As Ad-Aware was the first anti-spyware utility when it was released by Lavasoft in 1999, there’s a fairly good chance you’ve already used it at one time or another. More recently, it has been updated to deal with other types of threats too, such as rootkits, trojans,and viruses. Ad-Aware Pro Internet Security 8.3, the most recent version, doesn’t feature any major updates, but the price has come down. Its release was also timed to match Ad-Aware Total Security 1.0, the new suite by Lavasoft.
Like the previous version, it takes some time for installation, and there’s momentary confusion when it asks to reboot, but instead goes into a long process of updating. But if you just leave it, it’ll reboot when the update is completed.
It starts up with a very clean interface, only showing essential status items and controls. You can begin updates manually, launch scans, or make sure that real-time protection is activated. For many users, this is all they need.
To adjust any settings, you’ll need to go to advanced mode. Here you can look over statistics of what Ad-Aware has dealt with, or review quarantined threats. You can also schedule different types of scans on reboot, or on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis. There’s an option to require confirmations by the user, or for necessary action to be taken automatically. This is where the nitty-gritty elements are.
Performance tests:A full scan with Ad-Aware is pretty fast; tested on a clean system it took only 15 minutes. Using smart scan, which only looks at the more sensitive areas of the PC, only took 1 1/2 minutes. When running in simple mode, any malware found is dealt with automatically, and then a report is compiled. When using advanced mode, though, you are presented with a list of all problems detected, with recommended actions. No action is taken until you’ve reviewed the list and made whatever changes you like.
During testing, Ad-Aware installed on thirteen systems infected with malware, but would not install on a fourteenth. The boot-time scanner recommended by technical support cleared the system of most malware, but the program would still not install. It took a couple of days talking with tech support to identify the problem: a system change performed by malware.
Every time, Ad-Aware needed a system restart to complete cleanup. When Windows starts up, Ad-Aware’s Boot Cleaner runs visibly, clearing up all traces of malware that couldn’t be dealt with on the initial scan.
Overall, 83 percent of malware present was identified, putting Ad-Aware in the middle of the pack as far as malware-removal utilities go. A number of traces of malware remained even after running Boot Cleaner, and some threats reported as dealt with were in fact still active. Ad-Aware Pro Internet Security 8.3 scored a total of 6.4 points out of ten, meaning that there are a number of similar programs that are more effective.