avast antivirus license renewal trickery

Note on 23-01-2011: since the writing of this post, Avast has cleaned up their license renewal act making it easy and clear how to renew the free license. Still using it so far, so go Avast! :)

A slightly GIMPed and artyfied screenshot of Avast.Maybe you haven’t heard of it before but Avast! Antivirus from Alwil Software is virus protection software that can be installed for free by the home user. This is great because that way people at home can benefit grade A protection of their system for free. The fact that they are also selling the same software commercially, with a few more features handy for businesses that have to handle a complete cluster of desktops, confirms that the anti virus solution can be trusted to work. And there’s a pirate reference. Arrrrr!

The only thing you have to do each year, is renew your free license by going to their website, re-enter your email and address data and hit the submit button. A few seconds later you have a new license key in your inbox that works for another year. Sweetness.

I love this piece of software just for these reasons. It’s free, and you know it’s quality.
This year there is a slight difference however. This year I got this pop-up telling me that my license had expired, so no biggy there. But when I clicked it I got a message that I found rather misleading. The message was in Dutch, but I’m translating here:

Your computer is now completely UNPROTECTED. Since your license has expired Avast! can not protect your computer against future threats. We advise you to renew your license.

Besides the fact that this sounds like Avast! is from now refusing to protect your system, which I’m sure isn’t the case, this sounds rather scary. I know this is probably how they want to urge people into getting a new license, but still, I think people might panic a bit when they see this kind of message.
Anyway, this isn’t the worst bit. The shitty part about the screen with this message is that the only option you have by default is to upgrade to the professional version. Now there’s a little arrow at the bottom which, if clicked, unfolds the two other options you have, which are the free version, and an uninstall option (not advised they say, heh).

You can check the Dutch screenshots here.

It's a computer screen, and it's coming at you!Ok, so people have to click a button to get their free version. Right, but there’s more. In the descriptive text of the free Home edition they talk about how the professional edition offers a better protection, and installing the Home edition is a “downgrade” of your version. Which it isn’t because I already have the Home edition.
This kind of description makes people think they might be less protected against virii if they don’t upgrade to the professional version, while that is not the case. If you check out the differences between both version you’ll see that the professional version includes mainly additional features to work with scheduled tasks. Stuff that’s handy if you have a large amount of machines to administer, but not if you’re a home user.
One more snag in this, is that when I click the option for the Home edition, the popup doesn’t go away. I ended up having to kill it manually to be able to fill in the registration form. I hope they fix that bug at least.

This kind of practice pisses me off. It’s kinda like that bloody fine print people don’t read and gets them screwed in the end. Still, if you read the fine-print, and you know what you are doing, which isn’t the case for a lot of folks using computers, you’ll be fine, and still using the free version. People who don’t know much about computers, and want to play safe might be tricked into buying a Pro version which they don’t need. Lame.

So to end this with some proper advice. If you get that red warning message in your bottom right corner, you can skip this whole mess and go straight to the registration page and get yourself a new license key.

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