An the winner is... Microsoft Antispyware



Giant AntiSpyware catches 63%, tests say

Howes's tests were conducted before the Microsoft Corp.
announced in December that it was purchasing Giant Company
Software outright. For that reason, the tests use the
version of Giant AntiSpyware that was available in October
and not the newer Microsoft beta version that's currently

Even so, with Giant's application removing 63% of a PC's
adware components, and its nearest competitor, Webroot Spy
Sweeper, removing less than 50%, it's clear that Microsoft
has a potential winner on its hands.

In the following table, which was reviewed by Howes himself
before its publication here, the Adware Fixed column
represents the percentage of critical components
successfully removed, not just detected, by each product
(higher percentages are better). The False Positives column
shows the number of benign Windows files that were
incorrectly reported by a product as adware (lower numbers
are better):

Product Adware Fixed False Pos.
Giant AntiSpyware 63% 0
Webroot Spy Sweeper 48% 0
Ad-Aware SE Personal 47% 0
Pest Patrol 41% 10
SpywareStormer 35% 0
Intermute SpySubtract Pro 34% 0
PC Tools Spyware Doctor 33% 0
Spybot Search & Destroy 33% 0
McAfee AntiSpyware 33% 9
Xblock X-Cleaner Deluxe 31% 1
XoftSpy 27% 3
NoAdware 24% 0
Aluria Spyware Eliminator 23% 3
OmniQuad AntiSpy 16% 1
Spyware COP 15% 0
SpyHunter 15% 1
SpyKiller 2005 15% 2

Howes didn't test the anti-adware programs in the above
list against a program called CoolWebSearch (CWS). This
little bugger mutates every few days, it seems. CWS
actually requires a completely separate anti-adware
program, CWShredder, which is constantly evolving along
with the nuisance. This is explained in more detail later
in this article.

The fact that anti-adware products fail to remove all or
even most adware components has been an open secret among
security professionals for some time. For this reason, tech
writers often say, "You should install two different
programs and run both of them for maximum protection."

To test this assertion, I compiled Howes's raw data into a
new table showing the removal rate of the best app, Giant
AntiSpyware, with every other tested product. According to
this analysis, combining Webroot Spy Sweeper with Giant
AntiSpyware did the most to remove unwanted components. But
the combination of the two apps increased Giant's 63%
success rate only 7 percentage points, to 70%:

Giant AntiSpyware plus... Total Adware Fixed
Webroot Spy Sweeper 70%
Ad-Aware SE Personal 69%
PC Tools Spyware Doctor 68%
Pest Patrol 67%
Spybot Search & Destroy 67%
Spyware Stormer 67%
Spyware COP 66%
Aluria Spyware Eliminator 65%
Intermute SpySubtract Pro 65%
NoAdware 65%
XsoftSpy 65%
McAfee AntiSpyware 64%
OmniQuad AntiSpy 64%
SpyHunter 64%
SpyKiller 2005 64%
Xblock X-Cleaner Deluxe 64%

Finally, the computer press often recommends that the two
anti-adware products that should be used together are
Ad-Aware SE Personal and Spybot Search & Destroy. That
preference may have become the conventional wisdom because
both of these products have low-end, freeware versions. PC
World, PC Magazine, and other publications have recommended
this combination as recently as June and August, respectively.

Ad-aware and Spybot may have been a great combo back then.
But adware apparently moves much faster than these two
companies do. According to Howes's data, the two programs
together barely removed half the adware components on an
infected PC:

Ad-Aware SE Personal plus... Total Adware Fixed
Spybot Search & Destroy 54%

I found no combination of any two anti-adware programs that
removed more adware components than Giant AntiSpyware and
Webroot Spy Sweeper, based on Howes's data. Removing only
70% of adware, unfortunately, isn't good enough. A much
better strategy is to prevent adware from getting into your
systems in the first place. I'll cover that next.


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