Which anti-spyware and anti-virus programs are best at detecting and removing spyware and viruses respectively and why?
October 7, 2008 4:59 AM   Subscribe

Which anti-spyware and anti-virus programs are best at detecting and removing spyware and viruses respectively and why?

Everyone seems to have a personal preference when it comes to anti-spyware and anti-virus programs. However, what I never see is any reasoning to back this up.

For the purposes of this question, I am not interested in things such as ease of use or extensive feature lists such as real time scanning. I am only interested in which anti-spyware and anti-virus programs are best at doing their respective jobs: detecting and removing spyware and viruses.

I also want to know why a particular program is better than the rest.
posted by Fluffy654 to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
malware bytes anti-malware is hands down the best for finding and removing spyware/malware.
posted by Amby72 at 6:18 AM on October 7, 2008

Best answer: It's precisely things like real-time scanning and feature lists that distinguishes one antivirus/antispyware package from another; all the major players essentially have a 100% detection and removal rate; if they didn't, they wouldn't be in business very long. It may have been the case in the past that detection rates varied a bit, but nowadays lists of new threats are widely available, so vendors have no excuse for not updating their signatures very quickly.

Is your question purely academic, or are you looking for a product to fit a particular requirement?

Personally I'm quite happy with AVG. It does have rather a lot of features, but isn't a system-hogging behemoth like Norton's offering. Only yesterday I 'fixed' a friend's laptop by taking Norton off; he was so happy at the general improvement that he bought me a case of beer.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:44 AM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've used Avast! in conjunction with AdAware and Spybot for a few years now with no issues.
posted by reenum at 7:07 AM on October 7, 2008

None are "the best." Some do a better job than others, sometimes, depending on the specific infection. Some are better at detecting earlier others are better at removing.

The best approach is to learn how to create a user account in windows as a 'limited user' not run as a local admin.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:22 AM on October 7, 2008

Every answer from here on down will be:





with bonus points for recommending AdAware & SpyBot.
posted by wfrgms at 7:42 AM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I used Malware Bytes to clean up a PC yesterday, then installed Avast and ran a boot-time scan which cleaned out 10 more items on top of the stuff MWB cleaned out.

MWB is fantastic for 0-day threats since they update their definitions practically daily and it'll clean out the garbage from all the rouge installers (such as AntiVirus XP 2008/9 etc)
posted by ijoyner at 9:05 AM on October 7, 2008

Best answer: The first tool I reach for is still HijackThis, now owned by TrendMicro.

I like HIjackThis for three reasons. First, it doesn't rely on a blacklist or whitelist - it simply provides a comprehensive list of the services, plugins, startup items, etc currently in place on the computer. This is good news and bad news, of course - HijackThis relies on you or a knowledgeable friend to determine whether anything on the list is good or bad, so it's not an automatic solution by any means. On the other hand, relying on a blacklist-based tool means that you're constantly having to update it with the latest signatures and hoping the program's maintainers have added whatever it is you've got to their database. (This is particularly problematic when one of the effects of the suspected malware or virus is, your internet connection is hosed, so you can't update your tool very easily.)

Secondly, one person's malware is another person's feature-rich application. Programs designed to detect and remove known malware won't touch or report applications or services or plugins that may be unnecessary and which are bringing your system to its knees, but which are considered "legitimate". When everything slows to a crawl, and you suspect malware but your malware tools don't report anything, HijackThis will still happily show you all of the services that *might* be affecting your system's performance, and will you decide if there's anything there that shouldn't be or that is unnecessary.

What if the "drivers" for your new printer/copier/fax/scanner/coffeemaker installed a dozen services and system tray applications that launch every time your computer starts and which are leading to huge performance hits? Happens all the time, and most antivirus or malware tools will cheerfully ignore them, since they're not known malware. (There's often a fine line between malware and just really poorly designed software.) So your system starts bogging down and reporting random crashes and errors, and you immediately think malware or virii, but those tools report that your system is clean. In these cases, HijackThis will at least get you a step further in the right direction, considering each of the things actually running and determining if it might be a factor.

Finally, HijackThis and similar tools help you actually get *better* at managing your own computer. They don't do the critical thinking for you, but they give you the tools you need to be effective at managing your computer yourself. The best way to use a tool like this is, run it when your system is in good shape, and get a feel for everything that shows up - this way, when things change, you can run it again and find out what's new. It gives you a better understanding of what actually happens when you install a new piece of software, and helps you see how some applications (legitimate or not) actually dig their hooks into your system. Ultimately it makes you a smarter computer user.

In short - if you're in panic mode and don't have the time, experience or inclination to put much thought into it, almost any malware or antivirus tool will work in a pinch. Some will work better than others, bfew will detect and remove 100% of the bad stuff automatically, particularly when the bad stuff may or may not actually be a known virus or malware. Whenever I can though, I like to use tools that help me understand better what's going on with my system, and HijackThis is a great example of this type of tool
posted by herichon at 11:32 AM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

This guy tests against a LARGE number of viruses. As you can see, the test I linked up, he tested against 246,705 virus. It seems most people only review against 4,000 or so.

Granted, these are just numbers and not a great answer as to which is the best. You will also see that if you look at older tests, that some programs did better than others at one point in time, and terrible during a different testing period.

I just figured it would be a somewhat handy guide. YMMV, etc. etc.
posted by mrzer0 at 9:00 AM on October 8, 2008

Herichon is right; the best defense is vigilance and competence of your own system. Hijack this will definitely help you there.

My tried and true programs are Hijack, AVG and Spybot. I carry them in my thumb drive just in case someone brings their machine to its knees.
posted by Zeker at 9:33 AM on October 8, 2008

I'll assume you're talking about Windows.

Some independent antivirus comparatives include AV-Comparatives, Virus.gr, AV-Test.org, ISCA Labs, and Virus Bulletin.

As a Geek Squad type guy for an IT company in Glendale, CA, I clean dozens of computers each week. I am constantly testing new tools, and comparing which tools work best, and which ones get the job done when others do not.

In my own experience, the best free antivirus is Avira, which outperforms the top three commercial programs: Symantec/Norton, McAfee, and Trend Micro. Avoid popular programs because virus writers will test their viruses against the popular programs before releasing them into the wild.

The best free complementary tools are MalwareBytes' Anti-Malware and Super Anti Spyware. Spybot is still okay, too.

I use HijackThis constantly. This requires expertise, but this site makes things easier.

If you're an expert, you can detect more advanced threats with Process Explorer, AutoRuns, FileMon and Regmon, though at that point it is usually less labor to backup the data and do a clean install of Windows and all essential programs.

The simplest way to avoid data loss is to signup for online backup. Set it and forget it. Many financial firms I service use Carbonite. If you want free online backup, I have used Mozy, IDrive, and now DropBox.

My experience tends to agree with the recommendations of Gizmo's Tech Support Alert, a superb site.
posted by fermi at 10:26 PM on October 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

>The best free complementary tools are MalwareBytes' Anti-Malware and Super Anti Spyware.

The only time I used Super Anti-Spyware it turn a computer into a non-stop rebooting disaster.

You can go crazy with all the scanning applications in the world slowing down your system and providing a false sense of security or you can spend one hour of your time learning how to run as a limited user. Up to you.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:46 PM on October 9, 2008

I would suggest Ad-Aware. It's free for personal use and has worked flawlessly for me everytime I needed it.
posted by hxc at 10:38 PM on October 11, 2008

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