Avast Premium Security full review
Avast Premium Security for Mac is a security product that monitors your Mac’s activity and files, watching for a wide range of possible unwanted behaviour and threats including ransomware activity as well as browser hacks and actual unwanted programs, and it guards against ransomware attacks and keeps an eye on your Wi-Fi network as well.
It does all this in the background, and scans can be run manually to look through specific places on your Mac or its entire storage. Suspect items are quarantined in a ‘Virus Chest’ for later examination or are simply deleted.
The Core Shields section of the software is where most of the protection features are found. File Shield scans files that are copied to or opened on your Mac, Web Shield is dedicated to blocking script attacks and unsafe downloads, Email Shield watches for unsafe attachments, and Real Site helps protect you against fake web sites pretending to be legitimate bank or shopping portals.
The Ransomware Shield is listed separately from the Core Shields items. This protects your Documents and Pictures folders by default – more locations can be added – against changes by software that isn’t trusted.
As well as having the various ‘shields’ watch for problems as you work you can run a few different kinds of manual scans: Smart Scan is the default and looks in specific areas of your Mac where problematic files are most likely. Click the magnifying glass icon next to this (yes, we agree this looks more like a ‘find’ feature) and you can also choose Deep Scan for checking your whole Mac, Targeted Scan for checking any place you choose, USB/DVD Scan for checking removable volumes, and Open Now, which despite its title is for scheduling scans. The options here are Targeted, Deep or Mac scan.
Although Premium Security can scan inside file archives (and the Deep Scan, Targeted Scan and removable volume scanning features have this option on by default) it’s worth noting that our password-protected zip archives weren’t checked.
Usability & Performance
Avast did very well with finding our various problematic test files and applications, which matches with the good test scores it got from AV Comparatives, an independent test organisation. Running scans can take a while, especially the Deep Scan option; this took just shy of four hours to go through our test MacBook Pro’s SSD, but we were pleased to note there was relatively little impact on the Mac's performance while this was going on.
The File Shield background monitoring did, however, slow down file copying a little.
When the background scanning process finds something it regards as a possible threat it will try to deal with the issue itself and alert you. This is done with a moderately large window that floats over all other windows and appears regardless of whether or not the application is hidden, ensuring that you don’t miss what’s been done. A regular macOS notification would be less obtrusive, but also easier to miss.
One thing we weren’t that thrilled about seeing in this paid-for product was how users are prompted to buy additional products, especially as part of the process of scanning and fixing issues. Running Avast’s Smart Scan feature ends with a list of ‘performance issues’ and a Resolve All button that leads to an additional paid-for service. That would be expected when running free software, but not when you're paying already.
Most users will want to keep their security software active at all times, but we did sometimes want to temporarily shut down Avast’s protection as we worked. This proved rather difficult, forcing us to completely uninstall it to achieve that.
Price & Availability
Avast Premium Security costs £74.99 / US$89.99 per year for up to ten devices, with the first year discounted to £39.99 / $49.99. It doesn't just work on Macs: you can also use it on Windows, iOS and Android devices you may have. And if you have approaching ten of these then Avast Premium can be a fairly good deal even after the initial discount period is over.
Although you can save a bit by opting for a single-device license, that's only for Windows: not Mac.
If you have just one or several Macs to protect, then there are cheaper options and you'll find our recommendations in our roundup of the best antivirus software for Mac.
Avast Premium Security did its job well, spotting our problematic files and apps with generally no particular performance impact. But it wasn’t perfect; when we wanted to take charge and run specific things it did feel a little confusing and hard to manage at times, and the alerts were quite obtrusive. If you’re happy to run your security software mainly as it comes out of the box then it’s a good contender, but if you want more hands-on control then consider alternatives such as Intego’s Mac Internet Security X9.