Free AntiSpyware Programs

Category: Security

Everyone seems to recommend a different free antispyware program. Which is the best for protecting me against spyware?

free antispyware

The Best Free AntiSpyware Protection

Today it is critical that you become actively involved in the protection of your computer system and personal information from spyware and other malware applications. There are several anti-spyware applications that you can use to monitor your computer for suspicious activity, identify known malware and fix problems that develop because of malware. The best part of the anti-spyware application market is that many of best programs are free! Here's a roundup of the ones I think are effective...

Windows Defender

If you are a Windows user then you will want to use the free Windows Defender tool from Microsoft. This program comes with Windows Vista, but if you run XP, it can still be downloaded for free. This program scans your system for malware, blocks known offenders and repairs your files as needed. One nice feature if this program is that you have the ability to selectively delete suspect files, as well as restore files that were deleted by mistake. This product started out as Giant AntiSpyware, and was purchased by Microsoft in 2004. They have expanded and improved the software over the years, and continue to make it available for free. I've used Windows Defender almost exclusively for several years on my main computer, and it's never let me down.

Malware Bytes Anti-Malware

One of the most popular free antispyware apps is Malware Bytes Anti-Malware, also known as MBAM. This program is designed for Windows and is compatible with Windows 2000, XP and Vista. What makes this program special is that its scans are super quick, and it has a reputation for catching some of the nastier infections that some other programs miss, and also offers a tool that allows you to manually search for malware programs and selectively remove them. MBAM's paid version ($24.95) has real-time malware protection that's designed to block malicious processes before they start, but the freeware version is still an excellent antispyware tool.

PCTools Spyware Doctor

Another top anti-spyware app that you can download for free is PCTools Spyware Doctor. The starter edition of this program is offered free of charge through Google Pack. This program will allow you to scan your entire system for malware applications, it will remove targeted threats, it offers real time protection, it is easy to use and it will only alert you when there is a legitimate threat to your system, as opposed to alerting you every time you download or install a legitimate computer program like many of the other programs do.

Spybot S&D

One of the oldest free anti-spyware applications on the market is Spybot S&D. This program scans, identifies, blocks and clears away spyware adware. A few years ago, Spybot S&D was considered king of the anti-spyware hill, but now I consider it one of many good tools you can use to combat cyber nasties. Some of the additional programs that you can download for free include the Run Analyzer, which will help you to identify weaknesses in your system, File Analyzer, which helps you to analyze the structure of files and RegAlyzer, which scans and repairs registry errors and problems.

Lavasoft Ad-Aware

Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware was one of the first anti-spyware apps, developed in 1999. This program is unique in that it offers real time protection of your system. It also utilizes heuristics -- a combination of file characteristics and behaviors -- to identify potential malware applications before they have a chance to impact your system. This program will protect your computer from spyware, rootkits, keyloggers, trojans and hijackers.

Super Anti-Spyware

Super Anti-spyware is another program that offers real time protection through the use of heuristics. This program allows you to schedule your scans and it doesn’t monopolize your system’s resources so its performance isn’t hurt while running the program.

So Which AntiSpyware Tool Should I Use?

All of the above antispyware tools are effective, have good reputations, and a large rabid user base that will swear by them. So maybe you're wondering why I listed them in the order that I did. I'll admit it's a bit subjective, but the ordering is based on my personal experience, my research, and what I've heard from others.

My advice: Pick ONE. Unless you run into a spyware problem that it can't remedy, stick with it. The only exception to that rule is this... if you're really concerned about possible spyware lurking on your system, try running the immediate scan portion of another tool. Don't turn two real-time spyware scanners loose at the same time, since they can fight and slow down your system.

Got comments or questions about antispyware programs? Post your thoughts below...

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Most recent comments on "Free AntiSpyware Programs"

Posted by:

Murray White
29 Jun 2009

unless my eyes deceived me, the most important spyware protection was not included -- Spywareblaster. That along with the immunization of Spybot S & D will do the job completely and will make the use of Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware almost superfluous but should be kept just in case something comes out and a user misses doing an update which normally occurs for Spywareblaster about every 7- 10 days which means there could be gaps in protection.

A couple of other programs users might wish to have available to use will be Dr. Web CureIt, Runscanner and Stinger. ComboFix should also be at least downloaded and ready to use if all else fails to remove an infection.

Posted by:

04 Jul 2009

It's not free but close to it. Sunbelt software out of Florida offers an exceptional, non intrusive, combined anti-virus & adware/spyware program call Vipre. It is reasonably priced (I paid $40.00 for two PC's) and uses very low resources. It is sold only by downloading, no retail discs. You can download a free 15 day trial to see if you like it. I have both Vipre and their firewall and catch this, 800 phone support Monday - Friday with live people in U.S. Google Vipre and read the accolades of this software and say good bye to slow running, bother me programs like Norton & McAfee.

Posted by:

09 Jul 2009

Bob, What happened to AVG and Avast!? You used to recommend those I believe.

EDITOR'S NOTE: AVG and Avast are anti-VIRUS programs, which I do recommend. But this article was specifically about anti-SPYWARE stuff.

Posted by:

09 Jul 2009

I have used Spyware Blaster for several years and have been very satisfied with it's ability to keep out spyware. I do have to update, which I do every few days to keep the database current. It updates very quickly as well. I also have Ad-Aware installed and run it only occationally but does take a while to do it's scan.

Posted by:

10 Jul 2009

You said "if you're really concerned about possible spyware lurking on your system, try running the immediate scan portion of another tool. Don't turn two real-time spyware scanners loose at the same time, since they can fight and slow down your system."

How do I accomplish that? As soon as I load a second anti-virus program, the two are runing together. How do I make the second one just use the immediate portion when I want it, and not run in parallel with the first program?


EDITOR'S NOTE: First, note that this applies to anti-SPYWARE programs, not anti-virus. Now to your point, some spyware tools (Windows Defender for example) give you the option to turn off the real-time scanning. If your does not, (or if the second tool doesn't give you "manual scan only" option) you may need to uninstall one before trying a second tool.

Posted by:

Dale Eltoft
10 Jul 2009

Life has taught me that there is no free lunch. So I'm left with the question, "where's the hook?" Who is paying for all this?? As a rule of thumb all articles about something that is "Free" should explain how that is possible.

I greatly appreciate your evaluation of the effectiveness of these tools, but I believe the reviews should also evaluate the "cost" for "free" stuff.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Nothing sinister. There's usually a free basic version, and a paid version with extra features. They hope a certain percentage of the free users will upgrade and pay.

Posted by:

11 Jul 2009

Spyware Doctor by PCTools is free to download and use, but it will not remove any malware without payment of an annual subscription fee.

Posted by:

12 Jul 2009

I'd also recommend the free Hijackthis, now owned by Trend Micro. This is a great tool for identifying possible malware for those willing to take the time to learn how to use it. If nothing else, it is pretty simple to run a scan, create a log and post the log to a HijackThis forum for expert analysis and advice on malware removal. There are also automatic online analyzers available, which can save a lot of time by identifying known good processes.

BT, the link to Windows Defender is broken - this one takes you to the main WD page

Posted by:

13 Jul 2009

Defender is bad

MBAM is great

All the others are good

SAS is one of the best

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks for the awesome, insightful analysis!

Posted by:

05 Aug 2009

I agree that that chosing just one, may be a little short sighted.

We regularly install Spybot for it's immunization function (although frankly it's irritating as hell when it flags other products as malicious) and MBAM, which I have found to be the best of the pack - ever!

Posted by:

05 Sep 2009

Advanced System Protector is the best free available antispyware

Posted by:

10 Nov 2009

i am a tech and have been working for over 15 years and have used Super Antispyware on business systems that would be dificult to just reload windows on...saved me 100's of hours and lots of headache check it out here there is a free version --

Posted by:

Alex Mclennan
23 Nov 2009

I agree super antispyware is good,but the one iam using at the moment is Iobit 360 which gives you real time protection.
I have yet to fault this piece of software and it runs on xp,vista and windows 7.

Posted by:

31 Jan 2010

Malwarebytes is my first choice for fighting spyware. SAS is good as well. Forget the others.

I would like to give a shout out to Spyware Terminator. It runs a check daily, is self-updating and free. Running that in combination with a good antivirus (like Avast) will save you LOTS of headaches.

Posted by:

16 Feb 2010

Mike's comment on 11 July 2009 about Spyware Doctor is incorrect. If you download Spyware Doctor from Google Pack, you will be able to not only detect malware, but also remove it.

I did a LOT of research on anti-spyware/malware when my own computer was infected with malware that wouldn't go away despite my best efforts. I read several different pc magazines that tested various anti-malware programs against each other, and the top two consistently cited were Spyware Doctor and Webroot Spy Sweeper. Most agreed that Spyware Doctor detected THE most infections, hands down, and also *removed* the most (many programs do well at detecting, but stink at removing). Despite highly successful performance findings for Spyware Doctor, however, not all reviewers gave Spyware Doctor top reviews because it was a system hog and tended to cause the system to be sluggish or glitchy. Spy Sweeper was the next best in tests, but didn't detect or remove NEARLY as much as Spyware Doctor. Pretty much all agree that no one anti-spyware/malware program will detect EVERY spyware infection out there...and so most recommend doing a layered approach, using more than one program.

As for my personal experience removing that malware: My experience coincides with the findings I found in the various pc magazines. When my system was infected, I already HAD a paid subscription to Spy Sweeper, and also had free versions of Ad Aware and Spybot on my system. None of them could remove my malware infections. Ad Aware was the only one of the lot that detected my malware...but it could NOT remove it. When I finally downloaded the free Spyware Doctor, in a few short minutes, it detected and removed my evil demons. It was the ONLY software that worked.

Spyware Doctor has indeed slowed my system down, and has even frozen up my computer and forced me to reboot. I've resolved this by not using the realtime protection. I run regular scans of my system, and then shut down the program completely when done. Running my Spyware Doctor manually like this has kept my system running smoothly and, to the best of my knowledge, infection free ever since!

Posted by:

04 Mar 2010

I use every one of them, don't much like MS-Defender, but still use it. All others are great and one picks up where the other leaves off. Ive had excellent luck with the free version of Super Anti-Spyware, it has found Trojans none of the others could find. Also Hijack this is great if you know what programs are running on your computer and are a normal part of the install, otherwise if you don't know for sure what your doing yet, like a newbie, then you might be better of without hijack this.

Posted by:

22 Apr 2010

Anna wrote: "Mike's comment on 11 July 2009 about Spyware Doctor is incorrect. If you download Spyware Doctor from Google Pack, you will be able to not only detect malware, but also remove it."

Mike is right, that Spy Doctor will NOT remove malware unless you buy a license. That is my experience also and according to CNET (
"Spyware Doctor 7 offers users a superb collection of malware prevention and removal tools, but its infamously strict trial restrictions makes it difficult to evaluate...Once you remove the threats, which requires purchasing a license..."

Posted by:

29 Jun 2010

Hi Mick, I'm wondering if you actually tried downloading Spyware Doctor from Google Pack specifically? Google Pack is the only location I know of that provides a fully functional free version of Spyware Doctor. I got my free version probably 2 years or so ago, so I suppose it's possible that Spyware Doctor could have reeled that privilege back in since...but I do know that my free version of Spyware Doctor that I got from Google Pack *DOES* remove as well as detect the spyware.

Posted by:

29 Jun 2010

Just checked the Google Pack page. Spyware Doctor's description states that Google Pack provides a "Starter Edition" of Spyware Doctor, which *does* provide basic spyware protection. For advanced malware protection as well, they recommend paid upgrades which provide anti-virus and internet security in addition to the spyware protection.

If you don't see that offer, then I'm also wondering where you live? Perhaps the offerings are different depending on what country you live in??

Posted by:

Bill Pfeifer
08 Aug 2010

I helped a friend of mine remove a severe infection from her laptop on xP. In normal mode, you couldn't install anything, couldn't even go into control panel.
Windows Defender refused to install in safe mode, but Malwarebytes did. Something to keep in mind.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Free AntiSpyware Programs (Posted: 29 Jun 2009)
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