Lavasoft Ad-Aware Personal Edition
- Great protection, Breezy interface, Free!
- Does have a few small holes
Probably the best free anti-spyware software currently available. Combine it with a few other freebies and you’ll never be troubled by pop-ups again.
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Ad-aware is one of the premiere anti-spyware tools currently available online. It offers a continually updated service which scans your entire hard drive and registry, and best of all it is absolutely free!
We have been using Ad-aware for years as our first choice for spyware removal. Generally we have found it works best in conjunction with other software, such as Spybot Search and Destroy and Hijack This. Whilst Ad-aware does provide the broadest protection against internet nasties (across the freeware choices anyway) it still has a few gaps, but by combining it with other software you can create a formidable wall that will cleanse even the most spyware ridden system.
The Ad-aware interface is quick and intuitive, so even the most computer illiterate person should be able to operate it. In the free version you are only given limited functionality; the ability to scan for updates and then check your system. You can also turn on auto update, which we highly recommend. When scanning, you are given the choice of a full, smart or custom scan. A smart scan will just hit problem areas such as your windows directory, registry and temporary files, whereas a full system scan will obviously cover every file on your machine. We recommend a full system scan at least once a week. The process will take anywhere from five minutes to half an hour, depending on your system's specifications and the number of files that need scanning. We did find that a large chunk of our system resources were in use during the scan, so if you're running a low end system keep in mind you may not be able to do much at the same time.
One of Ad-Aware's strengths is that it finds not only malicious files but also tracking cookies. Most other software will search for spyware programs but skip completely over the registry and internet files, which will still leave traces on your hard drive. With spyware, sometimes all it takes is a single file left on the drive to completely re-infect it, so Ad-Aware's coverage of this area is applauded.
Once your scan is complete, Ad-Aware will give you the option of quarantining the dangerous files. This is extremely useful because occasionally the software may pick up something that isn't actually dangerous at all, or, more commonly, it will pick up a critical file as being dangerous and you won't realise until it is too late. By simply storing the file, it gives you the option to put it back if you find out later it is important. You are also given the option to customise the search. Ad-Aware ranks files based on how critically dangerous they are and so you can set it up so it only finds extreme threats for example, and skips over the basic tracking cookies.
Further protection is offered if you wish to register the software. This will cost you $26.95 US and offers on the go spyware protection. This means Ad-Aware will function similarly to a virus scanner, actively protecting and blocking spyware before it can properly install itself. This will save you the hassle of having to constantly scan and will let you know which sites are the ones infecting your machine.
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