Top Standalone Spyware Scanners

It's not just viruses that plague today's Internet users. Spyware surreptitiously monitors your computer and Internet use, while adware can bombard your PC with unwanted advertising. Both pose a drain on your bandwidth and can lead to loss of security. Following are a selection of the best dedicated adware and spyware scanning tools to ferret out these often hidden menaces. If you go the standalone route, make sure you back it up with antivirus software and a firewall.
McAfee AntiSpyware 2006 is no longer sold as a standalone product, but don't despair. McAfee VirusScan (2006) includes the same stellar protection. In our tests, both products nabbed 98% of running processes associated with adware and spyware, effectively neutering the infestation. At $39.99 for both stellar spyware protection and a top-notch virus scanner, McAfee VirusScan (2006) is a steal.
Spy Sweeper removed 100% of the miscreant BHOs and Toolbars in our tests and stopped 84% of the active processes associated with adware and spyware. Spy Sweeper is a standalone spyware scanner and not a full-fledged Internet security suite, thus it is best used in conjunction with antivirus and firewall software.
Sunbelt's CounterSpy removed 90% of the miscreant Browser Helper Objects (BHOs) in our tests. Sporting above average detection for only $19.99, CounterSpy offers inexpensive protection, an easy-to-use interface and US-based tech support.
Windows Defender is offered free and, like CounterSpy, sports above average detection rates. The product is still considered beta and tech support is not provided. Despite these setbacks, it can provide a good second opinion. However, Microsoft AntiSpyware and CounterSpy should not be installed on the same system, as they both share common components. More »
Free for personal use, Spybot doesn't have stellar removal rates. It does, however, provide TeaTimer and SDHelper which are extremely effective at preventing adware and spyware from gaining a foothold on your computer. So while you may not want to rely on it for detection and removal, you may want to install and activate it alongside other protection to help keep your system spyware-free. More »
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Hijack This

Another free utility, Hijack This isn't a traditional spyware scanner. It will, however, provide a full report of what's active on your system. Experienced users can peruse the report, identify the miscreants, and use Hijack This to disable the unwanted loading (or do so manually). Less experienced users can save the Hijack This log and send it to a more savvy friend for advice.