AVG has gone to the dark side

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There was a time when I used and recommended AVG as a reliable option for a free antivirus. I stopped using it about 4 years ago, mainly because the software itself wasn’t really compatible with all Windows computers. When I make a recommendation, I try to make sure it’s something that won’t freeze up your PC. Now, AVG has given us some new reasons to not use their software. AVG has become one of the “bad guys” – now they’ll try to sneak malware and junkware on to your computer.

AVG sucks


Kind of ironic, isn’t it? One of the companies that asks you to trust it to keep your computer clean of viruses and malware actually ends up trying to put that junk ON your computer.

To verify this for myself, I went through the process of installing the free AVG antivirus program on my computer.

At the AVG web page, the first button to click on is a big tipoff:

AVG sucks

You can see that the big green button indicates that the download is not coming from the AVG website, but rather from CNET – probably better known as Download.com. Back in the early days of the internet, CNET was a great source for technology news. And I used to go to Download.com all the time to find new software and try it out. But that has all changed, a good while ago. Download.com is one of the biggest sources for deceitful junkware and malware on the internet. Rather than delivering quality content, they now make their money by sneaking garbage on to your computer.

I downloaded and ran the installer. Of course, the first thing that comes up is to accept their terms and conditions. Nothing to be surprised about there, really – just about every software installation has this now.

AVG terms


I was a bit surprised at the size of the Agreement, however. I copied it into a Word document and checked the size, and it came to 23 pages – 11,814 words. That’s a lot of legal talk for a free program. Wonder why their lawyers had so much to say?

Here’s the big “fork in the road” during the installation process where many people make the wrong choice. You can do the “Standard” install or the “Custom” install. Of course “Standard” is pre-checked because that’s what AVG wants you to do. And look at the “Custom” option – it says it’s for “advanced users”. How many people would consider themselves “advanced users” – just that phrase would intimidate some people and they would choose the Standard install just because they assume it will be easier.

AVG install


Here’s a tip for whenever you are installing software on your computer: ALWAYS choose the custom installation option. Here’s how you should really read it:

  • Standard install: We have a ton of junk we want to put on your computer, and you’re agreeing that we can put ALL of it on without giving you any further warnings.
  • Custom install: We’ll show you the list of junk we want to put on your computer, and you can choose which ones actually get installed.

But for the purpose of this review, I chose Standard installation like a lot of people would. Now the real download begins:

AVG install


When the download was completed, I was graciously offered the chance to give my email address and get another program – “Quick Tune”. It says Quick Tune can speed up my PC by fixing common computer problems. This is crapware that you don’t want, but the makers of Quick Tune have paid AVG to offer it to you as a “benefit”. I declined.

And now the onslaught begins.

Shortly after the installation, I got a pop-up on my screen:

AVG popup


This is where the true irony comes in.

One of the primary purposes for having security software is protect against something called browser hijacking. Browser hijacking is what has happened when you suddenly notice your home page has changed to a different website. A true hijack also changes your default search engine and your “new tab” page (the website that shows up by default whenever you open a new tab in your web browser).

That pop-up from AVG wants to do all of those things. If I allowed this (as a lot of people do, when they see the big “OK” button there), then every time I open up my web browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, etc.) it’s going to automatically go to the AVG Secure Search page, rather than whatever page I currently have it going to. And when I open a new tab, that new tab is also going to display that page. And whenever I do a web search, I won’t be searching on Google now – I’ll be searching on “AVG Secure Search”.

So by clicking on the AVG pop-up that is offering to protect my web browser, that very thing is going to infect my web browser with all those changes that I don’t want. No thanks, AVG.

What we’ve gone over so far is more than enough to tell you that AVG is no longer one of the good guys. They are just another company that has given in to the temptation of sacrificing their customers’ user experience on the altar of making money.

But they’ve only just begun!

Check out the interesting link right in the middle of their program window:

AVG performance


Have you ever had a problem with your computer’s performance? Maybe it was running too slow? That’s by far the biggest complaint I hear when someone brings me their computer. So of course there are TONS of people that will click that button, thinking they are going to speed up their computer. But what really happens?

When I clicked the button, I suddenly see a new program – one which I did not request, or even know about. It’s called PC Analyzer. And there it goes, supposedly checking my registry for errors, my hard drive for defragmentation, etc. And what a surprise – it found “Severe” problems with my computer. As you might already know, this is a standard practice for scam malware programs to make money. These are the basic steps:

  1. Alert you to the “danger” areas in your computer (problems that were previously unknown, but now you know about them thanks to this lifesaving program)
  2. Offer to fix these non-existent problems (a solution which you need to pay for, of course)

And that is exactly the process that AVG is using. It found all of these supposed dangerous errors on my computer, and right next to the “Fix Now” button was this little explanation:

AVG scam


So they are offering to sell me the solution to the problems that they “found”. I guess if a scam works, there’s no point in changing it. I would love to know how much money AVG makes just from this one small area. Again, so many people will just click the “Fix now” button without reading the fine print – and that’s what AVG is counting on.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go uninstall some garbage from my computer.

And if you’re looking for a really GOOD antivirus solution that truly protects your computer (and keeps your other critical software up to date), scroll to the top of this page and click on Scott’s Managed Service Plan.

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December 8th, 2014

Hi Scott. Thanks again for this podcast. I do agree, I noticed myself that the AVG sofware has changed, as there is more pop ups from it than it used to over a year ago, but I am still using it. Can you recommend another free antivirus for windows computers? I used to use Avast antivirus a years ago, back in 2004 in XP machine in Morocco, but things has changed also with Avast.
Regards, Hassan

Scott Johnson
December 8th, 2014

Hi Hassan – unfortunately, I really can’t say that using one of the free antivirus programs is a sufficient solution. You need more than that in order to properly protect your computer. The best that I can say about the free options is that they are “better than nothing”.

December 10th, 2014

Thanks for reply Scott. Prevention is better than cure, so someone has to know what he clicks on!!! or it’s time to move to Linux… All the best

Roger Wright
December 10th, 2014

One of the best things about a paid a/v solution is that you typically get tech support in the event of a malware infection. That’s just not the case with a free solution.

And Scott;s Managed Service Plan utilizes VIPRE Anti-Virus, an outstanding product with a US-based (actually, Florida-based) support team who are superb at malware remediation.

So the bottom line is you get what you pay for, and the free options are often only worth what you pay for them, or, as Scott details above, may actually cost you more in headaches and lost performance.