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Secure Computing: Help Identify And Eliminate Malicious Software With Ad-Aware

When it comes to Malicious Software (Malware) different terms such as adware, spyware, malware, etc are given based on what action each takes. Each of these unwanted pieces of software do different things, but the bottom line is you do not want any of it on your PC.

Here are easy to understand definitions which should help you better understand what is meant when you hear these terms.

Spyware Software installed on your PC with or without your consent that gathers information about web surfing habits and can potentially gather personal information.
Adware Software installed on your PC with or without your consent that displays pop up advertisements on the computer screen
Grayware Software installed on your PC with or without your consent that falls into a “gray area” meaning it is not as serious as a virus but annoying none the less.
Malware Any and all of the above and more including viruses, trojans, worms, and rootkits.

This week begins our series on free Anti-Malicious Software Programs. As no single Anti-Spyware utility is perfect, we will look at the major ones. At the end of this series we will look at all of the Anti-Virus applications we covered previously and the Anti-Spyware applications in this series and will recommend what we believe to be the best combination(s).

First let’s take a look at Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware 2008 which is free for use for home users.

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During installation your will get the following screen to enter in your license if you bought one, otherwise we just need to click the “Use Free” button.

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Before installation is totally complete Ad-Aware will update its database with the latest definitions.

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After a successful installation you will notice two shortcuts on the desktop one of which is Ad-Watch which is a real-time adware protection utility. It is not available in the free version which a message indicates. This is obviously a marketing attempt to get your to buy the Plus and Pro version which I consider adware in and of itself.

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*Note … you can get a free version of Ad-Aware Plus by using a gimmicky offer that I do not endorse. Basically you are signing up for other company trial services and SPAM for a free year of Plus or Pro and that ends after the year. You can choose two different scan modes. Smart Scan which scans the most critical parts of your system or Full Scan which will scan everything and as a result takes longer. For heavily infected computers Full Scan is a wise choice. To be able to utilize the Custom Scan you will need to upgrade to the Plus or Pro version.

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After you start the scan to you will will be able to view the progress and what if any objects have been identified.

 scan

When scanning is complete you choose which objects to remove, the ability to set a Restore Point before removing entries, and a scan summary which you can export to a text document.

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Ad-Aware has different settings we can change. One feature to look at is the TrackSweep tool. This allows you to erase tracks left behind from surfing the Internet. In fact, it will erase tracks from all three of the major web browsers.

tracksweep

Other settings can be changed with scanning, AutoScans, User Interface (change skins), and Log Files not all options are available unless you upgrade.

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Conclusion

There are definitely a lot of differing opinions when it comes to what is “the best” anti-spyware program. No utility is going to be 100% effective but they all are pretty solid. Soon we will have great side by side scanning comparisons and a rating system so you can make more informed decisions.

Overall Ad-Aware is a solid choice for identifying threats and getting rid of them. A few years ago Ad-Aware was definitely an essential weapon to have in a security best practices arsenal. However, today there are a lot of other free utilities that can do the job and offer more functionality that Lavasoft now charges for.

Another thing to keep in mind is if you use both Ad-Aware and another anti-spyware utility it can cause conflicts. Take Ad-Aware Free Edition for a spin for a week or so and see how it fares. It may be the utility your looking for.

 LOGO

Download Ad-Aware 2008

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 09/22/08

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