to recover or save that infected document, file or program as far as possible. In rare instances, avast! may misidentify legitimate code or programs as being malware or a virus. Generally referred to as 'false positives', that code or those programs might be important to your system, and you may want to recover them.
The avast! Virus Chest is an electronic 'dead zone' or 'quarantine', where you can examine the virus and determine its potential threat by either researching it on the Internet, or submitting it to a virus laboratory - an option available in avast! when you right-click a virus listed in the Virus Chest. Double clicking a virus in the Virus Chest will not activate or run the malware or virus because the Virus Chest keeps it isolated from the rest of your system.
Tip: Alternatively, you can transfer important or sensitive information to the avast! Virus Chest to keep it safe during a virus attack.
In this section, you will:
There are a number of precautions you can take to limit hostile or malicious threats to your computer system; for instance, avoiding dubious or problematic web sites, or regularly using anti-virus or anti-spyware programs like avast! or Spybot. However, we also sometimes find ourselves having to share a local-area network (LAN) and/or Internet connection. The following points are offered for consideration when dealing with a virus attack in a community setting or while at work:
Disconnect your computer from the Internet or the local network - physically. If you have a wireless connection, disconnect your computer from the wireless network itself. If possible, switch off and/or remove your wireless card.
If your computer is on a network, you should immediately disconnect all computers on that network from the Internet, and then disconnect them from the local network. Every user should stop using the network and begin running avast! or similar trusted anti-virus software to detect and delete the virus. This may seem like an exhausting process, but it is imperative in maintaining individual system and network integrity.
Schedule a boot-time scan for all computers on the network. Write down the names of any viruses that you find, so that you can research them - and then delete them, or move them to the avast! Virus Chest. To learn how to perform a boot-time scan, please refer to section 4.6 How to Perform a Boot-time Scan.
Even if a virus has been either deleted or repaired, repeat the previous step, and run boot-time scans on all computers, until avast! no longer displays any warning messages. Depending on the severity of the malware or virus attack, you may not have to perform a boot-time scan more than once.
For more information about dealing with malware or virus outbreaks, please refer to section 4.9 Advanced Virus Removal Methods.
The avast! main user interface is comprised of four tabs located on the left side of the window: SUMMARY, SCAN COMPUTER, REAL-TIME SHIELDS and MAINTENANCE. Each tab is divided into sub-tabs which activate a corresponding pane.
Step 1. Click to activate the following screen:
Figure 1: The SUMMARY tab displaying the Current Status SECURED pane
The following list briefly describes the functions of the four tabs as follows:
SUMMARY: This tab features the Current Status and Statistics sub-tabs. The Current Status sub-tab displays the working status of key avast! components used to defend your computer from malware and virus attacks. The STATISTICS pane displays the operational behaviour of each avast! component over the period of a week, a month or a year.
SCAN COMPUTER: This tab features the Scan Now, Boot-time Scan and Scan Logs sub-tabs. The SCAN NOW pane lists different options for performing manual scans. The BOOT-TIME SCAN pane lets you perform a boot-time scan the next time your computer starts up, and the SCAN LOGS display a record of the different manual scans performed in table format.
REAL-TIME SHIELDS: This tab features all the monitors or 'shields' protecting different aspects of computer functions, beginning with the FILE SYSTEM SHIELD. It provides access to the real-time shield settings, including stopping and starting them.
MAINTENANCE: This tab features the Update, Registration, Virus Chest and About avast! sub-tabs. The UPDATE pane lets you manually update the program and virus definitions and the REGISTRATION pane lets you register your copy of avast!. The VIRUS CHEST lets you view the different malware or viruses that avast! detected during a scan, and lets you deal with them in different ways, including deleting them, scanning them further or submitting them to a virus laboratory. The ABOUT AVAST! pane displays information about the latest version of avast! on your computer.
Note: The SCAN COMPUTER and MAINTENANCE panes are particularly useful when dealing with malware and viruses.
In this section, you will learn about the available scan options, and how to use them. You will also learn how to perform a full system scan and a folder scan, as well as a boot-time scan.
The SCAN COMPUTER > SCAN NOW pane displays the four scan options available in avast!; to view them, perform this step:
Step 1. Click to activate the following screen:
Figure 2: The SCAN COMPUTER tab displaying the SCAN NOW pane
The following brief descriptions will help you to choose the appropriate scan option:
Quick scan: This option is recommended for users with a limited amount of time in which to scan for a potential or suspected threat.
Full system scan: This option is recommended when users have sufficient time to schedule a thorough scan of your system. It is also recommended if this is the first time you are using an anti-virus software on your computer. The duration of this scan depends on the number of documents, files, folders and hard drives on your computer, and the computer speed. Please refer to section 4.4 How to Perform a Full system scan.
Removable media scan: This option is recommended for scanning external hard drives, USB flash drives, and other media, particularly those which are not your own. It will scan any removable device for malicious programs that automatically run whenever the device is connected.
Select folder to scan: This option is recommended for scanning either a specific folder or multiple folders, especially if you know or suspect, that a particular file or folder might be infected. Please refer to section 4.5 How to Perform a Folder scan.
Tip: Each scan option lets you see the details of your scan, for instance, the areas being scanned. Click to review them. If you are knowledgeable or possess advanced or expert level computer skills, click to refine your virus scan parameters for each scan option.
To perform a full system scan, follow these steps:
Step 1. Click on the Full system scan option to activate the following screen:
Figure 3: The SCAN NOW pane displaying Full system scan/scan running...
After the full system scan has been completed, and if a threat to your computer has been found, the Full system scan pane may resemble the following screen:
Figure 4: The Scan complete item displaying the THREAT DETECTED! warning
The full system scan has revealed a couple of threats; to learn what to do with them, please refer to section 4.7 How to Deal with Viruses.
The avast! Virus Chest is simply a folder established during the avast! installation process, an electronic 'dead zone' or 'quarantine' where malware or viruses are prevented from interacting with or running on any of your computer processes.
To scan your folders, perform the following steps:
Step 1. Click in the Select folder to scan option to activate the following screen:
Figure 5: The Select the areas dialog box
The Select the areas dialog box lets you specify the folder you would like to scan. You can select more than one folder for scanning purposes. As you check the boxes besides each folder, the folder path is displayed in the Selected paths: text field.
Step 2. Click to begin scanning your folders, and activate the following screen:
Figure 6: The Folder scan in progress.
Tip: avast! lets you scan individual folders though a standard Windows pop-up menu that appears whenever you right click on a folder. Simply Select which appears next to the name of the folder you would like to begin scanning for viruses.
The avast! boot-time scan lets you perform a full scan of your hard drive before the Microsoft Windows Operating System starts running. At the moment the boot-time scan is performed, the majority of malware programs and viruses are still dormant, that is, they have not had the opportunity to activate themselves, or interact with other system processes yet. As such, they are usually quite easily exposed and removed.
The boot-time scan also directly accesses the disk, and bypasses the drivers for the Windows file system, a favourite target of most computer threats. This will display even the most persistent 'rootkits' - the name for a particularly malignant form of malware. It is strongly recommended that you run a boot-time scan even if there is only a remote suspicion that your computer system may be compromised or infected.
The Boot-time Scan option is recommended for a complete and thorough scan of your computer system. It may require some time, depending on your computer speed and the amount of data and number of hard drives you may have. The Boot-time Scan is always scheduled for the next time you start your computer.
To scan your system at boot time, perform the following steps:
Step 1. Click to activate the BOOT-TIME SCAN pane.
Step 2. Click to schedule a boot-time scan the next time you start your computer.
Step 3. Click to start the boot-time scan immediately, if you prefer.
Note: A boot-time scan starts before the operating system and interface are loaded; as such, only a blue screen appears, displaying the progress of the scan as follows:
Figure 7: The avast! Boot-time scheduled scan
avast! will prompt you for a response every time a virus is detected, and to Delete, Ignore, Move or Repair any or all identified viruses, but it is recommended that you do not ignore them under any circumstances. A list of these commands only appears if a virus is detected on your system.
During the avast! installation process, the avast! Virus Chest was created on your hard drive. The Virus Chest is simply a folder isolated from the rest of your computer system, and used to store malware and viruses detected during the scan, as well as infected or threatened documents, files or folders.
If you have already updated your program upgrade and virus definitions, you will be familiar with the MAINTENANCE tab - which is also how you access the avast! Virus Chest.
To begin dealing with any malware or viruses detected during a scan, perform the following steps:
Step 1. Click to activate the following screen:
Figure 8: The SCAN RESULTS window displaying THREAT DETECTED! warning
Step 2. Click to display the drop-down list of possible actions to be applied to the detected threats as shown in Figure 8 above.
Note: In this exercise, we are concerned with moving infected files to the Virus Chest. However, the drop-down list displays three other options and they are described below:
Repair: This action will attempt to repair the infected file.
Delete: This action will delete - permanently - the infected file.
Do nothing: This action means exactly what it says, and is definitely not recommended for treating potentially harmful malware or virus threats.
Step 3. Select the Move to Chest item, and then click to activate the following screen:
Figure 9: The viruses have been moved to the Virus Chest successfully
You are now free to decide how to deal with the virus once it has been safely moved to the avast! Virus Chest.
Step 1. Click and click to activate the following screen:
Figure 10: The Virus Chest displaying two viruses
Step 2: Right click either virus to display the menu of actions that can be applied to a selected virus as follows:
Figure 11: The pop-up menu of actions for viruses in the Virus Chest
Note: Double clicking a virus in the Virus Chest will not activate or run it. It will only display the virus properties, or basically the same information you would obtain by selecting Properties from the pop-up menu.
The following list describes the actions used to deal with viruses in the pop-up menu as follows:
Delete: This item will delete the virus irreversibly.
Restore: This item will restore the virus to its original location.
Extract: This item will copy the file or virus to a folder you have specified.
Scan: This item will resubmit the virus to another scan.
Submit to virus lab...: This item will let you submit a virus for further analysis against a database of known viruses. Selecting this item will activate a virus submission form for you to fill out and submit.
Properties: This item will reveal more details about the virus selected.
Add...: This item lets you browse your system for other files you would like to add to the Virus Chest. This is potentially very useful if you have files you would like to protect during a virus outbreak.
Refresh all files: This item will update your files, so that you will be able to view the latest files.
Sometimes the protection offered by avast!, Comodo Firewall and Spybot is simply not sufficient; despite our best efforts, our personal and work systems do become infected by malware and other viruses. In section 4.1 A Short Guide to Dealing with Virus Outbreaks, a few methods were offered for dealing with persistent malware and viruses. However, there is more that can be done to eliminate such threats from your computer.
Method A: Using Anti-malware Rescue CDs/DVDs
Some anti-malware software companies also offer a free anti-virus 'rescue' CD/DVD. These can be downloaded in ISO image format (that is, a format that can be easily burned onto a CD or DVD).
To begin using these anti-malware CDs/DVDs, perform the following tasks:
Download and burn the anti-malware program to a CD.
You can use free program like ImgBurn to burn the image to the disk.
Insert the disk to infected computers, CD/DVD player and then restart your computer from this CD/DVD.
Often you can do this by pressing key F10 or F12 on your keyboard just after switching on the computer. Pay special attention to the instruction on the screen of your computer while it starts to learn how to do this on your computer.
Re-connect your system to the Internet so that the anti-malware program will automatically update its virus definitions if necessary, after which it will begin scanning your computer hard drives to remove any detected software threats.
The following is a list of rescue CDs images:
You may also scan your computer using the following tools, which run when the Windows OS is started; however, these tools work only if the virus infecting your computer is not stopping them from operating:
Note: You can use each tool listed above separately to maximise your ability to effectively clean your computer.
Method B: Re Installing the Microsoft Windows Operating System
Note: Before you begin, make sure you have all the appropriate license or serial numbers, and installation copies for the Windows OS and other programs you require. This procedure may be time consuming but worth the effort if you can't eliminate malware and virus threats the other way.
In rare instances, a virus infection can be so destructive that the software tools recommended earlier may be rendered useless. In situations like this, we recommend that you perform the following tasks:
Create a backup or copy of all your personal files on the computer.
Reinstall the Microsoft Windows operating system formatting the entire disk.
Update the Microsoft Windows operating system after the installation has been completed.
Install avast! (or your preferred anti-virus program) and update it.
Install whatever programs you require and remember to download the latest versions and all the updates for each program.
Note: Under no circumstances should you connect your backup disk to your computer before you have successfully performed these tasks. You might risk infecting your computer again.
Connect your backup disk to your computer and scan it thoroughly to detect and eliminate any existing problems.
After you have detected and deleted any problems, you may copy your files from the backup disk to the computer hard drive.
Although Elena and Nikolai have found avast! easy to use, they still have some questions about it.
Although Elena and Nikolai have found avast! easy to use, they still have some questions about how to use the program.
Q: If I have to use a computer in an Internet café that doesn't have a virus cleaner installed on it, how can I be sure that my documents will not be infected?
A: This is an excellent question! It shows that you are beginning to realise how dangerous viruses are. Using public computers is always risky as you have no way of knowing what kinds of malicious software may be lurking on them. Avoid using public computers for private or sensitive work unless you have absolutely no other alternative.
Q: I have several computers on a network - but a slow Internet connection. How can I download the virus definition updates and share them with all of my computers?
A: You can download the latest program updates from avast! website, and distribute them to each computer on your network.
Q: What happens to the files in the Virus Chest if I uninstall avast!?
A: All files in the Virus Chest will be deleted if you uninstall the program