Thursday, April 24, 2008

AVG Free Version 8.0 Released...First Thoughts and Complaints

There has been substantial discussion IF and WHEN Grisoft might get around to releasing the next version of AVG Free; version 8.0.

I really love AVG Free. It has done a great job with regular scanning of my systems in general. It scans attachments in emails. It is low in system resources, and hasn't bogged down any my systems like some of those "other" major-name security suites offered to consumers.

My only complaint (if any) is that a number of false-positives have occurred with legitimate files and utilities I depend on. I try to submit them as I encounter them to AVG so they can update their database and my experience is that they have been fast to respond once the files are verified by them.

So it was with excitement that I saw via Download Squad, notice that AVG Free version 8 has been released to the masses by Grisoft.

AVG Free 8 is out - Grisoft

Putting in on Vista

Our Vista laptop just happened to be already out in the living room so it got first dibs on the update.

The new file downloaded quite quickly from the Grisoft servers.

AVG Free v8 now incorporates anti-malware protection along with the anti-virus protections. So I went ahead and uninstalled AVG Anti-Spyware (free) and AVG Free 7.5 from my system. This required a mandatory system reboot.

Once back up I ran the installer. No errors or issues were encountered during the installation process. No UAC elevation prompts were seen.

During the installation process, I was presented with a prompt to install (pre-checked--ugh!) the AVG Security Toolbar which offers to protect against malicious websites, scams and other web-danger. It incorporates a link-scanner. Because of various personal reasons and other applications and methods I use personally, I chose to un-tick the box and not install this component.

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A few more screens and the installation had completed.

I then needed to step through a "setup" wizard. It had some prompts to set up scheduled scans, register, download available updates, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary. I did disable the link scanner component.

When done no reboot was required.

The interface is very nicely laid out. Very Web 2.0 in design which is the way many consumer security products seem to be going. It is a real step-up from the interface in version 7.5.

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Navigation to the different elements is direct.

Although not obvious, more "advanced" settings and tweaks are possible under the "Tools" menu-bar drop-down.

Scanning of email-attachments is preserved in AVG Free v8.0. Thank goodness!

Performance? Good!

Anti-virus and malware scanning is included in this version, although you need to pay for the $ version(s) to get root-kit scanning and higher-end security features. As I said, I've got other tools I use for that so to me, AVG Free v8.0 should continue to meet my AV protection needs quite nicely.

Best I can tell, AVG Free 7.5 was using a total of six processes and a total of just under 60,000 K in system RAM to protect my system.

Under AVG Free v8.0 all I see is running just three processes (avgsx.exe, avgtray.exe, and avgwdsvc.exe) under normal conditions for a total of just over 72,000 K in system RAM. So on first blush it does seem just a bit larger in memory than the previous version, but is using fewer processes to get the job done (and then some).

I haven't had a change to see the system impact under scanning, but I expect with the new scan engine, performance should be no worse than before, and hopefully faster and better.

I haven't seen any performance issues so far with it running in the background and multi-tasking. No conflicts have occurred between AVG Free v8.0 and ThreatFire although ThreatFire did display a few alerts during the install process, no doubt triggered by the installation of key security components of AVG. I allowed these and the installation has kept up fine.

Two Serious Gotchas! that just couldn't be ignored.

I have observed just two other issues so far that have "irked" me a bit.

First, despite my unchecking the "AVG Security Toolbar" option during installation, I was shocked to find that when I opened all my browsers (IE 7 and both Firefox versions (2.x and 3.0-Minefield) that the AVG toolbar was prominently in place.

OMG!

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All attempts to check the options to remove this toolbar from each of my browsers was met with failure. Despite all my attempts and AVG option fiddling, I could not locate (at this time) a way to remove the toolbars from the browsers within AVG.

So I had a hunch. In IE 7 I right-clicked on a blank-space on the browser bar to look at the toolbars loaded. Sure enough, there it was listed with a "check" mark. I simply unchecked the AVG Toolbar from showing and when I returned to the browser, it was gone. (I could have also gone on the menu-bar to "View" > "Toolbars" to accomplish the same thing.) Firefox was the same process.

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Hurrah!

However, I had to repeat this process for every browser I have installed on the system.

Definitely a turnoff of serious proportions. I would have expected a global option in AVG Free itself to turn off and/or remove the toolbar.

Amazingly, I have already climbed on a soap-box and posted on this very issue when I reviewed for myself a beta version of AVG 8.0 back in March: Thoughts on the AVG 8.0 "Toolbar" Francaise...

Back then I conceded that the features this toolbar provides were generally "positive" in helping folks who might not be as security minded as some of us (friends/parents/non-geeks) keep safe in web-surfing. But I (and others) were very turned off with the idea from our perspective of seeing most toolbars covered in the ilk of malware/toolbar drive-by installs. We just don't usually like them. Period. And a toolbar, however well-intended, provided by a security company usually grates against our better feelings of good-will.

I did eventually find this information in an AVG Free v8.0 Link Scanner FAQ page:

How to disable the AVG add-on in my Internet Browser?

AVG 8.0 Free Edition contains a plugin for scanning of search results in Google, Yahoo and MSN search engines. This plugin (AVG SafeSearch) is designed for MS Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox Internet browsers. If you would like to disable it kindly proceed as follows:

1. Internet Explorer:

  • Run Internet Explorer.
  • Choose the Internet Options from the Tools menu.
  • Switch on the Programs tab.
  • Click on the Manage add-ons button.
  • Select the AVG Safe Search add-on.
  • Tick in the Disable option at the bottom of this window.
  • Confirm changes by clicking on the OK button.
  • Close Internet Explorer and run it again.

2. Mozilla Firefox:

  • Run Mozilla Firefox.
  • Choose the Add-ons option from the Tools menu.
  • Select the AVG Safe Search add-on and click on the Disable button.
  • Close Mozilla Firefox and run it again.

Note: AVG add-ons cannot be used with Mozilla Firefox 3 (beta) at the moment.

Note: When I followed this under IE 7, I found "AVG Security Toolbar" listed twice, as well as an entry for AVG Safe Search which I also disabled here. The result is that the AVG toolbar item is still displayed as I mentioned previously, but it is now grayed out and inaccessible. Same was basically found for Firefox. I also found not only the AVG Security Toolbar listed as an Add-on extension in Firefox but also the AVG Safe Search component. Like IE, these can be "disabled" but not uninstalled.

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Complaint #2?

Well, remember that I had disabled the "Link Scanner" component?

Not a problem, but the result is that the system-tray icon now permanently displays an ugly "error" state with a gray icon covered up by a nasty red exclamation mark.

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Again, all attempts to find an AVG option to allow this state to be ignored were futile. As far as I can tell, if I choose to leave a component of AVG Free disabled, then I get the 'pleasure" of seeing an ugly "alert-state" AVG icon running in my system tray.

My solution (because I refuse to enable "Link Scanning" for my web-surfing) was only to right-click on the system-tray bar, select "Properties" click the "Notification Area" tab, click the "Customize..." button, and set the AVG Anti-Virus Free system tray icon behavior to "Hide".

The AVG icon is still present if I expand the < to the left of these icons were I to need access to it, but otherwise the ugly "error-state" AVG icon remains hidden.

Too bad, it's kinda pretty. (I temporarily enabled "Link Scanning" to get the "good" AVG system-tray icon state seen below.)

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Conclusions

I've still got to get it on my other two XP systems and see if anything different is found, but I don't really expect to find anything.

I am very pleased with the enhanced protection of AV and anti-malware provided by AVG Free v8.0. Only time will tell how the definitions work as well as the new engine under the hood. I expect not to be disappointed.

Installation was fast, easy and quick. Configuration was simple to set up.

I am disappointed to find my request to NOT install the AVG Security Toolbar feature was not honored (as well as the fact that it is "checked" by default).

I am also bummed that I had no global way in AVG to disable the AVG Security Toolbar (and AVG Safe Search) from all my system browsers. I was forced to manually set the toolbar to not be viewed in each web browser installed on my system...even when it was otherwise "disabled". Major points off for this. If anyone finds a global setting IN AVG Free to disable/hide them all at once, please leave a tip in the comments. Otherwise, you are left to do the "light" method like I first proposed, or the "heavy" method as AVG outlines in the FAQ.

Finally, while I understand that AVG designers saw value in showing an "error-state" icon in the system tray if a component is disabled (by user-choice or failure) to alert users of the condition, I find it curious to not be able to find an option to hide (or override) that error state if that state was manually selected by the user. Now we are left with that ugly icon unless manually set to "Hide" as outlined above. Again, if someone finds a way to do this in AVG Free v8.0, please leave me the tip in the comments.

I'm otherwise very impressed at this early stage and hope that Grisoft continues to provide the outstanding security product features in AVG Free that we fans have become accustomed to.

For more information regarding AVG Link Scanner, the AVG Security Toolbar, disabling AVG Search-Shield, and Grisoft's method for removing the AVG Add-on component from your browser, see this Grisoft AVG v8.0 Free Link Scanner FAQ Page.

For other details on AVG Free, consult this Grisoft AVG Free v8.0 FAQ page.

AVG Free v 8.0: Still Highly Recommended (but with a few reservations).

--Claus

9 comments:

Gary Berg said...

I have a paid AVG subscription, so I switched to AVG 8 back when it was released. I did this at AVG tech support's suggestion as I was working with them on the AV problem with copying files and a system exception; I figured they'd never work at fixing it if no one reported it. This system exception seems to happen with several different AV products and is assumed to be a Vista SP0 bug.

Anyway, I move my notebook between home and work networks, which have different IP ranges. When I moved the notebook with AVG8 freshly installed to the other location my network was completely dead. No ping, no IP, no DNS, nothing. So I removed it.

AVG tech support, when I complained, had the gall to ask if AVG 8 was "still installed" - I said no, since it makes it impossible to use the computer, and I'd said I uninstalled it.

Anyway, I'm not sure if it was a one-off problem or a generic issue, but you might take a look at what happens if you connect your notebook to a different subnet.

As for myself, I dumped the last 9 months of a 2-user subscription and moved to NOD32...

Anonymous said...

The LinkScanner and Firefox add-on were bugging me too. Check out http://free.grisoft.com/ww.faq.num-1241 and open 1338 which details the switches to run the installer with to not install the crappy components.

c:\avg_free_stf_*.exe /REMOVE_FEATURE fea_AVG_SafeSurf /REMOVE_FEATURE fea_AVG_SafeSearch

Claus Valca said...

Anonymous.

Brilliant catch! Your solution as found in the AVG FAQ works flawlessly.

I will be making a new post tomorrow about this and some first impressions now that I played with it more on my XP system.

Worked like a charm!

Shad Sterling said...

Just upgraded to AVG 8 on XP, and found it made Firefox (2.0.0.14) hang. I disabled the AVT add-on to firefox as you describe, leaving the link scanner enabled in the AVG settings, and now AVG is happy and the scanner doesn't run in firefox. I've left it alone in IE, since I only use IE for windows update anyway.

Jacques said...

Great review and detailed instruction s on how the bypass those irks.
likewise for me upgrading to AVG 8 on XP, has made my Firefox (2.0.0.14) hang too. problem was fixed once AVT add-on was disable as mentioned. So if anyone is having problem with their firefox after installation of AVG8, the above-mentioned method is the way to go solving the glitch.

Anonymous said...

Well done Claus, a nice wrap up of AVG 8 which should answer most problems that everyone seems to be experiencing.
Regarding the AVG toolbar that's causing some annoyance to many users,.
My default browser is"Seamonkey" which is from the same stable as Mozilla and uses the same engine but without the frills & crap that bloat Firefox so much. Seamonkey doesn't install AVG toolbar and therefore can't intrude and cause typical problems such as slow downs, stalling, conflicts etc that is happening with IE and Firefox. Simple but it works for me !
Wally

Anonymous said...

I just received word from an email buddy that he could not send me email and got a notice from spamarrest.com to fill out a large form in order for ME to accept his email. In researching I found this trail: From:davemishsr@spamarrest.com. Http://www.spamarrest.com/a2?AVGjBGNwcvLKVkLzSxDTSioP5wo206ETSnJDj

What is this all about? I certainly don't want people being hounded because I have chosen AVG as protection. Has anyone else experienced this?

Claus Valca said...

@ anonymous - I don't currently think AVG has anything to do with spamarrest.com.

AVG does have the ability to scan incoming and outgoing messages. It also has options in there to add a "certification" text at the bottom of the messages automatically but I don't know of any link between AVG usage and this product.

The quick looks I saw regarding that product is that folks who sign up for it get their email downloaded and checked by that service as an intercept. If the sender has registered with them, then the email goes through fine to the subscriber. If not, then a back-send request for verification is sent to them to verify they are a "real person" and not a spam bot.

Though if you are getting that message from people sending YOU email, sounds initially like you somehow are registered for the service AND your email is being intercepted and filtered by them by that service.

Don't know enough about it to say.

Defiantly NOT something related to AVG/Grisoft products that I can find anywhere at this time.

Let us know what you find out...

Quillaja said...

To get rid of the stupid tray icon, i just used "System Configuration" in vista to block the "avgtray.exe" program from running on startup. My daily scheduled scan and update continues to work without this additional program running. I don't know how it will affect the resident shield, however, because i don't run that. If you want to open the AVG user interface later, you can just open the AVG tray icon program from the start menu, which will restore the tray icon until you manually close it or restart your computer.