One of the first applications built to find and remove adware and spyware, Ad-Aware's excellent reputation is well-justified. The Anniversary Edition continues the publisher's tradition of adroitly addressing user concerns, but is still not quite perfect.
Without a doubt, though, this version of Ad-Aware improves greatly on what has come before. It loads faster during your boot cycle. Scans take less time than before, too — the Quick Scan completed in less than 10 minutes. Although we did notice a major false positive crop up for another program's uninstaller, there were no other flaws in the scan. New users should notice that the app performs faster than integrated antivirus and anti-malware programs, because only the paid version of Ad-Aware comes with an antivirus engine.
Some important features are disabled in the free version. While rootkit detection is present, heuristics and real-time registry protection are not. Ad-Aware Free cannot scan networked drives, and even a basic feature like the scheduler remains off-limits to non-paying customers. The proprietary real-time defender Ad-Watch Live has been reconfigured to run more smoothly in the background, however, and long-time fans will notice the change.
Interface refinements make this the easiest-to-use Ad-Aware yet. Action button placement at the bottom of the pane might feel odd to those familiar with older versions, but the forced continuity between windows is a plus. Links to drill down to more information are easy to see, as is the Settings button. Overall, Ad-Aware continues to make improvements and seems to be unwilling to rest on its malware-removing laurels, but the free version is undeniably hamstrung.