View Full Version : Spyware and Adware Removal Guide

10-16-2004, 12:44 AM
I know this is supposed to be in the software section, but I figured this portion of the forums has to exist for some reason...

I have a few problems with this guide. It's well-intentioned, and certainly should help some of the less-knowledgeable users, but it has some major issues.

First of all, it's not a guide. It's a subjective comparison of spyware removal programs. There's a huge difference. The only "guide" part was list of definitions that won't really help users in combating spyware very much. The Windows XP Tweaking guides aren't called benchmark comparisons because they aren't, just as this isn't a guide.

Secondly, there wasn't much mention of preventative measures of combating spyware. If you want this to be a guide and not just a program comparison, this is a necessity. A few things that should at least be mentioned, if not described in-depth, are:

Proper surfing habits
Most experienced users won't have any use of anti-spyware programs. I don't recall much mention of pornographic sites (just one line of a definition), warez sites, or sites devoted to some sort of advertising scheme. Without visiting these types of sites or something that links to them (or gives you a pop-up), it's extremely difficult to get any sort of spyware. It's also much easier when you don't go installing everything than the web browser prompts you to.

Although it's more of a general tool, and actually has much more use in removing viruses, it can often be the only way of removing the effects of some spyware, unless you know your way around the registry (in which case you shouldn't have spyware).

One of the only ways to remove CoolWebSearch infections, which can be very bad. This and HijackThis should be at least linked to (check my sig; they've always been there), if not explained further.

Mozilla Firefox, and other browsers based not based on IE
Mozilla Firefox is essentially impregnable when it comes to spyware, not to mention the superior interface and pop-up blocker. It should at least be mentioned as a good preventative measure for combating spyware. The only need for any program other than this arises when you are forced to use I.E. refuse to use Mozilla, or unknowingly choose to run a malicious program or script.

My third problem is with the comparison itself. Ad-Aware didn't get as good of a rating as it should have. In my experience, and in more objective tests that have been done, it is easily as powerful as Spybot Search and Destroy and GIANT AntiSpyware. I would also say it's unfair that GIANT Antispyware received such a good rating, especially when it costs money. It clearly was chosen for its nice GUI and silly, useless functions. Here's proof:

Where GIANT AntiSpyware excels itself over other Spyware removers is the fact that it goes deeper and offers a set of “Advanced Tools” as you can see in the screen above. The one which stood out for us was the Secure File Shredder which properly removes files from your system by using the US Department of Defense recommendations for secure file destruction. You might think when you delete a file from your PC it is gone but it isn’t really – if someone wanted to find it bad enough, they could.

A common misconception about storage is implied here. Writing over a file three times with random binary data (the DoD's standard) does not prevent users from finding deleted files on your hard drive. About ten years ago, it might have made it harder, but now, it does little. There are freeware programs that can find files that have been completely written over more than three times, and completely erasing evidence of the existence of anything that ever touches a hard drive is impossible by any methods short of melting the drive, incinerating it, or breaking it into extremely small pieces (less than a cubic inch should do). Not only that, but the feature is found in numerous freeware programs and shouldn't be considered at all attractive anyway, seeing as its almost useless.

I think because of this, you gave this program an unfairly-high rating. Many people will go waste their money on this when other programs will do everything it does, and sometimes more. I would have ranked them like this:

Ad-Aware: 9.5; -0.5 for requiring payment for all features; otherwise, it's essentially perfect.
SpyBot Search and Destroy: 9.5; -0.5 for a poor user interface; otherwise, it's essentially perfect.
GIANT AntiSpyware: 8.5; -1.5 for features that are of little use, but attractive nevertheless and for being shareware; otherwise, it's essentially perfect.

The final problem is more of a semantics issue. There's a fine line between spyware and a virus. On second though, there's no line at all. Proper virus protection should be mentioned as plenty of spyware will be removed through the same steps used for manual virus removal, or even by an antivirus program, rather than an anti-spyware program. Hell, look at your own definitions of spyware and virus. Experience shows that many, many things fit into both definitions.

Spekaing of which, I won't even go into the definitions I consider to be inaccurate, as most of them can be forever debated over, needlessly...

I think making some or all of the changes I described would make this into an actual guide, rather than just a subjective software comparison with a few definition tidbits thrown in. Don't take this as an attack. I feel it's necessary that these misconceptions be cleared up, and that this so-called guide be made into an actual guide, which could really help many people, even more so than it will now.

10-16-2004, 01:10 AM
It's just about 2.30am, so this won't be a long reply. First of all our opinion will surely vary from yours on what programs we consider best. It's perfectly fine that you feel we rated wrong but our ratings just express our opinions on each program.

Maybe the title is a tad off but the programs combined provide good ways of removing Spyware and Adware from your computer and we documented how this process is done with each program and how effective they are at doing it.

As mentioned in the guide, the definitions were provided by Webroot Software. Nevertheless, we consider the definitions to be accurate and useful for newbie’s to understand how to remove Spyware.

I actually use Firefox myself and was silly not to mention it in the guide. I will make this addition tomorrow.


10-16-2004, 01:55 AM
It's just about 2.30am, so this won't be a long reply. First of all our opinion will surely vary from yours on what programs we consider best. It's perfectly fine that you feel we rated wrong but our ratings just express our opinions on each program.The point was that your opinion was formed under a major misconeption, that misconception being that the features of GIANT AntiSpyware were even remotely useful to you and any potential readers.
The one which stood out for us was the Secure File Shredder
It seems like a lot of stock was put into that one feature. I figured your opinion might change (and feel free to think about it later, not early in the morning :zz: ) after understanding that this feature has almost no practical use, and certainly isn't worth paying for.
That said, it certainly is understandable that we would have different opinions. Although, I should also mention that you didn't try the pay versions of Ad-Aware. Perhaps your opinions would be changed if you had more options available in Ad-Aware.

I actually use Firefox myself and was silly not to mention it in the guide. I will make this addition tomorrow.
Sounds good, but I still think CWShredder and HijackThis should be mentioned. When I know I may have to work on someone's PC, I always have a CD with each on-hand in case I need them. I rarely need anything else for spyware. They also both remove things which none of the mentioned programs can. With the right (perhaps wrong would be a better word, actually) spyware, you could use every single automated "search-and-remove" type anti-spyware program and not get something that CWShredder and HijackThis would take seconds to get. They're certainly worth mentioning, on top of Mozilla. :peace:

10-17-2004, 06:35 PM
First of all, it's not a guide. An article maybe but certainly not a guide.

11-01-2004, 07:43 AM
I agree. I was thinking the same exact thing when I read it.