Announcing Malwarebytes Premium
I have always recommended the free version of MalwareBytes Anti-Malware for basic protection and eradication of malware infections. Of course, there’s a paid version too, called MalwareBytes Premium. How is it different from the free version, and is it worth the $24.95 annual subscription fee? Let's find out…
Review: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware: Free and Premium
If you've followed me for any length of time, you've probably heard me recommend the free MalwareBytes Anti-Malware (MBAM) program, which works alongside traditional anti-virus programs to provide additional on-demand protection, and can often root out stubborn malware infections that other security tools failed to find or remove.
A paid version called MalwareBytes Anti-Malware Pro added some additional features, along with real-time malware scanning. The company has recently released a completely new version (the first major update in six years) called MalwareBytes Anti-Malware Premium, which replaces the Pro version. Here's what's new, and how the free and paid versions compare.
Both versions of MBAM scan every corner of your system to find malware where it hides. They examine RAM, the Windows registry, the startup folder, and the entire file system. They even root out rootkits, which hide themselves by modifying software that’s designed to look for them in a sort of Jedi mind trick. Both versions are excellent at disabling and erasing malware that they detect. But the Premium version goes several important steps beyond the freebie.
It’s better to prevent malware infections than to hunt them down. The free version of MBAM is reactive; it only runs a malware scan when you tell it to, and only after infection has occurred. The Premium version aims to prevent infections from ever occurring, and it can work without your specific direction.
"Just Set it, And Forget it!"
The Premium version includes active shields that continually monitor not only what’s going on in your system but also what is trying to get into it and where on the Web you are trying to go. It blocks downloads of suspected malware and warns you when you are trying to access a rogue Web site. Both versions fix trouble, but the Premium version keeps you out of trouble as well.
You don’t have to remember to run scans for malware, update the malware signature and rogue Web sites databases, or check for MBAM updates with the Premium version. All of these tedious routine tasks can be scheduled to happen automatically at times when you don’t need the computer’s full power.
A “Hyper Scan” mode in the Premium version does a fast scan for active malware; the free version does only full scans that drain system resources longer.
Premium features such as real-time protection, malicious website detection, and heuristic (behavior-driven) anticipation of malware activities will consume additional computer resources. The difference will most likely not be noticeable, but they can be selectively disabled and enabled by the user when you need all the PC horsepower you can get.
A Few Notes About MBAM Premium
During my review and testing of the Premium version, I discovered a few things that were noteworthy. First, the company's press release says "Premium will support XP users for life, who currently make up 20% of Malwarebytes’ user-base and could be at greater risk when updates stop on April 8." I think some people will assume this means that as long as they have MBAM Premium, they can continue using XP safely after Microsoft drops support. If you read my article Windows XP: Game Over you'll see that I disagree.
Let's move to the MBAM Settings panel. On the Detection and Protection tab, there's a checkbox to "Scan for rootkits" which is unchecked (disabled) by default. I recommend that you check this box, because why would you NOT want to scan for rootkits?
In the section labelled Non-Malware Protection, you have the option to treat Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) as malware, flag them with a warning, or ignore them. PUPs are typically bundled with software downloads but technically, they're not malware. They can be annoying or marginally useful (toolbars, adware) and may have sketchy privacy policies, but they're not dangerous. MBAM's default is to treat them as malware, but I suggest just a warning here.
The Web Exclusions tab lets you add IP addresses for websites that you do NOT want to block. You'd only use this when MBAM mistakenly blocks a site that you know is safe. And unfortunately, it only accepts IP addresses, not website URLs. You can use MX Toolbox to find the IP address of a website if you need to use this feature.
The Premium version has technology called Chameleon to defend itself against attacks by malware that tries to disable MBAM. (The free version lacks this self-defense feature. ) Ironically, the Chameleon feature is hard to find. It is available on MBAM's Advanced Settings panel, but is not turned on by default. The checkbox labelled "Enable self-protection module" turns on the Chameleon feature, which tells MBAM to do some magic during startup "to prevent malicious manipulation of the program and its components."
The MBAM help file says that "Checking this box introduces a delay as the self-protection module is enabled." That may be an understatement. I tried turning on this feature on an XP system, and after restarting, the desktop never appeared. I waited at least five minutes, and my desktop icons, the Start button and the task bar had still not appeared.
I was able to bring up the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl-Shift-Esc, and it showed all the usual tasks running in the background. I clicked Fille->Run, then located and started mbam.exe (the MBAM control panel). As soon as I unchecked the Enable self-protection module option, my desktop appeared. It's possible that Chameleon was having a polite argument with my Avast anti-virus, or maybe I needed to pour lemon juice on my desktop and hold up a match to reveal the hidden elements, but I didn't bother to research this problem any further. As they say, your mileage may vary.
Finally, I encountered a minor glitch during the installation of MBAM Premium. A message informed me that "MBAM 1.x is currently installed and could not be uninstalled properly. Please uninstall manually, reboot and try again." I did have MBAM Free installed, so I went to Add/Remove Programs on the Windows Control Panel, and tried to manually delete it. Windows then said "An error occurred when trying to remove MBAM. It may have already been uninstalled. Remove from list? (YES/NO)". I clicked YES, then retried the MBAM Premium install (without rebooting) and it worked fine.
What Does MBAM Premium Cost?
After a 14-day free trial, the Premium version will cost $24.95 a year if you decide to keep its advanced features active. (People who already use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Pro get a free upgrade to the new version.) That license covers up to 3 different devices, so you can use it on multiple computers for as little as about $8 per year per machine. That’s not too much money for some of the best anti-malware protection available and the convenience of automatic scans and updates.
It's too bad I don't get paid for being such an enthusiastic supporter of the MBAM products. I know they have an affiliate program, but I've resisted the urge to take any kind of commissions, because I want you to trust that my software recommendations are not motivated by personal gain. I do heartily recommend both MBAM Free and MBAM Premium, as an extra layer of protection against malware.
Have you tried MBAM? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 28 Mar 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Announcing Malwarebytes Premium (Posted: 28 Mar 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved