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Ad-Aware 2007 - A Great Way to Protect Your PC

written by: David Berry•edited by: Aaron R.•updated: 10/26/2007
5

Ad-Aware 2007, the recent upgrade from SE Plus, is a must-have utility for detecting and eliminating the increasing amount of adware, malware, spyware, and other advertising and tracking software being dumped on computer users.

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    Introduction

    Computer slowing down? Pop-up windows getting out of control?  You could be a victim of spyware and malware programs that have infected your computer. Unlike viruses, which are generally more destructive, spyware, adware, and malware are designed to target a computer user's behavior and then target advertising based on what it finds from spying on them. This could result in the user seeing an increase in the number of pop-up advertisements when they launch Internet Explorer. Most spyware is installed without users' knowledge but it can come bundled with shareware programs or other software you can download from the Internet. However, you receive it, spyware can get out of control quickly, causing your system performance to degrade to the point where it can become unusable.

    If you have an antivirus program such as Norton AntiVirus installed on your PC, it may have the ability to find and remove adware, spyware, and malware threats, but since that's not the primary job of those types of programs, I've never found them to be very good at it. If you really want to keep your PC free from problems, you should consider adding Ad-Aware 2007 to your collection of utilities.

    Ad-Aware was one of the first applications I ever used that was designed to find and remove these types of programs, and Ad-Aware 2007 adds new features that improves on an already excellent product.  Ad-Aware provides you with advanced spyware detection, blocking, and removal features to make sure that your PC stays protected and running smoothly. Although you could opt for the free version of Ad-Aware, I recommend that you spend the few extra dollars and get the Plus or Pro version, both of which come with real-time monitoring and protection.

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    Price to Value

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    How much is it worth to you to ensure that your PC is running at its best when you need it? $26.95 is a small price to pay for peace of mind and dependability. Ad-Aware 2007 Plus is a must-have utility for detecting and eliminating spyware threats. The new version has an improved scanning engine and real-time monitor that doesn't tax your computer's resources or your pocketbook.

    What's Not: 
    If you're concerned about cost, you could get the free version of Ad-Aware or hope that your antivirus program is up to the job of handling these threats as well. If you do, keep in mind that the free version of Ad-Aware doesn't come with real-time monitoring. That means that the program is not actively looking for threats. It's only useful if you remember to run it frequently. You could also download and install Windows Defender, free from Microsoft, to detect and eliminate the various types of spyware; it may be free, but if you're running a Norton product, like Norton Internet Security, you'll find that Windows Defender has been disabled so as not to cause a conflict.
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    Installation & Setup

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    The setup and installation of Ad-Aware 2007 is very straightforward. There are only a few prompts that need your attention. The first screen asks you to choose between standard or advanced installation. Advanced installation is handy for users that like to customize all aspects of the program's settings during setup; however, I found that standard installation will fit the needs of most people. The next screen allows you to choose to have Ad-Aware start once the installation is completed and whether or not you'd like to run a post-installation scan of your system. Finally, if you've purchased the Plus or Pro version, you will be asked to enter your serial number or unlock key to enable all of the additional features. If you're using the free version, you can just chose Cancel to skip this step.

    The first time Ad-Aware launches, it will perform a web update to ensure that you have the most current program version and definition updates. When I ran it for the first time, there were a number of new updates that needed to be downloaded. Having the program look for updates the first time it launches is a very useful feature.



    What's Not: 

    Although I said that having the program look for updates when it first launches is a useful feature, and it is, I'm not a fan of default settings like this because the first thing I like to do when I install a new program is to go to the configuration screen and customize all of its features, and then run my updates. In addition, if there are a lot of updates, it can take a while for them to download and install and you're just sitting there looking at the program splash screen.

    There's also another thing that I find annoying with these types of updates. I installed Ad-Aware 2007 immediately after I purchased it, but when I ran the software for the first time there were several updates/patches to almost every module. Why? If I just downloaded it, why doesn't the download have the most current version with all the current patches and definitions already included? It's wouldn't be that hard. All they would need to do is move the new build over to the download site.

    Finally, I found that the purchase process from Lavasoft wasn't very user-friendly. When I buy software online I expect that after my credit card is accepted I'll be taken to a link to download that product. That's not the case here. It took three emails and over an hour before I received my download link and serial number, in separate emails.


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    Product Features

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    As I mentioned, Ad-Aware comes in three different flavors. Ad-Aware 2007 Free, Ad-Aware 2007 Plus, and Ad-Aware 2007 Pro. All three versions come with the improved scanning and removal engine that makes this such a great product. If you want real-time protection, a necessity in my book, then you'll need to get Ad-Aware 2007 Plus. For a little more money, you can get Ad-Aware 2007 Pro, but most of the additional features are aimed more at small businesses or corporations that have a need for network drive scanning and more advanced command-line support. Unless they're running their own network, the average home user will be more than satisfied with the features in the Plus version.

    The feature that that impressed me the most is the real-time protection, called Ad-Watch, that is constantly monitoring your system while you work or browse the Internet, and automatically removes malware before it can infect your PC. I'm a huge fan of programs that offer automatic protection, because let's face it: how many of us really remember to run all the different assortment of PC protection and clean-up utilities on a regular basis? This feature alone is worth the small cost of skipping the free version and getting the Plus version.

    Ad-Aware 2007 Plus comes with two main programs. Ad-Aware and Ad-Watch. As I mentioned, Ad-Watch is the real-time monitoring module. It not only watches for incoming adware and spyware but also includes Ad-Watch RegShield, which protects your registry from changes made by adware; Ad-Watch Process, which blocks programs from automatically launching on your PC; Ad-Watch Connect, which lets you look at all programs that are trying to connect to the Internet and send information; Ad-Watch TrackSweep, which allows you to remove Internet clutter such as cookies, your browser cache, and your Internet history; and Ad-Watch Cookies, which will automatically delete tracking cookies from your PC that may contain adware or spyware.

    The main Ad-Aware program is where you'll be able to change configuration settings, run manual or scheduled automatic scans of your system, look at log files, or access other features such as the Host File Editor (used for blocking advertisement sites and preventing programs from hijacking your browser).

    When you run a scan, Ad-Aware defaults to quarantining files that it removes in case you need to restore them later. You can always change the settings to immediately delete all threats found, if you prefer. I ran the manual scan on my 500 GB hard drive; it only took eight minutes to run and found over 200 tracking cookies that it labeled as threats. A comparison scan with Norton Internet Security only found four of these same threats. Clearly a program solely designed to detect spyware and adware is more effective.



    What's Not: 

    I'm a big fan of automatic updating, since it keeps the software always up to date for users who forget to run the updates on a regular basis. The problem I have with the new version of Ad-Aware is that it seems to be extremely slow running the updates, and a few times I received an error message about a problem connecting to their server. It's even worse if you have it set to check for updates when you start the program.

    Ad-Aware 2007 now includes a module called TrackSweep, which is designed to remove all traces of your Internet activities. This feature supports Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera. Although it works well, not everyone might want this feature since it also removes all your browsing history.

    Besides the slowness of the automatic updates, there aren't really any downsides to running Ad-Aware 2007. It has all the features that you would expect in an adware removal program and it does its job very well without slowing down your system.


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    User Interface

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    The user interface in Ad-Aware 2007 is well designed and easy to navigate. The program is designed to find and remove threats from your PC and all of the features that you need for scanning and configuring the settings are straightforward to access. The navigation menu on the left side of the main screen gives you quick access to all of the program's options.

    The navigation menu consists of six buttons. The Status button is where you can see the status of your system, the last time it was scanned or updated, and whether or not real-time protection and automatic updating are turned on. Under the Scan button you can select a Smart Scan, Full Scan, or Custom Scan. It’s also where you can set up a schedule for automatically scanning your system on a specified day or time. The Ad-Watch button gives you access to the real-time scan monitor. Other buttons include Web Update, for updating the program and definitions, "Tools & Plug-ins," and the configuration settings.



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    Images

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    Suggested Features

    There are no other features that I would suggest.
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    Conclusion

    Ad-Aware 2007 is a solid program that does an excellent job of keeping your system free from spyware and malware. The inclusion of real-time auto protection means that you don’t need to remember to run the utility on a daily basis and threats are detected and prevented long before they become a problem for your system.
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    Related Products

    SpySweeper, Spybot Search & Destroy, Windows Defender, Spyware Guard