Best Free Spyware And Adware Remover

 
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Introduction
The Internet is a dangerous place to be in the 21st century. Unscrupulous people using malicious software are finding ingenious ways to access your information or lead you into spending money.  Spyware harvests information from your computer with keylogging and data capture techniques, while adware tracks your browsing habits and tempts you with popup ads related to websites you have visited.  Another less known troublemaker is scumware.  This software attacks websites and changes their advertising, for example changing family friendly links to adult rated links.
 
With every new generation of malware (adware, spyware, scumware, virus, rootkits, trojans), there will be a new generation of software to combat it.  Gizmo's offers many useful articles and reviews to help today's computer user obtain the necessary tools to combat the virtual foe.  This category will look at adware and spyware removers.  
 
The following products have been reviewed for this category;
Spybot-Preventor, Remover
SAS (SuperAntiSpyware) - Remover
Malwarebytes - Remover
Spywareblaster - Preventor
 
Discovery: All of these programs will perform manual scans, but some will not provide real-time scanning protection unless you upgrade to the paid version.  Some are removers, some are preventors.  It was difficult to find a free program that combined all the components.  The winner in this category is Spybot for it's removal and prevention ability in a free program.  SAS found more to remove, however it doesn't offer real-time protection.  
Discussion

Spybot is a malware remover.  Designed for basic use yet offers complex menus and information for advanced users.  After installation the program will offer to create a Whitelist.  This process indexes files for faster scans and isn't recommended unless the host computer is known to be clearn.  For best results cancel this option, update the software, run a full scan then create a Whitelist if all is clean.   

After updating I ran a quick scan which did not find my test file.  The scan menu offers third party cookie blocking.  The immunization feature interacts with the web browser to warn users of potentially harmful websites.  I tried to install sweetpacks toolbar and spybot put up a warning.  Spybot's full scan will also check for rootkit malware .  Spybot detected the EICAR bogus website the first time, however it didn't detect the bogus malware/virus file downloads.  Spybot also flagged a warning when I clicked on a 7-zip advertisement on C/NET.  Spybot works very well to warn of potential problems with links or websites.  

SuperAntiSpyware aka SAS detects and removes malware. Installation is simple however the install offers a free trial of pro version which I declined. After the program installs the home menu page opens. I ran the quick scan which impressively found 65 tracking cookies and 2 malware files. Other menus provide custom scans, the ability to set trusted items, and exclude folders. There are more options to set specific folders for scanning, doing quick scans and complete scans. The menu screen has a prefences button, but also has check boxes for features only available on the pro version. These boxes are somewhat annoying as they look meaningful but are essentially promo buttons to upgrade. The free version does not provide real time protection. SAS detected the footprint of two EICAR temp files from a previous visit to the EICAR website.

Malwarebytes is a malware detection and removal software. When the program first installs it will ask you if you want to update to the free pro trial, update definitions and launch the program. I selected to update the definitions and launch the program. The program launched with a configuration menu providing the options to peform a quick scan or full scan. I performed the quick scan which surprisingly detected 7 malware files the previous programs failed to recognize. Unfortunately the free version doesn't offer real time protection. Updating definitions is a good feature, and quarantined files can be manually deleted. A history of the logs is kept in an easily accessable history. There are several options for configuring how the program scans but scheduling isn't one of them. Rootkit scanning requires a separate file download.

Note: Malware Bytes uses the CNET website however it does not contain unwanted third party offers.

Honorable Mention: Spywareblaster is a prevention not a removal program but I felt worth mentioning here for it's unique features.

What, no scan feature? That's right because this program doesn't need one. Spywareblaster is all about prevent and protect. Heck this program doesn't even have to run in the back ground. It tweaks some browser security settings, adds some restricted sites and goes to sleep. Wake it up once a week to update the database, update the profiles and put it back to bed, that simple. What kind of program is this? One of the least intrusive yet most powerful malware blockers available. Spywareblaster has the smallest file size of the reviewed programs. The home screen opens letting you know protections are disabled. Run the update, enable the protections and you're done. Use system snapshot to create a restore point in case things go wrong. Spywareblaster is the only program reviewed to recommend this step. The tools option offers customer configurations and flash player blocking. Manually install updates and Spywareblaster will prompt you to reset the protections. The unique feature of this program is its focus to prevent and protect from the installation of adware, spyware and scumware using the web browser rather than perform cleanup or drain system resources by running in the back ground. Like virus definitions, Spywareblaster updates a list of troublesome maleware daily, this is why it's important to run the updates frequently for this program, recommendation is at least weekly. The paid version allows automatic updating.

Quick Selection Guide

SpyBot
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
real-time protection, protects one or more user profiles
scan didn't detect malware coded file, does not uninstall cleanly
http://www.safer-networking.org/
2.19.1
36 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8

2.0 Supports IE, Chrome, Firefox, Apple Safari, Opera. Languages: English, German, Italian, Russian. Spybot Search & Destroy 1.6.2 available for older PCs.
v2.1.21 SR2 released 30 July, 2013
View the malware engine updates here

SUPERAntiSpyware
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Simple functional menus, good cookie tracker, supports all browsers
Free version doesn't offer real time protection, only scans.
http://www.superantispyware.com/
5.6.1018
24.3 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Feature limited freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Win 2000 - Win 8

Supports all web browsers. Lanuages; Danish, French, German, Italian, Macedonian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish.
Supported formats: 32 and 64 bit

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
detected files other programs missed, light and simple
no real-time protection, no scheduling, rootkit scanning requires additional download
http://www.malwarebytes.org/
1.75.0.1300
9.8 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Feature limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8 /Windows XP Service Pack 2 or Later

Languages Available: English, Arabic, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese.

Spywareblaster
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
customizable block lists, doesn't use system resources by running in the back ground, does not affect browser performance or conflict with other software.
not a removal tool, must update protections after updating lists
5.0
4 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8.

Supports Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape, Seamonkey, Pale Moon, K-Meleon; and browsers that use the IE engine, including: AOL web, browser, Avant Browser, Slim Browser, Maxthon (formerly MyIE2), Crazy Browser, GreenBrowser

Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Glyn Burgess. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

The comments section below is so lengthy that it has become difficult for our visitors to read. Future posts will now be edited for length and repetition, and personal attacks deleted. You are all welcome to join our Security Forum which is much better-suited for intensive debate.

 

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Comments

by Anonymous on 31. May 2008 - 13:19  (1429)

before i was removing spyware manually but its not fun doing it everyday. super antispyware freeware is the best i ever try, it can remove the most advanced spyware and malware. and used antivir freeware antivirus well make your system run smoothly. just run super antispyware after using internet.

ps
and this stuff is really free. FREEWARE long live.

www.ak0n.tk
-Mitchelle V. de la Cruz

by Anonymous on 1. June 2008 - 3:09  (1453)

thanks for suggesting me BO clean for realtime protection..... now I m using BOclean with super antispyware..

by Anonymous on 1. June 2008 - 3:24  (1454)

You can also use passive protection to complement real time protection (as mentioned in a previous post). Examples (which can all be used together, and in addition to real time protection):
IE-Spyad (http://www.spywarewarrior.com/uiuc/resource.htm) - using a program called ZonedOut, the IE-Spyad list (a list of malicious websites) is added to the "restricted sites" of Internet explorer. If Internet explorer is directed to one of these sites, it will open the web page, but it will use the restricted sites security settings (which are usually set to highest security) for the web page.
Hosts File - if a website is defined properly in your hosts file, Internet explorer will not load the web page at all (or any of the nasties it may be harboring). One of the best host file managers is HostsMan (http://www.abelhadigital.com/2007/12/hostsman-3155-released.html).
Spywareblaster (http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/spywareblaster.html) - similar to IE-Spyad, except it can help block malicious items in internet explorer (active-x, cookies, malicious websites), firefox (cookies), and browsers that use the firefox engine such as seamonkey (cookies).

by pconrad on 6. June 2008 - 9:14  (1493)

*** Spyware Removal ***

(1) SUPERAntiSpyware: [ http://superantispyware.com/superantispywarefreevspro.html ]

(2) Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware: [ http://www.malwarebytes.org/mbam.php ]

The FREE versions of these AntiSpyware products present superior On-Demand Scanning and Cleaning
capabilities. No On-Access Scanning (= Real-Time Protection) is offered.

The FREE Editions of Ad-ware and Spyware Doctor together with Spybot Search & Destroy are no longer what they used to be! Don't waste your time with them! The Spyware Doctor of the Google Pack has ONLY about 1/3 of the definitions/signatures found in the Full version.

by Steve Hargreaves on 3. June 2008 - 18:15  (1542)

Just a note folks, and particularly those comments regarding the list being out of date. I have just (literally) taken over as category editor here, and I will be reviewing the list over the next two or three weeks, with a view to bringing the whole article up to date. I will review all posts here first before I change anything significant up at the top.

Steve

by Anonymous on 4. June 2008 - 0:03  (1552)

COMODO.

by Anonymous on 7. June 2008 - 4:58  (1704)

Threatfire is a behaviour blocker. What do you mean by the "active scanner"? If you are referring to the on-demand part, it isn't exactly the best scanner out there. If you're referring to the real time behaviour, it is probably THE most effective behaviour blocker currently (and the only free one). From personal experience and from many other user's comments, it does not have a lot of false positives.

Spyware Doctor and Spy Sweeper is just totally bloated, and probably does not provide the best protection against real world threats. And you should really add SD free only has 1/3 of the shareware SD's signatures.

And if you use an anti-virus product with good, active protection, such as the free version of AntiVir, and add Threatfire and Sandboxie (for example), you do not need a real time anti spyware. Something like SAS free or MBAM free will be sufficient.

by JonathanT on 8. June 2008 - 6:41  (1743)

A squared free and Comodo BoClean are primarily anti trojans but are also anti malware, so they can detect spyware as well.

by JonathanT on 8. June 2008 - 6:52  (1744)

"ClamAV is not the most effective AV scanner on the market, but it's certainly competent and the additional protection can only be a plus."
This is a totally false statement. In tests by av test, clam av always has one of the worst detection rates. The additional protection is not "only a plus" because you would simply be wasting resources running two real time av s (assuming you are also running another one such as Antivir, AVG, or Avast). Also, Clam av has one of the highest false positive rates and can unnecessarily alarm users. So I would recommend not using Clam AV with Spyware Terminator.

by JonathanT on 8. June 2008 - 6:53  (1745)

I agree with you 100%.

by JonathanT on 8. June 2008 - 6:54  (1746)

Anyway, real time anti spyware is not really needed if you have something like Sandboxie, Antivir and Threatfire free.

by Anonymous on 9. June 2008 - 0:23  (1780)

A-squared and Boclean were originally developed as anti-trojans, but they now detect all types of malware now, including: Trojans, Backdoors, Keyloggers, Rootkits, Worms, Bots, Dialers, Spyware, rogue anti-spyware programs, etc. Therefore, they are better classified as Anti-malware programs.

by Anonymous on 9. June 2008 - 0:32  (1782)

This comment assumes that everybody who uses your computer will use a sandbox (such as Sandboxie) when on the internet. If you have multiple people who use one computer, and they are not security aware enough to use the sandbox, then Realtime anti-malware may be helpful. When novices use the computer, they do not always know the correct thing to do when a security dialogue box pups up (e.g. Theatfire). Boclean can be set to automatically detect and remove malware without the need for a novice to figure out a cryptic warning.

by JonathanT on 9. June 2008 - 6:37  (1795)

I'm not sure if it's just me but on my home computer with about 20 or 30gb the full scan takes less than 10 minutes.

by JonathanT on 11. June 2008 - 8:40  (1923)

Hi

That's a very good point. I'd forgotten about that. But anyway, if there are other people who are beginners, you should probably set up a Limited User Account for them, which will stop a lot of malware from functioning properly.

by Anonymous on 13. June 2008 - 21:39  (2043)
by Anonymous on 13. June 2008 - 21:52  (2044)

But great tip though.

Here's a tutorial with images:
http://www.mydigitallife.info/2007/08/29/how-to-use-windows-malicious-so...

by Anonymous on 14. June 2008 - 15:37  (2081)

This was my point exactly. I guess it would have been more clear if I said "Although it is not a good idea to run two or more active (real-time) security programs that do the same task (e.g. two real time antivirus monitors), IT IS A VERY GOOD IDEA to run multiple security programs that complement each other." Having several different on-demand scanners and scanning periodically is definitely a good idea, even if you have active protection.

I also should have clarified that the following comment refers to using on-demand scanning: "The truly best approach is to use multiple scanners, because each may detect and clean different nasties. I use a combination of Superantipyware, A-squared, Spybot Search and Destroy, Malwarebytes Antimalware, Rogue Remover, and Windows Defender. Then, I scan with at least two antivirus applications. I also scan with Hijackthis and a rootkit scanner (for more advanced users)."

by Steve Hargreaves on 14. June 2008 - 16:31  (2082)

Well. I did say that MRT doesn't come close to dedicated anti-malware utilities, but it's still handy to know about.

Thanks for the link - I'll add it to the review on the next update.

Steve

by Steve Hargreaves on 14. June 2008 - 16:37  (2083)

The use of the term "Active Scanner" was probably, in retrospect, not the best expression to use and I will re-word in the next update. I was simply trying to convey that, unlike On Demand scanners, Threatfire will block at installation, rather then remove at scan. I'm not so sure that Threatfire's over enthusiastic blocking can be considered "false positives" as such, since as you say, it relies on behaviour rather than a database, and as such, will block threats period, rather than known threats. Having said that, for the end user, the result looks and feels much the same.

I will review my wording at the next update to attempt to clarify.

Steve

by Anonymous on 14. June 2008 - 21:07  (2091)

You're welcome. I can also confirm this works on Vista.

Cheers.

by Anonymous on 15. June 2008 - 16:43  (2118)

I think it makes sense to organize the category as follows:
1) Free real-time monitors (signature based) - e.g. Comodo Boclean, spywareguard
2) Free real-time monitors (behavior based) - e.g. Threatfire and other free programs with HIPS (e.g. Comodo firewall)
3) Free passive protection - e.g. spywareblaster, IE-spyad, host file utilities, sandboxes
4) Free on-demand scanners - e.g. A-squared, Superantispyware, Malwarebytes antimalware, threatfire (which has an on-demand scanner), Spybot S&D, Windows defender, Windows malicious software removal tool, Ad-aware, rogue remover, etc.

Define each of the above types of protection, including the strengths and weaknesses. Then pick the best programs in each category. It may be worth mentioning the commonly used programs that are available, even if they did not make it into the top picks.
If one of these topics is already covered in detail elsewhere on this site, then simply link to that page.

Also, put in rules of thumb regarding:
a) Do not use multiple real-time monitors that do the same thing.
b) For prevention: Layered protection (e.g. some combination of 1-3 above)
c) For removal: Scan sequentially with several on demand scanners (4 above) and if needed check with one of the many forums that help users remove malware.

by Anonymous on 15. June 2008 - 18:04  (2137)

Good idea!
Additions to your list above:
* Windows defender does have real-time protection also, but I am not sure if it is signature based, behavior based, or both.
* For passive protection, you may also want to mention that some browsers (e.g. Firefox) may be more secure that Internet Explorer.
* I would perhaps also specify that for the prevention rule of thumb, it should say "Layered protection with real-time antivirus, firewall, and some combination from 1-3 above."
* It may be nice to tell people to stay way from the many rogue antispyware applications at http://www.spywarewarrior.com/rogue_anti-spyware.htm.

by Steve Hargreaves on 15. June 2008 - 22:38  (2143)

As it happens - I'd already decided that the next re-write will include such tips as using FF instead of IE.

Layered protection, in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing, is a good thing. In the hands of a novice, it can be disastrous, simply because you have to know how to distinguish between the different types of protection available. For example, you don;t want two separate active AV products running, since each can interfere with the other to the extent that neither will be effective.

Your final point is an interesting take on things, and something I'll seriously consider.

Steve

by Steve Hargreaves on 15. June 2008 - 22:43  (2144)

I'm planning on a re-write of the article, and much of what you have suggested will already be in there. The difficulty is getting the balance right. Whilst tech savvy people are more likely to visit here, it is equally likely that Google etc. will point the less experienced here if they take the time to troubleshoot problems.

With that in mind, I hope to find the right balance of helpful guidance for the inexperienced, and informed opinion for the more experienced.

You can be rest assured that before I make any significant changes, I will be:

i) Test driving software myself
ii) Reading posts here.

In the meantime, I will update the review to address issued raised in posts where appropriate.

Steve

by JonathanT on 16. June 2008 - 7:19  (2152)

Hi

I think that is a very good idea, but telling people to use multiple products from 1 to 4 is totally overkill.
For example, if someone has Sandboxie, Threatfire, and AntiVir free, all they need is a few web scanners (like SiteAdvisor, Linkscanner, WOT, HauteSecure, Netcraft, Finjin, Sitehound) and one real time and one on-demand anti-malware. And common sense.

by JonathanT on 16. June 2008 - 7:21  (2153)

Hi

I agree. Firefox or Opera is MUCH more secure than IE. I think with Opera 9.5, it uses Netcraft and HauteSecure databases to warn users of malware sites.

by JonathanT on 16. June 2008 - 7:28  (2154)

Hi

I personally think outbound firewall is totally overrated. For many people it is a psychological effect because they do not actually understand how their security software works so they pile on more hoping they will be safer.

by JonathanT on 16. June 2008 - 7:29  (2155)

Hi

And if you add Firefox, you should also add there are many excellent security addons, such as SiteAdvisor, Netcraft, WOT, etc and Adblock Plus and Noscript.

by JonathanT on 16. June 2008 - 7:32  (2156)

Hi

Also, many people do not like Host files because it uses very outdated methods and can give users a false sense of security.

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