Scan your PC for threats with free software

We show you how to detect viruses, spyware and other dangers using Ad-Aware

Scan your PC for threats with free software

All manner of potential threats lurk on the web, and while an up-to-date browser plays a big part in keeping a PC secure it isn’t the only tool needed for safe surfing. Malicious software is a perennial problem for any internet user, so it is important to check regularly for signs of infestation. The solution is effective security software but few check for everything. Lavasoft, however, has expanded the latest version of its Ad-Aware anti-spyware tool to check for all kinds of threats. This makes it a great all-round tool for Windows users who don’t want to manage multiple security programs. It’s quick to download and install, easy to use and free. Read on to find out how to get started.

1.- Launch a web browser, click once in the Address or Location bar at the top, replace what's there by typing and press Enter. When the website appears, dick the Download button. If the File Download Security Warning dialogue box appears, click Save and then choose a location for the downloaded file, such as the Windows Desktop. Firefox users should select Save File to save the download to Firefox’s default download folder. Now locate and double-click the .exe file you have just downloaded and follow the prompts to install the program. We advise removing the tick from the ‘Install Google Chrome web browser' box. Windows needs to be restarted at the end but Ad-Aware will launch automatically when the PC restarts, displaying an initial Manage License window. This is for the paid-for version of the program, so click the Close button to continue, then click OK button on the Welcome window beneath it.

2.- The first step to using Ad-Aware is to thoroughly scan the PC for existing threats. Click the green Scan button at the top-right of the program window and then click the Full Scan button in the main program window. This initial scan may take some time. Once it is complete, a notification may be displayed about the detection of a high-level security threat. This indicates that dangerous software was found and you may be asked to restart Windows to complete its removal - click OK to dear this dialogue box for now, but be sure to restart Windows later. You may see a message about the Lavasoft Threat Work Alliance, which you can join by leaving the box ticked and dicking OK.

3.- Ad-Aware displays a summary after each scan, showing the malicious software it has detected. At the far right of each entry click 'more info’ to see additional information about that particular threat. Ad-Aware takes its own 'Recommended' action for each item and, in most cases, this means that it will be removed from its original location and safely 'quarantined' within the program. Suspicious, but not necessarily harmful, files that may count as spyware (some web cookies, for example) will be listed as Allowed Once - they will not be removed, but will be detected by subsequent scans.

4.- With the one-off full scan out of the way, use the Scan System button in Ad-Aware's main window for all future scans - they are considerably quicker. A better option, though, is to set up an automatic scan that runs to a fixed schedule. Start by clicking the button with four small squares at the bottom-left of the Ad-Aware window to switch from the current Simple mode to Advanced mode: the program window will change accordingly. Then click the Schedule a scan button to continue.

5.- Ad-Aware will show a Scheduler view. Click the + button at the bottom-left of the window to create a new scan schedule. Once a week is a sensible scan frequency, so type an appropriate name when prompted and click the OK button. There are then three options to choose from - the type of scan, the frequency and what to do with detected threats. We want a quick background scan, so choose Smart Scan and Weekly for the first two options, and Automatic for the third so that Ad-Aware will deal with detected items without further intervention. The schedule is saved automatically, so close the Ad-Aware window to finish.

6.- Besides Scanning For Malicious Software that has already been installed, Ad-Aware actively monitors the PC for that which you may inadvertently download. Try to run a virus-infected program and Ad-Aware will intercept it, display a suitable notification and take any necessary steps to resolve the situation. It is possible to manually scan any file for threats by right-clicking it and choosing Scan with Ad-Aware from the menu that appears.