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Using Ad-Aware - Free Computer Tutorials

Posted by Jim Bernstein


Lavasoft offers a popular anti spyware tool called Ad-Aware. Ad-Aware is an effective program for scanning your computer for spyware, adware and malware and removing it at the same time. And best of all its free! They do offer other versions such as the Professional version that will cost you a few bucks but these higher end versions have more advanced features that the free version doesn't have.

One of the features of the Professional version is called Ad-Watch which is a monitor that runs in the background and watches for malicious programs and intercepts them before they can affect your system. Other features include Process Watch which lets you easily view and manage running processes on your PC and Hosts File Editor which allows you to create navigation shortcuts, reverse browser hijack entries, block advertisement sites, assist with parental controls, and make other exceptions to normal Internet navigation.

The free version offers a tool called TrackSweep. TrackSweep is a privacy tool that allows you to remove all traces of your Internet browsing from your system. By checking the buttons next to the items of your choice, and clicking Clean, the tracks left behind when you surf the Internet can be cleaned from Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera web browsers.


The Settings is screen where you can customize Ad-Aware to fit your needs.

The Browser tab is where you can tell Ad-Aware what your home page and search page are so they can be restored after spyware is removed from your system.

The Scanning tab is where you set your options for running scans such as what objects and processes you want scanned.

The Auto Scan tab allows you to have Ad-Aware run processes automatically such as scanning when Windows starts or updating definitions automatically when you start Ad-Aware.

The UI (User Interface) tab lets you change how the program runs and looks. Here you can set options for sounds, animations and skins.

The Log Files tab is where you turn logging on or off and tell Ad-Aware what type of information you want recorded in your logs and where to save them.

Running a scan

Before running the scan you should click on the Web Update section to make sure the program and definition files are up to date. New threats are constantly being discovered so performing the updates is important. If you click on the Status section it will tell you the status of program, updates and last scan.

Ad-Aware offers 3 different scanning modes to check your system with.

Smart Scan
The Smart Scan is a fast system check that scans only the most critical sections of your system. The Smart Scan will scan your memory, registry, cookies, favorites, and Hosts file. The directories scanned are Windows, Temp and Program Files. The Smart Scan does not scan archived content.

Full Scan
The Full Scan is an in-depth scan mode that thoroughly scans your entire system including all local drives. The Full Scan takes longer to scan your system than the Smart Scan, but is more likely to find infections that have been installed on drives other than your main hard disk or in your archives.

Custom Scan
The Custom Scan scans your system using your pre-configured settings. You can customize Ad-Aware to scan specific sections or directories.

After you select a scan mode and click Scan, Ad-Aware will begin to scan your system, and the Performing Scan screen will appear.

When the scan is completed you will see the Scan Results screen showing you what Ad-Aware has found. In the Scan Results screen, detected objects are separated into critical objects and privacy objects. The total number of critical objects and privacy objects detected during the scan are listed at the top of each tab

Critical objects are detected objects that may pose a threat and should be considered for removal.

Privacy objects consist of tracking cookies and MRU (Most Recently Used) lists. These objects are not considered to be a critical threat to your security, but they may be removed if you desire.


After reviewing the items found you can select which items you want to have removed. You can also choose to have certain items ignored in future scans or have the item quarantined which isolates and backs up the object in quarantine, where it does not pose a threat to your system.

You should run Ad-Aware and any other anti spyware software you have on a regular basis to make sure your system stays clean and spyware free. Just make sure to update all of your programs before running them to ensure you are up to date on your definitions.

You can download Ad-Aware for free here.

Related Computer Tips:
Removing and Preventing Spyware Infections
McAfee's SiteAdvisor Web Alert Software
SpyBot Advanced Options and Tools
Free Online Spyware Scan

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