Monday, January 14, 2008

Say Good-Bye to Ad-Aware

Greetings and salutations to all my friends out in cyberspace. Today, I'd like to say a fond farewell to a friend, not exactly an old friend, but a friend I've known and trusted for the past seven or so years. Ad-Aware, the free anti-spyware client from Lavasoft, is no more. They've decided to stop updating the old version, Ad-Aware Personal SE. It will still run if you open it, but will be hopelessly out-of-date within a few weeks.

To replace Ad-Aware Personal SE, Lavasoft has cobbled together a lumbering monstrosity that (I swear) looks like it could have been written by Microsoft! It's huge, nearly twice the size of the previous version. It only runs on Windows 2000 or XP (and it can be made to run under Windows Vista, but what a hassle! ...besides, Windows Defender is already doing most of the same stuff, however poorly). And it runs so terribly slowly that I can't imagine running it at any time other than bedtime.

Here's a very rough comparison: I downloaded and installed the latest versions of Lavasoft Ad-Aware 2007 and Spybot Search & Destroy. Both install in about the same time. Spybot has several separate updates to download, so it takes nearly twice as long to update as Ad-Aware with its one large definition file. Ad-Aware opens in just a few seconds after being called, compared to times between 1 and 2 minutes to get a splash screen from Spybot (I thought for a while that Spybot was broken, but am now convinced it just always opens slowly, on any computer, regardless of age or speed). But then comes the real bottleneck: Spybot says it will scan in around 17 minutes, and actually takes 19 to 21 minutes to scan the entire hard disk, including the registry and all running processes; Ad-Aware doesn't say how long it will take, and I've never managed to wait to see if it would actually finish --- I tend to shut down any program that's still running an hour after I start the scan, and that's the level of performance I've seen from Ad-Aware. Dreadful, if I must say. And I must.

I've been advising all my clients for the past six or seven years to run Ad-Aware, then run Spybot; each would pick up something the other missed. That's no longer the case. I tried switching the order in which the programs were run; Spybot continued to find 1-3 problems that had been missed by Ad-Aware, but I don't remember the last time Ad-Aware caught something Spybot had missed. And with the new shortcomings imposed by the 'upgrade' to AAW 2007, I don't see any reason to continue running both programs.

Please don't get me wrong, here: Ad-Aware 2007 is a much better program than I could have written. I don't code, period. That having been said, I think the authors, or the folks signing their paychecks, made some bad decisions when they were designing the new version --- I'd have stuck with the old version, making minor tweaks as needed, but keeping most of the speed. As stated much earlier in this rant, this software looks like it was coded at Redmond: "Now that most computers have all this extra RAM, let's use every last bit of it, and need even more for minimum performance."

My free Utilities CD no longer contains any version of Ad-Aware. I don't recommend it; in fact, I recommend that anyone already using it should uninstall it, replacing it with Spybot Search & Destroy and WinPatrol.

I'd like to get this posted, so explicit instructions on installing and using Spybot S & D and Winpatrol will have to wait for a (near-) future blog entry. The default settings will do most of what you need, I just like to 'tweak', then share my tweaks.

Please check out my website at, and the list of free programs I recommend at And please write me at; I answer all computer-related questions for free, via email.