Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Pro 1.70 review

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Pro 1.70 has the same slick, high-powered malware cleanup ability as the free edition. However, the Pro-only realtime protection component just doesn't come close.
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Quite a few antivirus companies run on a “freemium” model, giving away free antivirus protection but encouraging users to buy their commercial product for improved protection. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Pro 1.70 ($24.95 direct; $59.85 for three licenses) does include the powerful malware cleanup technology found in the company’s free tool. It adds real-time protection, malicious website blocking, and scheduling of scans and updates, but the added components really aren’t worth the price. On the plus side, if you do buy the Pro edition you don’t need to pay again, ever.

Malwarebytes Pro looks virtually identical to the free edition. It still focuses strongly on malware cleanup, opening directly to the scanning page rather than to a home page of status and statistics. But in the Pro edition the controls on the Protection tab are live, and the buttons to buy or activate the commercial product aren’t present.

Top-Notch Malware Cleanup
Malwarebytes is widely known as the go-to product when entrenched malware prevents installation of your commercial antivirus. Tech support agents from other companies may resort to running Malwarebytes when customers can’t get their software installed.

I frequently find that just getting a product installed on my twelve malware-infested test systems takes days of back-and-forth with tech support. Malwarebytes installed without a hitch; I finished all twelve installations in less than an hour.

In my malware cleanup tests, Malwarebytes beat all of the competition, free and paid, by a wide margin. Comodo Internet Security Complete 2013, Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus 2013, and Norton AntiVirus (2013) all scored 6.6 points for malware removal, while Malwarebytes scored 7.1.

Looking specifically at free products, AVG Anti-Virus FREE 2013 came quite close to the previous top trio, with 6.5 points for malware removal.

The last time I tested Malwarebytes, it wasn’t very effective against rootkits. This time around, it detected every single sample that uses rootkit technology to hide and scored 8.2 points for rootkit cleanup. Comodo holds the current best score for rootkit cleanup, with 9.8 points, and Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2013) managed 9.4 points, but Malwarebytes’s score is still quite good.

For an explanation of my testing and scoring techniques, see How We Test Malware Removal.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Pro 1.70 malware removal chart

Zero Lab Results
Most antivirus vendors submit their products for testing to various independent labs. A great score in these tests can be a real boost. However, in most cases vendors must pay to participate, and it’s tough to justify that when the product is free. AVG is one exception; they submit their free product for testing specifically to show that it contains their top-tier protection. Malwarebytes relies instead on word of mouth and reputation; none of the labs I follow test Malwarebytes.

The chart below summarizes how the labs have treated other recent products. For more about the labs and their tests, see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Pro 1.70 lab tests chart

Disappointing Realtime Protection
When I opened a folder full of malware samples, the realtime protection feature did kick in to eliminate many of them. Malwarebytes uses balloon tooltips to notify the user that it blocked a threat. Using a built-in Windows feature like that has some disadvantages, though. When multiple notifications appear in a short time, some programs just let them stack up. Others, for example, SecureIT (2013), roll multiple notifications into one. With Malwarebytes, each new notification wipes out any previous ones.

Malwarebytes wiped out two thirds of the samples as soon as I clicked on them. When I launched those that remained, it missed quite a few. A couple that it did detect managed to place executable files on the system. Its detection rate of 81 percent is second lowest among products tested with this malware collection, and its overall score of 7.8 points is third lowest. By contrast, Webroot detected all samples and scored a near-perfect 9.9 of 10 possible points. SecureIT came close with 9.6. AVG earned the best malware blocking score of current free antivirus products. It detected 95 percent of the samples and scored 9.3 points overall.

Two thirds of current antivirus products, AVG included, detected 100 percent of the samples that use rootkit technology, and most of those scored a perfect 10 points for rootkit blocking. Malwarebytes detected 80 percent and scored 7.8 points. See the article How We Test Malware Blocking for a detailed explanation of my malware blocking test.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Pro 1.70 malware blocking chart

Arcane Bad URL Protection
When I tried to download my current malware collection again, Malwarebytes didn’t appear to do anything at all. However, I noticed that way more URLs than usual came up as “not found.” When I checked the logs, I found quite a few IP addresses listed as having been blocked, without any indication of the domain associated with those addresses.

It turns out that by default, Malwarebytes doesn’t notify you when it blocks a malicious URL. You have to go into settings and enable notifications. When I repeated my test with notifications on, I determined that it blocked 62 percent of the still-valid URLs. Using a combination of URL-blocking and detection of malware during download, Comodo and VIPRE Internet Security 2013 managed 100 percent detection.

I’m not pleased with an implementation that by default just causes the browser to throw an error message. The average user may be confused by this, and the IP-only log won’t help. In any case, other products manage blocking of malicious downloads better.

Stick with Free
The realtime protection found in Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Pro 1.70 just doesn’t come near the top-notch cleanup technology it shares with the free edition. Its 3-star score is an average between excellent malware cleanup and poor malware blocking.

You won’t go wrong running Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 1.70 before installing any other antivirus on a system that may be infected. AVG Anti-Virus FREE 2013 is our Editors’ Choice for free antivirus; once you’ve accomplished an initial cleanup with Malwarebytes I’d advise installing AVG for ongoing protection.

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OS Compatibility Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7
Type Business, Personal, Professional

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Pro 1.70 has the same slick, high-powered malware cleanup ability as the free edition. However, the Pro-only realtime protection component just doesn't come close.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc