Lavasoft has been for a long time a well known company among computer users. Its product is a versatile anti-spyware designed to join the ease of use, functionality and protection power into one accessible tool. The best known product of the American company is Ad-Aware. Every computer user knows it and it has been widely spread on home computers.
The cause of this expansion is the Standard version which comes absolutely free if used in home environment. For obvious reasons, Lavasoft issued the same product for companies. There was a price and an enrichment of features as well.
After a long time of suspense, Lavasoft finally issued the latest version of the product. The free Standard version is still available and there are also the two payware correspondents, Plus and Pro. These two come with a suite of features designed to provide maximum protection against spyware in real-time.
Due to the increased popularity of the Standard edition, this will be the one tackled today. The new looks are fantastic and they clearly show the huge step in this sense. There is a 100% redesign of the interface and of the features available, starting with the powerful engine and ending with the TrackSweep feature.
The interface, which is more than a cosmetic change, makes finding the options easier as the most commonly used features are within easy reach. This is possible because of the navigation menu on the left hand side of the application window. It contains expandable menus that reveal the options of the software.
The first menu will show the status of the application by informing you if real-time protection is turned on or off (Standard version does not support the feature), showing the update status, the system scan state (when the last scan was performed and the number of items in Quarantine and on the Ignore list).
However, one of the most obvious goodies available in Lavasoft's latest issue is the Automatic Updates feature. You no longer have to wait for a certain date for the updates to be available and then wait an eternity to download the large file available. This edition will automatically download the updates as they are released by Lavasoft labs.
If you are looking for a pervasive look at some statistics, then accessing the next option is a good idea. The two tabs available in this context provide you with General Statistics that show the details of the last scan (time and date, scan mode used and number of infections detected, removed and quarantined) or Detailed Statistics that inform you of the exact nasties that have been detected during the last scan.
Scan menu offers three verification options: Smart, Full and Custom. No need to say that a Smart scan will search only in the critical
areas of your computer (system folders, processes and registry), a Full scan goes through the entire system and checks all the areas selected in Settings menu. Customizing your scan is restricted in this version, as well as the scheduler.
You can skip Ad-Watch tab as it shelters the activation of the real-time monitor available only in the privileged Plus and Pro versions. Its aim is to intercept malware before integrating into your system and rat them to you.
Tools and Plugins section is too limited and works at low power as out of the three choices available only TrackSweep can be used. The restricted goodies include a process manager that lets you terminate the desired running processes and a hosts file editor.
TrackSweep is a tool designed to erase all your web surfing trails. The supported browsers are Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Opera. The choices let you select what type of data to be deleted from the history of the browsers and for all three of them the choices are invariably Cache, Cookies, History, Last typed URL and Clean tabs.
If I come to think of it, the feature is not that well conceived as there are some private elements left behind, especially in Opera and Firefox that come with their own download manager that remembers all the downloaded files. Also, adding an option to delete the temporary files would have come in great.
Settings menu is the most flexible of them all because it features no restriction save the activation of Ad-Watch. The five sub-menus here let you make some minimum settings for the default web browser (set the default home and search page), configure the scanning options (what action should be taken on the processes detected during the scan, scan ADS (alternate data streams), look for malicious cookies, MRU, scan inside archives, make the scan a background process), set the auto-scans behavior (you can set Ad-Aware to scan the computer at startup), make the user interface settings (Windows Explorer integration, tool tips enabling, change skin, play a sound when infection is detected) or choose the elements to be comprised in the post-scan log file and define the location path.
The new free Ad-Aware experience showed an improved scan engine with seek and delete rootkits capabilities and an ease of use unavailable in the previous versions. The scan times are dramatically improved compared to the earlier releases, visibly reducing the duration.The Good
The scan engine does well in examining your computer and with the help of the new definition update system you will no longer spend large amounts of time with the download.
The looks are a shock compared to what we were used to as it is eye-catching and straightforward no matter which of the two skins you choose.
After cleaning your system of spyware Ad-Aware allows you to set a System Restore Point in Windows (during our testing it took less than a minute). In case of a more violent attack, you can revert to a clean system with no additional effort.The Bad
A major downside in Ad-Aware 2007 Standard are all the inactive features that are yet included in this version as well. I have to say that the free version is the most feature-deprived version and the message saying that this or that option is available in Plus or Pro edition is quite frustrating for the user.
Vista compatibility is not provided yet and you'll just have to wait till August, according to Lavasoft.The Truth
Low on resources, Ad-Aware Standard will provide is a very good post infection anti-spyware. Everything is changed and judging only be the looks this seems like a new application. There is no real-time shield against the nasties, but you can configure auto-scans to be run at system startup with just a few clicks. This way you can ensure the health of your computer.
It is not the best protection you can have (paid versions feature a real-time shield) but it'll keep your machine quite safe and sound.
If you are bothered by the service eating about 16MB of RAM (in my case), just take the time to kill it from Task Manager once you are done with Ad-Aware.Here are some snapshots of the application in action: