We haven’t reviewed Avira products for quite a long time and I was very curious to learn more about their latest versions. They always provided some of the best antivirus solutions, able to successfully compete with products from larger companies in this niche. Therefore, I downloaded Avira Internet Security 2012 and took it for a test drive. Read this review to learn more about its effectiveness in securing your system.
Downloading the trial version of Avira Internet Security 2012 is not that difficult. You first download a small file which takes care of downloading the latest version of the product, from Avira’s servers.
Unfortunately, it can happen that the downloader forgets to download all the setup files you need. The first time I used it, the setup could not start because the setup.dll was missing, for an unknown reason. Restarting the download process fixed the problem and all went well on the second try.
The size of the security suite is of 148MB, bigger than many other suites, which generally are under 100MB in size. When installing Avira, you have the option to choose the kind of installation you want. If you go for the Custom install, you are able to select the protection modules you want installed.
Unfortunately though, in order for the installation to start, you need provide quite a few personal details. The mandatory details are your name, e-mail and country of residence.
A restart is also mandatory for the installation to finish successfully. Once done, Avira Internet Security 2012 takes you through a configuration wizard, where you are asked to make several choices about how you want to be protected. Luckily, the questions asked and the presented options are not hard to understand, even for a novice.
I was pleased to notice that Avira was already up-to-date and, after the restart, I did not need to install any new definitions and file versions for the security suite. Then, as soon as other applications ran at startup, Avira Internet Security 2012 asked me to make choices about the programs that wanted to use the network.
After a few prompts and decisions being made, I was finally able to silently use the system and open Avira Internet Security 2012.
I noticed that the interface has been improved compared to older versions and it definitely looks more friendly. However, my overall first impression was not that great: I haven’t been asked so many questions by a security suite for a long time, especially during the installation process. If I were a novice, I would have felt intimidated by it.
Let’s continue our review and see how well Avira Internet Security 2012 is integrated with Windows 7 and its features.
Integration with Windows
After reading our previous review of Avira, I noticed that Avira Internet Security 2012 no longer recommends users to disable Windows Defender, as older versions did. Also, it doesn’t disable it automatically. I find this design choice a bit awkward. The simple effort of informing users that it is best to disable Windows Defender, in order to avoid a deterioration in performance or possible conflicts, would have been great. However, Avira Internet Security 2012 does disable the Windows Firewall, which is great and makes sure you don’t have troubles because of two firewalls running and complicating your life.
One small integration aspect I look at is if a security suite uses smooth-scaling icons. I found it funny that AVIRA has some good looking icons but they are not always used. Some of its shortcuts still use old Windows XP style icons.
When using the networking features included in Windows 7, such as the Homegroup, I had no issues and all worked well. Also, the integration with the major web browsers is well executed. Avira Internet Security 2012 doesn’t install any add-ons or toolbars in your browser. It automatically scans your internet traffic and warns you when troublesome sites are detected.
Avira Internet Security 2012 uses up to 7 active processes to protect your system. Together, they need up to 182 MB of RAM to function. This is a lot compared to other security suites. However, its processes are well protected and cannot be terminated with ease by viruses and other malware.
Avira Internet Security 2012 has a pretty big impact on boot timings too. It added a total of 28 seconds to the boot procedure, which is at least double than the impact other security suites had on the same test system.
Ease of Use & Configuration
I generally like the new interface used by Avira Internet Security 2012. It looks better and does a good job at grouping and presenting the basic configuration options. If you go through the main menus, you won’t have problems understanding what is going on.
The trouble is with the so called Expert mode, which squeezes lots of advanced settings in a window which cannot be maximized. Therefore, you need to scroll a lot. This is the most frustrating when configuring the Firewall. There are plenty of rules you can configure and not only you have to scroll but also certain options are hard to understand. I felt the need to read the Help documentation in order to get a better picture about how certain things should be customized.
Another conflicting aspect is regarding the notifications shown by the Firewall. The explanations about what an application is trying to do are not easy to understand for a casual user. Also, using the Show details button does not provide much helpful information.
This contrasts with the notifications shown by the Realtime protection module which makes it clear when your computer has been infected. Also, when you press Details, you get access to Avira’s virus information database, which shares useful details about what the identified threat does and provides statistics about other similar infections that were detected. It is a pretty cool feature if you ask me.
Avira Internet Security 2012 is a geek’s dream. You have advanced configuration options for all its protection modules and there isn’t anything important about how the suite works that cannot be customized. Novices however will feel intimidated by the Expert mode.
The Scheduler module has a complete system scan defined but it is not enabled. Therefore it never runs. It is unfortunate to see this. Users who want complete protection should enable this scan and customize it to run at a frequency they consider optimal. You can also create custom scheduled scans, as Avira Internet Security 2012 provides lots of customisation options.
The reporting features are basic in the way information is shown but complete in the sense that they don’t miss any important events about detected threats, updates and activities performed by the suite.
The support options being offered are standard. You have a thorough Help documentation, access to the support forums and Avira’s community and, if you are a registered user, access to the support team via e-mail and phone. No extra charges are being mentioned on the official website, which is great when compared to other vendors who charge for support.
In the main window, there is not much to configure about the Firewall. You just set the security level and that’s it. Novices will love this.
Expert users will be happy too, as pressing the Configuration button reveals the Expert mode interface. There you can set rules for your network adapters and for your applications.
The performance of the firewall is very good. When using the Medium security level, which allows the use of network sharing features, my scans with Nmap and Nessus revealed very little. Only 5 open ports, with no major impact on security were found and the MAC address was identified. This is a very good result.
When switching to the High security profile, no open ports were found and only the MAC address was identified. Excellent results!
The only downside about the Firewall is that, when connecting to a new network, you need to manually set the security level. Avira Internet Security 2012 is not able to see what network location profile you set in Windows 7 and adjust its security level based on that choice.
Antivirus and Antispyware Features
The Avira antivirus engine is pretty famous for its effectiveness. Avira Internet Security 2012 continues this tradition and delivers effective anti-malware protection. Each virus I tried to run on my system was promptly identified and removed.
I appreciated that, when I inserted an USB memory stick filled with malware, the Realtime protection immediately scanned it, without asking me first. It detected all the infected files and showed one report with information about all the identified threats. I appreciated not having to go through individual prompts and reports about each piece of malware. The removal was swift and without issues.
The web protection worked just as well. When trying to access websites that distribute malware, access was promptly blocked.
I also installed a particularly bad behaving virus, prior to installing Avira Internet Security 2012. Once I installed the suite, Avira detected the virus immediately and removed it without a hiccup.
The only annoying aspect I could find was that, when launching a scan, Avira Internet Security 2012 insisted on informing me I was running an evaluation version. Luckily, that’s the only annoyance you get when running the trial version.
Regarding the scanning time, a full system scan took about 15 minutes, which is slower than many other suites. Most of them finished in under 10 minutes on the same test system. Only Comodo and Outpost were slower than Avira.
As always, I looked at what other independent organisations had to say about Avira. AV-Comparaties awarded their top Advanced+ rating while AV-TEST gave it a 4.5/6.0 for protection and 5.0/6.0 for repair. Also, Virus Bulletin gave really good scores to Avira: 90%+ Reactive Detection Rate and 80%+ Proactive Detection Rate. Impressive ratings, placing Avira on the list with top security suites.
Avira Internet Security 2012 delivers really good firewall and antivirus protection. Testing the firewall revealed surprisingly good results, while the anti-malware protection was as good as I expected, considering the long-standing tradition of Avira in the security market.
Unfortunately, novices and less knowledgeable users will be put off by Avira Internet Security 2012. The installation process has some small issues to be ironed out and the initial configuration is very verbose and lengthy. In the world of "one-click installations", Avira feels old-school with its approach.
Also, the Firewall prompts that ask for decisions to be made, need to provide more useful information to less knowledgeable users. Avira continues to ask for decisions about really popular software (e.g. Soluto, SnagIt, etc) when many other suites do not. Its database with allowed programs needs to be expanded.
Last but not least, Avira should continue its efforts to improve the interface. Geeks who will love the multitude of configuration options will not be happy with the amount of scrolling needed to find certain configuration aspects. Also, they won’t appreciate seeing many options crowded into a small window.
Don’t get me wrong... Avira Internet Security 2012 delivers really good protection. I loved how effective this product proved to be. It’s just that more effort needs to be invested in simplifying the user experience, so that we can recommend it to everyone.