Reviews say Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free Anti-Malware (formerly known as Anniversary Edition) does a good job of removing adware/spyware that's already on your computer, but not of preventing it in the first place. Additionally, you have to manually run a scan to find threats -- the free Ad-Aware doesn't scan automatically. If you want to go the free-downloads route for spyware protection, experts say you're going to need a bunch of them because none of the freebies do everything well. Most experts say all the freeware should supplement paid protection, rather than serve as a primary defense. At minimum, you should supplement this freeware with a free spyware blocker such as Microsoft Windows Defender 1.1, which is included in the Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems and is available as a free download to validated Windows XP owners.
Most professional reviews focus on the paid Lavasoft Ad-Aware versions, Ad-Aware Plus (*Est. $30) and Ad-Aware Pro (*Est. $30), which add tools such as anti-virus protection, real-time network protection. The best coverage of Ad-Aware Free is at Download.com, where there's an editors' rating as well as tons of input from users. PC World's German edition also provides coverage of the free version. PCMag.com and About.com touch upon the free version, but pay more attention to the paid Ad-Aware Pro Anniversary Edition.
Download.com's Seth Rosenblatt gives the free version of Lavasoft Ad-Aware 4.5 stars out of a possible 5, and the average rating of more than 170 user reviews and 10,000 ratings is 3.5 stars. Rosenblatt likes the reasonably quick and accurate scans and the real-time defender, but not the lack of real-time registry protection, and the disabled scheduler.
Review: Ad-Aware Free Anti-Malware 8.2, Seth Rosenblatt
2. PC World
This short review, translated from PC World's German edition, covers both free and pay versions of Ad-Aware Anniversary Edition. Benjamin Schischka says it has potential as "an occasionally used program to support [a] more full-featured antivirus software and a firewall."
Review: PC Welt Looks at New Ad-Aware Anniversary Edition, Benjamin Schischka, Jan. 27, 2009
About.com network security guide Tony Bradley says Ad-Aware Free Anniversary Edition provides "adequate protection against a variety of threats." He recommends upgrading to the Pro version for better protection and advanced features like scheduling and network drive scanning. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Ad-Aware Pro AE (Anniversary Edition), Tony Bradley
Neil Rubenking doesn't go into detail about the free version of Ad-Aware, but he does test Ad-Aware Pro. Of Ad-Aware Free, he says only that it "continues to offer no-cost spyware scanning and removal with only basic real-time protection."
Review: Ad-Aware Pro -- Anniversary Edition, Neil J. Rubenking, Jan. 23, 2009