Avira Free Antivirus for Mac packages malware protection in an easy-to-use interface without asking for a dollar in return. Unfortunately, its malware detection has slipped significantly since a year ago, when Avira Free Antivirus for Mac was our editors' choice. Among the six Mac antivirus products we reviewed in this round, Avira's score was the worst. Avira Free Antivirus for Mac also had a high system-performance impact.
Avira protects Macs using traditional signature-based malware scanning combined with behavioral monitoring that looks for telltale signs of malicious files.Like other antivirus products, Avira Free Antivirus for Mac benefits from its constantly updated database that receives information from the 100 million users of the company's Windows, Android and Mac software. It uses this database to detect and quarantine PC malware on Macs, to prevent it from spreading.In addition to performing scans of your computer and its connections in the background throughout use, Avira also allows for both on-demand and scheduled scans. Users can only initiate active scans locally, unlike some competitors that offer remote access. Avira also scans unopened archive files such as ZIPs.
Avira Free Antivirus for Mac's on-demand malware-scanning engine doesn't do a great job of keeping a Mac infection-free. Avira stopped 93.33 percent of Mac OS X malware in German independent lab AV-TEST's most recent evaluations, conducted in June 2016. That score is below the marks earned by Bitdefender (100 percent) as well as by Avast Mac Security, Kaspersky Internet Security, Norton Security and Sophos Home (all 99.17 percent).To put it another way, Avira Free Antivirus for Mac let in about eight times as much malware as most of the Mac antivirus products we evaluated. That's a far cry from a year ago, when Avira Free Antivirus for Mac got perfect scores in AV-TEST's evaluations.Security and Privacy FeaturesAvira Free Antivirus doesn't include any features other than its malware-scanning technology.If you want more, navigate to Avira.com to find the company's browser-based protection. Avira's free Browser Safety extension gives Chrome and Firefox users options for notifications about potentially unwanted applications (PUAs), how many websites track your activity and if it believes opening a website would be harmful to your Mac.There's also a virtual-private-network service called Phantom VPN that gives you 500MB of protected data free per month, which increases to 1GB if you register your name and email address.Free competitors such as Sophos Home for Mac offer email scanning, remote access and parental controls, while paid alternatives such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Norton Security Deluxe offer even more, including firewalls and secure browsers.
Performance and System Impact
We conducted our own tests in May and June 2016 to see how much each antivirus product affected our laptop's performance. Avira Free Antivirus had a moderate impact on system performance, which we assessed by running our custom OpenOffice benchmark test that matches 20,000 names and addresses on a spreadsheet. Our test machine was a Late 2013 MacBook Pro with Retina Display with a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB RAM and 23GB of data stored on a 512GB SSD.After we installed Avira Free Antivirus on our MacBook, the OpenOffice test finished in 2 minutes and 24 seconds, which was 2 seconds longer than it took without any antivirus software installed. That's a passive system hit of 1.41 percent — the highest of all six Mac antivirus products we reviewed except Sophos Home, but not something you could likely perceive.During Avira's full-system scans, the OpenOffice test finished in an average of 2 minutes and 40 seconds, for a performance dip of 12.68 percent. That's the second-heaviest dip we recorded, but it's less than half as much as the heaviest overall, Norton Security for Mac's 28.47 percent. By contrast, Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac has a full-scan performance impact of only 6.34 percent.Avira slowed the system by the same amount as it performed a quick scan, during which our OpenOffice test again took 2 minutes and 40 seconds to complete. Other products we reviewed had a lighter performance impact, ranging from Bitdefender's 6.34 percent to Kaspersky's 11.27 percent.The substantial system impact may be due to the fact that Avira scans every file every time, unlike Bitdefender, which skipped files it had already reviewed. Kaspersky and Sophos' full-system scans took even longer to complete, but those longer times may have resulted in lesser system impacts.
Because Avira Free Antivirus is a no-frills solution, it has a similarly straightforward interface. Its main window gives users a Protected message, as scans are enabled by default.Avira's main window presents users with a New Scan button, and clicking on that presents a Start button for activating a quick scan and a Change Scan Type button to switch to a full-computer scan.You can click the toggle button to open the Real-Time Protection section of Avira Free Antivirus. This section only includes an on/off switch for real-time file protection, which you should keep enabled. If you turn scans off, Avira will show a warning message in its main window, along with an Enable All Services button that you can click to return to the Protected status.The silhouette button brings you to My Account, which lets you check the software's version number, and the time and date of the last update. Click on the gear icon to set Avira to scan all files or just the ones it believes it will find a threat in, as well as whether to automatically quarantine or delete detected malware. You can also decide whether to have Avira scan archived files (which may lengthen the time of the scan) and set which kinds of applications Avira should protect against, such as programs it finds dubious, spamming auto-dialers and risky freeware games. All of the above settings are available for both on-demand scans and real-time background protection.
Installation and Support
You can download the Avira Free Antivirus installer from Avira.com. No restart is required after Avira's installation, unlike with many of its competitors. The installation process took about 3.5 minutes for me. Avira offers browser plugins and other tools, but the software doesn't suggest you install them, and requires you to click Discover More under My Account.To get technical support, click Help in the menu bar and select Avira Help. This will bring you to a page where you can search the company's forums, videos and knowledge-base documents for support. Because Avira Free Antivirus is, well, free, the company does not offer any live customer support.
Avira Free Antivirus has slid from the top of the mountain it occupied a year ago. Its moderate performance impact during scans is acceptable, but Avira's relatively poor malware-detection rates are now far from perfect, and its lack of extra features contrasts Avira poorly with the free Sophos Home for Mac, which offers some useful perks. Overall, though, you're best off spending $39.95 per year for Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac, which has top-notch malware protection and a much lighter system-performance impact.