Adware Report: Spybot S&D (Search and Destroy) 1.3

Product: Spybot S&D 1.3
Price: Free
Editor Rating: 2 stars
spybot S&D spyware rating
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+ Free!

- Latest version (1.3) has serious instability problems and can slow down Internet Explorer or hang the operating system.
- Detects a lot of spyware but often leaves it running.
- Infrequent updates
- No customer support
- Scheduler doesnt work


Spybot S&D 1.3, a freeware spyware removal tool, provides poor protection against spyware. While it detected only 54% of our test spyware, it removed only 23% of it. It has a good user interface and ran faster than nearly every other product we tested, but then crashed our Windows XP computer, rendering it virtually unusable. The price is right, but you may want to backup your system before installing the latest version (read various reports of Spybot instability here).


We were impressed with the simple and easy-to-use interface. Unlike Ad-Aware or other programs, Spybot (correctly) assumes that most people want to do one thing: remove spyware. They hide all the clutter in the advanced mode. We would have liked to see the scheduler added to the basic mode interface, however.

Spybot S&D Scanning Screen


As of December 2004, Spybot S&D detects 21,322 spyware signatures. Spybot experts usually recommend that the program should be run in conjunction with another spyware removal program (typically Adaware) in order to provide reasonable protection, although our tests indicate that Spybot is probably no longer capable of removing anything that AdAware (or other good products) can't.

We were disappointed by its performance. While it was extremely quick, completing a scan in only about 6 minutes, the latest version crashed our server when we tried to fix the problems it detected (the latest version did not cause our browser to slow down as in previous tests). Many other people have reported similar stability problems with Spybot S&D as well. After a reboot, our PC was running normally again, but only about 23% of the test spyware had been cleaned.

Like most other products, Spybot doesnt do a complete scan on your system. Instead, it looks in the most common areas only. While the end result is faster, we would prefer to have a more thorough scan along with the ability to schedule it during off hours.

Screenshot of Spybot S&D crashing our server

Another problem with Spybot was a lack of descriptive information about the pests it detected.

Spybot S&D Scan Results


Spybot S&D provides limited immunization functionality. It does not monitor your RAM or stop browser hijackings in progress. It does purportedly block against about 1,800 browser helper objects that could embed themselves into Internet Explorer, and has an interesting feature to block known bad addresses in the browser, although we question the usefulness of this feature.


Spybot S&D does provide rollback capabilities within the program, but in our tests it didnt save all of the tracking cookies that it deleted. However, Spybot S&D does create a checkpoint using Windows XPs system restore functionality, so in a bad situation, you should be able to restore your PC to a previous state. Be warned that the checkpoint feature in v1.3 has been reported to erase previous checkpoints, but this functionality worked properly in our tests.

Other Options

It took us awhile to find the options area (hint: Mode menu, then advanced mode). This is actually a fairly nice area of the program if you want to exercise serious control over the most minute aspects of the program. Our complaint here is that many are trivial or poorly implemented (such as the skins functionality). However, one critical feature, the scheduler, didn't work at all on either of our test PCs. We would prefer that the Spybot writers focus their effort on improving the effectiveness of the product rather than including so many bells-and-whistles.


The program was well laid out so a lot of documentation isnt necessary. In addition, Spybot seems to support more languages than any other product we tested.

However, there is the usual complaint with freeware products: non-existent support. If you run into issues with the product, you will have to go online and wade through a developers forum and hope someone there can (and is nice enough to) solve your problem. Support emails to the company went unanswered.


Spybot S&D (particularly v1.2 and prior) once provided better protection against spyware, but the commercial vendors have since passed them. Speed and a nice user interface can't make up for average protection, infrequent updates, non-existent support, and the risk of a PC crash.

Sadly, Spybot S&Ds source code has been appropriated by a number of other vendors who continue to shamelessly market it as their own. Don't fall for this. Check out our list of rogue vendors, and if you were considering purchasing any of the products on that list, don't - either purchase one of our recommended commercial products or at a minimum, download Spybot's offering.

Price: Free

All articles and reviews are copyright 2004, Gooroo, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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