Detox-Comic

Can you get away with only using one anti-spyware tool?

Is there any one anti-spyware tool that you can use to replace all others and reduce the amount of system resources used by all the anti-spyware installed on your PC?

I use the following tools and not one has found any spyware in 6 months. This can mean that the combination of tools I use is working. I am however wondering whether I'm using too many tools and employing overkill whereby using less may supply the same level of protection and free up much needed system resources.

Anti-spyware software currently in use:

Spybot Search & Destroy 1.4

Advantages

  • Scans for web diallers (not really a problem if you use DSL but can hog resources)
  • Allows you to fix your registry (not the best registry cleaner but free)
  • Allows you to immunise your PC

Disadvantages

  • Updates are few and irregular
  • Updates never seem to download successfully first go (bad checksum errors)

SpywareBlaster 3.5.1

Advantages

  • Prevents spyware from being installed (protects silently though so you are never sure it is actually doing anything)

Disadvantages

  • No scanning functionality. It just prevents spyware being installed. Great if you update regularly and the author knows about all spyware out there, but if not, you will need a scanning tool as well.

Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition 1.06

Advantages

  • Targeted more at Adware
  • Scans memory
  • Allows plug-ins of specialist tools to add extra functionality
  • Can scan for low risk threats

Disadvantages

  • You need to really customise the settings and run a custom scan to get the best out of this software.

Spyware Doctor 3.5

Advantages

  • Rated as best anti-spyware by many
  • Capable or removing spyware, diallers and adware
  • Updated regularly

Disadvantages

  • Does not always tell you when you need to update the core engine
  • Uses a lot of system resources running in the background
  • Does not block anything that Spyware Blaster or Spybot is blocking (if installed)

The Test

My plan is to uninstall Spybot Search & Destroy, Spyware Blaster and Ad-Aware for one week and to just leave Spyware Doctor running. Then I'll reinstall the other tools and see if they find any malware that Spyware Doctor has not detected.

A week of intensive surfing, downloading, emailing and general internet activity should be enough to open my PC up to the odd piece of malware.

A week later..

Well it has been a little more than a week now so time to re-install Ad-aware and Spybot and see if they find anything that Spyware Doctor missed.

Installed Ad-aware SE Personal build 1.06r1 and updated definitions. After scanning for 30 minutes it only found 2 minor threats which it detailed as a TAC rating and MRU lists. No spyware.

Installed Spybot Search & Destroy 1.4 and updated definitions. After scanning for 10 minutes it found nothing.

So it looks like either Spyware Doctor is good, or I had a lucky week as far as spyware infections are concerned.

One thing to note is that Spyware Doctor said it found some spyware but would not remove it unless I registered the product. I was hoping that Spybot would find the spyware and remove it but it did not. I then re-ran Spyware Doctor and it failed to find the spyware a second time. Strange.

I am going to continue my experiment for a little longer but instead of using Spyware Doctor as my only anti-spyware tool, I am switching to Microsoft's Windows Defender (Beta 2). This is free to anyone who is using a genuine copy of Windows 2000/XP.

A week later..

Well the results are in. I ran a scan using Windows Defender and found no spyware. I then re-installed Spybot, Ad-Aware and Spyware Doctor and ran scans. My system is clean of any infection.

So now I'm only going to use Windows Defender which is great as its free via my XP license. I think every few months I'll use another tool to run a scan to check that Windows Defender is not missing anything just to be sure. If my opinion changes, I will update this article.

21st May 2006

I've found that Microsoft are not updating Windows Defender as much as I would like. In fact I've kept Spyware Doctor (unregistered) around and updated. Every time it finds something new I see if Windows Defender can also find it and it can't. I'm revising my opinion about it. When Spyware Doctor finds the problem it tells you where the problem files are and it is therefore easy to manually remove them yourself with Windows Explorer.

With malware on the increase it looks like I am going to have to revisit this article. Other tools are looking like they are worth a look such as Panda and Ewido's anti-malware suites. Expect a further update.

If you have any feedback regarding this article, or you have a suggestion for a new article, or just want to say thanks for the info then feel free to drop me an email at dave@detoxcomic.com.

Article updated: 21-May-2006