Avira Prime is the paid-for sibling of Avira Free Security, which itself is improved compared to (and replaces) Avira Free Antivirus. It is dedicated to keeping your Mac safe from threats and running smoothly through a selection of different features.
We looked at the latest version of Avira’s software, released in March 2021. As with previous versions, the core part of Avira Prime watches for unwanted and potentially harmful software activity, and that’s backed up by tools for securing your network traffic and cleaning up junk files and browser cookies.
Avira Prime’s scanning process can be run manually or automatically, and it can also monitor things behind the scenes as you work. The Quick Scan mode checks a selection of locations on your Mac that are most likely to be harbouring unwanted or unexpected items, the Downloads folder being a key one.
The Full Scan checks through your entire Mac, a more thorough but also longer process. Both of these can be set to run automatically on a daily, weekly or monthly schedule. Quick Scan is set to run weekly by default, as long as your Mac is awake at the scheduled time.
The third option, Custom Scan, scans specific files or folders on demand. In addition to these, Avira Prime’s Real-Time Protection setting monitors new files as they are created, and USB devices are also scanned automatically when they are mounted.
Where Prime differs from Free Security is that you get full, unlimited use of the VPN service (provided as a separate app) instead of the 500MB per month limit imposed on non-paying users. The VPN can optionally block malicious website content, adding to the software’s local scanning and monitoring security.
There’s also Cookie Cleaner, which will ‘clean up your browsing digital footprint,’ as the software explains, and a tool for managing startup apps.
Strangely enough, the password manager and junk files cleaner are included in both free and paid-for versions of Avira.
The only other points to note is that a Prime license covers five devices and gives you VIP tech support. But of course, with free, there’s no limit to the number of Macs (and other devices) you can protect.
Avira’s Password Manager is a combination of local system and browser extensions plus a web-based management console with its own master password.
In the Passwords section of the main window a button sends the user to a web page, where credentials are managed. This works best with a browser extension, but only Opera, Chrome and Firefox are supported on the Mac. If you use Safari, you’re out of luck.
Usability & Performance
The independent test lab AV Comparatives found that the previous version of Avira Prime (and Avira Free Security) detected all the malware and ‘potentially unwanted programs’ in its tests, and gave it maximum scores.
We looked at the newest version of the software and found that it performed as well in our tests as the previous edition.
We ran Avira Prime’s scan processes while doing a number of other operations, from dealing with email to editing photos and video. Scans take a while to complete, but it had no impact on performance that could be detected without specifically timing things.
AV-Test.org came to the same conclusion; it recorded a slight drop in performance with file writing-related processes (where this kind of software focuses its attention) but less than average for this kind of work, and it gave it the maximum score for all three areas of its evaluation: protection, performance and usability.
There are no options for fine-tuning how the scan process operates; no throttling options to reduce system impact (although that wasn’t needed) and no way to scan inside compressed zip archives or disk images without opening them up.
However, the moment a known problem item is spotted it is either cleaned or quarantined, the latter allowing you to choose to restore the item or delete it from your Mac.
New to this version is a dedicated uninstaller manager for cleaning up when removing apps and controls to manage those that start automatically. Both options are useful additions to the existing features and will help users stay on top of what goes on inside their Macs.
We also tested out the other features to see how they performed and whether they were useful. Junk Cleaner was surprisingly effective, reclaiming almost 55GB of space, and Cookie Cleaner helpfully grouped cookies into different categories so we could easily remove stats, tracking and ads-based items without touching login records, and it did this across our different browsers.
You’re not likely to buy a security tool because of this, but it was more useful than we expected.
Price & Availability
Avira Prime is a five-device subscription that can cover your Mac and iPhone and – if necessary – a Windows PC and Android smartphone as well. There’s no special first year price offered, which means there’s no surprise a year into your subscription with inflated renewal costs.
But this is really the sticking point with Prime: it’s pretty expensive. Not if you use all five licenses, when you work out the cost per device, but since Avira Free Security offers the same core protection as Prime, it doesn’t feel like you’re getting much extra for your money with Prime.
You can read about alternatives to Avira Prime in our roundup of the best antivirus software for Mac.
Avira Prime does a good job of spotting and dealing with unwanted software, through both manual and automatic scans and activity monitoring. The additional features are well designed; the Phantom VPN, the cookie cleaning, junk file management and uninstaller helper all add to the package.
If you just want something to watch for dodgy software activity Avira Free Security may be all you need. And it’s hard not to think that Avira is doing itself a disservice by offering so much for free: the additional benefits of Avira Prime won’t justify the annual subscription cost for most people.
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