Spyware can be an unfortunate side effect of online life, but the best spyware removal software will have your computer running smoothly again.
Download.com gave Ad-Aware 5 out of 5 stars, saying its "excellent reputation is well justified." CNET.com gave Ad-Aware a 7.6 out of 10, designating it a "very good" program. The reviewer's main complaint was the lack of support for the free edition of the program. Ad-Aware performed well in testing, offering a quick and thorough full-system scan with helpful information about potential Internet security threats.
Price: Free, $26.95 for Plus edition
2. Spyware Doctor
Spyware Doctor is a PC Magazine Editors' Choice, with a review score of 4.5 out of 5. In testing, it removed 21 out of 24 spyware programs, performing slightly better than Spy Sweeper, another spyware removal software option. Download.com gave the program a 3 out of 5, although the reviewer's issues were with the free trial scan rather than with the program as a whole, claiming that the free download didn't give users enough of "one of the better antispyware tools available."
Website: Spyware Doctor
3. Spy Sweeper
CNET.com gave Spy Sweeper a 7.3 out of 10, praising the program's newly-designed interface, spyware shields, and built-in help system. The program was an Editors' Choice at PC Magazine, earning a 4.5 out of 5 for its protection, streamlined interface and fewer intrusive warnings than previous versions of the program. PC World also named it a Best Buy in an overview of spyware removal software. Spy Sweeper offers a free scan, but users must purchase the program to actually remove any spyware.
Website: Spy Sweeper
Price: $29.95 for a one-year subscription
4. Windows Defender
Windows Defender received a respectable 7 out of 10 from CNET.com, with the reviewer preferring the program's spyware prevention over its removal capabilities. Download.com gave it a 4 out of 5, calling it an "exceptional spyware remover." The general consensus seems to be that it's a worthwhile program, especially since it's free, but it's not quite on par with the very best spyware removal software.
Website: Windows Defender
5. SpyBot Search & Destroy
The earliest version of Spybot earned top honors; it was an Editors' Choice pick at PC Magazine and PC World named it the best anti-spyware scanner of 2004. Version 1.4 only earned a 2.5 out of 5 from both PC Magazine and PC World. It may be among the best spyware removal software, but it proves ineffective against preventing the installation of spyware in the first place. However, there is still a market for the program. Reviews note the program's extensive tools for advanced users and ability to schedule regular scans. Add the universal appeal of free software downloads and Spybot proves it's not ready to leave the spyware removal software market.
Website: SpyBot Search & Destroy