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Keep Prying Eyes Out of Windows With These Anti-Spyware Apps

Don't let sketchy apps sneak onto your PC and collect your private info.

Apps in this Guide

Viruses aren't the only kind of malware that you need to keep on your radar; spyware can do a lot of damage, too. Sometimes it's bundled with legit-looking software, and other times you're trickedmore

Viruses aren't the only kind of malware that you need to keep on your radar; spyware can do a lot of damage, too. Sometimes it's bundled with legit-looking software, and other times you're tricked into clicking on the wrong thing on a sketchy website. Read on for the best Windows software for protecting yourself against programs designed to secretly collect your user data.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know when to perform a manual spyware scan on my computer?
There are two main methods: scanning periodically, and scanning when you detect unusual behavior in Windows (like previously stable software crashing or locking up unexpectedly, suddenly slow system performance, or corrupted files). It's best to use both methods. You can use your calendar app to set a recurring reminder so that you don't forget. Frequency depends on what you use Windows for. If it's mainly spreadsheets, email, and Facebook, then you'll probably be fine with a monthly manual scan.
How do I check if my antivirus software is protecting me from spyware?
Sometimes this function is not enabled by default. The setting you're looking for is usually labeled "potentially unwanted programs" (PUPs) or "possible unwanted application." Every antivirus software interface is different, so you may have to dig around the software's interface, ask tech support, or perform a Google search to figure out where it is.
What's the best way to use anti-spyware software?
For the most part, the characteristics of high-quality antivirus software carry over to anti-spyware software. In fact, most antivirus suites can be used as a front line of defense. They will do automatic scanning in the background, and you can just go about your normal computer business. However, if you are especially concerned about spyware getting around your conventional defenses, it doesn't hurt to set up a second scanner to do a manual double-check of your antivirus of choice. This second scanner doesn't protect in the background because it can interfere with the operation of your main antivirus software. You just open it periodically, tell it to scan your system, then close it when it's done. Be aware that removing spyware may disable the software that it was bundled with. In that case, you'll have to find a cleaner alternative.

Recommended Windows Anti-Spyware Software

Best Manual Spyware Scanning: Malwarebytes

Best Manual Spyware Scanning: Malwarebytes

This app actually staked its claim as a manual malware scanner originally called Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, aka MBAM. Over time, it has become one of the most reliable and trusted scanners in the business. As a welcome bonus, manual scanning is free. (The premium version adds automatic background scanning and basically upgrades Malwarebytes to a full-fledged conventional antivirus suite.)

Overall Winner: Norton Security Premium

Overall Winner: Norton Security Premium

In past years, Norton security products had an arguably well-earned reputation for bogging down Windows and being difficult to fully remove. Norton completely overhauled its antivirus product line a few years ago, however, and it's now much lighter and also very good at identifying threats. It's not the cheapest solution out there, but it's reliable and trustworthy.