The Ad-Aware series of products have long been known primarily for Ad-Aware Free, the free piece of anti-spyware software. But it also has the for-pay Ad-Aware Plus ($27 for a one-year, single-user license) as well, which includes anti-virus capabilities.
As with the Free version, Ad-Aware Plus also scans for spyware, in addition to viruses. The new version includes several types of heuristic detection, which protects you by examining complex system behavior, rather than just looking for known malware signatures. If the program's heuristics work as well as does the heuristics in other anti-malware software, it should provide better protection against emerging and unknown threats, as well as threats that are already known.
Ad-Aware Plus's virus protection certainly needs some improvement over its last version. PC World did not find the previous version, Ad-Aware Anniversary Edition Plus, especially effective in finding and killing malware. Security company AV-Test.org found in tests that Ad-Aware Plus Anniversary Edition able to find only 83.6 percent of 111,833 Trojans, spyware and other malware samples, not an impressive result. No such tests have been run on the newest version of the software, so there is no way to know whether the software has been improved.
In addition to the new features it shares with the Free version, Ad-Aware Plus promises to protect you against malware that tries to restore itself after a system reboot. And it now integrates with Internet Explorer to scan files as you download files from the Web, alerting you to any malicious files you may send to your system. PC World has not tested these features.
Also new to Ad-Aware Plus this version is a "Simple mode" that lets you set your configuration once, and never have to do it again. If you prefer, you can toggle to Advanced Mode, where you can select advanced features for customization.
The question for the Plus version of the software is whether it is worth paying $27 when there are so many competent free antivirus programs, including Microsoft Security Essentials, Avira AntiVir Personal, and Avast! Home Edition. It doesn't seem worthwhile to pay for antivirus protection when good antivirus programs can be had for free. Ad-Aware Free fans, though, will want to download the free version of the software for its spyware protection.