Hip to be Squared

A-Squared 3 fixes old flaws and re-invents its own wheel to provide an easy-to-use, lightweight, and free anti-malware scanning and removal program.

The main screen of A-Squared Free 3. (Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)

There's nothing more frustrating than an anti-malware program installing its own spyware on your machine. Fortunately, malware remover A-Squared 3 has figured out a way to protect your computer without the doublespeak.

When the program starts, it opens to the Security Status page. From there, you can run scans, update the program, hit links to the A-Squared knowledge base and help forums, and choose from among 20 display languages. You can also submit a suspected malware file to the publisher for examination.

Program options are arranged on the left nav: the aforementioned Security Status, Scan PC, Quarantine, and Configuration tabs. Scan PC contains four scanning options: Quick, Smart, Deep and Custom. Obviously, Quick Scan is the fastest and most superficial, while the Deep Scan can take several hours depending on your machine size.

If you choose a scan that examines your cookies, the app will recommend closing your Web browser--that's something you should be doing anyway, but the reminder is helpful. Custom lets you choose not only which folders to scan, but also lets you opt out of heuristic, tracking cookie, and spyware remnant scans. There is also a Whitelist where you can add folders or files, accessible at the bottom of the main Scan tab panel.

The Quarantine tab uses a spreadsheet-style layout to manage isolated files, and the Configuration tab has options for Context menu scans, Update behavior, and Permissions settings.

There's an annoying design quirk, where important options like the Whitelist are placed in the bottom left of the active panel, making them hard to see. It would also be nice to see scheduling options and real-time scanning, although that last one's a resource-heavy and hasn't been proven to be flawless. For an anti-malware program that's free and doesn't install its own spyware on your machine, and is loaded with options and regular malware file updates, A-Squared 3 is the place to be.