Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Spyware Doctor Starter Edition

Threats to computer security have changed drastically in the past decade. While once the greatest threat to computers were viruses written by introverted teenagers seeking bragging rights, now, the greatest threat is spyware written by criminals for profit. For the most part, viruses are destructive. Spyware, by nature, seeks to steal information (e.g. user ids, passwords, account numbers…etc.). Optimally, any computer connected to the Internet should have a firewall, antivirus and anti spyware installed. That’s a lot of software but you don’t need to spend a ton of money to secure your computer. In fact, you don’t need to spend a dime. If you are looking for a good free anti spyware program, look no further.
PC Tools offers a free version of its very popular and effective Spyware Doctor. Spyware Doctor has earned high honors from both PC World and PC Magazine.

While the commercial version of Spyware Doctor regularly sells for $29.95, Google Pack offers a starter edition of Spyware Doctor for free. The starter edition uses the same scanning engine as its big brother; however, it lacks a number of real time protection features. Specifically, the starter edition does not offer real time protection for web browsers, Windows processes, network connection and startup programs. In short, the starter edition does not monitor and block unwanted changes to browser settings, addition of new Windows processes, changes to network settings and addition of startup programs. However, it does offer real time protection for files. Still, even without these real time protection components, it does an outstanding job of detecting and removing both inactive and active spyware.

To download the starter edition, you have to go through Google Pack installer. On the main webpage, uncheck all items expect Spyware Doctor. Next, click [Download Google Pack]. When prompted, save the Google_Updater.exe file to your desktop or some other accessible location on your computer. When you are finish, double click the executable file to start the download process. Once you have successfully installed Spyware Doctor, you need to update its definitions. To do so, on the main menu, click [Smart Update]. The initial update can be long depending on your Internet connection. After the update, click [Start Scan] > select “Full Scan” > click [Scan Now]. Be sure to quarantine any suspicious files. Spyware Doctor, by default, will create a system restore prior to any removal. I highly recommend that you keep the default settings. To schedule a scan, click [Settings] > [Scheduled Tasks] > highlight a task and click [Edit] to edit a task or click [Add] to add a new task.

Of course, the starter edition’s main menu has a radio button to upgrade to the full commercial version. Still, I am happy that PC Tools didn’t make the upgrade button too conspicuous. For those who want additional protection to cover the areas which the starter edition lacks, I highly recommend Bill Studio’s Winpatrol. There is a free and paid version of Winpatrol. For most users, the free edition is just fine. Winpatrol will monitor any changes to browser settings, startup programs, Windows services, Windows processes and Hosts file. I use Winpatrol and I find it indispensible.


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