Sunday, 30 August 2009

Anti-Spyware and Freeware


Anti-spyware falls into two broad categories; programmes to prevent the installation of spyware and programmes to identify it and remove it. Some anti-spyware programmes do both.

There is general agreement you should have at least two anti-spyware programmes. There is an excellent overview, which also mentions good anti-spyware programmes, at Anti-spyware Guide.

The following is from a more detailed overview of available anti-spyware software in March 2009 by Consumer Search. However, there are tests noted in the materials mentioned in this post showing some different results.

According to reviewers, Webroot Spy Sweeper (*Est. US$25) and PC Tools Spyware Doctor (*Est. US$30) are the most effective commercial anti-spyware programs. Software developers constantly tweak these programs and issue incremental updates. In some cases, the update enables one program to leapfrog a competitor in spyware detection and removal ability. The downside is that updates are sometimes rushed to market, and often introduce system and software conflicts that didn't exist with the previous version. Recent user reviews are the best gauge of such problems.

For tools designed to prevent the installation of spyware you will almost certainly have Windows Defender, installed with Windows XP and Vista. CNet recently ranked it the best of the freeware programmes. You may have a Security Suite that tackles spyware although none of them are as good as a specialist programme. There are two other free programmes with a good name. Consider Comodo BOClean or Spyware Blaster. Both are reasonably easy to use.

Two of the best tools for preventing as well as identifying and removing spyware have already been identified as PC Tools Spyware Doctor, especially for Vista, and Webroot SpySweeper. Neither is free although a starter edition of the former is free in Google Pack. Sunbelt CounterSpy 2.0 has been placed first by CNet and PCWorld and second by TopTen Reviews in recent reviews and is well worthy of consideration as it is cheaper than the other two.

There seems to be less confidence in the popular free programmes Lavasoft AdAware and SpyBot Search and Destroy, which also has some active protection available in it. They are undoubtedly better than nothing. AdAware is probably the easier to use. The latest versions, AdAware 2008 and SpyBot Search and Destroy 1.6, seems an improvement on recent editions although I have seen no objective test results of them. SUPERAntiSpyware comes with both a free and a commercial version and attracts favourable comments as does Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware 1.26 and although I use both of those I have seen no objective test results. There are other free programmes such as HijackThis that are excellent, but they are for advanced users.

I have personally tried a considerable number of the anti-spyware programmes and quickly junked a number of those that cost money and are sometimes recommended. Some actually deliberately allowed spyware. If you are going to buy a programme get one of those with the greatest support.

The following materials focus on which are the best programmes:
Consumer Search [March 2009]; Top Ten Reviews [for 2009]; 2Spyware [2009]; Best-Anti-spyware-Review [for 2009]; Spyware-Adware-Reviews [Undated].

Prevx 3.0, not mentioned in those materials is the recent choice  of Neil J Rubenking in PC Mag [May 2009].

The latest detailed reviews as at March 2009 are referred to both in Consumer Search and the Anti-spyware Guide.

And for what not to use as at May 2007 see Spyware Warrior.


Here are some sites dedicated to freeware. A web search will produce others. Before you buy software see if there is a free alternative.

Its worth having a look at Secunia's Software Inspector as to the security of your system. They provide a version, Secunia PSI, that can be downloaded on to your machine.

For freeware generally, but the first part relates to security in particular, see

Microsoft only.

Look here if you subscribe to NZ Consumer on line.

Individual choices:

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