ad-aware-free-packagingLavasoft’s Ad-Aware is one of the most popular programs for ridding computers of adware, spyware and more. Ad-Aware comes in free and paid versions, but the free version of the program is often all the coverage a person really needs. Ad-Aware allows users to take advantage of real-time protection, frequent updates and a wide range of tools to help protect a PC from the threats of using the Internet.

The more advanced versions offer anti-virus and other protection from more advanced threats to your computer. This guide will go over how to use Ad-Aware Free, how often you should use the program and how to perform scans with it.


How to use Ad-Aware

Once you have downloaded and installed Ad-Aware Free from Lavasoft’s website, you want to go ahead and open it.

The main screen gives you the opportunity to update Ad-Aware, start a scan and turn on Ad-Watch Live. We will take a look at each of these in more depth.


If you open Ad-Aware Free and you see Web Update says “OK,” this means that it has the latest definitions for the program. You always want to make sure Ad-Aware is updated because this offers you the latest protection from threats over the Internet.

If you click on “Web Update,” it will begin to check the Lavasoft server for updates. These updates can include definitions, upgrades to the software and other fixes.


If there are no updates available, the pop-up will let you know.

Now, click “Scan” on the top right of the Ad-Aware main screen.

Ad-Aware Free offers two types of scans: Smart and Full. Smart Scan only scans the most critical areas of your operating system. Full Scan scans your entire hard drive for hidden threats. Smart Scan only takes a few minutes whereas a full scan takes anywhere from half an hour to four hours depending on how big your system is.


Click on “Smart Scan.”


When Ad-Aware Free starts scanning your system, it will show you what it is scanning, what section it is scanning in as well as how long the scan has been going on. You will also be given the amount of objects scanned and what objects have been found amongst what was scanned. You can stop a scan at any time by clicking “Stop Scan.”

Ad-Aware does take up system resources when it scans. It is best to run Ad-Aware when you are not on your computer as you may find your computer’s reaction time slowing down as it scans to find objects.

When the scan is finished, you will be given a summary of anything found, what they are and the recommended action for them. You can opt to say a copy of the log for the scan in case you ever need to refer to it. Simply click “Export scan log.”

Then, title and save the log by clicking “Save.”


It will then open up in a Notepad document for you to see.


By clicking “Done,” Ad-Aware will take care of what is has found based on those recommendations.

You will then be redirected to the main menu.

You would follow the same steps as above for a Full Scan in Ad-Aware Free. Just keep in mind when doing a full scan that it may be hours before it finishes depending on how large your operating system is.

Now, click “Ad-Watch” in the top right menu of Ad-Aware.


In the free version of Ad-Aware, you are only given access to real-time protection when it comes to processes. In the plus and paid versions, you gain access to a file, registry, and network protection.

Processes protection will look for spyware, adware and more that try to redirect, change and hide behind processes your computer runs. File protection will block and close anything you open that is not what it appears to be. Registry protection will ensure malicious software will not access and change your registry files. Network protection will keep you from visiting blocked sites, IP addresses and other harmful websites.

If you click “Show Details,” a box will appear under each protection shield. If any threats are detected, you will see them listed there.


Click “Extras” in the top-right menu.


Ad-Aware Free offers a built-in browser cleaner called TrackSweep. It will clear your cache, browsing history and more to keep your sessions secure.

Click “Sweep Now” to use TrackSweep.

A few seconds later, a pop-up will appear letting you know your data was successfully eliminated by Ad-Aware.


If you need more help with Ad-Aware Free, you can click on the “Help” link at the bottom of the program. You can also view more information about Ad-Aware Free by clicking the “About” link.

At the bottom left corner of Ad-Aware, you will see a link to Advanced Mode. For users who are just getting started with the program, you want to use Simple Mode which is what this guide is based on. Once you get a feel for Ad-Aware, you can check out the more advanced features the Advanced Mode offers.

The primary differences between the two are that Advanced Mode of Ad-Aware Free gives you some more options and details about how the software works and how you can use it.

The main screen, for example, looks like this in Advanced Mode:


You will have access to Ad-Aware settings by clicking “Settings” on the main screen.


For the most part, the protection you want will require you to leave the settings as is. This is why it is important to learn how to use Ad-Aware before you move on to Advanced Mode. The Settings, particularly the Ad-Watch Live! section can turn off important features you may want to protect your system.

On the main screen in Advanced Mode, you can also view statistics by clicking the “Statistics” tab. This will give you details on your previous scan, allow you to add items to your ignore list so that you do not have to worry about them popping up on your scans in the future and even reset your statistics.


Under the Scan options in Advanced Mode, you are given access to a Scheduler where you can schedule real-time scans in Ad-Aware. This can be useful for users who want to run scans overnight while they sleep so they are not interrupted during the day while on their computers.


You can also access the Quarantine and Ignore List. If objects are moved to Quarantine, this means Ad-Aware requires your action to remove them. The Ignore List allows you to add items that will be ignored in future scans.

The Ad-Watch Live section in Advanced Mode will provide you with more details on each mode of protection. However, since this is the free version of Ad-Aware, this section actually offers nothing new in Advanced Mode to users except to offer them the chance to upgrade to a paid version of the program.


The Extras section in Advanced Mode will give you the chance to customize how TrackSweep eliminates your data. It will list a handful of browsers and what TrackSweep can delete from it. You can then check or uncheck what you want it to get rid of when you use this function. Unfortunately, the Toolbox features of the Extras section are only available in the Ad-Aware Pro version.


For most computer users, you should use Ad-Aware Free to scan your system for threats at least once a week. Before you scan, you want to make sure you have the latest updates. If you suspect your computer might have an active infection, use Ad-Aware Free to check on your system’s health.


Does Ad-Aware offer adequate protection?

Ad-Aware, no matter which version you use, is considered one of the best programs to use to keep your computer safe from adware, spyware and other malicious threats. Even if you do not want to invest in the Plus or Pro versions of Ad-Aware, you are still getting the absolute best out of Ad-Aware Free. If you have not used Ad-Aware Free to see how it protects your system, you are missing out on this amazing way to keep your system safe from harm.

Download Ad-Aware Free.