The Top 5 Anti-Spyware Programs

Numbers 5 and 4

Stopping spyware (“malware”) is more than a one-time inoculation, folks. This is about a weekly habit of cleaning "nasty dust bunnies" from your personal computer. In much the same way you clean your home with your favorite broom and your favorite cleaning solvents, you will also need good tools to clean spyware out of your PC.

Here is our suggestion list. After collating the opinions of several readers and the writing staff, we believe that these five anti-spyware tools (aka "spyware killers") will give you maximum value for your money.

Editor’s Comment: as good as these following tools are, they are also imperfect. In particular, these tools vary in their detection algorithms and their signature/definition vocabularies. Accordingly, we suggest you use two or three of these anti-spyware programs as a combination defense.

  • Number 5: Spybot Search & Destroy
    Cost: Free Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
    Editor’s comment: While Spybot is known for catching less than 95% of common infections, there are two big reasons why you want to use this product. Firstly: the SDHelper and TeaTimer functions do help significantly in keeping downloaded spyware from actually rooting itself onto your drive. Secondly: the price is perfect. If you install Spybot as part of a multi-program defense, then definitely try this product.
  • Number 4: Microsoft Windows Defender
    Cost: Free Rating: 4 stars out of 5
    Editor’s comment: Somewhat more thorough than Spybot, this new free offering from Microsoft is worth trying. Included in Windows Vista or downloadable from the link above, Microsoft Defender will work well as part of a combination defense, perhaps with Spybot.
    • Number 3: Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware SE, Personal Edition
      Cost: Free Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
      Editor’s comment: Lavasoft has been the benchmark spyware-defense tool for years. Their Ad-Aware product has won the trust of millions of users. Although it doesn’t have the nifty shredding and email opt-out lists of Spybot, Ad-Aware does perform real-time protection, and it auto updates its definition lists to remain current. Up until 2006, combining Spybot and Ad-Aware was the smartest (and the cheapest) way to defend your computer against spyware. Things are different now because Number 1 below has set the high bar even higher for 2007.
    • Number 2: Navarre Webroot Spy Sweeper
      Cost: Free to try, approximately $39 to buy Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
      Editor’s comment: Achieving 100% detection of spyware toolbars in recent Lifewire tests, Spy Sweeper was also effective in shutting down nearly 85% of active malware processes. This would go well as a three-way combination with Spybot and Lavasoft.
    • Number 1: Macafee Virus Scan and Anti-Spyware
      Cost: Approximately $39.99 for antivirus and anti-spyware combined Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
      Editor’s comment: In recent tests, Macafee managed to detect 100% of all spyware infection, and it also shut down nearly 99% of spyware processes running in memory. While you cannot purchase Macafee anti-spyware without also purchasing their antivirus, the bundle is absolutely worth it at $39.99. If you are willing to spend money on your spyware and virus defense, then Macafee and Web Root are the two choices we recommend to everyone. If you are looking to save yourself a few dollars, then Lavasoft/Defender/Spybot can make for a good no-cost combination defense.

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