Which Avast Free Antivirus components should I install?

So I recently started using my personal laptop again and realized I hadn’t installed an antivirus program since I upgraded to Windows 10 in the last hour of July 29, 2016 (just beating the upgrade deadline).  I did some quick research to figure out what antivirus to install and found the following information.

PCMag, a reputable technology information site, recommends Avast Free Antivirus 2017 as the best free antivirus protection available for 2018.(https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2388652,00.asp).

Tom’s Guide, another reputable technology information site, also recommends Avast as the best free antivirus available (https://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-antivirus,review-2588-5.html).  Tom’s Guide also notes that Avast bought AVG last year, resulting in “remarkable improvements” in Avast’s malware detection.

TechRadar (January 22, 2018) and Fossbytes (December 30, 2017) recommend Avast Free Antivirus and Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition as their #1 and #2 choices (https://www.techradar.com/news/the-best-free-antivirus and https://fossbytes.com/best-free-antivirus-software/).

I decided to install Avast, although it appears that Bitdefender is also a great choice.  When I opened the installer, I saw this:

I clicked ‘Customize,’ since installers typically install unnecessary software if left to their default settings.  Here’s what I saw:

Avast has an article (https://help.avast.com/en/av_free/17/settings_tools.html) that explains these components.  Based on this, I’ve broken down the components offered with the free edition:

  1. File Shield: “actively scans all programs and files on your hard drive as they are opened, run, modified, and saved. If malware is detected, File System Shield prevents the program or file from infecting your PC.”  This is important; install it.
  2. Behavior Shield: “monitors programs installed on your PC for suspicious behavior that may indicate the presence of malicious code.”  This is important; install it.
  3. Web Shield: “actively scans data that is transferred when you browse the internet to prevent malware from being downloaded and run on your PC.”  This is important; install it.
  4. Mail Shield: “scans for threats in your incoming and outgoing email messages. Scanning applies only to messages sent or received using a mail management software, such as Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird. If you access your web based email account via an internet browser, your PC is protected by other Shields.”  You only need this if you have an email program on your computer.  If you only access your email through a web browser, don’t install this.
  5. Software Updater: helps you keep 3rd-party software updated.  You don’t need this.
  6. Browser Cleanup: identifies unpopular browser add-ons.  You don’t need this.
  7. Rescue Disk: allows you to create a disk from which you can boot to scan your computer if it is significantly damaged by viruses.  I decided I didn’t need this.
  8. Wi-Fi Inspector: “scans your network for vulnerabilities and identifies potential security issues that open the door to threats. This feature checks the status of your network, devices connected to the network, and router settings.”  This feature, unlike the shields, must be run manually (does not run automatically), but seems like a very helpful utility.  I decided to install it.
  9. Security browser extension: improves online security.  I decided to try this out.
  10. SafePrice browser extension: selects the best prices from a variety of trusted online businesses and displays them above the browser.  I decided I didn’t need this.  I do my own price checking; I don’t need an antivirus to do it for me.
  11. SecureLine VPN (extra paid component): I would actually have really liked this to use when I connect to public networks, but there are free VPNs I can use instead.
  12. Passwords (partially paid component): password manager that stores your passwords.  I decided I didn’t need this.  I let my browsers save my information.
  13. Cleanup (extra paid component): identifies extra files and programs that can be removed or disabled.  You don’t need this.  CCleaner (https://www.ccleaner.com/ccleaner/download) is the best at this, and it’s free, too.
  14. Game Mode: disables background applications when you play games on your computer.  I primarily only play chess or hearts, so I decided I didn’t need this.

I am only installing five of the 14 available components.  You may decide you need more or fewer.  At minimum, you should install the file, behavior, and web shields.

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