Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, Ad-Aware has been around since almost before adware itself. Its remit has widened somewhat over the years, and while the original Ad-Aware was designed simply to warn you when websites were tracking information on your PC, Lavasoft Ad-Aware 2008 Pro stretches to such demanding tasks as protecting your system from viruses and spyware, and securing your banking details and files.
Lavasoft Ad-Aware 2008 Pro actually comes in four flavours (the most advanced Enterprise version is aimed at medium to large businesses). Home users can get a taste of what Lavasoft Ad-Aware 2008 Pro offers simply by downloading the free version, capable of performing a basic scan on your PC.
If you have an existing antivirus program to team this with, the free version could prove a decent option. You still don't get real-time detection of adware, although such a feature is, happily, available as Ad-Watch in the £15 upgrade, Ad-Aware Plus. This more expensive version also adds (amongst other features) integrated antivirus protection and free technical support.
The Plus version of Ad-aware 2008 will suffice for most users, although Lavasoft Ad-Aware 2008 Pro (£21.50), which we've tested for the purposes of this review, comes with a few more advanced tools. These include the rather unexciting command line support and network drive scanning, and the far more dynamic Ad-Watch Connect, which lets you see exactly what programs on your PC (Internet Explorer, Real Player etc.) are communicating with the outside world.
Used in conjunction with the general Processes monitor, these could prove a convenient way of checking that there are no uninvited guests sending information from your PC, As such, this feature is well worth the extra cost of the Lavasoft Ad-Aware 2008 Pro version.
Long-standing concerns about the lack of clarity in Ad-Aware's interface were fixed in the 2007 edition, with the result that the look and feel of the software was radically overhauled.
NEXT PAGE: the interface, RegShield and scanning