Ad-Aware Free Internet Security

Ad-Aware Free Internet Security

Editors' Rating:
4
Excellent
Average User Rating:
3.9
out of 15351 votes
See all user reviews

Quick Specs

Version:
9.0
File Size:
2.68MB
Date Added:
April 29, 2011
Price:
Free; paid upgrade available
Operating Systems:
Windows 2000 Professional/Vista 64-bit/7 32-bit/Vista 32-bit/7 64-bit/XP 32-bit
Total Downloads:
386,704,448
Downloads Last Week:
93,021
Product ranking:
#2 in Anti-Spyware
Additional Requirements:
Not available

Editors' review

The bottom line: One of the first applications built to find and remove malware and spyware, Ad-Aware's reputation is well-justified. The latest version continues the publisher's tradition of adroitly addressing user concerns, yet some annoyances remain.

Review:

Ad-Aware 9 continues the development progress that publisher Lavasoft began in the previous version. No longer content with offering only malware protection, Ad-Aware now includes antivirus protections licensed from Sunbelt, the makers of Vipre, as well as interesting in-house improvements.

Lavasoft first started changing Ad-Aware's protection engine more than a year ago in version 8.1, when it introduced Genotype. This heuristics-based technology identified identical snippets of code across multiple threat mutations. In version 9, Genotype receives support from what Lavasoft calls "Dedicated Detection." This tech looks inside files, analyzes the code, and creates a loose pattern for finding families of related malware. The company touts that a single dedicated detection signature can detect hundreds of thousands of threats. More importantly, Lavasoft expects that dedicated detection will lower false positive rates by creating more points of comparison.

The second new engine, MagmaShield, is proactive. It emulates processor instructions, comparing approved processor-level operations against those that are undefined in the application layer. This means that it aggressively looks at how a file interacts with the CPU and uses that to call out threats faster.

Installation
Ad-Aware 9 Free has a fairly straightforward installation process, simple in procedure. The installer file is enormous, at 124 MB, so users who are on slower connections ought to prepare for a lengthy download wait. Ad-Aware has no toolbars and won't attempt to commandeer your default browser's search engine, an irritation that some free competitors still believe in. Installing does require a reboot, which is expected for security software. The install itself was a bit slow, taking more than five minutes including the reboot, yet it's noticeably faster than it used to be.

Interface
Ad-Aware's interface hasn't changed much since version 8, which means that it's still in dire need of a refresh. The main window offers three icons that you can click on to update your virus definition files and engines, scan your system, or check your status on Ad-Watch Live, Ad-Aware's real-time protection engine. Below the main icons there's a button for updating your scan schedule and accessing support, while a toggle button to jump between simple mode and advanced mode sits in the bottom left corner of the interface. The interface's simple mode merely makes some otherwise visible options disappear, hidden behind an extra click. All but the newest of users ought to feel comfortable using Ad-Aware's "advanced" mode.

As you can tell, it's sort of a mess, and we're not done yet. At the top right of the interface are a series of buttons that replicate the three features in the main window, as well as a fourth for accessing "extras". A Settings button sits below those four.

Tapping the Scan button will run a full scan, and there's no way to change this behavior to Smart scan or Profile scan, the Ad-Aware term for a custom scan. Within the Scan window there are tabs near the top for jumping into the scheduler, the quarantine, and the ignore list.

The Ad-Watch Live window will show you which kinds of real-time protection you have running. Process protcetion defaults to on, while File, Network, and Registry protection are available only in the Ad-Aware paid upgrade. Some competitors, such as Avast, offer all of these in their free version.

Features
As mentioned above, the "Dedicated Detection" and MagmaShield engines are the biggest feature improvements in Ad-Aware 9 Free, although there's no direct interaction between them and the user. Lavasoft has tweaked the scheduler behavior a bit in version 9. The feature arrived in the free version only recently in version 8.3. Ad-Aware Free users can only schedule two scans; upgrading to Ad-Aware Pro removes the handicap. Both Free and Pro users can schedule Smart scans, Full scans, custom scans, and can set them to run daily, weekly, monthly, or at Windows startup.

In addition to virus and malware scans, Ad-Aware 9 Free offers a browser track sweeper. Accessible from the Extras button, it can wipe your cache, cookies, history, last typed URLs, and tabs from Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. The Toolbox, a second tab under Extras, contains options such as additional process-protecting features that are restricted to the paid upgrade.

Ad-Aware has some limitations that make it hard to compare favorably to its free competitors. You can't view other parts of the program while running a scan, and the scan itself lacks a progress meter or a pause button. Ad-Aware Free cannot scan networked drives.

The restrictions placed on the real-time shields also stands competitors like Panda Cloud Antivirus, Avast, AVG, and Avira on a more solid security foundation. Ad-Aware is also missing other key features, such as Web protection and a silent/gaming mode. Advanced rootkit removal is only available in the paid upgrade as well, leaving Ad-Aware 9 Free with a similar problem to the previous versions: the basic feature set is adequate yet lacking.

Performance
Ad-Aware 9 Free performed scans on a real-world computer quite slowly, taking close to 2 hours for its first Full scan. The quick, "Smart" scan took about 4 minutes, slightly slower than the quick scan under version 8.3.

Full CNET Labs' benchmarks benchmarks will be added to this review as they become available, as will independent third-party efficacy test results. For now, though, while Ad-Aware's new detection and prevention engines sound effective, they are largely untested in the real-world.

Conclusion

Longtime fans will notice the changes to Ad-Aware, and the program continues to grow in the right direction after several missteps in recent years. While the free version continues to make improvements and seems to be unwilling to rest on its malware-removing laurels, Ad-Aware 9 Free remains undeniably hamstrung.

Publisher's Description

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More Products to Consider

All User Reviews
  • All Versions:

    3.9

    out of 15351 votes

    • 5 star: 7199
    • 4 star: 4164
    • 3 star: 1141
    • 2 star: 725
    • 1 star: 2122
  • Current Version:

    3.1

    out of 575 votes

    • 5 star: 115
    • 4 star: 172
    • 3 star: 71
    • 2 star: 73
    • 1 star: 144
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

    Results 1-10 of 320

  • 5 stars

    "Cleaned my computer!"

    October 01, 2014   |   By bravosarah

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    Got rid of 2 viruses not caught by McAffee for FREE! Can opt out of toolbar bundle.

    Cons

    To opt out of toolbar, you must un-check the "add ask toolbar" button before you install, or it could be difficult to undo. More of a Pro than a Con I guess, as most free installations don't have an opt out at all!

    Summary

    I'm very grateful to Ad-Aware. Thank you

    Reply to this review

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  • 5 stars

    "5 stars for sure"

    October 01, 2014   |   By SydneyAppleBee

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    no dodgy virus will get past Ad Aware, it's worked wonders for my laptop and even after 3 years with this, it's still running as well as it did when I first got it.

    Cons

    Easy decision was to download it.

    Summary

    Keep your antivirus updated and don't visit shady sites and you shouldn't encounter any viruses. It's that simple

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  • 4 stars

    "Best deal so far - free"

    October 01, 2014   |   By breakfast4lunchnow

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    Great alternative to Norton, Kaspersky and AVG. Best of all it's free (unlimited usage) and still gives you top notch security that you would get in other paid versions.

    Cons

    This is the internets gift to us

    Summary

    Definitely one of the most underrated security solutions on this site yet Ad Aware is probably the best one on here.

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  • 4 stars

    "exactly what I need"

    October 01, 2014   |   By SimplyRebecca00

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    this free version protects against all types of threats and doesnt constantly bug you with annoyin pop ups asking you to upgrade.

    Cons

    doesn't need much improvement to be honest

    Summary

    download it, install it and use it. You won't regret it that's for sure

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  • 5 stars

    "never had any problems, keeps system clean"

    October 01, 2014   |   By MarginalMargarine

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    Don't need my antivirus to frustrate me, I just need it to work properly and keep my system clean, ad aware does a great job of that.

    Cons

    Too few to name

    Summary

    No headaches, just a simple and easy to use application for any level of computer user.

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  • 4 stars

    "Nothing better at killing viruses"

    October 01, 2014   |   By lambshanked44

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    It uses very little computer bandwith - which is nice;
    Scans are very fast and Ad Aware is easy to use;
    I Like the new look;
    Updates are really easy.
    I've not had any viruses or malware causing any problems since I've started using Ad-Aware.

    Cons

    If a program is sketchy, but you know and trust it, you will have to manually add it to the list of allowed softwares just like you would on your firewall.

    Summary

    Very satisfied with this and could very much see myself using this for a while

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  • 4 stars

    "Better than alot of the free anti virus."

    October 01, 2014   |   By Big82Ricky

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    Better than my old antivirus, that's for sure. I couldn't figure it out. Ad-aware fixed my computer almost immediatly after running the first scan. I love it. Really good program!

    Cons

    So far it's good.

    Summary

    No longer have to worry when I'm online.

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  • 5 stars

    "Terrific software."

    October 01, 2014   |   By Jorge-feathers

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    Doesn't hog memory at all, doesn't load your computer with junk. Picks up threats instantly and makes it really easy to fix problems on the fly.

    Cons

    Nope, I'm happy with everything.

    Summary

    Total protection and detection of threats.

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  • 4 stars

    "Very good virus detection."

    October 01, 2014   |   By theo92hudson

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    It works. No virus problems for as long as I've had it on my computer. I'm using the free version comes with everything I need. The live protection doesn't slow down by PC and it blocks any incoming threat.

    Cons

    I don't like the toolbar.

    Summary

    Reliable solid antivirus.

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  • 5 stars

    "Just get it. You wont regret it."

    October 01, 2014   |   By D94myers

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    This free antivirus program has it all. It includes a powerful firewall, real time protection, mail scanner and more. It doesn't slow your system down I still prefer a separate firewall but as an antivirus program it is perfect. It keeps you away from spyware, trojans and all kinds of viruses. I can really recommend this incredible piece of software.

    Cons

    Not all the features are free.

    Summary

    Ad-aware real-time protection is great.

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  • Results 1-10 of 320

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