Adware Report: About the Spyware Removal Effectiveness Test

Last Test Conducted: May 22, 2005

The biggest problem when it comes to dealing with spyware is not whether or not to purchase an anti-spyware product, but which one to choose. There are over 400 anti-spyware vendors on the market now, and most of the products just aren't all that effective. Many of the software companies creating these products know this, and attempt to boost sales with slick marketing copy and wild claims. aluria rating.jpg

This is why we came up with the Spyware Effectiveness Test. This test puts all of the various software products on an even ground and reports the results using a graphic, such as the one on the right.

Because this test provides an objective measure, it overcomes some of the marketing ploys commonly used in the industry. For instance, spyware manufacturers typically report the number of spyware traces that their programs protect against. These figures are now ranging as high as 100,000, despite the fact that industry experts believe there to be only 15,000 (at most) spyware programs in existence. The reason for the discrepancy is that a single spyware program usually has ten to twenty "traces" associated with it. A secondary reason, no less misleading, is that most vendors count "cookies" as spyware. As we discuss elsewhere, this is not technically true, nor are cookies a serious invasion of privacy.

The bottom line is this. Most people would prefer to purchase the program that removes the most spyware from their computer, not the one with the biggest marketing claims. Our test results help you to do just that.

How the Test Is Conducted

Every month we assemble a test PC with many different spyware files ("bait") loaded on it. We then scan the test PC with each product and examine the log files. We record the test results and start over with the next product. Each product is tested from a clean OS install image to ensure that the testing is fair.

The products are graded on the following basis:

Detection the ability of the program to detect our bait using any means at its disposal.
Removal the ability of the program to completely disable the program.
Cleansing the ability of the program to completely remove all traces of the program.

As we learned while conducting our tests, just because a product can detect spyware doesnt mean it is necessarily effective at removing it. Furthermore, many products fail to remove all traces from the hard drive, despite the fact that theyve effectively disabled the software. The remaining traces continue to consume disk storage space even though they are no longer being used.

After scoring each individual category on a scale of 1-100%, we gave each category the following weight to come to an overall score:

Detection 25%
Removal 65%
Cleansing 10%

The overall score is given a descriptive name as follows:

0-19 Abysmal
20-29 Awful
30-39 Bad
40-49 Poor
50-59 Average
60-69 Fair
70-79 Good
80-100 Excellent

June 2005 Test Results

We've again greatly expanded the number of spyware bait programs in the June test with many newer spyware programs that were not around a few months ago. For this reason, most of the scores have dropped well below the 80% range. Don't be put off by a result of 70 or 75% - this is actually quite good. On the other hand, you should stay away from purchasing any product with a score less than 50%.

Limitations of the Test

The test does not award points for removing cookies or registry entries. This is by design cookies are for the most part hardly a threat, while most modern spyware will continue to run without its registry entries (and usually rebuild them in the process).

Most importantly, this test measures only the spyware removal capabilities of the product. It does not measure important product and company attributes such as speed, support, price, or user interface design. It is for this reason that the products are not necessarily recommended in order of their testing results. If you are looking for a program based purely on its effectiveness, the scores will be a good guide. If you are also looking for good customer support, frequent updates, and a solid refund policy, then look in the order of our recommendations.

Which Spyware Programs Do We Test?

We feel that it is important not to disclose the exact files and spyware programs that we use so that spyware vendors can not simply update their products to defeat our test. By keeping the exact files we test against confidential, the only way that vendors will be able to score better on our tests will be by improving the overall functionality of their products.

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

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