PROS / Ad-Aware Pro Security includes a two-way firewall.
CONS / It is not excellent at protecting against malware or repairing infected computers.
VERDICT / Ad-Aware Pro Security is not as good as the best antispyware products.
Lavasoft's Ad-Aware Pro Security is anti-spyware software, but it is also complete antimalware protection. A few years ago, antimalware vendors chose not to include anti-spyware features for fear of lawsuits by adware vendors if they labeled adware as spyware. Today, by calling adware an "extended threat," antimalware publishers are folding anti-spyware capability into their security products once again. The idea that adware is not spyware is an argument that adware initiators can no longer maintain. Even if a legitimate marketing organization is not trying to steal your identity, if it installs adware on your PC, it is still spying on you to record your online surfing behavior so that it can accurately target you with advertising. Lavasoft's aptly named Ad-Aware knows about adware, and it knows about even more dangerous versions of spyware and the entire universe of malware.
In terms of performance, the greatly respected security software test lab AV-Test reports that when it subjected Ad-Aware to two months of continuous testing, Ad-Aware was not highly competitive. It was adequate in usability tests because it did not slow down system performance much and it did not make too many false-positive misidentifications of safe files. However, during tests to see how well it protected against malware, and those testing how well it tackled restoring PCs with existing malware infestations, Ad-Aware proved itself inadequate compared to the best spyware removers. Lavasoft did not subject Ad-Aware Pro Security to AV-Test's evaluation.
Ad-Aware includes quite a complete feature set. It scans downloaded files and checks for threats. If you attach any storage device such as a USB drive to your computer, Ad-Aware knows about it and checks the contents for malware. If it suspects a file but the file is so new that there is no positive way to identify it as malware, it moves the suspect to a sandbox emulator to monitor its behavior.
With Ad-Aware, you can shop and bank online safely and protect yourself on social networks. Ad-Aware protects against email-borne attacks as well. There is a game mode in case you do not want interruptions from your security software while you are playing a game or watching a film. While you surf the worldwide web, Ad-Aware is always scanning for URLs that it knows to be dangerous. Ad-Aware checks each site against a database of websites that it knows to be malicious. The database that it checks updates every five to 20 minutes so that you are not likely to stumble upon a phishing site.
Lavasoft provides free installation and set-up assistance – not that you are likely to need it, though. You can reach help by telephone and receive a free 15-minute consultation. If you think your PC is infected, Lavasoft technical support will check it out and fix any problems. We do not consider anything amiss for Lavasoft to charge for support plans. By paying for support, you are likely to enjoy fast response times.
Ad-Aware Pro has been weighed in the balances and found lacking. Sure, it has good features and good help and support. However, it cannot compete against the best antispyware in the most important dimension – performance. Nothing else really matters.