Ad-Aware Free Internet Security, one of the most popular spyware killers on the planet, just got better: It's not just an anti-spyware killer any more. The newest version adds anti-virus capabilities to its already very good job of detecting and killing spyware while keeping a low profile.
Version 8.3 protects against rootkits, stealth attacks designed to escape detection and burrow their way into the operating system--as did the previous version. Ad-Aware Free Internet Security also 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 do 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.
New to this version is Genotype heuristics detection system, which Lavasoft claims is superior to its previous heuristics. PCWorld has not yet lab-tested this software and cannot offer an opinion on the antivirus feature's efficacy.
As in version 8.2, Ad-Aware Free promises to protect you against malware that tries to restore itself after a system reboot. Also useful 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. Ad-Aware Free Internet Security is as simple to use as previous versions. Tell it to scan your system, and it finds spyware and other malware, and then deletes it or quarantines it for you. New in this version is the ability to schedule scans.
There is one drawback to Ad-Aware Free Internet Security. It doesn't provide real-time comprehensive protection, which means that to keep yourself safe, you'll have to regularly scan your system. (It provides basic real-time protection, but that doesn't include Registry protection, or real-time behavior-based heuristic scanning.) For full real-time protection you can get the $30 Ad-Aware Internet Security Pro or the new $50 Ad-Aware Total Security.