We admit that we had high expectations for the latest release of Spyware Doctor, version 5.0.
Our expectations were tempered prior to testing, however, by the fact that things change quickly in the anti-spyware sector. Would the new version of Spyware Doctor continue its reign or fall back into the pack?
It only took a single scan of our badly infested system to learn the answer. While it wasn't the fastest scanner of the tools we've tested, it was among the most thorough and comprehensive.
In fact, it not only detected and removed all of the threats present on our system, but also went a few steps further than any of the other detection and removal processes. Specifically, the program detected our browser hijack, removed it and then reset our home page to About:blank, ensuring that we wouldn't be subject to skewed search results from the Google copycat site.
It also set about cleaning up all rogue bookmarks that had been inserted into our IE favorites by malware threats, and was the only scanner to detect and remove all offending adware Internet shortcuts that had been placed on our desktop.
That may not seem like a big deal, but we wish that every spyware program would pay such close attention to the smaller details which might lead users back into troubled waters. We were also alerted to the rogue DNS server settings that the DNS-changing Trojan has set upon us, helping us to get the test system back on track.
Just as impressive as Spyware Doctor's threat detection and removal facilities were its proactive defences as supplied by the OnGuard detection tools.
Spyware Doctor uses seven primary "guards" to protect your system in real time, designed to thwart a range of system changes including those to your web browser, HOSTS file, processes, startup items, and more. Most of the guards can also be tweaked and tuned to meet the needs of different users, up to and including members of the super-paranoid club.
Less-experienced users will appreciate Spyware Doctor's clean interface, as well as the fact that all detected threats - are clearly explained and anything but cryptic. When a reboot is required to remove threats completely, it's immediately suggested.
For those who want a set-it-and-forget it anti-spyware experience, scans can be scheduled while updates are downloaded automatically. Support is another issue, however: there's no phone support for Spyware Doctor, making it an email-only affair.
If there's any criticism of Spyware Doctor, it's the price: £30. However, users not willing to dole out the dosh (or wanting to take Spyware Doctor for a good test drive prior to committing) need look no further than Google Pack (http://pack.google.com).
Spyware Doctor Starter Edition - offering spyware detection and removal capabilities, but only very limited real-time protection - is available as part of the Pack free to anyone who wants to try it.