Ad-Aware Pro Security - Free download and software reviews - CNET

Ad-Aware Pro Security

CNET Editors' review

The bottom line: The new owners of Lavasoft have revamped Ad-Aware to the point where it has almost nothing in common with its predecessors besides function. It's a good reboot, but it's not out of the woods yet.

While the name Ad-Aware remains the same as it has for the past 13 years, everything from the user interface to the code powering Ad-Aware 10 is entirely new.

Ad-Aware gets a face-lift

More so than any recent version of Ad-Aware, the suite is usable, lightweight, and worthy of your attention.

The installation is straightforward, although it still does opt you in by default to the Ad-Aware browser toolbar for Internet Explorer and Firefox. A software installation ought to get your program installed as quickly as possible, with as little requirement for input from the person installing it. Ad-Aware's installation was zippy and generally painless.

Unlike nearly all of its competitors, it does not require you to register to use the free version or the trials of the paid upgrades. What it does do similarly to its competitors on install is good, though: it automatically downloads new virus definition files and runs a quick scan. A reboot is unfortunately required; that's an occupational hazard for security suites like this one that have deep hooks into the Windows OS.

The new Home landing screen for Ad-Aware 10. It doesn't look much like the old one.

The new Home landing screen for Ad-Aware 10. It doesn't look much like the old one.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

A big reason that the new Ad-Aware stands a good chance of surviving is because it's finally a usable product again. Gone is the tripartite vertical sectioning, replaced instead with a more traditional layout. Not unlike the major interface change that Avast introduced for its fifth version, the interface's quirkiness has been replaced by usability. The interface is divided into three horizontal sections: the top contains navigation to Home, Info, and Options; the second shows you a large, protection status icon with links to dive deeper into recent protection on the right; and the majority of the interface offers additional protection tools such as gaming mode, firewall, and safe browsing.

The interface is multithreaded, which means that using text "breadcrumbs" you can easily find your way back through the interface the way you came, or directly to the Home screen.

Even though tools are categorized into Basic and Advanced, they all have buttons on the main screen for quick toggling. More advanced configuration options are still available, but as with most of the competition, they've been buried one level down to avoid confusing beginners and to keep visual clutter to a minimum. Click the name of any feature and a pop-up provides a brief explanation of what it does. Click the gear icon next to it to dive into config options.

Features and support
Ad-Aware's features have been improved as well. It offers the same level of core protection against malware across the board, in free and paid products. Nag screens have been removed, a silent/gaming mode has been added, and Ad-Aware now gives advanced heuristics and rootkit protection to people using the free version.

The old Ad-Aware 9.5.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Ad-Aware's antivirus engine is powered by Vipre, a well-known security suite that's more popular in Europe than North America. Vipre has never set the security world on fire for its results, but it is a good, solid, middle-of-the-road engine that will detect many, and in some cases most, of the threats you'll face on a regular basis.

The toolbar's been streamlined, stripped of most extraneous features, and offers a search engine powered by upstart Google competitor Blekko. It also detects bad URLs and blocks you from loading them, so it has a legitimate security purpose.

Assouline also said that people can expect to see new features land in Ad-Aware regularly, as the program has adopted an aggressive release cycle not unlike Chrome and Firefox. He cautioned, though, that it was not the six-week cycle that those browsers have.

The differences between the paid versions and the free versions have shrunk, as more features have been front-loaded into the free version. Ad-Aware Personal Security 10 adds reputation and anti-malware filtering for $12 per year. Ad-Aware Pro Security offers e-mail phishing protection, USB guards, a two-way firewall, and network protection at $36 per year. If you don't care about the lack of spam filters or parental controls, or the lack of reputation-based protection, and you trust Ad-Aware -- always a key point -- $36 could be quite a deal. Considering what's offered, it's very nearly priced to disrupt the market.

One interesting problem we encountered was the program updates were pushed out in separate installation files. Unlike most competitors, which offer in-place downloads so that the suite updates without having to run an installer, an offered software update opened a Web site and asked for approval to start downloading.

The new Ad-Aware completed its Quick Scan noticeably faster than its predecessor.

The new Ad-Aware completed its Quick Scan noticeably faster than its predecessor.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

It's an extra step that's unusual because it leaves the installation of the new security suite version up to the individual, and that could potentially create security risks.

3 When it comes to threat scanning, our tests on a real-world computer found that the Ad-Aware Pro Security 10 averaged 4 minutes, 23 seconds over three clean installs for its first scan, a competitive score.

We don't have any third-party security efficacy results to share at this time, but Vipre, the company that provides Ad-Aware's engine, received passing grades from AV-Test in 2011 and the first few months of 2012. It wasn't tested by AV-Comparatives.

The new Ad-Aware is off to a good start when it comes to performance. The suite's impact on system performance was slightly better than average.

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) 66.4 15.6 1,195 414 125 347 17,116
Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ 10 55.6 14.3 3,215 427 126 345 17,215
Ad-Aware Personal Security 10 63.6 12.5 3,127 412 126 348 16,810
Ad-Aware Pro Security 10 54.3 13.1 3,112 409 126 346 17,049

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

Ad-Aware's lowish impact on computer boot time and shut down time, and average impact on in-use tests, were marred by exceptionally slow scan tests. Nevertheless, these scores were better than we were expecting for a completely new security suite.

The new Ad-Aware is an enormous turn for this longtime player in the Windows security field. Lavasoft's plans to update the suite more regularly than its competition bodes well for keeping people safe independent of traditional annual update schedules. If you trust the Lavasoft and Ad-Aware names, Ad-Aware 10 is worth a close look. However, it's got some important gaps that must be filled, and until we can see the impact of the Ad-Aware engine with the Vipre engine, it will be challenging to honestly evaluate the suite.

If Ad-Aware's reboot takes the way that Webroot's has, then we could be watching the rebirth of yet another aggressive competitor in the field, and at the end of the day that bodes best for your computer security.

Publisher's Description

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All User Reviews
  • All versions:

    3.3 stars

    out of 64 votes

    • 5 star: 29
    • 4 star: 8
    • 3 star: 2
    • 2 star: 4
    • 1 star: 21
  • Current version:

    2.5 stars

    out of 2 votes

    • 5 star: 0
    • 4 star: 1
    • 3 star: 0
    • 2 star: 0
    • 1 star: 1
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

Results 1-2 of 2

  • 4.0 stars

    "Great Product"

    October 2, 2013  |   By Xizhiite

    Version: Ad-Aware Pro Security


    Reliable, Fast, Minimum System Resources.


    Some features are offered that are ONLY available in USA: Secure Banking for example. This seems unfair for the rest of us.


    My beef with Lavasoft is that I had a life-time license agreement and now they refuse to honour it. I have verification from them by email that I have such a license but the last time I asked for a new key for Ad-Aware Pro they denied ever having such an arrangement. When I sent them the confirmation email that they sent me 6 years ago, they simply said that this has now been terminated and offered me a one year free license which I refused.

    Did anyone else ever have this same experience? What was your outcome? I still want to have my lifetime license honoured but don't know what else to do. If you have any suggestions, feel free to contact me directly at
    I really feel that Lavasoft has been low class in handling this matter since I have had the license renewed continuously for at least the past 13 years and now they just quit on me.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (0)

  • 1.0 stars

    "Ad removal appears to be the cover for many more."

    September 29, 2013  |   By OldGrumpy

    Version: Ad-Aware Pro Security


    In the past, Ad-Aware has been a good product to suppress un-wanted advertising.


    This particular download incorporates a whole host of other programs, both announced and unannounced. You may want them, you may not. Just know that your download will include a whole lot more than just an update of the little old harmless Ad-Aware, which once did a fine job suppressing unwanted advertising


    I am surprised that CNet even has such a program available on its site for downloading, especially without advising its patrons that the Ad-Aware download will involve a whole lot more than just simply Ad-Aware. I have relied on CNet in the past to separate the genuine from the come-ons, the legitimate from those seeking to invade your privacy as well as your identity and finances. I am very disappointed that they seemed to have missed the fact that a download of AD-Aware downloads a whole lot of other things which may or may not be harmful. I didn't keep any of them, including Ad-Aware itself long enough (I hope) to find out. Nor was it easy to remove many of the programs included with this Trojan Horse, and many were hidden under names entirely unrelated to AdAware.

    Reply to this review Read reply (1)

    Was this review helpful? (0) (1)

Results 1-2 of 2

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