Adaware was one of the first commercial anti-spyware packages, released by Lavasoft in 1999. Over the years Lavasoft has extended its abilities and added technologies from third-parties, including Bitdefender’s antivirus engine and Avira’s malicious URL database. The program remains a popular antivirus choice, and in 2016 Lavasoft changed its name to Adaware to reflect the success of the brand.
The current range starts with Adaware Antivirus Free, a very basic product which covers the bare essentials only: static malware detection, real-time blocking of malicious processes and infected files, and the scanning of any downloads to check for threats.
In this review we’re looking at Adaware Antivirus Pro, a far more capable commercial edition. It extends Adaware Free with malicious URL blocking, online banking and shopping protection, a firewall, antispam and more, as well as 24/7 technical support if you run into problems.
Single user prices are average at £27 ($35) for a one-year, one-user licence. The value improves as you add users and extend the term, though – covering three PCs for two years costs only £63 ($79) – and the package seems fair value for the features you get.
Adaware doesn’t rip you off with unexpected increases on renewal, either – quite the opposite. Licences renew at a 25% discount off the regular price, plus tax, making them notably cheaper than most of the competition.
Adaware hasn’t been keen on offering trial builds in the past, but fortunately the company has changed its ways since our last review. We were able to download and install a 15-day trial version of the package within a couple of minutes.
If you like Antivirus Pro, sign up, but change your mind later, you’re also protected by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Browsing the Adaware files and folders told us more about Adaware’s third-party components. In particular, there’s a big chunk of the Bitdefender engine here, not just the minimal setup we’ve often seen elsewhere. Adaware’s spam filter uses Bitdefender code, too.
The package only added two background processes to our system, but the main service grabbed a little more RAM than we expected at 350MB.
Adaware’s files seem well protected against malware attack. We made several attempts to disable or damage the program’s protection, but all our attacks bounced off Adaware’s armor plating and it carried on regardless.
We did notice one significant post-setup issue, when our Dashlane Chrome extension (the popular password manager) stopped working, its address bar icon remaining permanently greyed out. Removing Adaware made it usable again, so we know it was the source of our problems, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a general issue that applies to all systems (the lack of complaints on this front suggests it’s something more local to us).
If you’re a Dashlane user, don’t let this put you off, but remember to confirm that Dashlane still works (go to a website and allow it to automatically log you in) once Adaware is installed and you’ve rebooted.
Adaware Antivirus Pro opens with a summary of your protection status, a Full Scan button to launch an initial system check, and a left-hand toolbar of nine tiny icons.
While this looks intimidating, at least initially, most users will rarely go beyond the Scan Computer screen. Here you can run Quick, Full or Custom Scans, set up scheduled scans, view logs, and manage exclusions and quarantined files. All this works in a basic way, and you don’t have the power or configurability you’d get from Avast, Avira or the more geek-oriented competition.
Scan times were average on our test PC, and didn’t have any obvious impact on system performance. If you’re not as lucky, a Performance Settings option can be tweaked to reduce Adaware’s resource requirements, although of course that also means scan times will take longer.
We didn’t carry out a detailed review of Adaware’s spam filter, but it performed well on the very small sample of junk mail received during the review. The commercial SPAMfighter correctly highlighted 20 junk mails, missed two, and falsely flagged one legitimate message. Adaware Antivirus Pro detected 18 and missed three, so it was almost as effective. It did mess up by consistently flagging Facebook ‘friend suggestion’ emails as junk, but adding the Facebook Notification sender address to a Safe List quickly fixed the problem.
The spam filter works at the network level, automatically adding a ‘SPAM’ tag to the header of junk emails. That avoids the need to install any kind of email add-in, but also means you don’t get any of the usual integration features. The filter can’t move spam to a specific folder, for instance – you’ll have to sort that out yourself by (for instance) setting up a custom rule in your email client.
Comprehensive browsing protection includes separate modules blocking access to malware URLs, phishing sites or dangerous downloads. You’re able to decide whether you scan archives, packed executables, or run deep scans within CHM or other files which might contain embedded objects. The results were better than average, with Adaware detecting most of our test links.
A Network Protection module can block port scans, and hide the presence of individual network adapters from others on the network. You can set up simple rules to define what individual applications are able to do online, or choose to block internet access by default, ensuring that nothing can connect to the outside world unless you’ve authorized it first. This might be useful for experts, but the average user will prefer a smart firewall which monitors and controls internet access by itself.
Although there are plenty of settings scattered around, they’re more about covering the basics than delivering any real surprises. There are some convenient touches, though. Adaware settings can be protected with a PIN code, for instance, reducing the chance of unwanted tinkering. And if the program starts misbehaving anyway, you’re able to restore all settings to the factory defaults with a click.
Adaware Antivirus Pro had no difficulty spotting our small number of malware samples, but to get a full picture of antivirus effectiveness we normally check out its results with the major independent testing labs.
Unfortunately, that’s not quite as easy here. Adware was scoring poorly in AV-Comparatives’ Real-World Protection Tests during our 2017 review, but it hasn’t been included in those tests for some time. VirusBulletin hasn’t checked Adaware since it looked at the free version in February 2018 (it blocked all test threats), and it’s not currently being checked by AV-Test or SE Labs.
None of this stops the website boasting of Adaware’s ‘unrivaled protection’, claiming: “Each year, Adaware antivirus is submitted to independent labs for testing and has consistently scored in the 99th percentile for protection against all forms of malware.” Sounds great, but we’re not sure where this testing is happening, and the ‘View all awards’ link under this paragraph simply points back to the same page.
With no help from the labs, we decided to run a further test of our own, pitting Adaware Antivirus Pro against our own custom ransomware simulator. As we had developed this, it wouldn’t be included in Adaware’s signature database, so the only way to spot it would be through behavior monitoring. Was the package up to the challenge?
Well, uh, no. We launched the simulator and watched as it spidered through a folder tree, encrypting thousands of test documents, without Adaware Antivirus Pro apparently noticing at all.
That’s bad news, and other packages have done much better. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2019 didn’t just detect and stop our simulator, for instance – it successfully recovered the handful of files it had managed to encrypt.
Still, our simulator wasn’t real malware, and so Adaware’s inability to stop it doesn’t mean it won’t protect against real world threats. But it would help us – and you – to have more trust in the program’s abilities if we could see it regularly assessed by the main testing labs.
Adaware Antivirus Pro has so many bonus features it looks like a security suite, but these aren’t always as powerful as you’d expect, and a lack of coverage by the independent antivirus testing labs make it difficult to recommend.