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 category is maintained by volunteer editor joeguru. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or questions they might have 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 SD_777 on 29. May 2010 - 16:59  (50564)

One major drawback for SuperAntiSpyware is, its really slow!!

by Anonymous on 25. June 2010 - 20:00  (53139)

And its detection rates are less than Malwarebytes.

However it does have useful tools in the tools section AND unlike Malwarebytes it has a portable version that can be run and updated from a USB stick. SAS is still relevant but its no longer the BEST free antimalware app especially when it comes to detection and removal.

-J

by ky331 on 23. May 2010 - 13:20  (50118)

Steve,

Your testing alerted us to the wonders of OpenDNS, which prevented you from accessing many malware sites. When I inquired at that time, you indicated you were simply using the free/basic version of OpenDNS, without customizing any aspects.

I've just come across a new segment within these TechSupportAlert pages
http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/new-smart-caching-opendns-see-we...
which now states "Since then [early 2009], the protection from malware sites previously provided by the free version of OpenDNS has been cut. However, a similar malware blocking feature is currently freely available with DNS Advantage - this highly recommended free DNS option is now a major competitor, at least from the security standpoint".

I realize you're quite busy, but I believe you need to address this point as soon as possible... I have been strongly recommending OpenDNS to my friends, stressing its security-related aspect that you promoted. Is OpenDNS no longer the "magic bullet", in terms of anti-malware security, that it used to be? And how does DNS Advantage compare as an alternative, both in terms of speed/reliabilty of resolving DNS as well as in offering malware protection?

by Anonymous on 2. June 2010 - 21:43  (50918)

This is a very good question, which I believe should be answered by the editor or someone in techsupportalert. Because I too have noticed that opendns does not protect you like it used to so I switch to dnsadvantage.

by Anonymous on 21. May 2010 - 20:17  (50064)

I have got security essentials 2010 on my xp system! I know it's a virus! How do I get rid of it? Luckily I have Windows 7 on a different partition, so I can start Windows 7 from the boot selection menu and am now trying to scan my xp disk with Malwarebytes, but it isn't finding anything! Any help?

by Anonymous on 10. June 2010 - 18:38  (51847)

better a late reply than never, have you tried the forums here? A step-by-step guide to removal is at: http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/virus-removal/remove-security-essentials-2010 - hope this helps. NB. to the admins, I don't know if link posting is allowed or not so apologies if not.

by Anupam on 10. June 2010 - 18:54  (51849)

Link posting is allowed. Only thing is links should not be to a commercial site/software... should be rated green by WOT, etc.

by Anonymous on 17. May 2010 - 9:33  (49833)

Is this article due to be updated? There is a native 64-bit version of SUPERAntiSpyware now, and also a standalone/portable version that does not require installation (but unpacking locally of some files).

by Anonymous on 11. May 2010 - 14:27  (49546)

For now, I'm using GesWall,Avast,pctool plus,winpatrol pro or plus?(paid 99¢ via this site),SuperAntiSpyware Pro(paid),Sandboxie,Shadow Defender(trialware for now),Manuel scan with A2(emisoft),Hitman Pro,(Trial)Spybot Search & Destroy,UltraSurf(on demand). Firefox addons: Wot,Dr Web Link scanner,Better Privacy,NoScript,Admuncher(paid software), with a hardwired router w/default setting changed to increase security.

I was using Immunet protect which did not conflict with any of my security software. However, It did produce "false" positives and put in quarantine and if there is a way to remove from quarantine, I could not see how, even after spending time on their forum. It did not impact or slow down my computer at all. I have a pent4 processor with 2.5gb ram and it's an 04 machine.Pent 4 processor speed is 3.0gb. I liked Immunet Protect so much that I will install again and try and figure out a way to deal with "false" positives and again spend more time on their forum...it is still a work in progress.

Was going to install Panda cloud for a trial run, but in order to do so, would have to uninstall Avast and that I was not willing to do. So in that respect, Immunet is far more compatible with with other security software than panda. Not sure about how they compare to each other in terms of detection..Perhaps someone would elaborate more on both products now or in the future.

Too much security..as long as its not conflicting or noticeably slowing down my puter...then I'm good with it.

Love this site, as I always learn something.

by Anonymous on 19. May 2010 - 15:49  (49941)

Just a followup to my own comments...ok, there is a way to "white list"(add to an exclusions list)however, apparently from what I've read, Immunet Protect detects what avast doesn't...not correct apparently what's going on is that Immunet Protect jumps in front of avast and quarantines before Avast can scan it! Also, Immunet Protect is quarantining when I try to run a A2 scan and even quarantines files that I am trying to up;oad to A2 preventing me from so doing...also as previously mentioned, way too many "false positives"...after trying to add to Immunet's exclusion list...I gave up...seems like if I download it quarantine files and if I try using other software it quarantines files...so, although I continue to believe that Immunet has great promise..for me, just way too many false positives and its interfering with Avast and with A2. I'll continue to keep and eye on it and fro time to time will try it again just to see how it's progressing. I'm a non tech person, so again perhaps someone else with more expertise will examine it in depth and report.

by Anonymous on 1. May 2010 - 10:20  (48889)

Of all the freebies, I really love to use SuperAntiSpyware.
It detects and removes the malicious programs without much worry.

by Anonymous on 6. May 2010 - 16:01  (49220)

I have the same opinion. SuperAntiSpyware is great! It has removed any malicious software I ever got! So why do we still need anti virus? This is what I don't understand! Can anybody explain? What is the difference between an anti-spyware and an anti-virus? Do I still need an anti-virus like Kaspersky? (I have Kaspersky and a lot of the time is able to detect but fail to remove)SuperAntiSpyware is able to remove any malicious software I ever got.

by Anupam on 6. May 2010 - 16:20  (49222)

I will explain this with whatever knowledge I have got. Nowadays there are a lot of malicious software being made, all known together as malware. There are different categories in that. Virus, worm etc, will infect your system, and destroy it, making it unbootable, or will cause problems so that you are unable to perform any work on the PC. Whereas spyware will try to send your information out of your PC to a person, or server, or anywhere. So, antispywares specialize in handling these types of malware. But nowadays, antivirus have some amount of antispyware capabilities too, like Avast, and Avira, and others too. But still, MBAM, SAS, A-Squared are required because they specialize in dealing with spyware.

I hope you find it useful, someone with better knowledge than me will tell you more :).

by Anonymous on 6. May 2010 - 16:33  (49224)

sas is also good in dealing with trojans.

by Anonymous on 30. April 2010 - 0:45  (48789)

Ad-Aware has plans to add free anti-virus to the already free ad-aware version with anti-walware as well as a new ad-aware product to be released sounds interesting since Lavasoft did well in the latest Av tests. Should be interesting to see.

by Anonymous on 30. April 2010 - 20:18  (48845)

Which AV tests are you referring to? Do you have a link? Also will the free AV they are to include third party or their own?

by Anonymous on 26. April 2010 - 5:39  (48452)

Its spelled TrendMicro HiJackThis not TendMicro HijackThis. please fix, its been like that for years

by MidnightCowboy on 26. April 2010 - 8:14  (48456)

It's fixed now. Mostly we do pick these up, but occasionally some might slip through. Thanks for highlighting this one :)

by Anonymous on 25. April 2010 - 20:07  (48406)

Spy-bot has been around for a long time. Do you think it still is an effective tool for me te use as a second on-demand spyware remover/scanner?

by Anonymous on 25. April 2010 - 20:26  (48407)

As long as you pair it with another scanner you should be fine! Just make sure you do a scan with each one every week. Also I'm not sure what browser you are using but if it has a phishing filter on it make sure that is activated as well.
Cheers!

by Anonymous on 25. April 2010 - 20:32  (48409)

Currently Internet Explorer 8 has the best phishing/malware filter on the market. It's called SmartScreen filter. I think the block rate now is up to 89 percent.
http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2008/07/02/ie8-security-part-iii-smarts...

by Anupam on 21. April 2010 - 8:16  (48111)

New version of HiJackThis has been released. 2.0.4 is the new version.

by Anonymous on 19. April 2010 - 7:37  (47948)

I am using Avast, GesWall and Sandboxie. Is this enough or still I need to have some kind of extra protection to secure my PC.

by Anonymous on 19. April 2010 - 18:56  (47979)

is there any need for both geswall and sandboxie?

by Anonymous on 15. April 2010 - 13:26  (47689)

Would love some opinions. I am using Windows firewall, Symantec Enpoint as my AV, SAS and MAMB as my antispyware, also Winpatrol, Spyware Blaster, and then I have SpybotSD for some supporting features. There is much talk here about mutually supportive software. Does this combo that I am using fit the bill? Are there programs I am using that conflict with each other? Or is there a gaping hole in my security? Oh, I am using Vista, with Firefox as my browser. Just looking for other opinions...

by MidnightCowboy on 15. April 2010 - 14:37  (47692)

whatever you choose to make up your "layer" there is bound to be a certain amount of redundancy or overlap between the programs. I certainly don't see what you have as being "over the top" in fact it's a good combination. IMO you might like to consider Secunia PSI and PeerBlock, especially if you are in to P2P.

http://secunia.com/vulnerability_scanning/personal/
http://www.peerblock.com/

by Anonymous on 15. April 2010 - 14:48  (47694)

re secunia, don't most progs/plugins have an auto update feature anyway that can be configured eg flash, java, reader etc?
side q - is there any truth in the proposition that most freeware contains 'bots' that send usage stats etc back?

by MidnightCowboy on 15. April 2010 - 14:56  (47695)

Yes they do but Secunia is much more than this, allowing to scan your whole PC to produce a vulnerability profile and notifying about program changes.

"Secunia PSI detects insecure programs and plug-ins and provides updates to secure your PC. Patching programs and plug-ins secures your PC against many threats which normal anti-virus software can't".

Most programs free or paid will have some form of data collection built it. The only way to find out what this entails is to read the privacy policy for each program individually.

by Anonymous on 9. April 2010 - 5:32  (47283)

I don't understand why we're all talking about scanners, when the author starts the post mentioning how opendns kept him/her protected. I would like to hear more about this.

by ky331 on 9. April 2010 - 18:31  (47303)

There are two aspects to anti-malware security:
1) Prevention - Keeping malware from ever entering your system in the first place.
2) Detection/Removal - If you're already infected, locating and removing the problem(s).

Scanners focus on the second point... they try to locate infections that have already been downloaded (and/or installed) on your system. Some scanners simply detect problems, but don't remove them; other scanners both detect and then (try to) remove problems.

Steve was trying to test how effective some of the more "popular" scanners really are at doing their job. Since scanners search for (and then may try to remove) EXISTING infections, Steve had to (intentionally) infect his system in the first place.

When trying to do so, he discovered that he was having problems "forcing" the infections. In short, something was PREVENTING the infections from entering his machine. Per his investigation, he found out that OpenDNS was the mechanism that was offering him this (unexpected) protection.

This should be taken for what it's worth... per Steve's findings, OpenDNS offers some degree of up-front protection from getting infected in the first place. However, it is not a panacea --- that is to say, one should not rely EXCLUSIVELY on OpenDNS to prevent all problems. Most experts suggest using a layered approach --- which may admittedly include redundancies --- on the hope that what "slips through" one layer may be caught by another. Personally, I use OpenDNS... but I do so in addition to a HOSTS file, IMMUNIZATION (SpyBot, SpywareBlaster), WOT (Web of Trust ratings/blockings) for IE and FireFox, and IE8's SmartScreen Filter. [These are in addition to a good anti-virus (Avast5, in my case) and firewall (Comodo)]. Some may say I'm using "overkill"... but as long as none of these seem to be slowing down my system, I will continue to use them all.

"Safe surfing" --- using a certain degree of common sense in avoiding explicit sites which are "clearly" bad --- also helps.

As for (after-the-fact) scanners, my personal choices are MBAM and SAS.

Finally, if your question was, "why do we need after-the-fact scanners, if we have sufficient up-front protection", the simple answer is that NO protection is 100% foolproof. The virus/malware spreaders always have a head-start on the protection people, and so, no matter how much protection you have... be it "big name" company or small, paid version or free... it's always possible for something to get through your defenses. And that's when we must look to and rely upon scanners for their assistance after-the-fact.

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