Ad-Aware Free Internet Security

Ad-Aware Free Internet Security

Download Editors' Rating:
4
Excellent
Average User Rating:
3.9
out of 15542 votes

Quick Specs

  • Version:
    9.6
  • Total Downloads:
    386,934,315
  • Date Added:
    November 14, 2011
  • File Size:
    1.67MB
  • Downloads Last Week:
    68,414
  • Operating Systems:
    Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7

Editors' Review

+

The bottom line: One of the first applications built to find and remove malware and spyware, Ad-Aware's reputation has been well-justified. The latest version adroitly addresses some user concerns, yet performance-based annoyances remain.

Review:

Ad-Aware 9.5 continues the development progress that publisher Lavasoft began in version 8. 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 received 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.

Editors' note: Portions of this review are based on CNET's review of Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free 9.

Installation
Ad-Aware 9.5 Free has a fairly straightforward installation process, simple in procedure. The installer file has been shrunk from around 130 MB in version 9.0 to a 12 MB "stub" installer in the current version. This stub then downloads about 80 MB of data to run the installation, which is still a significant decrease. 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 were 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 9.5 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.

No major changes were made to the feature set from version 9 to 9.5.

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, which checks only mission-critical areas of your computer for infection, took about 4 minutes in version 9, slightly slower than the quick scan under version 8.3. Meanwhile, version 9.5 averaged 5 minutes, 37 seconds over three cold-boot runs. So, despite Lavasoft's claims that the program has gotten faster, it appears that the opposite is true.

Lavasoft has not submitted Ad-Aware to be tested by any third-party efficacy tests at threat detection and removal, so we can't speak directly to how secure it will make you. CNET Labs has tested the suite for how it affects your system, and found that while it had a lighter-than-average impact on system performance, its scans were the slowest we've encountered so far this year.

Security Program Boot time Shutdown time Scan time MS Office performance iTunes decoding Media multitasking Cinebench
Unprotected system 40 6 n/a 395 120 342 17,711
Average of all tested systems (to date) 57.41 19.18 1,323 420.17 125.17 351 17,097.17
Lavasoft Ad-Aware 9.5 Pro Internet Security 54.4 16.9 2,080 405 125 347 16,884
Lavasoft Ad-Aware 9.5 Free Internet Security 59 12.8 2,076 406 123 342 17,132

*All tests measured in seconds, except for Cinebench. On the Cinebench test, the higher number is better.

These benchmarks show that Ad-Aware is definitely light on your system for startup and shutdown times, at least when compared to the average-to-date. Its impact on in-use programs, especially during the iTunes decoding test and media multitasking test, were the smallest so far this year. However, Ad-Aware's scans were the slowest we've seen by around 200 seconds compared to the next slowest, and around 700 seconds slower than average.

The in-system marks are strong, no doubt, but most people will be looking at scan speed, and that definitely has to be tightened when coming from an underdog position. 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 9.5 Free remains undeniably hamstrung.

 
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Publisher's Description

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User Reviews
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  • Current Version

    3.7

    out of 54 votes

    • 5 star 19
    • 4 star 20
    • 3 star 3
    • 2 star 2
    • 1 star 10
  • All Versions

    3.9

    out of 15542 votes

    • 5 star 7313
    • 4 star 4233
    • 3 star 1148
    • 2 star 725
    • 1 star 2123
  • My rating

    0 stars

    Write review

Results 1-10 of 50

  • 4 stars

    "Does the job real well"

    October 20, 2014   |   By Dykler-Marks

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.4.6792.0

    Pros

    . Installed on my computer and running for 3 years now
    . No viruses since
    . No other AV has this level of defense against malware
    . So light, you'll forget it's actually there
    . Autoupdates are a great plus

    Cons

    works faster on my flash drive than it does on my regular HDD

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  • 5 stars

    "features are excellent!"

    October 20, 2014   |   By BarettaDonna38

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.4.6792.0

    Pros

    effective Antivirus with useful and simple features. easy as pie to understand and barely any configuration is required. run deep scans regularly and rest easy knowing you're protected.

    Cons

    99% of viruses get killed. why not 100 % ?

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  • 5 stars

    "5 years of virus protection"

    October 20, 2014   |   By WalterWhiteBlues

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.4.6792.0

    Pros

    Free extra features other free AVs do not have. Everything from the self updating to the self protection and detection has proven to me for the last 5 years that nothing beats Ad Aware.

    Cons

    I have not come across any other free software that even compares.

    Summary

    The best free version there is for total computer protection

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  • 5 stars

    "Wouldnt want another antivirus on my computer"

    October 20, 2014   |   By HitterQuitter88

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.4.6792.0

    Pros

    High quality virus protection for free. doenst interfere with any applications on your operating system Not intrusive.

    Cons

    not a waste

    Summary

    Happy with what im getting with ad aware and would want everyone to give it a try.

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  • 4 stars

    "The free version works well"

    October 20, 2014   |   By Russel2fel

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.4.6792.0

    Pros

    It has a nice looking interface, and many features. Simple control over the protection of my PC. emails, online, everything. And of course it's free.

    Cons

    Takes too long for it to scan the entire hard drive.

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  • 5 stars

    "Very glad I got this."

    October 20, 2014   |   By Semple-penny

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.4.6792.0

    Pros

    This is the easiest anti virus software I have ever had to use, it's like a couple of clicks and everything is setup. I get alerts when something is detected and I remove it right away. It even helps me stay away from bad sites.

    Cons

    Could not find anything wrong with it.

    Summary

    It's not intrusive unless it finds a threat.

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  • 5 stars

    "Free & works well."

    October 20, 2014   |   By Anita83mitchell

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.4.6792.0

    Pros

    Very easy to install. Has everyting I need. Interface is very simple, that makes using it very easy. I like the idea of real time protection working in the background without slowing me down.

    Cons

    Haven't come across any.

    Summary

    Make sure to uninstall your old antivirus first before installing Ad-aware.

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  • 4 stars

    "Antivirus I Can Trust."

    October 20, 2014   |   By MarioC75

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.4.6792.0

    Pros

    My old antivirus was slowing down my PC too much, so I tried this one for free. It's the best antivirus I've ever used. It's simple to use, scans everything, real time protection and my PC works like new. I really like how it warns me when I click on something I shouldn't.

    Cons

    The only thing I don't like is the toolbar.

    Summary

    I think its even better than all the other antivirus programs I've tried.

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  • 5 stars

    "It's free and it definitely works."

    October 20, 2014   |   By Cole4Nathan

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.4.6792.0

    Pros

    You can hardly notice it's there, even though it's always on. It uses very little system resources and the scans show constant results. After trying a bunch of different Antiviruses, this one works the best for me.

    Cons

    All Good!!

    Summary

    My PC is safer now that I have Ad-aware.

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  • 4 stars

    "Great anti virus & anti malware software."

    October 20, 2014   |   By Donharvey5

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.4.6792.0

    Pros

    The real time protection works perfectly, and most of the time, I cant even tell this is running. I got this I think pretty much since it came out, and still can't find anything wrong with it.

    Cons

    Full system scan take a while.

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  • Results 1-10 of 50

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    Full Specifications

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    What's new in version 9.6
    • Better web browsing protection
    • Real-time protection against phishing websites
    • Improved privacy settings
    • Easily remove unwanted browser adware
    General
    Publisher Lavasoft
    Publisher web site http://www.lavasoft.com
    Release Date November 14, 2011
    Date Added November 14, 2011
    Version 9.6
    Category
    Category Security Software
    Subcategory Anti-Spyware
    Operating Systems
    Operating Systems Windows Vista, Windows, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 7
    Additional Requirements None
    Download Information
    File Size 1.67MB
    File Name Adaware_Installer.exe
    Popularity
    Total Downloads 386,934,315
    Downloads Last Week 68,414
    Pricing
    License Model Free
    Limitations Not available
    Price Free

    Previous Versions:

     
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