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Best Free Spyware And Adware Remover

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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.  

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

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
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

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.
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
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
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.

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
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


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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by Anonymous on 15. July 2008 - 17:55  (4275)

thanks for the heads up, i was going to install it to test it out but i thought i wound ask first. thanks!

by Anonymous on 17. July 2008 - 15:55  (4380)

The thing I dislike about Ad-Aware 2008 is that it loads a service and takes up space even when I have not opened it.

by Anonymous on 17. July 2008 - 16:08  (4381)

I agree, it installs an aditional service, several drivers and startup entries, it has a slow update that sometimes freezes while updating... the old SE used to be much better. I switch to SAS and MBAM and I'm happy with it - for now.

by Keyur on 18. July 2008 - 0:47  (4411)

Thanks to Gizmo for providing 1 good option for realtime protection in this category.. I am talking about a-squard antimalware... atleast for 1 year for free...

by Steve Hargreaves on 18. July 2008 - 19:51  (4481)

I agree with the sentiment entirely, although I can't justify changing the article on the basis of the deal that Gizmo has negotiated because:-

i. Technically, the full version of A-Squared is still not free. It's a freebie for subscribers. Everyone else would still have to pay.
ii. I haven't tested the full version in a fair comparative test (I have installed it on my main machine, and scanned. The result - no threats found - though that's hardly surprising. My main machine is well protected and kept very clean.

If there's demand, I'll test the paid for version in my test environment, though I still think point i. above means it cannot be included here.


by Keyur on 18. July 2008 - 23:00  (4491)


I agree with you that a-squared anti malware can't be included here and really you don't need to change the article for that because it's just a limited time offer for site visitors. but it's really a great offer.. there is one good reason to grab the offer is very few options for real time malware protection.. even if it's not as effective as super antispyware it will atleast give some real time protection and SAS still can be used as on demand scanner... I am just appreciating the deal...

by JonathanT on 19. July 2008 - 5:35  (4505)


Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware 1.21 came out!

* (FIXED) Problem with update hanging up application on first run.
* (FIXED) Problem quarantining large files.
* (FIXED) Greatly improved memory scan speed.
* (FIXED) Updated zib.dll to latest version.
* (ADDED) Scheduled scanning now creates log files.
* (ADDED) Advanced heuristic detections for multiple trojans.
* (ADDED) Direct Disk Access for enumerating folder contents.
* (ADDED) Direct Disk Access for breaking file headers.

by Anonymous on 20. July 2008 - 3:12  (4548)

Hello everyone,

I think A^2 free is a decent on demand scanner, but the status bar says it's done and then it still scans for quite some time so you can never really tell how much time is left on the scan, which is annoying to say the least.

Another thing that really bothers me about a-squared free is that when you update, sometimes the update seems to go OK & is of reasonable size, but other times, the update is about 10 MB or more. I think it's re-downloading old definitions that you already have. I can't imagine there being 10 MB worth of new definitions in an update.

The large updates are very bothersome on a 56k modem and if what I suspect is true, i.e., that I am re- downloading definitions that I already have, then that is just plain ridiculous.Something strange is going on with the update feature of this program.


by Anonymous on 20. July 2008 - 7:08  (4555)

sometimes A-squared loads a REVISED version of a previous definition file (i.e. they made some corrections to a previous definition file). Note that a-squared does not have one definition file that it downloads, it has many definition "modules" and if there is a revision to a particular "module", then it will re-load only that module and not all modules. Some modules contain more than 100,000 nasties, while others contain only a few nasties.

by Steve Hargreaves on 20. July 2008 - 8:28  (4559)

As I mentioned in the review, I too noticed the same problem with A-Squared's progress bar not representing the actual scan time.

Having made further tests, I stand by my recommendation that SAS and MBAM represent a strong and complete combination for on-demand scans, managing to remove all threats between them on my test system.


by JonathanT on 20. July 2008 - 9:30  (4562)


Can you give the specific results of these further tests?


by Steve Hargreaves on 20. July 2008 - 14:42  (4580)

Specifically, A-Squared's on demand scanner detected a substantially lower number of threats than both SAS and MBAM. The machine was infected differently from the first round of tests (This time I went to crack sites, porn sites etc. which are almost certain to generate a number of infections).

Again, using IE (V6) I allowed activeX installations without question, downloaded and ran some questionable keygens etc. Again, the test sample numbered approximately 200 infections (not including viruses - which I didn't test for), and again, A-Squared detected approximately 30 - 40% compared with SAS/MBAM combination of around 76 - 80%.

After cleaning with SAS/MBAM, there were no infections left for A-Squared to clean, though as with my previous test, mechanisms by which threats may enter the system were still detected, though these included TightVNC (which was deliberately installed) and other legitimate processes. Whilst I don't deny that these could be used to surreptitiously infect your system, a degree of knowledge is required before cleaning to avoid breaking legitimate programs.

Having said that, A-Squared fully licensed forms part of the protection on my main system for it's active protection.

I will qualify my findings, however. When you are looking for infections found in the wild, they can be surprisingly difficult to find. Without resorting to an artificial test environment (something I want to avoid, since my tests are intended to represent real world tests) it is entirely possible that A-Squared would excel against threats which I simply did not encounter.

As with all the software mentioned here, you may have more success with some than with others. I report from my own experience, and as I have said before, others have nothing but praise for A-Squared.


by Anonymous on 20. July 2008 - 17:37  (4592)

Why is Spyware Doctor Starter Edition linked at the bottom of the article? Is this a good product?

by Keyur on 21. July 2008 - 1:26  (4613)

Spyware doctor starter edition linked at the bottom because it's one of the very few options for realtime malware protection.. It's not as good as SAS and MBMA in malware detection.. but neither of these gives realtime protection so spyware doctor starter edition is mentioned as an option... spyware terminator and windows defender are another two less effective realtime options.. Comodo BOclean as well...

by JonathanT on 21. July 2008 - 6:53  (4631)


How are you so certain that Spyware Terminator and Comodo BOClean are less effective than Spyware Doctor Starter Edition?


by JonathanT on 21. July 2008 - 7:00  (4632)


OK. Thanks. But wouldn't it be better to run IE7?

by JonathanT on 21. July 2008 - 7:01  (4633)


Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware 1.22 came out!

* (FIXED) Error 721 (0, 93).
* (FIXED) Random freezing during scan.
* (FIXED) Minor problems repairing LSA registry values.
* (ADDED) New command line parameters: /fullscan and /fullscanterminate.

by Keyur on 21. July 2008 - 14:59  (4666)


well, I am not certain about that, but this is what my experience says.. it may be different from the fact.. I remembered when I was using both (spyware terminator and spyware doctor) spyware doctor always had a high detection rate as compared to spyware terminator... but I don't like either of these two because spyware doctor is really heavy on resources and spyware terminator needs crawler toolbar to be installed to be more effective and it also slows down the computer... I am happy with just on demand scan of SAS and occasionally MBAM....

by Steve Hargreaves on 21. July 2008 - 18:28  (4680)

I deliberately used IE6 because, to date, IE7 is still an optional download, and since IE6 offers less protection than IE7, it was easier to pick up the drive by infections.

Bear in mind the browser used does not taint the results of the tests themselves, but simply reduces reduces protection at infection stage.

One could just as easily have asked "Why not use Firefox", but it's a certainty that I would have picked up far fewer infections if I had. I needed a vulnerable system to properly evaluate the protection offered by individual products, and didn't want to compromise the results with protection that is, effectively, built into the OS.


by Steve Hargreaves on 21. July 2008 - 18:34  (4682)

I have to admit, I used to use Spyware Terminator on my main system, but when I did a system cleanup (uninstalling old software etc) it was one of the programs that went. Quite simply, I did not notice any real benefit in the realtime protection, and updates were becoming more and more infrequent.

Having said that, I've been using computers for 25 years, having started on an IBM 2966 mainframe and progressed through the ages, and I have always taken an interest in the computer world generally, so I developed a healthy paranoia and ensure that I scan and clean weekly, as well as being very cautious about sites that I visit etc. Since we are here (in part) to help guide less experienced users, it is only right and proper that they have easy access to realtime protection, too.

You can expect the links to be updated soon, and Spyware Doctor SE may well be replaced by Comodo and Threatfire in the links section. I welcome feedback beforehand on this point.


by Keyur on 21. July 2008 - 19:50  (4690)

I agree Comodo BOClean and threatfire are good alternatives to spyware terminator and spyware doctor.. using sandboxie will further minimize the need for realtime protection...

by Keyur on 21. July 2008 - 19:53  (4691)


"Comodo BOclean as well..." I mean Comodo BOclean is also a option for realtime protection....

by Keyur on 21. July 2008 - 20:14  (4692)


What you suggest about antispyware capability of AVG and Avira ? I have seen many users using AVG only and not using any additional antispyware software... Have you ever tested their effectiveness as spyware remover ?

by Anonymous on 21. July 2008 - 23:06  (4697)

PC tool's ThreatFire did not work very well with my Vista system. It froze up several times, but eventually recovered and started to work OK. But I didn't like the fact that it requres the user to join an automatic reporting community and if you try to unselect it, it removes your ability to get updates.

by Keyur on 22. July 2008 - 0:21  (4698)


I personally feel that joining an automatic reporting community will not do any harm to your security or privacy..... Because threatfire is behavior based blocker, automatic reporting community will increases it's effectiveness and reduces the number of false positive alerts.. Otherwise behavior based blockers generally generate lots of alerts. you can compare this with any other HIPS. threatfire has very few false positive alerts as compared to others...

by Anonymous on 22. July 2008 - 2:50  (4703)

As far as I'm concerned, a "revised" version of a previous definition file *is* a new definition file. It makes no sense to make us download a whole module if you only need part of a module updated.

I don't care if it's called a file or module, I just don't want to download large update files on a 56K modem.

The updates from A-squared are generally much larger and take much longer than any other ant-spyware, anti-trojan, or anti-virus program I have ever used. For me, this is a major drawback of the program and I would love to see the updates get smaller overall, and on average.

Other than the update file size, I don't have any problems with A-squared but I am going to also use Superantispyware and Malwarebytes as on demand scanners based on Steve's tests.


by Anonymous on 22. July 2008 - 5:17  (4721)

Yes, I agree with you. My point was that there is nothing erroneous with the update process you described (i.e. it is not downloading the same definitions over and over). Nonetheless, A-square's method of updating can be bothersome with slower Internet connections.

by JonathanT on 22. July 2008 - 6:52  (4726)


Have you tried any real-time products against the malware? That would be very interesting.

I would think that Spyware Terminator should be better in this, because of it's HIPS and alerts to new executables.

by Anonymous on 22. July 2008 - 8:44  (4731)

That's a good question and a very interesting one. In this category both AVG, Avast (and also the free Bitdefender ?) should also be tested, providing they are free, very popular, they provide anti-spyware protection and last, but not least, they are THE recommended products in the AV category, together with Antivir. Steve said somewhere he didn't have a AV installed so the reply to your question is "no, he didn't test them". But I would also like to know the answer to that.

by JonathanT on 22. July 2008 - 10:00  (4736)


I think AntiVir should also be tested.