The past few years have seen Webroot firmly entrench itself as a force to be reckoned with in the anti-spyware business with its flagship Spy Sweeper software. As most users of the previous release (4.5) will testify, Spy Sweeper does an excellent job of not only removing existing malware pests, but also preventing infestations in the first place. Version 5 continues with this proud tradition, yet still somehow manages to improve upon a good thing.
Perhaps the greatest advance in Spy Sweeper 5 is the program's redesigned and simplified user interface. Webroot appears to have taken user opinions into consideration with its new streamlined design. The program's home screen provides clear status information including details such as when the last scan was performed and when the next is scheduled to occur.
The Shield section helps you keep tabs on whether all recommended real-time protection settings are enabled, while the Alerts and Your Spyware Protection sections ensure that you'll always be kept in the loop about your system's spyware defences.
Scans are referred to as 'Sweeps' by the program, and performing a sweep is as easy as 1-2-3. Click the Sweep button to open the 'Sweep for Spyware' screen and the program walks you through the three-step removal process. Don't overlook the Active Sweep Options sidebar on this screen because it provides details on the drives, items and options to be used during the sweeping process.
Scans can also be scheduled, though none are by default; remedy this via a quick trip into the Schedule tab under options. Updates are nothing to worry about because Spy Sweeper is set to download definitions and program updates automatically.
Sweeps include all drives by default, but don't inspect compressed fi les, your System Restore folder or scan for root kits unless you change Sweep options from the tab of the tab of the same name in the Options section. Adding any of these options to a sweep is easy, but will increase scanning time (especially in the case of root kits) dramatically. Spy Sweeper's scans are a little on the slow side, but we're still willing to sacrifice speed for quality any day of the week.
When a sweep is finished you'll have the option to quarantine any items, each of which includes a risk rating to help you assess the potential danger. You can't delete items at this point: they must be managed from the program's Quarantine area, which gives you the choice of deleting or restoring objects in this virtual prison.
Our attempts to infect our test system with spyware failed on account of Spy Sweeper's real-time protection shields, which block everything from browser hijackers to access to sites known to harbour spyware. When issues do arise an on-screen alert will appear in the lower-right of your screen, but be prepared to squint. While the alerts are less intrusive than most, they've been designed by someone with a fondness for tiny fonts.
We're disappointed that the trial version detects spyware but won't remove it unless you're prepared to pay; the fee is hefty at £25 for the software and a one-year subscription. When all is said and done, however, Spy Sweeper does an excellent job of ensuring your system stays clean, making it a worthwhile investment for those who can afford to pay for premium protection. Dan DiNicolo