The increasing success of internet security suites is reflecting also on free software not just on the commercial products. Most people are no longer satisfied with the basic, free antivirus so companies are striving to deliver more comprehensive freeware antimalware applications. Ad-Aware Free Internet Security is one of those products and besides the protection it provides against viruses, spyware and adware, its success also relies on its user-friendliness and the fact that it’s a “set and forget” type of application, a feature greatly appreciated by many users.
Installation & Requirements
Complying with modern optimization requirements, the program’s installer is only 9.5 MB in size and the installation folder is smaller than 40 MB. At the beginning of the installation you will have to choose your language. Currently Ad-Aware Free Internet Security supports English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
The install process will prompt you for a reboot and lasts for a couple of minutes, but other than that it is a fairly simple task and there are no nagging adware features such as deviously attempting to install other programs or changing your browser’s search engine. After the installation is complete you will have to perform an update which will be finished very fast.
Ad-Aware Free’s minimum system requirements can be classified as modest for today’s standards: 733 MHz or higher CPU, 512 MB RAM and 300 MB free hard-disk space (recommended), compatible with any of the operating systems listed below: Windows 7, Windows Vista (32 and 64-bit), Windows XP (32-bit) and Windows 2000 Pro.
The GUI’s design was clearly aiming to support readability and intuitive usage but it’s not hard to see it became a bit timeworn. The main menu displays 3 extra-large icons for the Web-Update, Scan System and Ad-Aware’s real-time protection called “Ad-Watch Live!”. The program also features two viewing modes (selectable from the lower-left corner of the window): a Simple one where there is no access to settings and the Advanced one that allows you to tweak the program as when you switch to it a Settings button appears in the upper-right corner of the main content area.
When accessed in the Advanced Mode, each of the main options display their sub-categories as tabs (e.g.: under Scan you will see tabs for choosing the scan mode, Scheduler, Quarantine and Ignore List). The same style is used for the Settings menu, where you will be able to configure the Updates, Profile Scans and Ad-Watch Live!. Under the Customize tab you will find a couple of miscellaneous settings such as languages, skins and notifications.
As we mentioned earlier the interface needs some optimization: the top menu lists access to the main menu, Scan and Ad-Watch (both of them already being accessible through the main menu) and Extras. If Extras would have been placed in the main menu…..then the top one could have easily been removed making the interface a whole lot less confusing. The Extras button provides access to two options: TrackSweep – an Ad-Aware module designed to erase tracks caused by web surfing- and Toolbox- a compendium of stand-alone programs (Process Watch, Auto-Start Manager, Hosts File Editor and ThreatWork Alliance – the anonymous submission of suspicious files). Sadly, only the last application is available in the free version, the rest of them being disabled.
To conclude, the interface of Ad-Aware Free Internet Security has a clean, uncluttered layout which should make it easy to use, but the redundant menus and high number of disabled features can certainly confuse novice users and displease the tech-savvy ones.
- Small application with low impact on the system performance.
- Reliable protection against viruses, spyware and adware.
- Clean interface with Simple and Advanced viewing modes.
- Free support through the only Ad-Aware User Guide, FAQ or the Support Forum.
- Real-time protection is enabled only for processes.
- TrackSweep is not working properly for all the supported browsers.
- Features that should be present into an Internet Security Suite, such as web protection, unrestricted real-time protection and a firewall, are missing.
While delivering more than a basic antivirus, the current list of features offered by Ad-Aware Free Internet Security may prove insufficient for some. The competition is rough and we have other established brands in the industry such as Comodo Internet Security, another attempt to provide a security product with more protection layers than a simple antivirus. Comodo Internet Security also comes with a firewall, it’s very own Sandbox technology and a modern, friendly interface although it is currently having some problems at malware detection and removal.
Other trustworthy, efficient and free antiviruses that have constantly proved themselves are AVG Anti-virus Free and Avast Free Antivirus. Concerning the lack of the firewall, you can always use a separate product for that and build your own internet security suite.
For home use, Ad-Aware Free Internet Security provides an above average level of protection; it comes with robust features and good threat detection rates. However, the application can’t yet be considered an internet security suite but it does offer more than a simple antivirus and the constant improvements and added features have proved us it’s on the right track.