Antivirus developer Avira has launched a new all-in-one online security bundle for 2017 – and it’s completely free. Avira Free Security Suite (opens in new tab) includes browser safety, system speedup and VPN tools, plus the updated edition of its antivirus software.
It sounds brilliant – free antivirus software is nothing new, but complete suites are usually paid-for premium options – but there are caveats.
Avira Phantom VPN lets you browse the internet securely and anonymously. Like any VPN service, it prevents your activities being tracked by third parties (including unscrupulous online advertisers), prevents your personal data being intercepted, and lets you access location-blocked content from anywhere in the world.
The free edition of Phantom VPN gives you 500MB data transfer per month (the same as free VPN service TunnelBear, for example), which is fine for occasional shopping and banking, but nowhere near enough for everyday browsing and downloading. There’s also a premium version of Phantom VPN (opens in new tab) available separately, which offers unlimited data from €5 per month (about £4.50, US$5.50, AU$7) when billed annually.
The version of System Speedup bundled in Free Security Suite is actually a 30-day trial of Avira’s premium optimization tool. It gives sluggish PCs a boost by removing unused files left over by messy software uninstallers, cleans up your Windows registry, and lets you manage running processes. There’s also file encryption and secure shredding, a built-in backup tool, file recovery, and a network manager.
These are all very handy components, but if you don’t fancy opening your wallet and don't mind using multiple programs you could put together your own free equivalent using IObit Advanced Systemcare Free, Recuva, Network Stuff, and EaseUS Todo Backup Free.
Browser Safety comes in the form of a browser plugin for Chrome or Firefox that places icons beside search results to indicate whether they’re safe to click, helping you avoid threats like phishing sites.
Overall, Avira Free Security Suite is a convenient way to grab several security and maintenance tools at once, but it’s not on a par with paid-for equivalents. Each component is available to download separately, and in most cases there are alternatives that can do the job just as well, if not better. Avira Free Antivirus (opens in new tab) is still our top choice for protecting PCs from malicious software of all stripes, but we can take or leave the new bundle.