Spyware Doctor from PC Tools Software is a polished and solid contender in the antispyware category. Sporting a sleek and easy-to-use interface, Spyware Doctor also packs a lot of protection under the hood and is backed up by one of the most aggressive spyware identification programs in the business. In testing done by CNET Download.com, Spyware Doctor 3.2 did very well, finishing near the top of the list for removing known spyware and tying for fourth with Webroot Spy Sweeper for overall performance. Since the December 2005 Download.com tests, PC Tools has released Spyware Doctor 3.5, which, in addition to other minor enhancements, offers advanced rootkit protection (a feature we did not test for in other apps). Spyware Doctor costs US$29.95, which entitles you to 12 months of technical support, software upgrades, and live updates to its antispyware definitions. There is a free trial version available online, but it only identifies and doesn't remove any malicious programs it finds on your system unless you buy the app, a practice we think is just plain wrong. That said, Lavasoft Ad-aware, which offers a fully functioning free version, remains our overall recommendation for best antispyware application.
Installation is a breeze, and pressing the Finish button causes Spyware Doctor to launch its Live Update feature, which goes out and checks for the latest spyware database additions and program updates, then performs a full system scan. Spyware Doctor's scans were faster than most of the other antispyware programs' we've seen, but it still managed to catch all of the spyware we threw at it. There are also options for a Quick Scan, which didn't actually seem much quicker, and a Custom Scan.
Spyware Doctor is intuitive and easy to use, and all of its features are clearly labelled and accessible. In addition to the expected spyware scanning, there's a host of system immunisation and real-time monitoring features available in the OnGuard section. Spyware Doctor also now has a powerful scheduler that allows you to automate full system scans, quick scans, and even its live program updates.
Spyware Doctor is one of the most aggressive antispyware programs we've tested, going beyond the call of duty by dealing with more than just traditional adware and spyware. Spyware Doctor also manages your tracking cookies; guards against changes to your browsers, start-up, and network configurations; and defends against illicit dialler and key-logger programs, and version 3.5 discovers and immunises your PC against rootkits.
In testing performed by CNET Download.com, PC Tools Spyware Doctor took 21 minutes, 5 seconds to finish a full scan. This app found all of the big-name apps that we knew were present, but it also offered some vague entries that we could not confirm. While we liked the itemized list of threats, Spyware Doctor offered little information within the program about those threats, though it did offer links to Web pages that included detailed information. After removal and restart, Spyware Doctor left only one trace of spyware on our test machine.
Technical support via e-mail is included in the annual subscription price, and support requests are normally processed within 24 hours. There is also an extensive FAQ and tip section on the PC Tools Web site and a very thorough integrated help system.