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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 12. August 2008 - 21:52  (5989)

Cool, but it still looks pretty good.

by Anonymous on 13. August 2008 - 2:23  (5993)

Hi Linda,
With regard to Avast I think it's a very good anti-virus especially if you install it in a clean copy of windows. Personally I use Avira Personal Antivirus but I have friends who use avast and are quite satisfied with it. The programme gets better with every new release. It has a very strong protection, it's light on resources, it's not intrusive and the latest version includes an antivirus + anti-spyware engine and it also detects rootkits on your system.
Cheers
Mark

by Anonymous on 13. August 2008 - 4:23  (6002)

Well I did a lot more research on both Threatfire and Drivesentry and tried both out for myself and now I have absolutely no idea. They both seem to be different but equal and judging by all of the supposed vulnerabilities I read about each of them, I'm not sure if either is enough.

by Anonymous on 13. August 2008 - 7:03  (6010)

From what I read in the respective product page, the free version of SuperAntiSpyware and MalwareBytes Anti-Malware do not have realtime protection. Doesn't it mean low protection level?

For realtime protection, should I use Comodo BOClean or Threatfire instead? I am currently using Spyware Terminator (with realtime protection) that was previously recommended here.

by JonathanT on 13. August 2008 - 10:53  (6021)

Hi

It doesn't mean it provides low protection. But if they had real-time it can block malware before it activates.

I think you should use ThreatFire with SAS and MBAM.

by JonathanT on 13. August 2008 - 10:57  (6022)

Hi

I think DriveSentry is mainly file and registry protection, while ThreatFire monitors process for suspicious activity.

I've heard that DriveSentry currently still has quite a few bugs though.

by Anonymous on 13. August 2008 - 15:57  (6045)

I've heard that Threatfire now contains a keylogger, and it cant be detected because it uses the keyboard filter method, the old product, cyberhawk detected threatfire as a keylogger itself when i went to upgrade it!

by Anonymous on 13. August 2008 - 16:01  (6046)

Yes, and i still have a copy of Ginat anti-spyware, guess what? it found trojans that windows defender missed and i almost executed a horrible virus and windows defender did nothing, then giant anti-spyware popped up warning me it was trying to destroy my system, MICROSOFT!! WHY DID YOU MAKE WINDOWS DEFENDER SUCK SO BAD!!! GIVE US BACK GIANT ANTI-SPYWARE OR WE WILL GET RID OF WINDOWS AND MOVE TO LINUX!!!

by Anonymous on 13. August 2008 - 20:53  (6055)

Thanks for the tip regarding virus total. At this point I am having problems uploading the file. Any ideas. Thanks in advance.

by Anonymous on 14. August 2008 - 0:48  (6065)

Superantispyware and Malwarebytes antimalware have free on-demand scanners, but the real0time protection is only available in the paid versions.

For free real time protection, you can use Boclean (a signature based program that detects all kinds of malware), or Threatfire (mainly a blocker of malicious like behavior), or both (for those that are ultra paranoid). Note that neither of these obviates the need for a real-time antivirus program (which should be used in even if you use Boclean and/or threatfire).

This comes from an old post:

Commonly used real-time protection that is free:
Commodo Boclean (http://www.comodo.com/boclean/boclean.html) - no on demand scanner, only real-time protection against trojans, worms, keyloggers, spyware, rootkits, adware, etc. Very user friendly and has daily updates.

Threatfire (http://www.threatfire.com/) - has real-time protection and monitors your system for suspicious activity to catch new unknown malware. If your firewall (or other security program) has HIPS, then you do not need threatfire.

I use both of these and they complement my antivirus and firewall protection.

Some programs that require you to pay for real-time protection: Malwarebytes antimalware, A-squared, super-antispyware. I have not used these for real-time protection, but they come highly recommended on many forums.

by Anonymous on 14. August 2008 - 2:25  (6071)

Has anyone checked out Hitman Pro? It combines different anti-spyware programs to effectively get almost all of the spyware on your computer.

by JonathanT on 14. August 2008 - 6:48  (6077)

Hi

I think it works similar to a keylogger to detect them.

by JonathanT on 14. August 2008 - 6:54  (6078)

Hi

Does it just install a bunch of anti-spyware programs?

Thanks

by Anonymous on 15. August 2008 - 17:59  (6163)

I tried out Hitman pro, and I noticed they use old, outdated anti-spyware programs.

by Steve Hargreaves on 15. August 2008 - 20:27  (6170)

I can't say this often enough. There are many free options out there for detecting malware, and what works well for one person, may not work so well for another. To some degree, the effectiveness of anti malware will be dictated by your browsing habits.

I have tried to round up the best all rounders here, but some of you may more success with one particular set of tools than another. Short of inatlling every anti-malware you can lay your hands on, you have to find the balance that will work for you.

The point I am trying to make is - choose your own, and use what works best. Don't rely on someone else's choice and leave it at that. I grow suspicious of packages like Hitman when the original may be based on commercial interest.

Steve

by Anonymous on 16. August 2008 - 17:31  (6205)

Awesome. You do a great job managing this constantly changing category of products. I'm personally getting tired of some of them coming out with new builds every day, SAS has come out with a couple Betas in a very short period of time and I'm just going to wait for them to settle down.

I'd also like to see some comment about immunization programs, such as Spywareblaster or Advanced WindowsCare. Are these helpful at all if you use something like Firefox? I personally rely on just Avira and Comodo Firewall and SAS, and then if I get a single detection I download more stuff, not that I have gotten any detections in awhile. I like how the article gives a good commentary on strategy, but maybe it could break down different competing strategies in a similar way that Gizmo does on his article on protection.

Thanks again!

by Anonymous on 17. August 2008 - 5:32  (6228)

Yeah, that is true. Fortunately, they are coming out with Hitman Pro 3, where you don't have to install those sluggish programs.

by Anonymous on 19. August 2008 - 0:31  (6276)

Yes, the deal is finished, I try to download the page and it took me to a free download page and is going to be good only for 30 days, and it is the downgraded spydoctor ware

by JonathanT on 22. August 2008 - 9:58  (6748)

Hi

I saw this great website talking about Safe Web Practices - How to Remain Safe on the Internet.
http://www.dedoimedo.com/computers/safe_web.html

by Anonymous on 25. August 2008 - 10:21  (6891)

I just wonder why a-Squared is mentioned in the chapter anti-trojans as the software of choice against Trojans when SUPERAntispyware and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware are supposed to do the same job and more !!!

by Anonymous on 25. August 2008 - 14:38  (6906)

Different editors point of view ?

by Anonymous on 25. August 2008 - 14:42  (6907)

Very good for begginers.

by Anonymous on 25. August 2008 - 19:07  (6914)

As I've mentioned before, some products are more effective against specific threats than others. My own testing was non-specific, and this is represented by my own recommendations with SAS and MBAM being the best all-rounders.

It is equally possible that in more specific testing, A-Squared may have performed better.

Steve

by Anonymous on 26. August 2008 - 8:43  (6943)

Windows defender is the most hopeless product from Microsft ( or is it vista hmmmmmm...)

by Anonymous on 31. August 2008 - 20:03  (7143)

Now running:

Browser: Opera.

Firewall: Comodo.

Active protection: Avira, Comodo BOClean, Sandboxie (for web surfing).

Immunization: Spyware Blaster, Spybot Search&Destroy (only immunization, resident shield is disabled), Advanced Windows Care Personal.

On-demand scanners: Spybot Search&Destroy, Ad-Aware, SUPERAntispyware, Malwarebytes Anti-malware.

Lightweighted "suite" and so far running without any conflicts ;)
(Windows XP SP3, Pentium 1.60GHz, 512MB RAM)

by Steve Hargreaves on 1. September 2008 - 18:44  (7177)

Yep. That should keep you safe :)

Steve

by Anonymous on 2. September 2008 - 21:55  (7241)

Is Spyware Terminator any good? The antivirus integration (optional) seems like a good idea...

by Steve Hargreaves on 2. September 2008 - 23:18  (7249)

I have to be honest and say that it's been a while since I tried SpywareTerminator, but that's simply because I got frustrated by the lack of updates. As with other protection, it's real value is difficult to gauge, purely because you don't know if it's doing it's job, or you are simply employing safe browsing techniques.

ST is a blocker, rather than a scanner, and I can honestly say that whilst I was using it I had no serious threats on my system. Having said that, I haven't had any since I stopped using it either.

I'm seriously considering a further re-write of the article above to try to alleviate some of the paranoia that security software induces. Whilst there are undoubtedly threats out there, my own testing going in hunt of them shows that you practically have to be searching to find them. I would bet good money that the worst threat most people encounter (well, those who take sensible precautions) is the odd tracking cookie, which is no threat at all.

Having said that, there will always be a need for on demand scanning. I'm just becoming less convinced that there is a real world requirement for real time protection from spyware/adware.

For the record. I deliberately exclude viruses from my comments, since they pose a different, and potentially fatal (for your system) threat. Recommendations for anti virus can be found here.

Steve

by Anonymous on 3. September 2008 - 15:15  (7289)

I hope that Defender SKEPTICS see this post. In a recent on-demand test with 94,291 (yes, that's correct!) spyware and ad-aware samples, Defender scored 97.1%, better than AVG, Bitdefender, Dr.Web, Mcafee, Rising, and just slightly worst than the paid version of Antivir and the free or paid (?) Avast. I can hear the screams already...

AntiVir Premium 99.0%
Avast! 98.3%
AVG 87.0%
BitDefender 2008 87.8%
BitDefender 2009 88.0%
Dr Web 89.6%
McAfee 94.5%
Microsoft/Defender 97.1%
Rising 77.5%

http://www.virusbtn.com/news/2008/09_02

by Anonymous on 3. September 2008 - 19:29  (7305)

That result concerns to Windows Live OneCare (payed software), not to Windows Defender (freeware).