Free Spyware Removal Programs
It is a harsh truth that there are people out there who are trying to cause damage to our computers or simply use them for their own purposes without our knowledge. Because of such people, it has become necessary to arm ourselves with a variety of programs to protect our computers from viruses, spyware, and whatever else may be created.
There's no question that the Internet is the great enabler. Unfortunately, it enables spyware to spread too. Spyware is created to do different things from using your computer to send large numbers of e-mails (spam) to transmitting data about your activities as you surf the web.
I like to keep an eye on the freely available programs that can be used to identify spyware that may have slipped through my installed anti-virus program. I figure it's got to be pretty hard to keep on top of every malicious program out there and it's possible that one developer might know something another doesn't.
This constant testing does bring with it some risks though. Some developers, and I have to respect their deviousness, are creating fake anti-spyware programs that are themselves spyware. Yikes!
Here are a few anti-spyware products I think are worth downloading (and yes they're all free):
- Lavasoft Ad-Aware: If you download no other, this is the one to get. The free version scans only when you tell it to which is fine since you should have an anti-virus program installed and running all of the time.
- Spybot Search and Destroy: I've never had the impression that this program is as robust as others and yet it has on occasion found spyware that other programs didn't detect. For that reason it's a worthy choice to use regularly.
- TrendMicro has scooped up a bunch of the free anti-spyware tools in recent years include CWShredder and HijackThis. HijackThis is available for downloading as opensource while others just aren't supported any more. TrendMicro's current list of tools are here. There's one program that specifically targets rootkits and another for bots. However, if you're not sure what's infected your computer, start with the free HouseCall service which is basically an anti-spyware / anti-virus program that runs via your web browser. I've used it several times and while it's a little clunky, it does find spyware and viruses.
- The line between spyware and viruses is blurring so it's worth also mentioning a couple of programs that are considered anti-virus programs, but they'll find and remove spyware as well. The first is AVG Free and the other is AVAST Free. Both are worth using to do full scans of your computer, but do remember that you shouldn't have more than one program active at a time.
Finally, if you can afford it, I would recommend buying a suite of tools from a single vendor. You'll typically get better performance from a suite than from having individual programs running. This is because a suite will limit resource overhead whereas individual programs will each have their own overhead.
Note that I'm not affiliated with any of these and there is no benefit to me if you download any of them — aside from there being one less computer out there giving a home to spyware!