Anti-virus utility a great deal

Getting something for nothing is a good thing, except when you get exactly what you paid for. But AVG Anti-Virus, a free utility, doesn’t come with the usual gotchas. Installing it requires downloading and running a six-megabyte installer, then registering online. (You must provide your e-mail address so an activation code can be sent to you; so far, that one message is the only e-mail I’ve gotten from the Czech Republic-based developers.) This freebie doesn’t expire, nag you to pay up or stuff your screen with ads. It scans incoming and outgoing e-mail and all downloaded files, whether they arrive off the Web or via instant messaging. On a test system, it cleaned up an existing copy of the “FunLove” virus and denied repeated infection attempts via floppy disk and e-mail. It even stopped a password-stealing trojan.

This free edition does leave out some functions included in Grisoft’s $33.30 Professional edition, but none that prevent it from stopping viruses – provided you’re willing to do a little more work on your own. For example, although this free edition does include free updates to its library of virus profiles, a rarity in the anti-virus business, it can’t download them automatically. You have to remember to hit Grisoft’s Web site and install updates by hand. The interface is also more stripped-down than the professional version, although still completely usable, and no technical support is provided.

The free AVG is a good choice for a computer that goes online infrequently or for users who are sick of the cost of anti-virus software and updates – and disciplined enough to keep its virus definitions up to date by themselves.

Details: Win 98 or newer, free at www.grisoft.com_/us/us_dwnl_free.php.

– The Washington Post