Managing Spyware

Spyware and PC viruses are facts of life, like graffiti. Moaning and bemoaning won’t make them go away.

AVG AntiVirus  Hopefully by now you’ve found and are using anti-virus software that makes viruses manageable. If not, we suggest AVG Anti-Virus from Grisoft. The free, personal edition is really all you need and unlike the offerings from the “major” houses — McAfee and Symantec — it won’t bog your PC down with unnecessary processes.

Microsoft Antispyware  Now it’s time to get proactive about spyware. If you’re running a variant of Windows XP/2000, you’re in luck. Microsoft bit the bullet and bought Giant Software, which produced and marketed the previously top-rated antispyware software. Now you can get that software, with improvements and frequent updates, free from Microsoft. It’s called Microsoft Antispyware (Beta). Don’t be put off by the “Beta.” This is hands down the best available antispyware for cleaning, detecting and protecting your Windows XP/2000 system.

One’s Not Enough  Since no one product detects and cleans all spyware, I recommend backing up Microsoft’s software with another free product. This one’s the antispyware tool built into Yahoo!’s toolbar. It represents another buyout by a major player (Yahoo!) of a very highly rated product, this time the one still available for a fee from Pest Patrol. The Yahoo! Toolbar is a simple adware and spyware free download. It works with Internet Explorer and FireFox, the two most popular browsers. Go for it!

For Windows 98/ME Users  If you’re among the holdouts still running Windows 98/ME, you can’t use Microsoft’s antispyware, although the Yahoo! Toolbar will work for you. Instead of the Microsoft product, you’ll need two others, both free. The more robust of the two is Spybot Search & Destroy (great product, terrible name), which should be installed in its protection mode. What Spybot misses AdAware from Lavasoft will catch.

Please Take Note  A final word of caution. The “big name” software houses make truly awful antispyware software. Stay away unless you’re on the payroll. And even more important: never, never, never buy antispyware software from a company that it offers it in a popup window. That’s called how to infect your PC mercilessly.

P.S.  It’s a little out of date — Microsoft has since released its Antispyware, and tests indicate virus protection from Symantec and McAfee fall short — but there’s a good story and a lot of valuable information in our August, 2004 PC Tips Column The Price of Scumware.

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