Introduction, Malwarebytes, AdAware
Protecting your computer from damaging spyware, adware and malware is crucial to make sure your PC runs as quickly as possible whilst at the same time ensuring that your information isn't compromised.
Thankfully there are plenty of diverse programs out there that can protect your PC in varying different ways and the best part about it all is that most come with some sort of free elements included.
Even with a plethora of features behind the paywall, there are a number of excellent programs available and the best five free anti-spyware software programs are outlined here.
When it comes to an extensive solution that gets to the bottom of any malware, adware or spyware on your system, there aren't many that come close to Malwarebytes Anti-Malware.
At its heart is an extensive scanning solution that combs through your PCs nooks and crannies in one of two ways. The Threat Scan looks in the places it knows threats hide in order to safeguard your PC whereas the Custom Scan can be adjusted to look for bugs in places specified by the user.
The scan takes some time as it goes over every file and once it is done presents you with a list of threats and you either deal with them all individually or select the quarantine all option. Users will find a range of other options in the settings menu such as the ability to specify files, and folders that should not be scanned, and the opportunity to change detection and protection options.
You will also notice the sheer number of features that aren't included in the freeware version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware such as advanced website protection, online backups and the chance to schedule scans. The amount of things behind the paywall is one of the only drawbacks of MalwareBytes Anti-Malware that provides a simple way to protect your computer from the ills of the internet.
Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+
Many anti-spyware programs come as part of a cover-all-bases anti-virus package and Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ is no different in that sense. After the initial installation, which is an admittedly rather long one, only because it carries out a virus scan on your computer, Ad-Aware can be largely left to run in the background.
Scanning-wise there are three options that include a quick scan of active processes, full scan of everything on your PC, or a custom scan of user defined locations with all three designed to find spyware that you can then choose to quarantine. Protection against spyware goes further than that still through a real-time protection engine that stops viruses before they have a chance to enter your PC.
All of this can be protected by a four digit PIN code to stop other users modifying any settings, however, it's negligible due to the fact that there aren't really any settings in the free version, except for turning off real-time protection, that make it worth setting one up.
Ad-Aware Web Companion also comes as part of the package, which warns you about malicious or dangerous websites before you get onto them, although there are so many other features behind the paywall that Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ is little more than a virus scanner with anti-spyware protection.
Spybot, SuperAntiSpyware, Trend Micro
Spybot Search & Destroy
Is this the first anti-spyware program on the list to offer all its features for free? Sadly Spybot Search & Destroy is not this program, although the free version is an excellent way for any beginners to get started with an anti-spyware program.
Upon opening Spybot Search & Destroy for the first time it prompts you to update the trove of malware signatures kept by the program to try and prevent any malicious software from entering your system. The other window that opens is the start centre, which is the nerve centre of everything that Spybot Search & Destroy can do.
From here you can initiate scans of either the system or individual files and folders, prepare a whitelist of files or sites, and quarantine or apply prevention to your browser to prevent infections in the future.
Even when you switch on the advanced options the icons are nice and big plus when you hover over them with the mouse pointer it gives an explanation in terms easy for absolute beginners to understand.
There are obviously a couple of things that aren't included in the free version, including the system repair, secure shredder, and chance to create a boot disk. This shouldn't put you off what is a good program for any beginners looking for a good level of protection against malicious software.
SuperAntiSpyware Free Edition
Spyware scanners often come with a lot of other nifty gadgets that you don't really need and for those that want a basic scanner and nothing else, SuperAntiSpyware Free Edition fits the bill.
Before installation be careful during the process to uncheck various options as otherwise it will automatically install Google Chrome and make it your default browser. Although if you want this option then by all means go ahead.
Its very limited set of features means that you can click to scan the computer or use system tools to repair parts that may be infected with spyware. You can either choose to carry out a complete scan, quick scan, critical point scan that focuses on active infections, or custom scan to look at user-defined locations. There are also a number of other parameters including the ability to activate scan boost, scan inside browser tracking cookies and to only scan recently modified files, These advanced options give it a leg up on other scanners.
SuperAntiSpyware's scan also uncovered a lot more in the way of adware and tracking cookies than the other scanners suggesting that it is the most effective option out there. Some of the system tools on offer are also extremely helpful including a SUPERDelete File Removal tool that helps to uninstall programs and a repair suite that fixes registry damage caused by malware.
For a small program it certainly packs a punch and after performing so well in weeding out adware we'd be hard pressed to say a lot against SuperAntiSpyware Free Edition.
Trend Micro HijackThis
From one of the renowned names of the free anti-virus world, Trend Micro HijackThis works to prevent malicious programs from attacking your system registry.
There's not much to Trend Micro HijackThis except for a system scanner that goes deep down into your system, finds problems and then allows you to fix them. After a scan has been initiated the results are presented in a matter of seconds and you can then choose to fix them. One annoying thing here is that you have to go through and check the box next to every item to fix it instead of just being able to fix all the problems in one fell swoop.
The way the results are presented can also seem confusing for anyone without a detailed system know-how. One good addition is the config section that includes a process manager, host file manager, NT service deletion tool, ADS spy and an uninstall manager.
For anti-spyware ability alone Trend Micro HijackThis falls down due to the fact it doesn't allow you to fix all problems at the same time although it still finds problems, the benchmark for all anti-spyware programs.