Spybot Search & Destroy is a free antispyware utility that targets adware, malicious code, and other threats. It also cleans security tracks, shreds files, and tweaks the Registry. The optional TeaTimer feature protects the Registry from real-time attacks. Spybot isn't a replacement for a full antivirus program, though it does detect and remove some threats. It's a constantly updated, on-demand adware and malware scanner you can run regularly to sweep your system. Spybot S&D is free for personal use.
Spybot's Setup screen let us choose which components to install, including skins, languages, and integration with Security Center. A pop-up message warned against removing ad robots lest their associated apps stop working, but we were more interested in what the average user experiences when running Spybot, so we just left things as they were downloaded.
Before it scans your system, Spybot asks to back up your registry -- let it. It only takes a minute or two. Even though the risk is low, Spybot has the power to delete what you let it delete, and a backup can save your bacon if something goes wrong. When we finished the setup process, Spybot asked if we wanted to read the tutorial or the help manual or start using the program. We opted for the extensive manual, which covers everything from basic options to settings for visually impaired users. Spybot's been around since the days of Windows 95, with many updates, so users have abundant resources: tutorials, FAQs, how-tos, forums, and so on.
It sounds like a long path to running Spybot, but in fact it's a quick and easy process. The main tool, Search & Destroy, has three buttons: Check for Problems, Recovery, and Updates (Spybot's menu also offers Recovery and Immunize features). The program offered a Hint of the Day while it scanned, though our initial scan took a lot longer than the tool tip took to read. Spybot found adware burrowed into our test PC. We had to run Spybot again as an Administrator and reboot to clean it all. But that's thorough cleaning and fine with us. Security-minded users should definitely try Spybot Search & Destroy.