- Tips & Tricks
- Windows Vista Tools
- System Utilities
- Keyboard Shortcuts
Today we will start a series of articles showing how to keep your Windows Vista system safe from threats such as viruses, spyware, hackers, etc. In this article I will present to you a few anti-spyware solutions that can be used with no charge. Unfortunately there are not to many options available and some of the free solutions are just "crippled" versions of their commercial alternatives. However, you can keep your PC safe without paying any extra cash. The best strategy is to combine two complementary applications and benefit from their added features.
For example, you can use a free anti-spyware prevention tool such as Comodo BOClean Anti-Malware in combination with an on-demand scanner such as Ad-Aware 2007 Free. Or, you can go for my personal favorite - Spyware Terminator and use Spybot Search & Destroy as a backup, to double check your system from time to time. The choice is yours. What is important is the fact that you can keep your system safe from spyware for free.
Comodo BOClean Anti-Malware v4.25 - is a rather unusual anti-malware application. Once you install it, it runs silently in the background without giving you any warning messages, pop-ups, or anything else. The interface looks really outdated and it offers a minimum set of configuration options. There is no Scan button, no reports of malware found and/or disinfected. When using it for the first time I was wandering if this application actually works. So, I browsed through lots of malicious sites and then made a scan using Ad-Aware and Spybot, to see if Comodo BOClean Anti-Malware missed anything. I must say I was impressed: except an occasional tracking cookie, my system was clean. So, I guess... Comodo BOClean Anti-Malware does work but it is not a classical anti-spyware removal tool, but more like a prevention tool.
Spyware Terminator v2 - is one of the most robust spyware removal tools that can be found on the internet. It offers effective real-time protection without sacrificing too many system resources. I have been using this application for months and I must say I am very pleased with it. It is a lot better than Windows Defender in almost every aspect: number of updates & signatures, features, spyware detection rate, scanning speed. The only downside is the fact that this application can be a bit complicated if you are a beginner and you enable all its protection features. If you are a novice it is better to activate only the Realtime Shield without HIPS (Host Intrusion Prevention System). However, if you learn very well how Spyware Terminator 2 works, it is a good idea to activate all it's features (including the integration with ClamAV). It will help a lot in keeping your system safe.
Ad-Aware 2007 Free v7 - is one of the most well-known anti-spyware solutions. The latest version offers a new interface which integrates pretty well with the Windows Vista look, a redesigned spyware detection engine and several new features such as multiple browser support or incremental definition file updates. Unfortunately the best features such as real-time protection and automatic updates are reserved for the payed versions such as "Plus" and "Pro". This is why I recommend using Ad-Aware 2007 Free v7 as a secondary protection solution that complements one that offers real-time protection.
Spybot Search & Destroy v1.5 - is the veteran of anti-spyware solutions. Even though it does not offer real-time protection, it can remove a wide variety of spyware. The signature database is quite comprehensive, containing about 106.700 entries at the time when I reviewed it. I have used this application for quite some time and I was always satisfied with it. Spybot Search & Destroy is a pretty solid solution which work best as a secondary level of protection. Even if you use another solution that offers real-time protection, it is good to update Spybot Search & Destroy and make an additional scan for spyware. You never know what might still be lurking on your system.
AVG Anti-Spyware Free Edition v7.5 - is actually a trial version of AVG Anti-Spyware Pro that disables most of its features after 1 day of use. So, initially you get a fully featured anti-spyware solution that offers real-time protection and automatic updates. After that you will be asked to buy the "Pro" version or, you can continue using it for free but with less features. Eventually you will be left with only the anti-spwyare engine. You will have to manually update the application and also make manual scans of your system. Even so, AVG Anti-Spyware Free Edition v7.5 is a good solution that offers a good detection engine and a very nice and easy to use interface.
SpywareBlaster v3.5 - just like Comodo BOClean, this application acts like a prevention tool that protects your PC from spyware, adware, dialers, browser hijackers, and other potentially unwanted programs. Unlike Comodo, SpywareBlaster does not update itself automatically. If you want the 'Auto Update' feature you will have to buy a license key for 9.95USD. The interface is better than Comodos but, even so, it still feels like an outdated application. However, its performance is pretty good and except a tracking cookie or two, nothing else remained on my test system after browsing through many malicious sites.
NOTE: according to a comment made by one of our readers, the community of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professionals does NOT recommend using SpywareBlaster to protect your Windows Vista PC.
Protect your system from viruses for free
Protect your system from hackers for free
10 free applications for Windows Vista
What software should I install on my PC?
What is Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool (mrt.exe) and how to use it