Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0 - Free download and software reviews - CNET Download.com

Ad-Aware Free Internet Security

CNET 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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All User Reviews
  • All versions:

    3.8 stars

    out of 14,283 votes

    • 5 star: 6427
    • 4 star: 3907
    • 3 star: 1114
    • 2 star: 723
    • 1 star: 2112
  • Current version:

    3.5 stars

    out of 77 votes

    • 5 star: 20
    • 4 star: 27
    • 3 star: 12
    • 2 star: 9
    • 1 star: 9
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

Results 1-10 of 77

  • 4.0 stars

    "Installation froze, fixed and scanned OK."

    September 4, 2012  |   By koolkanga

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0

    Pros

    Quick scan in a few minutes
    Found 5 infections

    Cons

    Fault in setup, stopped installing, waiting 1 hour
    Ad-Aware claims "no toolbar", but installation stalled, saying "installing toolbar"

    Summary

    A mixed bag, slow to install. Had to go into Task Manager running "Ad-Aware" and "Ad-Aware Internet Security". Stopped running Ad-Aware Internet security and setup then proceeded.

    Run scan, Ad-Aware found 5 infections and scan was only a few minutes. I run windows 7 ultimate on a Asus 1.6ghz Netbook and it used only 60% CPU usage.

    Apart from the setup glitch, I can recommend this software.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "so excellent"

    August 25, 2011  |   By efngidsgpsa

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0

    Pros

    I only can say it wonderful,excellent and perfect,it has beautiful interface and great functions,you will like it after you try

    Cons

    not found yet

    Summary

    don't hesitate,you should have it

    Reply to this review

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  • 3.0 stars

    "Effective but slow and other problems"

    August 18, 2011  |   By vrystaat

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0

    Pros

    Very effective
    More detailed clearing of cookies than other spyware
    Customizable

    Cons

    Slow scan
    May have disabled my audio

    Summary

    Useful, but I prefer a less deep clearing of cookies.

    Reply to this review

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  • 3.0 stars

    "Average. Better Alternatives."

    August 12, 2011  |   By Lightasafeather

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0

    Pros

    Does the Job.
    Destroys the virus and malware

    Cons

    Slow update.
    Slows down computer sometimes.
    Slow Startup

    Summary

    This is a average product. Better off with malwarebytes and a personal antivirus.

    Reply to this review

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  • 3.0 stars

    "Usable free version"

    August 8, 2011  |   By Ted1982

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0

    Pros

    It finds and eliminates viruses and spyware.

    Cons

    Not updating very frequently, so not sure if the free version will remove all the threats from my computer.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (1) (1)

  • 2.0 stars

    "Seems okay"

    August 7, 2011  |   By silvatek

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0

    Pros

    Acts as antivirus and antimalware

    Cons

    Doesn't seem very keen to update its own virus definitions. I've forced it to update every time so far, and reduced the time between updates.

    Summary

    Looks okay, but a bit klunky for my taste. Slots into the Internet Security hole on my XP laptop, but doesn't include a Firewall. No idea regarding detection or removal yet. Verdict: adequate - maybe.

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  • 2.0 stars

    "Don't want extra virus program"

    August 5, 2011  |   By jubalanne

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0

    Pros

    Free to home user

    Cons

    bundled unwanted programs with it

    Summary

    I am removing it from my computer as I cannot get updated ad aware without virus program. I am happy with AVAST.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (3) (1)

  • 4.0 stars

    "Useful tool"

    August 4, 2011  |   By annicey

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0

    Pros

    Can be set to run automatically.
    Finds and eliminates spyware.

    Cons

    Often shuts down after startup with no explanation.
    Rather slow.

    Reply to this review

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  • 4.0 stars

    "Still the best I could find, but not perfect."

    August 1, 2011  |   By Elliander

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0

    Pros

    Quickly found and remove not only spyware, but tracking cookies and tracking programs.

    Cons

    1.) Heuristics based scanning found many false positives. While I could "ignore" them in future scans I found no way to report these false positives to Lavasoft.

    2.) Program loads itself automatically with no option to disable.

    Summary

    While Ad Aware is still the best I can find it has too many bells and whistles I simply don't need. "Ad-Watch Live!" is one feature I would not wish to use. While there was a simple means of disabling Ad-Watch there is no option under settings to disable launch on start up nor is it visible under msconfig > startup. This means that every time I launch my computer I have to shut it down which makes Ad-Aware just one more program I don't want to deal with when I don't need it.

    The Heuristics based scanning was another major problem for me. Even programs I wrote on my own computer showed up as a threat. Since I know there is nothing virus like about my programs something is seriously screwy with the detection methods. While I appreciated the ability to ignore these false positives in future scans it concerns me that Lavasoft appears to have no interest in making sure it's scans are accurate. A simple "Report as False Positive" button would help create a list of safe programs which would make the Heuristics more reliable. For example, if it is know that a given program will always show up as a virus a virus programmer can exploit that weakness since the user would assume it's another false positive. If Lavasoft allowed users to report false positives the program could instead tell us if it changed. Things like that would be useful.

    I honestly like the program interface better 10 years ago when I first found Ad Aware. No messy heuristics or Ad-Watch. It ran when I wanted it to and did nothing more than scan.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "good software"

    July 31, 2011  |   By AndreaWeber2011

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0

    Pros

    This software's installation process is simple in procedure,and comfortable to use,you will like it so much

    Cons

    just like it

    Summary

    I like this software so much that I will recommend it to everyone~

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Results 1-10 of 77

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