Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free is vastly improved and with extra features in the new Anniversary Edition.

Most of us have heard of Lavasoft Ad-Aware. It is a popular malware protection software that has a free version to it. Recently, the new Anniversary Edition was released; Lavasoft improved the software and also added in a couple of extra features in the Free version that were not there before. Here is a list of features in Ad-Aware Free edition AE (from – the new features are marked in red:

  • Detect, Remove AND Clean
    A step beyond simply detecting and removing malware, Ad-Aware intelligently cleans and restores your system by removing all traces of the infection.
  • NEW! Ad-Watch Live! Basic
    Integrated real-time process protection blocks malicious processes and infected programs that try to start or run on your system, to prevent them from further integration in your system.
  • Rootkit Removal System
    Advanced anti-rootkit technology protects you from hidden threats and stealth attacks that are designed to gain access to your system by avoiding detection.
  • NEW! Radically improved resource efficiency
    The new version provides ultimate resource efficiency with minimal strain on your system’s resources.
  • NEW! Lavasoft SmartSet
    Let the experts at Lavasoft guide you. Lavasoft SmartSet makes scanning and cleaning as easy as possible – by providing automatically configured settings for scans, and by providing recommended actions for found infections.
  • NEW! Customizable Profile Scans
    Easily create personalized scan profiles so that Ad-Aware only scans areas that you select. Save time by scanning areas where known malicious programs are located, or choose from 13 different sections to scan, including critical sections, only executables, ZIP files, and the Windows registry.
  • NEW! External Drive Scanning
    Scan your external storage device, iPod, DVD’s, USB’s, or any other drives that you connect to your PC for an additional layer of security.
  • NEW! Pin-Point Scanning
    Quickly identify whether suspicious files are safe or malicious – right-click any file or folder to perform an immediate Ad-Aware scan or to make a submission to Lavasoft researchers for analysis via ThreatWork.
  • Easy to download, install & use
    Effortlessly maneuver the complexities of malware detection and removal with our new, user-friendly interface.
  • Automatic Updates
    Protect against the latest forms of malware with faster, updates to guard your privacy against cyber attacks throughout the license duration.
  • System Restore Point
    Set a Windows system restore point so you can clean-up your system without fear of obstructing your operating system – revert to a previous state in the event of a problem.
  • TrackSweep
    Control your privacy by erasing tracks left behind while surfing the web on multiple browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera, with one easy click.
  • Full integration with Windows Security Center
    Get Ad-Aware protection and status notifications through the Windows Security Center.
  • Supported Languages
    English, Dutch, Flemish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and Japanese.
The interface has also changed a lot:

I always avoided recommending Ad-Aware to people because it ate your system resources like no other. However, the drastic reduction in system resource use changes all that to an extent. Also the added basic live protection is a plus.

As we speak, I am running the on-demand scanner and there is a definite reduction in system resource use. I can’t 100% confirm if it uses less/more resources then programs like Malwarebytes, SAS, or Threatfire, because I have not used those programs in a while, but if memory serves, Threatfire usto lag up my computer a lot while scanning. I can hardly feel any strain on my computer, in terms of resources, with Ad-Aware AE scanning: Ad-Aware is using ~50 MB of RAM and literally 0-15% CPU (not exact or totally inclusive numbers of course).

I can also confirm that Ad-Aware does in fact use up less resources while in idle state then my Kaspersky. In terms of while scanning, Kaspersky uses less RAM, but a little more CPU (not “significantly” more in my opinion however). Keep in mind that Kaspersky provides full protection (anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware, etc.) while Ad-Aware AE Free does not. Also keep in mind that Kaspersky is not known as the protection software that is the least resource intensive – Avira is. So the true test for Ad-Aware AE, in terms of computer resource usage, will be against Avira. From preliminary tests with Kaspersky, I doubt it will be less resource intensive then Avira.

However, and this is a big negative, the Free version is still signature based as far as I know, so if you are running any other protection software, such as Kaspersky, Avira, Norton, etc. I suggest you disable the AdWatch Live! and just use Ad-Aware as an on demand scanner because you may run into conflicts which will lead to slowdowns. For the best free anti-malware live protection, I still suggest you go with Threatfire because it is behavior based as opposed to signature based which allows it to work well with other security software.

If you are interested, here is how Lavasoft says Ad-Aware compares to the ‘competition’.

Now I am not claiming that Ad-Aware AE is better then any of its competition out there. I am merely pointing out that Lavasoft has greatly improved the software from before.

Lastly, for references, you can read what PCMag had to say about Ad-Aware Pro 08:

Bottom Line
Ad-Aware is steadily improving. Spyware removal in this version is excellent, in part due to the new antivirus scanner. The product’s real-time protection, however, is years out of date.

Now includes antivirus. Very effective at cleaning up infested systems. Includes HOSTS file editor, Process Watch for advanced users.

Poor real-time protection. Flags common Registry actions even for valid programs. Can queue up hundreds of warnings. The option to always allow/block a specific program is hard to find.

You can get Ad-Aware Free Anniversary Edition from

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  • Adrian

    @Bill: It’s sad how everything nowadays gets politicized, I guess.
    Comparing AdAware to the Obama administration? Sheesh. Truth is, it’s the corporate lobbies–Big Pharm, Big Insurance, and bull-headed flat-earthers of the Stupid Lobby who are keeping our country backwards, in my opinion.
    However I do agree with you on one thing: AdAware will not stay off. I repeatedly set it to NOT run in the background, but it shows up as a process in Task Manager and on my Sys Tray.
    So I guess I will dump it and switch to Malwarebytes — Ashraf, thanks for the link to the alt list of software, and your helpful site.

  • Bill

    Just dumped adware anniversary ed…
    It is a POS!
    Keeps coming on, and crashing my internet link.
    I set it repeatedly NOT to come on automatically, but it does, whenever it wants to.
    So, I will NO longer ever use lavasoft’s software!
    Too many bugs and problems!
    In my estimation, it’s like the current government….
    Doe’s what it wants, when it wants, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, right off the friggin’ cliff!
    So Lavasoft and their products have just lost another customer!

  • Ashraf
  • Jeff or anyone – I’ve had it with Ad-Aware Anniversary Ed. also for all the reasons you’ve listed. It’s a pity. I do have an older machine and use XP, but the amount of CPU & memory use throughout the day is unsustainable.

    My q. is: what have you found as a substitute for AdAware?

  • Jeff

    Yeah, I noticed that… Anyways, it’s gone, definitely gone. It actually makes these useless AAWTray.exe, and AAWService.exe go on my startup! I deleted tray before with WinPatrol, but I didn’t notice the damn service is set to autostart. Just what I need, a ******* hog at startup. That’s the last straw. Actually used Revo Advanced mode on this one.

  • Regardless of what PCMag says, be warned a lot of people are reporting false positives.

  • Jeff

    True, but I’m still pretty paranoid about security. Just a year or two before, I never cared about it, and had dire consequences, twice. Definitely learned my lesson. Still, I will commence with the scan, then I’ll decide whether or not to keep it.

  • If you are running Avira AV Premium you have no need for antispyware – Avira covers spyware/adware pretty well as far as I know.

    And the resource use is a lot less when compared to earlier Ad-Aware versions – that is what I meant.

  • Jeff

    Just tested it out, and I don’t see what you mean by it using less resources. In fact, when I open the main application window, the cpu usage goes to 90%. Granted that my computer is quite old, and that I’ve never used this in it’s earlier versions, but this is not acceptable. It also leaves behind AAWService.exe, and AAWTray.exe running as well, even though I made it hide the tray, and prompted not to install the driver for it’s Ad Watch Live! So, basically, both is disabled yet still running in the background. So far, I’m disappointed, but I’ll at least make a scan in the near future, although it’s going to most likely show nothing, my customizations as “hijack, or other things”, or just minor threats like cookies. My protection is almost bulletproof, literally (ZA Firewall Pro, Avira AV Premium, Returnil VS Premium, Spyware Blaster, MVP HOSTS, Spybot Immunize, DropMyRights, Virus Total Uploader). I also have more great on-demand scanners, and even HijackThis, and there’s always online help. Therefore, Ad-Aware is pretty much useless, and one hell of a hog (at least for me).

  • internetexplorer,

    You are pretty well covered, haha.

    Ad-Aware AE is much better then Ad-Aware 08; however since you have pro, downgrading to Free just for a new version is a toss up. With all the features pro has, even the older slow version is slightly better in my opinion.

    You sure you can’t upgrade from 08 -> AE?

    Your mentioning Spyware Doctor reminds me that I know of a way to get one year free of PC Tools Internet Security…I will post it soon.

  • internetexplorer

    Along with some other goodies, the new issue of Hakin9 magazine has AdAware 2008 Pro (usually the paid version) on its free CD, so I’ll use that unless you say the one reviewed above is better. As to Threatfire, every time I hear something good about it, it seems there’s also some not-so-good news too. I like ZoneAlarm Security Suite so far and have it “tuned” to all my apps, so I’d need a good reason to change–like some problem with ZASS, e.g. I know it’s paid, but it is well-integrated and always seems to get the job done (so far). I do run an on-demand scanner from time to time especially for spyware and such threats, and an occasional one for viruses and the like also. The ones I have been using more recently are Spyware Doctor (which is also paid) and of course the Avira AntiVir Premium your article featured and showed me how to get for free. Do you see any holes in my protection? Thanks.

  • There is no difference between the free and paid Threatfire except for the following:

    Paid has…
    Automatic updates provided if opted out of ThreatFire Community
    Free priority telephone support
    Commercial and business use allowed

  • Mario

    asked for a download and there it is : a free version ( not much different from the full one). There’s also a TrialPay for the full version.

  • Mario

    Hi Ashraf,
    but Threatfire is not free. It costs 30 euros, or about 40 to 45 US$. Coming from PC Tools could be a good thing, specially if they are producing software as they used to do on DOS Days.