Back in the old days - before the term spyware became commonplace - non-virus threats were generally called adware. Ad-Aware was among the first on the scene to provide a solution to the woes of these new threats and their more insidious cousins who would follow.

It's not uncommon to find many PCs still outfitted with the original version, though it's arguably grown a little long in the tooth. An update was long overdue and has been addressed by Lavasoft's Ad-Aware 2007, complete with newly redesigned engine and slick (yet familiar) interface upgrade.

Ad-Aware 2007 is available in three versions: Free, Plus and Pro. The Free version offers complete scan and removal capabilities, the Plus version adds real-time protection, while the Pro version includes advanced capabilities such as command-line and network drive scanning - all valuable tools for IT pros.

We decided to look at the Free version as it's what made the original version of Ad-Aware so popular among users in the first place.

The installation process on our infected system went flawlessly, and the program updates itself automatically during the process to ensure a strong start.

The new interface is a winner, although there are still some quirks that Lavasoft would do well to get sorted, such as dialogs that have the Cancel button where you would usually expect to find OK. It tripped us up on numerous occasions, but it's more of an annoyance than a serious issue.

Scan awareness

Ad-Aware 2007 Free defaults to a Smart (quick) scan by default, so we made the switch to a default full scan for our tests. Even the full scan is amazingly fast, easily outpacing all competitors by a wide margin and finishing the process in just a little over four minutes.

On the detection and removal front, Ad-Aware 2007 did an above-average job, finding and then offering to quarantine most of the threats, assigning each a TAI (Lavasoft's threat analysis index) threat level rating.

It managed to detect and remove virtually every threat that was present, including keyloggers and a DNS Trojan. However, it had a tougher time with the browser hijack that was left intact and partial remnants of threats that were hanging around in the Registry. Compared to most, however, it did a decent job.

The 2007 Free version offers a number of additional improvements including incremental definition updates for faster downloads, browse hijack prevention, a one-click Internet tracks sweeper for all browsers and the ability to create system restore points to move back in time.

Unfortunately, Windows Vista users will have to wait a little while longer before they'll be able to take any version of Ad-Aware 2007 for a test drive. A release updated for Vista support is expect soon, but it's not ready just yet.

While we didn't expect Ad-Aware 2007 Free to be perfect so soon after a major upgrade, we will say this: the Lavasoft team has taken a major step in the right direction.