Spyware Doctor 5

Defends against malware, but is it just as efficient?

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Our Verdict

Another broadly commendable edition of Spyware Doctor, but a few tweaks are needed


  • Quick and unobtrusive

    Largely effective


  • Results not without flaw

Windows Vista may be the most secure Windows to date, but it makes sense to look beyond Microsoft's bundled tools to a more complete third party offering.

Malware remains a problem, and today we also face the threat of root kits; applications that hide themselves from the operating system and the user on a low level. With the fifth incarnation of Spyware Doctor, PC Tools is looking to build on its malware-fighting reputation of earlier versions with a rewrite.

Using a new codebase, Spyware Doctor uses seven 'guard' modules to monitor your system for types of malware, from keyloggers to hidden processes. The list of features includes intelliscan, where your registry, memory and other spyware hideouts can be combed in three minutes.

Spyware Doctor 5.0's GUI retains the intuitive look and feel of previous versions, minimising the number of steps to access any program feature. There are no menus present at all in the program. The system tray application uses a minimal amount of system resources with pop up warnings appearing rarely.

We tested Spyware Doctor with benign applications that mimic malware behaviour, and the software allowed us to make system and registry changes without warning. We then tried some real malware, and Spyware Doctor refused to allow us to open any of these files.

This difference in behaviour is because Spyware Doctor tries not to annoy you with every single system change, but the engine uses both heuristic and signature based detection to ideally highlight only the malicious changes. This is to keep down the number of false positives, legitimate software that gets incorrectly marked as spyware.

We found this system to be mostly effective, although when we tested against a variety of browser toolbars, it allowed commercial toolbars such as Google's, rejected another, and then allowed one named 'Free XXX search'.

Spyware Doctor removed other spyware programs we threw at it. The application is suffering after receiving its new foundations. We would prefer the program to be militant in its malware removal, for false negatives are a bigger problem than false positives.

This is a fine anti-spyware application, but this redesign needs more polish before it is of similar quality to previous versions.