Ad-Aware has traditionally been a very popular anti-spyware utility for Windows. This is why every time they launch a new version, news spreads quickly over tech blogs across the Internet. Today Lavasoft announced the release of Ad-Aware 8.1 in three versions, two paid ones (Pro and Plus) and one for free, which doesn’t have as many features as the other two, but works perfectly well for basic on-demand malware scanning.
Ad-Aware 8.1 Free protects you from spyware and and rootkits. The program scans your system (with three varieties to choose from: Smart scan, Full scan or Profile scan) and quarantines, removes or repairs any suspicious elements. Scans must be started manually – that is, the Free version doesn’t support scheduling. Besides system scanning, Ad-Aware Free also includes the so called Ad-Watch Live!, which protects your computer in real time, focusing on three main areas: active processes, Windows Registry and Network.
Again, this functionality is limited in the Free version: you’ll only be able to watch processes.
Also, if you click on the Extras button, you’ll open the TrackSweep utility which lets you erase any traces that may be left on the system after browsing the web: cookies, history, typed URLs and cache memory. TrackSweep works with Internet Explorer and Firefox.
Ad-Aware 8.1 scans are reported to be faster, though I have to say I didn’t notice a huge improvement in speed. What I did notice is that the scan is low enough on resources to let you move on to something else while Ad-Aware keeps working in the background.
The most outstanding new feature in Ad-Aware 8.1 is the new interface with two versions: a Simple Mode where all options are set to the program’s default values (so you don’t have to worry about any complicated configurations) and an Advanced Mode, in which you have full control over all the program’s settings.
In spite of being a bit limited, compared to the Pro and Plus versions, Ad-Aware is still a convenient, efficient free security tool that helps you get rid of unwanted malware without hogging system resources or displaying nagging messages all the time.