Adware Report: Adaware SE Review

Product: Adaware SE 1.06
Price: $39.95
Vendor: Lavasoft
Editor Rating: 2 1/2 stars

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+ Improved user interface over previous versions.


- Average protection against spyware
- Confusing user interface. Most of adawares useful functionality is hidden from the average user.
- Doesn't support scheduled scans - you have to wait to use your computer until the program is done scanning.
- Poor customer support
- High price compared to most products

Adaware Review

Adaware SE, the latest update to adaware's flagship product, is a good product that provides decent protection against many spyware programs, but lacks some important functionality such as the ability to schedule scans. The user interface is difficult to use and might appeal more to people comfortable with computers.

It can detect spyware programs running in memory, examine startup settings, block browser hijackings, remove tracking cookies, and fix registry changes made by intruding programs. It can also remove stubborn spyware by flagging it for deletion (before it loads) during the next bootup cycle.

Our October, 2005 test results indicated that adaware protects against many common spyware programs and offers above average effectiveness against spyware infestation.

Adawares real-time monitoring (immunization) is not as effective as other products and was difficult to locate and configure. It does block browser hijackings, protect important registry settings, and block suspicious processes, and it even has functionality to scan for spyware in memory (but this is very limited). During our tests, it did successfully detect in-process spyware, but it was often unable to stop them from running.


Lavasoft has made significant improvements in the user interface with the latest version (1.06) of adaware. Many of the cryptic and non-working buttons (such as "ProcWatch") are gone, although some remain (such as the "Add-ons" button). Nevertheless, the program retains the same "techie" feel that reflects its roots as one of the original anti-spyware programs.

Because it offers too many options, AdAware's interface might be confusing to some.


Scanning was extremely fast completing in about 6 minutes on our Windows 2000 test PC.

While Adaware claims to detect more spyware programs than other vendors, in our tests it failed to find a number of unwanted browser plug-ins (such as the "Websearch toolbar") that other products correctly detected. In our formal Spyware Effectiveness Test, adaware detected 68% of common spyware and disabled 50% of it. Although this was an improvement over our June results, it leaves a lot to be desired. This gap in effectiveness is the reason many spyware experts recommend that you run adaware in conjunction with another product.

Other applications responded very sluggishly while scanning was being performed. This would not be as much of a problem if scans could be scheduled, but the current version supports only on-demand and startup scans. If you are running a laptop or a slow desktop, this is probably not the product for you because you will have to manually start adaware (or have it auto-start when you boot up) and wait to use your computer until it finishes.

After two scans and a reboot, there were still plenty of toolbars left installed. Popups remained a problem as well.

Certain common applications (such as the free Real Player) will not function properly without their embedded spyware. If you run adaware (or any other spyware remover), you may find that these applications will no longer run. Fortunately, adaware quarantines all spyware so that you can restore it later if necessary.

Other Options

As stated above, adaware has made signficant improvements with the user interface. The options settings which were so hard to find in the previous version of adaware, have now been clearly relocated to their own icon at the top of the form. They've even replaced many of the confusing nested options screens with simple interfaces that are much easier to understand.

However, as with previous versions, the options offered are more suited to people who are very comfortable working with computers. For instance, because spyware scanning is time consuming, the most basic and important feature any spyware program could have is the ability to schedule scans when you are not around. Adaware lacks this basic and necessary functionality.

Instead, it offers a variety of infrequently used options. Do you want to place your log files in specific locations? Would you prefer to scan your registry, or deep scan it? How about your hosts file? None of these features offers any real value, and it feels like Lavasoft has missed the boat in terms of usability.

Adaware offers a lot of advanced options, but nothing really useful - not even a scheduler.


Lavasoft's adaware SE is a huge improvement over previous versions in terms of usability, but still lags behind the top products in terms of sheer effectiveness. It is a better product than most others on the market, but its lack of scheduling ability, average real-time monitoring, and complex user interface detract from its sheer power. It's an ok backup program, but for a better free product, try Microsoft AntiSpyware.

Purchase Price: $39.95
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