What began as anti-spyware has grown into a sizable suite that includes comprehensive malware protection - including antivirus, network protection, and rootkit removal. Lavasoft also offers a free version of the software, called Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free 8.3, which is for home users only; and a more full-featured new suite, the £34 Ad-Aware Total Security.
PCWorld's Labs don't have testing figures for the efficacy of Lavasoft Ad-Aware Internet Security Pro 8.3's antivirus software in this version. However, when we tested the Anniversary Edition in February 2009, that version was able to locate only 83.6 percent of 111,833 Trojans, spyware and other malware samples - not an impressive result compared to its competition. Again, tests have not been run on this newest version of the software, so the numbers may or may not be accurate. There is the potential, however, for this version of Ad-Aware to be more effective than the Anniversary Edition, because since then, heuristics detection has been added.
Heuristics detection protects your PC by examining complex system behaviour, rather than just looking for known malware signatures. In this way, it can protect against emerging and unknown threats; it's not restricted to locating only threats that are already known and found via the use of signatures. In fact, the primary difference between this newest version (8.3) of Ad-Aware and the previous version (8.2) is the addition of the Genotype heuristics detection system, which Lavasoft claims is superior to its previous heuristics.
The Pro version includes protection against network-borne threats, which the free version does not. Lavasoft Ad-Aware Internet Security Pro 8.3 also offers what it calls a "Toolbox" of additional protection. The Toolbox includes items such as the AutoStart Manager, which lets you control what programs and services start at Windows startup. It also includes a way to view and kill processes running on your PC. In addition, there is a tool to edit your HOSTS file, which may help increase your security. The final tool in the toolbox does not directly help security; it submits any dangers you come across to the Lavasoft ThreatWork Alliance, which then uses the combined information it finds to uncover dangers. Overall, the toolbox is moderately useful.
As in the previous version, Lavasoft Ad-Aware Internet Security Pro 8.3 also promises to protect you against malware that tries to restore itself after a system reboot. And it integrates with Internet Explorer to scan files as you download files from the web, alerting you to any malicious files you may pull onto your system. It also includes a "Simple mode" that lets you set your configuration once, and never have to do it again. If you prefer, you can toggle to Advanced Mode, where you can select advanced features for customisation.
Is it worth paying £21 for Ad-Aware Internet Security Pro, when there are many free anti-spyware and antivirus programs out there, including the free version of Ad-Aware? The Free version is much the same as the Pro, except that it doesn't include integrated download protection, rootkit removal, or real-time protection. Real-time protection is vital in security software, so even home users would do well either to pay for the Pro version or to get the Free version and supplement it with any of the many free pieces of security software that offer real-time protection, such as Microsoft Security Essentials, Avira AntiVir Personal, or Avast! Home Edition.