I've been beta testing the latest version of Lavasoft's flagship anti-malware tool, Ad-Aware. This new version is to be called Ad-Aware 2007.
My subjective opinions are overall favorable. Overall the interface is quite a polished improvement. A number of scanning engine improvements have also been made under the hood. The scan times didn't amaze me, but seemed to get progressively better with each beta release. It includes some additional handy features that the "average" user might find helpful, like some ad-blocking, an integrated HOSTS file editor, and supports multiple web browsers now, not just Internet Explorer.
The current version of Ad-Aware SE can be run from a CD-ROM, USB or other "non-installed" location (by copying its installed "Program Files" folder). This has made cleansing of a seriously impacted system that much easier. However, the new version is running a service that appears to be required for proper functioning of the program. No service, no execution of the main program. I'm waiting to see if this pans out in the final release version. It will hurt a bit to not have that ability in the future. No word yet if updates for the new program will be compatible for the SE version, or if that one (SE) will be eventually phased out. Finally, "Safe Mode" scanning currently is not supported with this latest version (gulp!), again because of that required service.
Their last beta version was released on May 8th, and the final should be hitting the doors to the general public in June.
It's not clear to me yet if they will continue to offer a "free for personal use" version of Ad-Aware as they currently do for their Ad-Aware SE product. I can only hope so as it holds quite a bit of market-share due to that "public service."
Quoting from their Beta Features Page:
- Fully redesigned engine. Ad-Aware 2007’s powerful, efficient engine increases your productivity by delivering one of the fastest scans on the market without clogging your computer’s resources.
- Advanced Code Sequence Identity technology. Our improved CSI technology detects malware that is deeply imbedded in your system and keeps you protected from the latest threat advancements.
- Enhanced Detection Database. Incremental updates ensure a quick download from our comprehensive threat database, again freeing up your most valuable computer resources.
- New graphical user interface (GUI). The fresh, new look of our straightforward GUI means easy navigation through all of Ad-Aware 2007’s advanced protection options.
- Automatic scans and Web updates. Set a personalized schedule for automatic scans and definition file updates, letting Ad-Aware do the work for you according to your schedule and preferences. You’ll never miss an update from the Detection Database again.
- Ad-Watch TrackSweep. The new TrackSweep feature clears browser cache, cookies, and history that are left behind while you surf the Internet on IE, Firefox and Opera, all in one easy click of a button.
- Ad-Watch Connect. The real-time monitoring of Ad-Watch is expanded to include an additional shield against hijackers and identify theft by preventing private information from leaving your computer. (Note! Ad-Watch Connect is not implemented in this Beta release)
- Hosts File Editor. This new tool gives you the power to add, delete or make changes to the Hosts File to block advertisement sites, reverse browser hijack entries, create navigational shortcuts, and assist with parental controls.
- Multiple Browser Support. Ad-Aware 2007 supports Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera – so now you can use the web browser of your choice.
- System Restore Point. Ad-Aware 2007’s conveniently located system restore point means you never have to worry about accidentally deleting a file during cleanup.
From that same page come the following specifications.
Hard Disk Space: 50 MB free space recommended, OS Support: Windows 2000 (Pro and Server), Windows Server 2003, Windows XP (Home, Pro, and Pro x64 Editions)
Web Browsers; Internet Explorer (version 5.5 or higher), Firefox (version 1.5 or higher), Opera (version 9 or higher).
You will notice that Vista is not currently listed here. That is correct (for now).
Why no Ad-Aware 2007 for Vista?
A post in the Lavasoft forums from Michael Helander, Lavasoft Director, Communications & PR explains;
We regularly receive inquiries now about Vista compatibility for the soon-to-be-released Ad-Aware 2007 product, and we’ve even said in previous announcements that the new product would be compatible when released. We know that computer users everywhere have already begun the transition to the new Windows operating system and we have every intention of delivering a new product in 2007 that is Vista compatible.
However, we’ve just recently discovered a technical glitch required for Ad-Aware 2007 to fully operate with Vista, and in order to meet the launch date that we committed for our worldwide customers and to completely comply with Microsoft’s requirements for the Vista program, the product will not be Vista compatible immediately when launched in June. Nevertheless, the new Ad-Aware 2007 product has been built with the capability to immediately distribute version updates and patches (something that was not possible with the SE versions) and all Ad-Aware users with a valid license will immediately receive the Vista compatible update when the issues are resolved this fall.
We know that Vista compatibility is an important issue for many of our customers, and rest assured that it is at the forefront of our development efforts with the Ad-Aware 2007 product.
I'm very surprised as it is quite a blow when a "security" company releases the next version of their flagship product and it isn't issued as compatible with the latest Microsoft OS nor that it's scanning product cannot run in Safe Mode on Windows. I'm sure that Lavasoft is working hard on getting the "technical glitches" resolved and this really has to bum out their development team.
I've actually had great success running Ad-Aware SE in a "standalone" mode on my Vista system. No errors and it seemed to locate and find all the bookmark locations in the Vista structure just fine. However, Vista is not an "officially" supported OS of Ad-Aware SE.
The malware-fight' n business is a pretty crowded market now. There are a number of very good products available now, and while I remain doubtful that any one product alone can provide a 100% effective malware removal/protection solution, there are quite a few that come close when working together. For a product to really stand out with the malware-bustin' techs, it needs to be cross-platform (Windows) compatible, run scans in Safe Mode, have an effective detection/removal engine and signature files, and be easy for the average user to simply use and remain protected with once the support geeks leave. (I still wish for "standalone" product functionality as well.) A good price helps as well: free is nice for the masses and $ for enhanced functionalities.
Lavasoft really needs to keep its faithful fans in mind as it finishes up and continues to tweak it's Ad-Aware product out. Alex Eckelberry of Sunbelt Software laid down a new gauntlet with their offer for their flagship CounterSpy anti-malware program for $9.95 good through June 30th.
Oh yeah. CounterSpy supports Windows Vista and integrates with the Vista Windows Security Center.
Very competitive waters, indeed.