Security suites are designed to detect and remove threats from PCs. However, by protecting PCs’ file systems and memory in real time, this sort of protection comes at the cost of performance, and many users value performance as much as security protection.
This series of blog posts helps you find out which security solutions have the most detrimental effect on overall system performance, boot performance, and resource utilization. Over the past couple of months, we tested the following solutions:
- Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) 2.0
- Norton Internet Security 2011
- Kaspersky Internet Security 2011
- AVG Internet Security 2011
- McAfee Internet Security 2011
- ESET SmartSecurity 4
We even made a head-to-head comparison and evaluated which solutions affect system performance the most.
Avast Internet Security 6
Let’s turn our attention to the next candidate: Avast Internet Security 6. It’s available as a one- or two-year subscription and offers the usual set of protections, such as e-mail and social media protection, real-time scanner, a firewall, and so on. What’s worth noting is, Avast claims that its solution is “lightning fast” and that it even got an Anti-Malware-Test award.
In this blog post, you’ll find out if Avast holds up to its promise.
Timecode 00:00:00 – Scenario starts / Boot performance
As usual, we performed boot tests using Microsoft’s Windows Performance Toolkit and a stopwatch to determine when the desktop is visible and when Live Messenger and Skype load.
The first couple of system startups felt like molasses: According to Microsoft’s Windows Performance Analyzer, total boot time clocked in at about 350 seconds (!) for the first five boots. We figured this was due to SuperFetch, but even after the tenth test, things didn’t improve, and we started to worry about boot performance. The time eventually dropped to about 260 and 280 seconds,however, after the desktop appeared, we could not work with the computer for several minutes.
Timecode 00:10:00 – Resource check
Since boot time was so immensely disappointing, we expected a pretty big hit to resources.
Luckily, that was not the case. Despite all of the hard disk thrashing going on after we installed Avast, memory usage wasn’t all that bad; 56 MB is okay for a full-blown security suite. Avast runs three processes and two services, but neither caused significant memory usage nor did they cause a lot of background activity.
Timecode 00:11:30 – Browser start
Ladies and gentlemen, you’re in for a surprise! Avast is the first security suite that did not slow down the launch of Google Chrome. The other solutions added a second to the application launch time. Yes, you might argue that one second isn’t that big of a deal, but it just goes to show what an enormous impact security suites have on PCs.
Timecode 00:12:30 – Launching Outlook
Firing up Outlook is usually the first thing we do each and every morning. So, let’s see if this application’s start-up performance suffered in any way, shape, or form.
Avast had only a minor effect on Outlook. A one-second delay is’t all that bad. The avast! Antispam Add-In that was added (pictured below) caused the slight drop in performance, as it hooks itself quite deeply into Outlooks routines.
Timecode 00:14:30 – Opening an 8 MB photo in PhotoImpact
Running PhotoImpact puts quite a strain on the CPU and hard disk, usually, resulting in thousands of disk operations. Did Avast slow things down?
Loading PhotoImpact took three seconds longer than usual. We won’t complain about this, but it shows that Avast interfered with many of the file system operations. Fortunately, applying the photo effect filter went as smoothly as it did before.
Timecode 00:16:30 – Opening up a PowerDirector project
Most security solutions delayed the startup of PowerDirector. How did Avast fare?
Pretty bad! Instead of launching within 12 seconds, PowerDirector needed a whopping 35 second s to start, and it occurred each and every time we loaded a project into the program. This delay will likely be seen when opening up other programs, too. The video conversion was also slowed down by about 10% due to the increase in background activity caused by Avast.
Timecode 00:19:30 – Converting a large (220 MB) MP3 File into AAC with iTunes
Audio conversion is a task mainly performed by the CPU. This test helps us find out if Avast puts a damper on overall processor speed.
Yes, it does! But only in a minor way: It added a total of six seconds. We’re not even going to comment further. Good job!
Timecode 00:30:30 – Copying a large file over a network
Essentially, all security suites tend to have an integrated network scanning feature. Let’s see if the one in Avast poses performance problems when transferring files back and forth over a network.
There was no difference at all. File transfer via our steady 802.11n connection was as fast as always.
Timecode 00:35:00 – Large file extraction
WinRAR extraction results in thousands of file system operations and heavy CPU usage. Did Avast slow things down this time?
Extracting the 350 files took 30 seconds with or without Avast’s real-time protection watching over everything.
Nothing to complain about here.
Timecode 00:38:00 – Cinebench results
Cinebench is one of those benchmarks that rarely showed any performance drop caused by security solutions. The results were the same in this test: Avast had no noticeable effect on rendering speed, no matter if we’re talking about raw GPU or CPU performance.
Timecode 00:47:00 – PCMark results
Finally, our good old benchmark companion, PCMark, was put to the test. As usual, we ran only the “Productivity” and “Gaming” benchmarks. What were Avast’s scores?
Good news! There was no real performance hit.
Performance Results: Avast Internet Security 6
Avast seemed like a pretty heavy program at first: Boot time doubled with this security software. But the good news is, most of the other tests showed no major performance hit. It’s pretty much in the middle of the pack of the solutions we’ve tested. If Avast worked on the boot performance issues, we’d be 100% on board with it. Well, that, and they desperately need to get rid of the annoying voice that announces Avast’s actions, such as “Avast Database has just been updated”. What may seem cool at first can get on your nerves in a quick way. Gladly, there’s a way to turn it off.
10 Responses to “Do Security Solutions Slow Down Your PC? (Part 8 – Avast Internet Security 6)”
- Do Security Solutions Slow Down Your PC? (Part 1 – Introduction) » TuneUp Blog about Windows
- Do Security Solutions Slow Down Your PC? (Part 9 – F-Secure Internet Security 2011) » TuneUp Blog about Windows
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