Many years ago, keeping safe on a Windows PC meant installing both an anti-virus and an anti-spyware program. Ad-Aware was my favorite.
I would run other anti-spyware programs first, and then run Ad-Aware. It would usually find items that the others missed.
Anti-virus programs today also catch spyware, eliminating the need for separate anti-spyware software like Ad-Aware.
Lavasoft has responded in two ways- by adding anti-virus protection and by adding privacy features not found in traditional anti-virus packages.
Anti-Virus Assimilated Much of Ad-Aware Protection
In its heyday, I used to install Ad-Aware on any computer and find at least a dozen issues. Sometimes hundreds of issues. These computers had anti-virus programs installed, yet Ad-Aware still found some nastiness.
As I write in mid-2011, anti-virus software encroached into Ad-Aware's turf. They detect viruses as well as spyware.
I installed it in mid-2011 on a two-year-old computer running the free Avast anti-virus. Ad-Aware turned up nothing in its scan but tracking cookies.
Extra Privacy Features
Ad-Aware is still useful if you want to take extra steps to guard your privacy. By default, it removes tracking cookies. Its TrackSweep tool removes all traces of your web browsing history.
Tracking cookies are not dangerous to your system health. They do allow advertisers to build a profile on you while you browse from web site to web site. Ad-Aware erases those tracking cookies after its scan by default, something most anti-virus programs won't do.
TrackSweep, a free tool built-in to Ad-Aware, does a thorough job of erasing your browsing history. It goes beyond removing your autocomplete data. It wipes out cookies, cache, items in your history menu and more.
Now Includes Anti-Virus
Since anti-virus makers now look for spyware, it's only natural that Ad-Aware now looks for viruses.
Starting in 2008, all version of Ad-Aware, including the free one, include anti-virus protection.
Ad-Aware uses the same engine found in Vipre Anti-Virus, which costs $30 for the basic version.
That's generous of Lavasoft to include Vipre's core functionality free.