Adaware Vs. Spybot

Aron Schatz
April 9, 2004
Adaware Vs. Spybot
Adaware and Spybot are both excellent spyware removal programs, but which one is THE best at getting the job done? To find out, I loaded up a virtual PC with spyware and tested both programs. Let's check out the results...
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Page 1

In the <a href="/articles.php?id=124">previous article about safer computing</a>, I explained what spyware was and what programs there are to remove it. Unlike virus scanners, spyware removal tools are better when used in conjunction with each other - one can find spyware that the other doesn't. I always suggest using them both, but there are some that are curious as to which is the better program. I wrote this article to determine which program, on it's own, removes more spyware.



I contemplated different ways to create a test system for spyware. I settled on using a virtual machine created by the excellent Microsoft Virtual PC. This way, I could create a test PC and load it up with spyware, then copy the machine and run both removal tools on separate, yet totally identical systems. How I actually infected the machine with spyware was simple: I acted like a first time computer user and carelessly browsed the internet for two hours. I clicked 'yes' to everything I saw. I downloaded everything that was 'free'. I downloaded and agreed to install every piece of junk offered to me. When the two hours was up, I was left with a machine that looked like the following two pictures.

<center>Spyware Desktop Spyware Desktop 2</center>

I also made sure to load lots of superfluous toolbars for IE that happen to come with KaZaA and other "helpful" things that you randomly see links for. In the end, I had a bunch of toolbars and sidebars, all fighting for control of the browser. What a mess.


Now that the test PC is setup, two copies of the system were made: one for testing Adaware, and one for Spybot. Let's get on with the individual programs.
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Upon starting up the test PC, I had to first figure out a way to get Spybot installed without the computer crashing or otherwise freezing from all the spyware that was now on it. I went to to download Spybot, but it was down. Thankfully, the site provided a direct link to for the software needed. The less time I spent on the internet, the better. Once I installed Spybot, I updated it to the latest tools and definitions using its integrated update feature. I then proceeded to scan the computer.

<center>Spybot Search</center>

Once the scan was completed, I was greeted with a message that Spybot was fixing my network drivers. In my past experiences, I have seen spyware take over computers so much that they disable their host computer's internet connection by messing up the network drivers. It's nice to see that Spybot fixes such problems.

<center>Spybot Done</center>

I then rebooted the machine and allowed Spybot to run on startup to clear out the resident programs that were left on the computer. All in all, there were a total of 264 "problems" found. Unfortunately, we cannot simply go by how many pieces of spyware are detected, as Spybot considers multiple parts of the same program as one. (FYI: Spybot's latest definitions can detect nearly 13,000 components.)

When Spybot was done scanning and cleaning, I proceeded to check all the spyware that Spybot took care of. Unfortunately, I was greeted by this...

<center>Spybot Cleaned Desktop</center>

One thing that disappointed me was the bar on the bottom, above the taskbar. In addition, Weatherbug is technically NOT spyware, nor is that Flashtalk thing that I installed. Memory usage was down from 220MB from the start to a much better 115MB. Think about that next time you are browsing the internet and installing all of this garbage!

There were still bits and pieces of spyware-laden programs around. Spybot didn't remove Golden Casino, but it DID cause it to no longer function - Ditto for the popular Kazaa program. Most other things were taken care of. Let's see how the browser looks.

<center>Spybot Cleaned Browser</center>

I opened up Internet Explorer and found two of the browser toolbars still there (in Spybot's defense, Adaware also left those two there). Again, I was disappointed that I still had two popup ads from visiting my own website. I NEVER have popups on my website: not now, not ever.

<B>Spybot mini conclusion</B>:

Spybot alone just doesn't do the job well enough. Leaving the bar above the taskbar and still having popups while browsing is unacceptable. I'll hold complete judgement until we can compare these results to Adaware's.
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This time around, I don't know WHAT happened, but Internet Explorer kept crashing upon loading It could of been that certain spyware was trying to foil my attempt to remove it! I don't know how, but I had to resort to putting Adaware on my fileserver and getting it from my network drive. Once Adaware was installed, I updated it using its built-in updater feature. After updating, I started to scan to the computer...

<center>Adaware Scanning</center>

One thing I like about Adaware is the much cleaner user interface. It also clearly tells you what type of spyware components it finds. Once the scan was completed, I then proceeded to delete the infections. Adaware takes much longer to first quarantine the spyware and then delete it. Adaware, like Spybot, also needed to re-run after a reboot to get rid of the running spyware. All in all, Adaware detected 622 pieces of spyware from a single, two hour period of browsing the Internet. This spyware problem is totally out of control, people! I had 15 useless, spyware-related running processes in the background: nearly half of the total processes - simply ridiculous.

<center>Adaware Done</center>

Upon restarting and letting Adaware finish its scans, I was greeted by a much cleaner desktop. To be honest, I did close Weatherbug so you could see an error that popped up: It was from a program that was broken after Adaware removed it's spyware components. I assume that error had something to do with Golden Palace, but I am unable to verify that theory. Kazaa, as usual, was also broken after the process. But as you can see, there is no longer an extra bar above the taskbar: something that Spybot had left behind. When everything was loaded, the memory usage was at 88MB, much less than Spybot's test PC. Let's take a look at the browser.

<center>Adaware Cleaned Desktop</center>

No popups found, but those two browser bars were still left behind! You can actually just uncheck them to disable them, or uninstall the host program that installed the bars. Either way, I'm surprised both Adaware and Spybot didn't take them out automatically.

<B>Adaware mini conclusion</B>:

Adaware, even by itself, does an excellent job of cleaning up the system. With updates available every few days, you can be sure to stay ahead of the spyware threat.
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From what I have seen from both programs, I can conclude that Adaware is a better all-around tool to remove spyware than Spybot is. I still reccommend the use of both programs to remove as much spyware as possible from your computer, however.

This article was not meant to demean either program, just to see which program gets the job done a bit better. Download BOTH Adaware and Spybot now, and see the improvement for yourself.

Download <a href="">Adaware</a> and <a href="">Spybot</a>.


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