Over the past few years Webroot's Spy Sweeper product has established itself as one of the leaders in the battle to keep PCs free and clear of spyware threats.

The product has performed amazingly well when we've looked at it in the past. So we had high hopes when we decided to pit it against our infected PC.

The most obvious new feature in Spy Sweeper 5.3 is its support for Windows Vista, but subtle improvements have also been made to the user interface, ensuring that the program is a good fit for advanced and less-experienced users alike.

Ease of use has always been a Webroot trademark, so it's no surprise that the clean and effective interface leaves nothing to user guesswork - seek and ye shall find, so to speak.

The installation on our infected test system was problem-free, and Spy Sweeper 5.3 took the time to update its definitions during the process. After launching into the full scan, our test system slowed considerably.

Spy Sweeper may be a slick-looking product, but a fast and efficient scanner it's not. We literally had no choice but to walk away, as the scan took considerably longer than any competing product.

This is more than likely on account of how resource-hungry Spy Sweeper becomes while scanning; it wasn't unusual for memory consumption to peak at more than 100MB during the process. That said, we're always willing to wait a little while extra if a product gets the job done.

Detection woes

Unfortunately, the results of our scan with Spy Sweeper were disappointing. While it detected and removed two-thirds of the threats present on our test system, it missed some critical items.

First, it only detected and removed one of the two keyloggers we had installed. It also missed the browser hijack, failing to remove it completely. The same can be said of the DNS Trojan, which was still doing its dirty work even after a restart and second scan. To be honest, we were disappointed by the detection and removal results, having come to expect better.

To its credit, Spy Sweeper's real-time protection facilities - provided by way of its 16 built-in shields - proved as powerful, informative and protective as always. Warning messages are always clear and to the point, leaving virtually no chance that you'll be unsure what to do should a threat present itself.

Webroot does offer its users an above-average helping hand by way of its included phone support, with a UK number clearly provided on the website. When we called there were only six people before us in the queue.

While the real-time protection offered by Spy Sweeper 5.3 is top-notch, the program's detection capabilities were a disappointment. A new release is due out soon, lending hope to the idea that these latest results were no more than an anomaly.