Sunday, January 06, 2008

Ad-Aware SE Personal: No Longer Supported? Workaround!

Since the time of it's first post, Ad-Aware SE Update Problem - Simply Fixed x2 has been in the top three posts of my blog.

Seems like a lot of people were having problems getting the Ad-Aware SE updates to flow due to what was ultimately a DNS issue with the update servers.

Judging by the number of hits, there are a LOT of folks who still use and love this version over the newer 2007 version.

Now comes word that Lavasoft's Ad-Aware SE Personal will no longer be receiving updates to its DAT signature files.

Cry, pout, throw a tantrum.  Riot like Canadians after a hockey match gone sour or no beer in the taps.

Doesn't matter.

Without current DAT files, there isn't much value in keeping Ad-Aware SE on your systems.


Claus Valca has a solution to keep it going a bit longer - read on!

Ad-Aware SE Personal- No More Updates

Donna's SecurityFlash snuck this little post in this week.

Donna did the homework found out that according to this Lavasoft Blog post and a forums post

Definition files for Ad-Aware SE Personal will no longer be updated!

She goes on to state:

This means you need to REMOVE Lavasoft Ad-Aware SE from your computer because it is not useful anymore without the definitions update.  You do not want to scan your system all the time with out-dated antispyware definitions.

That's quite true.  A anti-malware or anti-virus tool is only as effective as its updates.

She points us to going ahead and adopting the new Ad-Aware 2007 product which also ships with a free personal version.

Only there is one doesn't seem to be able to run without a running service...which means that the 2007 version cannot be run in a portable mode.

Ad-Aware SE - Love it.

When I was first dipping my toes into the anti-malware system cleansing waters, there were two signature anti-malware products above all others (and there weren't many others either back then); LavaSoft Ad-Aware SE Personal and Spybot Search & Destroy. Sure there were other utilities to clean out auto-run locations and registry items (HiJack This) but for doing a full system-scan and removal of malware and cookies, these were the best.

What brought them added-value was the fact that I and others soon found that you could install them into your "Program Files" folder, then copy that installation to other media (USB/CD) and run them from there on an infected system to clean it...even when you couldn't download and install them directly.

Soon Ad-Aware SE was one of an elite number of Plugins for the Bart's Preinstalled Environment (BartPE) bootable live windows CD/DVD.

It does have it's limitations: It doesn't scan Firefox/Mozilla or Opera locations (that I am aware of) and sticks just to Internet Explorer cookies.  Also, it only scans under the current user's profile, and not in the Internet Explorer cache/cookie files of other user profiles on the same machine.

But it remains fast.  And although there are now a host of additional anti-malware scanners of great quality, I keep Ad-Aware SE around and still use it as on of several scanners I sweep a system with in-turn.

So hearing that DAT files for it will not be supported any longer is disappointing.

Ad-Aware 2007 - Like it, but...

I've spent some time with the new free Ad-Aware 2007 product and in May 2007 posted the following review:

It supports Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera. The user interface is much more polished. The scan engine seems faster and more powerful.  Overall, it seems like a really great product.  And the final release version is compatible with Vista, XP, and Windows 2000.

Except as I mentioned, it requires a service to be running to function. Disable the service or not run it and the program won't work.

So much for I've just kept going with Ad-Aware SE.

Until it looked like the door was shuttered.

But is it True?

Since Donna's notice came out, I had been trying to run my updates for Ad-Aware SE and the last one I got was SE1R210. 27.12.2007.

The updater runs normally, attempts to fetch an update, but then gives the response that no new updates are available.

Unlike my previous problem, this isn't a DNS issue.  They really appear to have turned off the spigot.

No more updates....

And I began this post with the intention of it being a funeral dirge.

But then I found (yet again) another simple solution

How to Keep Updating Ad-Aware SE Personal

See, when I was re-reading Donna's post I noticed something I had missed before

NOTE:  Ad-Aware SE Plus/Professional/Enterprise is NOT affected.

Catch that?

Other versions of Ad-Aware SE are not affected.

That means it is likely that compatible DAT files are still being issued.

So, knowing that Lavasoft does publish DAT file packs for manual download I popped over and took a look:

Yep.  There on the right is a nice big green button offering the current DAT files for Ad-Aware SE.

  1. Download the SE version file to your local system,
  2. UnZIP the DAT file and find the defs.ref file.
  3. Locate your Ad-Aware SE Personal program installation location.
  4. Delete the defs.ref.old file.
  5. Rename the existing defs.ref file to defs.ref.old
  6. Copy in the new defs.ref file you downloaded and unpacked, overwriting the current one.
  7. Restart Ad-Aware SE Personal.

You should see that your DAT file is now reported as the latest.  When I did this post mine was now reporting in as SE1R11 02.01.2008

I ran a scan of my system with the new updated DAT file installed and it worked fine, no errors encountered.

Found a bunch of tracking cookies.

There you Have It

So it's up to you.

If you don't need a "portable" version of LavaSoft Ad-Aware SE Personal, then go ahead and dump it.  Heck you have to download it from software file repository sites anyway, Lavasoft doesn't provide it to you.  It really is starting to show its limitations in functionality.

Go download the LavaSoft Ad-Aware 2007 Free version which really is a much more robust and useful product for most home/personal users now.

If you DO however want to keep using it (for nostalgia or for BartPE style usage)  just know that you really do have to handle the updating manually.

Or, consider one of the multitudes of other (freeware) anti-malware products now on the market: Anti-Malware Tool Roundup - #3.  Lots to pick from.

I'm going to keep Ad-Aware SE Personal around a bit longer since DAT files are still available...but even I have to admit, there is going to come a day when no DAT files for ANY Ad-Aware SE versions will be published.  Then we will really have to upgrade to Ad-Aware 2007.

Maybe by then someone will have figured out a workaround to make it "portable" as well.

I'll be the first to adopt it!



Anonymous said...

Hey--so I don't see anywhere on your blog site as far as how to contact you, so I'm leaving comments where ever I think you might find them. I've been using your posts and links to keep my Ad-Aware running, but now neither version is working. So PLEASE--email me at your EARLIEST convenience, so I can get them working. Sorry I can't get into details here, b/c that would take too long. So: thanx

Anonymous said...

Glad you found this. I've always loved SE too...

Ed said...

The suggested solution worked well at first. I downloaded an update of the DEFS.REF file from and all was well. I did this a second time, on 2 April 2008, and still all was well. But that was the last time it worked. Now, I can still download the file from that link, but when copied to the Ad-Aware program folder Ad-Aware SE Personal starts up with the error message "Definitions file corrupt or invalid". Replacing the earlier file dated 2 April (2,761KB) restores the program to a working state, but based on definitions that are now several months old. There seems to be no satisfactory solution.

Claus Valca said...

@ Ed - I suppose there will come a time when LavaSoft no longer publishes any SE compatible defs files. Sadly, it is inevitable.

However, this morning (Sat) I hopped over and downloaded the latest (07/24/08) defs and applied them, just to see what I experienced.

They downloaded fine. I unpacked them, manually renamed my current defs.ref file to defs.ref.old, then copied the new defs.ref into the folder.

I launched up Ad-Aware SE and it seemed to take quite a while for them to load according to the splash-screen.

However, they did and all is well.

I display the following "details" on my defs file inside Ad-Aware SE:

Reference Number : SE1R273 24.07.2008
Internal build : 318
File location : C:\Documents and Settings\Claus\My Documents\Standalone Apps\Security\Anti-Spyware\Ad-Aware SE Personal\defs.ref
File size : 4243004 Bytes
Total size : 15471986 Bytes
Signature data size : 15347245 Bytes
Reference data size : 124229 Bytes
Signatures total : 384807
CSI Fingerprints total : 15125
CSI data size : 1089217 Bytes
Target categories : 15
Target families : 4982

Running fine.

The MD5 (winMd5Sum Portable) on my file I downloaded just this morning is as follows:


The MD5 for my unpacked defs.ref file is as follows:


Try to download today and compare. It might be possible your download got corrupted.

Otherwise, this method appears to be still working (for now) as described, just fine!