Ad-Aware Free Internet Security

Ad-Aware Free Internet Security

Editors' Rating:
4
Excellent
Average User Rating:
3.9
out of 15330 votes
See all user reviews

Quick Specs

Version:
9.6
File Size:
2.68MB
Date Added:
November 14, 2011
Price:
Free; paid upgrade available
Operating Systems:
Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7
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 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.

Publisher's Description

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All User Reviews
  • All Versions:

    3.9

    out of 15330 votes

    • 5 star: 7187
    • 4 star: 4155
    • 3 star: 1141
    • 2 star: 725
    • 1 star: 2122
  • Current Version:

    3.7

    out of 54 votes

    • 5 star: 19
    • 4 star: 20
    • 3 star: 3
    • 2 star: 2
    • 1 star: 10
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

    Results 1-10 of 299

  • 5 stars

    "Happy with this product."

    September 29, 2014   |   By Doug86Husley

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    If you want a good free anti-virus look no further. Ad-aware will meet all your requirements. It has high detection rate, fast scanning, great features. Simply the best free anti-virus.

    Cons

    I honestly could not think of anything I didn't like.

    Summary

    One of the best antivirus programs out there.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (1) (0)

  • 5 stars

    "Effective and it is free."

    September 29, 2014   |   By mathenallen

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    Very light on system resources, especially good if you're still running Windows 7 on an older pc. Setup was very easy, and the pc scan was very fast. Updates automatically. Game mode is a great feature that every AV program should have. All services worked well.

    Cons

    All good so far...

    Summary

    I like it very much..good free antivirus.

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  • 5 stars

    "Perfect for my personal use."

    September 29, 2014   |   By shenry234333

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    Easy to understand and use. It has real-time protection that is always on. Just makes me feel like my computer is more secure. A good product for a good price.

    Cons

    Have not had any problems

    Summary

    Excellent in detections,easy to understand, highly recommend it.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (1) (0)

  • 5 stars

    "No troubel for years now !"

    September 29, 2014   |   By michaeljordan4life

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    never disturbs me unnecessarily and doesnt slow down my PC - even when gaming. Software gets scans done quickly and painlessly

    Cons

    Fantastic performance, no complaints here

    Summary

    Its important to remember that the automatic update engines is essential in keeping my PC performing like new.

    Reply to this review

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  • 5 stars

    "Ad Aware is my first choice!"

    September 29, 2014   |   By jacklwilliams22

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    100% full proof protection from day 1! Sorts all my digital day to day issues that I can possible come across online and never lets me down. Loyal user and will never switch

    Cons

    Im a loyal user and I don't think I will ever switch from Ad Aware

    Summary

    It's free and works without being too invasive. Very good Antivirus!

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (1) (0)

  • 5 stars

    "Solves my problem ^_^"

    September 29, 2014   |   By kimberlyrossa

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    Reliable
    Simple and easy to use
    Great update services
    Quality software
    Real-time, boot-time and periodic scan for virus,
    Proactive online detection

    Cons

    Design is a bit bland
    Sometimes offers upgrades
    First update after setup can be lengthy

    Summary

    I can promise you won't have any troubles installing or running this app.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (1) (0)

  • 5 stars

    "Best free utility"

    September 29, 2014   |   By robburgler911

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    I can set it and forget it without having to worry about it hogging up all resources and freezing up my computer during deep scans.

    Cons

    Not so many negatives

    Summary

    Possibly one the of the quickest AV's I have tried to date.

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  • 4 stars

    "Worth way more than free"

    September 29, 2014   |   By Jaime17111

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    Quick scans and full scans are a lot faster than windows defender and malware bytes. Protection seems to be slightly better on adaware but removal process also seems more effective.

    Cons

    It tried telling me windows defender was a virus

    Summary

    definitely not your average antivirus, this one comes fully loaded with stuff only the paid software comes with. I highly suggest you download this.

    Reply to this review

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  • 4 stars

    "Fast user friendly design"

    September 29, 2014   |   By Jimmy29TheWasp

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    As long as you keep performing regular updates you will keep your PC's infections to a minimum.

    Cons

    What can I say, it works pretty well.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (0)

  • 5 stars

    "Nice N' Easy"

    September 29, 2014   |   By CharlesSlimBillionaire

    Version: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus + 11.3.6321

    Pros

    Just what I like, something simple that doesnt beg me for money and overwhelm me with features I would never use. Gotta say, Ad Aware probably did some serious listening to there users to have been able to build this anti virus and anti spyware.

    Cons

    My tech support guy who used to remove my viruses is now broke.

    Summary

    quick setup, quick updates and quick scans. If it finds anything that might be a threat to your computer it will remove it without you having to 'Google it'.

    Reply to this review

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  • Results 1-10 of 299

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