With anti-spyware software, free releases usually lack real-time protection capabilities, automatic updates or some variation thereof.

This isn't the case with Spyware Terminator 1.9, however, a program that breaks all the rules and offers itself as a full-featured freebie to both home and commercial users alike. The only for-profit version of the program is the Corporate Edition, which provides centralised management capabilities for busy network administrators.

The installation process went flawlessly and our download was already armed with the latest definition files. We weren't thrilled about the program installing its own Crawler toolbar, but we let it go.

As part of the process the program also offers to install Web Security Guard, a tool similar to McAfee SiteAdvisor, and one that less-experienced users will find a big help, especially when trying to evaluate the relative safety of links in search results.

Spyware Terminator is set to the Fast scan option by default, so we switched to the Full mode scan for our test. The scanning process itself isn't very fast, completing in just under 20 minutes.

The programs lists potential threats as they're detected during the process, but not in a terribly organised or useful fashion - wait until the scan is complete to review the result with greater clarity.

Ups and downs

While Spyware Terminator did detect some threats on our infected system, it missed almost two-thirds when remnants were factored in. Particularly troubling was the program missing a keylogger, doing nothing about our browser hijack, overlooking the DNS Trojan and rogue anti-virus/spyware products.

As part of displaying results, Spyware Terminator classifies them into three groupings: Threats (which are ranked by risk), Safe software (not sure why), and Unknown software (the one that was found was adware). The classification system is a nice idea, but will confuse some users or those expecting a more traditional list of results.

The real-time protection offered by Spyware Terminator is fantastic, but the on-screen warnings displayed by the program need work: we viewed far too many alert boxes, most while performing legitimate tasks.

The program offers protection via a series of "shields" that protect against everything from rogue BHOs and toolbars to changes to services or your HOSTS file. Those looking for additional layers of free protection may want to consider installing the free Clam AV, which integrates right into the program.

Overall, Spyware Terminator 1.9 is a solid program, particularly considering its offer of strong (and free!) real-time protection. It's already popular, but still has a good way to go before it'll be ready to compete with some of the bigger names in the industry, especially on the detection front.

If you want to take advantage of its real-time protection now, then we strongly suggest that you add a top-notch back-up detection and removal tool to your anti-spyware arsenal. The really good news? The future holds promise and the price is certainly right.