Spybot Search and Destroy 1.4 is a free, fast, proactive antispyware app, and it doesn't require you to provide an e-mail address or any other information about yourself. Of the antispyware software we tested, however, Spybot tested dead last, leaving behind several known pests, but it finished near the middle in overall performance. That said, Spybot's default mode is easy to use for most home users, and its advanced mode offers features that will please most high-end users. With its support of more than 30 different languages, Spybot maintains wide international appeal.
After downloading the 4.8MB file, installation is smooth. Simply select your language preference, and you're ready to go. Spybot has an easy-to-use interface: From the main window, you can scan your system for spyware, update the program, and recover your system to a previous state, if needed, thanks to the backup copies that Search and Destroy makes of everything it changes.
A highly configurable advanced-mode interface is available for power users who like to schedule their scans (using Windows Task Manager), manage cookies, add skins, and even customise Spybot's operation, such as deciding whether to launch at start, to log files, or to display warnings. Protection not found in other antispyware software includes displaying your windows Hosts file (often the target for phishing scams), a built-in data shredder, and a fairly long list of opt-out addresses so that you can stop getting spam. It's the extras within Spybot that initially won us over.
In our tests, Search and Destroy was lightning fast, requiring only 7 minutes, 19 seconds to scan our test system. Unfortunately, the scan was not very accurate. Formerly one of the best antispyware programs available, Spybot Search and Destroy performed the worst in our tests. First, Search and Destroy required that we restart in order to remove spyware programs that reinstall themselves. Second, after restart, the second scan took almost twice as long as the first. In the end, however, Spybot left 180 Search Assistant, Bookedspace, eXact Searchbar, and Search Exe running on our system.
Version 1.4 of Spybot Search and Destroy includes a tutorial and an in-program help file. Unfortunately, our test e-mail went unanswered. On the other hand, Sypbot is an easy-to-use app that is unlikely to give you any real headaches.