Lavasoft's Updated Spyware Zapper: Ad-Aware 2007

A venerable favorite utility for zapping spyware and adware, Lavasoft's Ad-Aware has just been updated, with improvements that include better detection of adware and malware, a scanning engine that goes easy on your PC's system resources, and a snazzy new interface. The updates apply to all three versions of Ad-Aware, which now go by the names Ad-Aware 2007 Free, Plus, and Pro.

You can get the latest edition of Ad-Aware 2007 Free from here.

One caveat: None of the new versions of Ad-Aware 2007 currently support the Microsoft Vista operating system. Vista-compatible versions of Ad-Aware 2007 are slated for August, the company says.

A Closer Look at Ad-Aware 2007 Free

Of all the updates to the Ad-Aware 2007 family, the Free version has received the least in new bells and whistles. Nevertheless, Lavasoft gives users good reason to make the jump from its predecessor, Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition.

In my evaluation of Ad-Aware 2007 Free, I found that the program lived up to its promise of cutting scan time on my PC; for me, this time went down from 7 minutes to 4 minutes. Harder to test was the program's new ability to seek and delete rootkits and other threats that burrow deep into your PC. For that, I take Lavasoft's word when it says earlier versions of Ad-Aware weren't equipped to handle today's threats.

A TrackSweep privacy tool has been added that allows you to remove all traces of your Internet browsing from your system. This feature supports the Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera browsers.

Also new, and hard to miss, is the program's new interface, which is available in all three versions; it adds up to more than just cosmetic changes. Finding tools and tweaking configuration have been made much easier, as the navigation menu now brings the most commonly used features within easy reach.

All versions of Ad-Aware have also received an improved handling of definition updates, which now happens as needed--and more often. Older versions of Ad-Aware relied on periodic program updates, and the accumulated changes took longer to download to your PC.

Premium Versions Deliver More

A big advantage of the Plus version, which costs $US27, is the real-time protection of your system that nips adware, spyware, and malware problems in the bud before they become serious. Though real-time protection isn't new for the Plus and Pro versions, this feature may still convince you to upgrade. The 2007 Plus version also includes:

  • Ad-Watch RegShield--provides improved protection against attempted Registry changes (the Registry is a favorite target for many forms of malware).
  • Hosts File Editor--blocks advertisement sites, prevents browser hijack attempts, and offers limited parental controls.
  • The Scheduler--allows you to set automatic scans and updates.

What's Different in the Pro Version?

The $US40 Pro version offers further protection, adding tools to identify keyloggers and to stop identity theft attempts, as well as a network function to scan multiple PCs.

Note: Existing users of Ad-Aware Plus and Pro will be able to upgrade to the new versions for free.

Conclusion

In my limited testing, Ad-Aware 2007 Free is a solid post-infection tool. If you don't want to pony up the money to purchase real-time protection with Ad-Aware Plus or Pro, I recommend this free version as a utility that savvy users shouldn't be without. However, as threats become more sophisticated, the real-time protection available with the Plus and Pro versions should be a strong consideration.

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Tom Spring

PC World (US online)
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