Total Antivirus (TotalAV) is a fully-featured antivirus software suite with a lot to offer. TotalAV provides both a free version and a paid version that expands on the default options.
In this Total AV review we took a look at both versions, ultimately finding that the free trial version is useful, but very limited, while the paid version provides some uniquely valuable features that set it apart from some of the bigger names in the industry.
Update, January 25, 2017: TotalAV is offering our readers a $19.99/year deal, which even beats the current deal it has running on its website. Value for money is an important factor in our ratings, we have elected to bump the rating up from 4 to 5 stars based on the discounted pricing. If price is taken out of the equation there are alternatives we prefer, however for a solid, easy to use solution that comfortably beats all of the free (and some of the paid) antivirus software we have tested TotalAV should be on your shortlist.
Update, May 22, 2017: In light of reader concerns, we've added a section on how to take advantage of TotalAV's software without incurring extra charges. We will be completing a more detailed update in the near future.
Minimum system requirements
TotalAV makes applications for Windows, Android, Mac, and iOS. It’s difficult to tell exactly what the system requirements are for each. TotalAV does not list any information about system requirements on their website. Instead, when you click on “download” for Mac or Windows, or go to the Google Play Store or iTunes, you’ll find that it downloads pretty easily. If there’s a software limitation, you'll find out pretty quickly. I had no problem downloading the Android or the Windows versions.
Installation and Setup
Installing TotalAV was a bit of an annoying process. First, you have to create an account -- something that privacy-conscious individuals who want a free virus program may well balk at. It’s not common to require a login or account information to download a free version of a program. Paid, yes. Free? That’s a bit unnecessary.
Following this, TotalAV will spend a good few minutes updating its virus definitions onto your machine. Only after all of that can you actually install the program onto your computer. In all, installation took me just under 10 minutes, which seems a bit long to install a program. That said, most of that time spent waiting for the full installation was spent updating the virus definitions.
Once installed, TotalAV runs silently in the system tray but will load up the dashboard, at least for the first time. It used almost no space on my CPU and consumed around 20 MB of RAM on my machine. All in all, it keeps a low profile.
You certainly can’t fault TotalAV for paying attention to the visuals. The interface on this application is very easy to navigate, although some aspects don’t necessarily make sense.
For example, the meter levels for different the categories seem interesting and helpful at first - until you realize they aren’t at all. Take the “Antivirus” category:
For me, it shows my severity level as extremely high. 25 threats found? Yikes! Only, those 25 “threats” are only tracker cookies and all from sites that I trust. Yes, tracker cookies are a bit of a questionable measure, but I would not go as far as to say all tracker cookies are severe security threats to my machine.
Outside of this, it’s easy to get to the things you want and need. The “Fix Issues” button at the top makes fixing any problems it does find across all categories a simple process, while the ability to quickly navigate to each category on the left is a nice touch.
This application gives you all of the standard items you’re looking for in an antivirus program. You can quick scan or perform a much longer whole system scan to help root out any malware.
The quick scan, however, is not as quick as the name implies. This took around 15 minutes to run, which seems painfully inefficient for a “quick” scan. Granted, too short of a time is not necessarily good, either, as it generally means that too few areas are getting checked, but I’ve had full system scans on other antivirus software last about the same amount of time.
Compared to the quick scan, the full scan felt more efficient. It took 24 minutes, which is relatively fast for a full-system scan. It was actually very efficient at finding some test viruses I installed, as well as the load of tracker cookies on my system.
Aside from the scanning options, TotalAV provides standard firewall and real-time protection features. Perhaps the more striking and unusual addition, however, is the inclusion of a VPN with the paid version of the program. It’s highly uncommon for an antivirus software to include a VPN, although it does make sense in a way. The VPN won’t keep you from downloading viruses, but the fact that TotalAV decided to add their own VPN solution is somewhat of a nice touch to round out the program’s other features.
The VPN option has a long list of VPN server locations: over 40. That's comparable to some of the major VPN providers on the market, making this a decent VPN solution if you're looking for location variety. I asked TotalAV about whether their VPN service is home-grown or whether it’s provided to them through another party. I was told TotalAV’s “Safe Browsing” VPN is their own, homegrown service.
The company’s online Knowledge Base includes a few more details on the VPN, such that it uses 256-bit AES-CBC encryption run on the OpenVPN protocol. Beyond this, there’s no information on the VPN. Due to the lack of info and features, I would not suggest using it for the time being if you’re looking for a serious VPN solution. It doesn't come with any features commonly found on paid VPN services, such as DNS leak protection, kill switch, or the option to change your ports. There's also no word on a logging policy, something fundamentally important to anyone wishing to use this as a secure, anonymous VPN.
Also unfortunate for those who don’t pay for the service is the fact that TotalAV locks the quarantine option behind a paywall. Because quarantine is only available with the paid version, your options for what you can do with viruses or other malware is limited. You can delete or whitelist viruses, or choose to take no action.
The value in quarantining is the files found and cleaned may be necessary for other programs to correctly operate. Needless to say, you’ll have to be far more particular in how you use the free version given you have no quarantine option, lest you find yourself causing some damage to certain infected programs by mistake while trying to clean them.
Ultimately, the usefulness you’ll get out of TotalAV’s primary functionality is limited if you only stick to the free version.
The System Boost features a nice add on. The ability to enable and disable startup programs, for example, is highly useful. It makes hitting Alt+Delete and trying to stop running programs a lot easier, particularly for anyone who’s unsure of which programs they should allow or disallow from running.
Useful as well is the ability to uninstall programs from your computer using the TotalAV client, as well as a function that clears history and cookies from your browsers all at once. Unfortunately, TotalAV isn’t able to pull up the history from Opera, although it does get the cookies.
These are all features you’ll have to pay for, however, as they’re somewhat signature to TotalAV. Windows users can streamline these processes that can sometimes be cumbersome to perform in every Windows OS.
The Disk Cleaner tools are not uncommon to other antivirus applications, but if I’ve ever seen a prettier layout for them elsewhere, I couldn’t name any. TotalAV hit the nail on the head with their duplicates cleaning tool. Their junk shredder is also streamlined and extremely useful.
Of course, all of these highly useful additions are, you guessed it, locked behind a paywall.
Effectiveness as a security solution
When you consider what you get with TotalAV, it’s ultimately a good, if not perfect, security solution. Unfortunately, TotalAV is pretty new on the scene, so it has not yet been fully tested by any of the major testing labs.
That said, one must consider what is available through the application. The firewall is there, and it works as intended as far as we can tell. The virus scanner is thorough in picking up threats, although tracker cookies should probably be reclassified in their definitions so they aren’t in the same category as malware. For example, it classified a test virus at the same threat level as tracker cookies (an “orange” on their scale, which falls directly in the threat level meter).
The addition of the VPN does make it more valuable in this category for some users than most other antivirus solutions, weighing heavily in TotalAV’s corner as a more all-in-one security solution.
The inclusion of industry-standard features on the free version, such as quarantine, would certainly put it on the level of some of the more well-known programs.
It’s hard to fault TotalAV for what it currently has. The only alternative, of course, is to point out again that you can’t use most of these features without paying up first. Yes, you can do the quick scan for free, but the lack of full scan or the quarantine thrown in for the trial version may be a turnoff to some people.
As stated earlier, the quick scan took 15 minutes to run. That’s an amusingly long time for a quick scan. While this was running, and even when it was not, I kept getting popup messages from TotalAV telling me about threats to my system that needed to be cleaned.
You can turn off these notifications, but it seems superfluous to tell me about threats I need to clean while I’m running a scan. The popups are also fairly intrusive and take a rather large section of the screen. You can click to close them, but they’ll popup somewhat regularly.
On the positive end, even during the system scan, TotalAV used very little CPU. That’s an uncommon benefit, as some programs will simply fill up your processor to the extent that you can’t do much with your computer at all while it’s running. Even more impressive is the fact that it didn’t slow down my netbook at all while scanning. Given a netbook tends to have very limited CPU resources, this may make TotalAV a good option for a good segment of users with lower-end machines.
The application does its duty when malicious files are inbound. The firewall detected my attempt at downloading a test malware file and gave me a warning about it. It then gives you the option to remove, quarantine or ignore the filter and keep downloading the file. It will bring up a rather prominent message on your screen when this happens.
Somewhat annoyingly, the threat detection continued to block my efforts even after I turned it off. In fact, I purposefully turned it off so I could download the test file and see if TotalAV would detect it with a scan. Instead, it refused to let me download the file at all, even with the monitoring features turned off.
Help and support
TotalAV provides several support areas for those looking to use the software. They offer 24/7 live chat on their website, which is something I think more companies should offer. I used this service once to find out information on their VPN service. It took about four minutes to get a response. The service representative was able to answer my question fairly quickly and succinctly after that.
You can also email them, call them, or use the on-site knowledge base. The knowledge base is only marginally helpful, however, so chances are you’re more likely to turn to one of the more direct contact methods to get in touch with the company.
How to Avoid Extra Charges
While TotalAV offers a steep discount on their services, it's easy to rack up extra charges with the service if you're not careful. You can avoid these excess charges by following these steps (with a step-by-step visual guide).
Step 1: Avoid selecting addons during the sign-up process on the first post-signup screen
After you make the initial purchase, you'll be greeted with this screen. Do not click on Upgrade Now. Instead, click on No thanks, continue.
Step 2: Avoid addons on the second post-signup screen
As with the previous screen, you will want to click on the greyscale box with Continue Without This Add-On. Do not click on the Add Safe Browsing (VPN) Now
Step 3: Avoid addons on the third post-signup screen
You will be greeted with another post-signup screen offering more addons. Here, do not click Add on any of the screens. Instead, click Continue at the bottom of the screen.
Step 4: Avoid addons on the fourth post-signup screen
As with the other post-signup screens, do not click Add. Instead, at the bottom, click on the small text link that says No Thanks, I don't want 50%off my account addons. Do NOT click on the large blue link.
Step 5: Cancel before the first year, and sign-up again with the discount, or contact customer support to turn off auto-renew
Your TotalAV account will auto-renew at the undiscounted rate after the end of the first year. This will include the two "free gifts" (Enhanced Firewall, System Boost) you received, but could not reject, when you first downloaded signed up for the program:
You will be charged for both ($19 each), plus the full price of the software ($99) once the auto-renew hits. This cost is unavoidable unless you cancel before the first year is out, or speak to customer service to turn off auto-renew. TotalAV mentions this auto-renew policy on the bottom of the signup page, and in their user agreement, as pictured below:
TotalAV is a low-profile, fully-functioning application with a lot of character. In today’s time, a company needs character to distinguish itself from the crowd. And the antivirus software market is very crowded indeed.
It’s a powerful program, to be sure, and the fact that it’s not a system hog is nice. Nevertheless, it could use some sprucing up of its signature features, like the VPN, to be a truly viable alternative to the major contenders.
Furthermore, TotalAV might want to drop the requirement to sign up for an account just to use the trial version and to even download the program at all. This is nothing more than a method to collect data on potential customers, and it’s definitely the wrong way of doing things. I confirmed this to be the case after I started getting emails from the company trying to offer me discounts within hours of downloading the free trial. Within 36 hours, I'd already received two emails offering discounts and encouraging me to sign up for a full account.
The company should also drop the pretense in the free version. There’s so little you can do with the free version that it’s effectively not worth one’s time. Sure, you can quick scan and remove anything you find with the quick scan, but you can't even utilize the quarantine, so you'll have to be extra cautious with how you use it.
TotalAV packs a useful program in a pretty package, then doesn’t let you use it unless you pay up. The price is competitive, however, easily matching some of the top names in the industry, while providing almost equivalent security features and then some.
Note: While competitively priced, even at at full cost, the discounted $19.99 pricing offered to Comparitech readers makes TotalAV very good value. Value for money is one of many elements we factor in to how we rate a service; based on the currently discounted pricing we have elected to bump the score of TotalAV up from a 7 to an 8 out of 10.
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