Beware running free Avira antivirus products on Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 systems.
Earlier this month, after users reported that Avira's antivirus software was triggering a blue screen of death on their new Windows 8 systems, the free antivirus developer released an advisory confirming that "currently, the Avira products are not ready for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 (built on Windows 8)."
Tuesday, however, as part of a planned series of patches that will make its security software not just stable when being run on Windows 8, but also certified by Microsoft as being compatible, Avira released a fix for its 2013 antivirus software, which it said will eliminate the "stability problems" being experienced by customers.
"We are working very hard to get our products Windows 8 compatible as soon as possible," said Avira product manager Sorin Mustaca in a blog post. "The most important issues we are facing are related to the stability of the software and its integration in the Windows 8 operating system."
[ Compatibility issues aside, Windows 8 is good news for enterprise security. Read more at Windows 8: A Win For Enterprise Security. ]
In the interim, however, anyone who attempts to install Avira's software will still see a popup screen warning that "Windows8 is not yet officially supported by Avira Free Antivirus." In addition, Microsoft Windows 8 actively blocks installations of 2012 versions of Avira's products, although users can upgrade to the 2013 versions for free.
Avira makes one of the world's most-used antivirus applications. According to a report from OPSWAT, in the third quarter of 2012, Avira had the third highest global antivirus market share, commanding 12% of the market -- up 3% from the second quarter of the year -- and following Avast (18%) and Microsoft (14%), while placing ahead of ESET (11%) and Symantec (10%).
Which antivirus firms have Windows 8-compatible software? As of November 8, independent testing firm AV-TEST released a list of antivirus products that are compatible with Windows 8, albeit with some caveats. "Products on the list have been carefully tested by their developers, are fully supported by their vendors and reviewed by AV-TEST in the areas of protection, repair, and usability," said AV-TEST. "However, not all products are supporting all new Windows 8 features -- like the new user interface -- yet."
But while the top 10 antivirus vendors -- based on OPSWAT's market share report -- all make the AV-TEST compatibility list, Avira's products are absent. That said, The Register reported that user feedback indicates that Avira isn't the only product encountering Windows 8 compatibility hiccups, and even products listed as being compatible aren't necessary stable.
Clearly, however, Avira missed the ball on ensuring that its flagship product was Windows 8-compatible in time for the new operating system's launch last month. Mustaca detailed in part what had gone wrong for Avira's developers: "The Windows 8 operating system, and its equivalent in the server area called Windows Server 2012, have a completely new architecture. Their architecture forces the software which runs on them to make significant changes in the frameworks and the APIs -- application programming interfaces -- used to write the software."
Going forward, Avira will try and make its product's able to integrate with the Windows 8 Application Center, through which users will be able to activate or deactivate the product, update the product, or purchase a top-up license. Regardless, a support document from Avira said that now, "as far as we could test, our software provides the protection it was designed for, it can update properly so that the latest virus signatures and engine are reliably delivered and inform the user about the issues encountered."
Once Avira gets those issues ironed out, Mustaca said the company will submit its product for reevaluation by Microsoft in the hope that it will sign off on the software as being compatible with Windows 8. Company officials expect to make that submission in the coming weeks.
"We will continue to rollout (sic) patches in the next few weeks," Mustaca said. "We hope to be able to remove very soon the popup at the beginning the installation which informs the user that we don't officially support this operating system."
[ Get expert guidance on Microsoft Windows 8. InformationWeek's Windows 8 Super Guide rounds up the key news, analysis, and reviews that you need. ]