Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ Review
Lavasoft are perhaps best known for their Ad-Aware product, which over the years has been the “go to” program for IT technicians needing to remove spyware from clients’ computers.
Since 2008, Ad-aware has evolved into a range of Internet security products, including the one we review here, with the rather tongue-twisting name of “Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+”
While the product did extremely well in our tests, it also annoyed us by overdoing the advertising of Lavasoft’s chargeable products. This is one product that’s really worth looking into in detail before proceeding with the install – even though it’s free.
Lavasoft offer a range of Internet security products. Those aimed at consumers are named “Personal Security,” “Pro Security” and “Total Security.” Then there’s the free entry-level “Antivirus+” product, on which we concentrate here.
Antivirus+ is a completely free product. Its two main competitors, therefore, are the well-known free offerings from AVG and Avira.
Although we don’t focus on them here, it’s worthy of a quick mention that Lavasoft’s chargeable offerings are quite competitively priced, with free trials available.
Given the product’s heritage, it’s unsurprising that Lavasoft highlight the “legendary” antispyware element of Antivirus+. However, there’s also a significant list of other features, the most important of which we list here.
Download Protection: This scans any Internet downloads automatically. Although this is a nice feature to see, it’s fair to comment that several modern Web browsers already do this.
Game Mode: This makes the software run silently when you are watching movies or playing games so that these activities aren’t interrupted.
Safe Browsing: This is intended to protect you from inadvertently visiting malicious websites.
Sandbox Emulation: This innovative features allows you to run suspicious software in a virtual environment, protecting your computer from potential infection. This isn’t a feature we’ve seen elsewhere.
Cached Scanning: Antivirus+ automatically skips files that have already been scanned from future virus scans, which over time makes scans much faster.
Overall, the features list for Antivirus+ is compact but sensible. We decided to press on with installing the software.
Installation and Configuration
As usual, we used a clean PC running Windows 7 Professional to review the product.
First, we downloaded the 5.3MB installer file from the vendor’s website. When we clicked the download link, we were encouraged to try a chargeable product, but it was easy to click through this step and continue.
We were presented with some significant choices on running the installer.
Firstly, we noted that it’s possible to install Antivirus+ alongside another antivirus program as a “second line of defence.” We have’t seen this with any other product so this was of considerable interest.
Also on this screen were several options relating to the product’s “safe browsing” add-on. Many Internet security packages install one or more browser plug ins, however we weren’t particularly happy that by default, Antivirus+ changes your Internet homepage and search settings. We un-ticked these options.
After deciding on an “express” install, the installer proceeded to download some more program data – an additional 27MB.
Once the download was complete, the software proceeded to automatically download the latest virus definitions.
We were then told that our install was complete, and asked if we wanted to use a utility called “PasswordBox.” Again, this was ticked by default, but we opted to un-tick it. While we appreciate that completely free software has to be financed in some way, we were a little irritated by having to manually opt out of a second undesirable change to our system, as novices could blindly click “next” and “finish,” and end up with software they never asked for.
We clicked “finish” and were then prompted to reboot. It’s actually quite rare to have to reboot after installing modern antivirus programs, so we were surprised by this slightly time-consuming step.
After the reboot, we were prompted to register the software. This didn’t appear to be an optional step.
In addition, we were also hassled to upgrade to a commercial version before entering our details.
We clicked “activate” and then had to input our name and email address in order to request an activation key for the software. Once again, we know we can’t heavily criticise a product when it is free, but we were beginning to feel harassed by all the steps we were having to go through to get started with the software.
Our activation key arrived by email. We input it, and were then faced with the product’s surprisingly enormous user interface, which almost filled our 1024×768 screen:
The user interface was rather daunting, and this wasn’t helped by a pop-up appearing, asking us to activate “Identity Monitoring,” a feature only available in the US, and therefore irrelevant to us.
Once we’d cleared the pop-up, we started to explore the interface, but found that the vast majority of the functionality was only available in commercial Lavasoft products. We must confess that we were beginning to feel as if we had downloaded nothing but a great big advert!
Although there were plenty of options available, very few were available to us, as users of the free Antivirus+ program, so we decided to proceed with our real-life tests.
As usual, we used a USB key containing a selection of virus threats to test Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+.
While we’d been exploring the program interface, we had discovered that automatic scanning of external storage devices was not included in our free version. Not only did we consider this rather stingy in terms of functionality, it also made it less likely that the product would quickly find all of our threats.
We plugged in the USB key, and waited to see what would happen once the drivers had installed.
Despite no automatic pre-scanning, Antivirus+ jumped to life as soon as we clicked “open folder to view files” and quarantined two of our test threats, including our fake Google Chrome installer, which is usually the one that inferior products struggle with.
All that was left on the key then was EICAR.COM, a test virus from the European Expert Group for IT Security.
As soon as we double-clicked it, it was also quarantined by the software.
This meant that Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ had coped perfectly with all of our test threats.
Finally, we kicked off a manual scan to look at CPU and memory use. Memory use was over 100MB and CPU use was quite high also, frequently peaking between 90 and 100%. However, the program appeared to respond well when we tried to use our machine for other activities, and we didn’t notice a performance hit when using other programs during the scan.
In common with many antivirus packages, Lavasoft’s Antivirus+ has a link to support options within the program interface. This in fact causes the default browser to open Lavasoft’s support website.
Support options for this free product are quite interesting. In addition to forums and an FAQ section, there is a link through to “live help” from certified experts. This is, in fact, a premium service, which Lavasoft charges for, however, they do offer a free “15 minute consultation” with a “certified expert.”
Perhaps we were just feeling cynical by this point in the review, but we couldn’t help but think that this was just another way for Lavasoft to deliver a sales pitch.
- Perfect real world test results
- No noticeable performance hit during scans
- Product can be used alongside other software as a “second line of defence.”
We weren’t so sure about
- Cluttered user interface
- Laborious installation
- Lots of hassle to upgrade to commercial products
- Intrusive pop-ups
Reaching a final verdict on Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ left us feeling very conflicted.
We were ready to heavily criticise the product until the point when it cruised through our real life tests better than many expensive commercial products. For this alone, it deserves credit.
However, we have to ask ourselves whether we’d actually want to use the product, and a combination of a several things continued to irritate: namely a nasty GUI, lots of hassle to upgrade, and the way the product tries to install other software and change search settings.
Even so, it’s free and it works, so it seems uncharitable to not give a cautious recommendation.